A common question we get here on Chemists Corner is where to find sources of raw materials. Ingredients like methanol, propylene glycol, or glycerin are commodities which will have a number of sources. More specialized ingredients like cocamidopropyl betaine or potassium methyl cocoyl taurate have fewer sources. Some cosmetic raw materials have only a single source which makes them a risk and challenge to use.
Where to get raw materials
Where you get raw materials depends a lot on who you are, what you want, how much you will buy, and how much you’re willing to pay. Here is a quick list that may guide you.
1. Independent chemist – Unless you have a reputation or friend in the industry it will be hard for you to get raw materials directly from companies. This is because they require you to buy a minimum amount of material which is often more than you really need. Typically, you’ll need to get raw materials from chemical distributors like Nexxeo or find a source online like Making Cosmetics. You can get commodity ingredients like methanol or glycerin but it may be harder to get specialty compounds. It can be done, but you need to prove to the chemical company that there will be future business for them.
2. Small company chemist – For chemists who work at established companies, your options open up. You’ll be able to contact many of the raw material manufacturers directly. A great resource is the INCI Directory. You’ll have to prove to them that you work for a company that makes product but it shouldn’t be too difficult to get the attention of distributors who are eager for business. You may still have a problem getting raw materials from large raw material manufacturers however. They just don’t want to deal with small accounts. Going to an SCC trade show is a great idea!
3. Mid sized company chemist – Of all the situations, this is perhaps the best. All the major raw material companies will be interested in providing you samples and many of them will give you large quantities for free. You’ll often be too big for the supplier to relegate you to a distributor so you get a lot of attention. Also, you will be in the position to have custom made materials for you. Companies don’t like to do this too often but if they believe that there will be a big pay-off order, they’ll be willing to spend some resources. To get raw materials you need to build up your network of contacts in the industry and start speaking with sales people. Going to an SCC meeting is a great place to start.
4. Big company chemist – You would think that a big company chemist would be in the best position, and for some people it may be. Even mid sized companies are ignored by the biggest chemical suppliers so you theoretically will have access to everyone. Unfortunately, the bigger your company gets the more bureaucracy that gets developed which complicates everything. It is likely that you’ll have a regulatory department that you have to run all sample requests through. This increases the amount of time needed to get samples and can be incredibly frustrating. Ultimately, at a big company you will be able to get most any ingredient you want but it might take a little extra time.
Ultimately, where you get methanol or any other cosmetic raw material really depends on the strength of your network. Be sure to build up a presence on LinkedIn and connect with people. (You can connect with me here). But more importantly, go to industry meetings like SCC and talk with people. Trade business cards and contact them when you need something or you can help them out.