Article by: Perry Romanowski

Getting a formulation patent is a gratifying experience for a cosmetic chemist. You get to see your name listed in the official rolls of the US patent office and you get to add it to your resume or CV. It’s great. It’s especially great if the company you are working for pays all the required legal fees. But if you are a cosmetic entrepreneur, getting a patent is probably a waste of your time and money. Here are three reasons that a small cosmetics business should skip getting a patent.

Patents don’t prevent copycats

One of the main reasons people think to get a patent is so they can prevent their competition from copying their formulas. Well, the truth is in the cosmetic industry, patents do not have this effect. It is really a simple matter for a cosmetic chemist to start from an existing formula and recreate something that works just as well. If you have a patent, it’s an even easier task. Substituting out one ingredient for another is not hard. Making something that does not violate the patent but works just as well is easy.

While you might believe your formulation is completely unique and new to the world, it most likely isn’t. Or at least, it isn’t so different that a consumer could tell much of a difference. Consumers are not good at discerning subtle differences between similar formulas.

Patents do not provide much benefit

Patents on cosmetic formulas do not provide the kinds of benefits that patents in other industries might provide. Mostly, the benefit is limited to making a patent claim like “patented formula” or “unique formula”. Are these claims really going to make or break your cosmetic product? If so, you’re product is probably doomed anyway.

Better ways to spend your money

Getting a patent on a cosmetic product can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. It can take a long time and at the end of the process it doesn’t offer you much protection from the competition. There are much better ways you can spend that money including…
1. Marketing efforts
2. Advertising
3. PR events
4. Packaging
5. Other brand building efforts

While cosmetic formulations are what make cosmetics work, it is very difficult to stand out through your formulation alone. There are plenty of nicely formulated products out there that never get any sales because they fail in their branding and marketing. If you have thousands of extra cash laying around, don’t spend it on patenting your formulation. Spend it on building your brand.



  1. Mia So

    Perry, I developed an all natural deodorant and the ingredients are not currently used in any of the deodorants on the market. I get conflicting messages from attorneys and advisors about getting a patent. I absolutely see your points but how else would you suggest that I protect my idea? Is it required that I list all my ingredients on the product label? I heard of “trade secret” but how can I even get that approved?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Yes, it is required that you list all your ingredients on the label. Here is how you get trade secret status for your product. Of course the FDA also says “First, be aware that it’s unlikely that FDA will grant your request. We’ve received only a handful of trade secret requests in the last 20 years and have granted such a request only once.”

      The reality is that if someone wanted to copy your product they will be able to whether they have the ingredient list or not. The thing that makes cosmetics successful is the marketing. It’s unlikely you have created a blend that any consumer would notice as different from other products on the market.

      1. Mia So

        Thank you Perry for your response. Would you feel differently if the active ingredients I’m using are not used in any deodorants on the market? In other words, it is not simply a different blend.

  2. Toni

    I have created a nail strengthener that contains oils. While I’d like to keep all of my ingredients a trade secret, is it required by law that I have a warning for those with allergies that the product contains nut oils?

  3. Gal

    Great article! Thank you for clearing up misconceptions about patents in the cosmetic industry.

  4. Carmen

    Hi Perry,
    thanks for this helpful page.
    I’m interested in creating a skin care product containing a particular ingredient which I have found very effective against blackheads and which I suspect would work well against other forms of acne. My initial investigations into it have uncovered two patents (one contains another key ingredient) that have been lodged by dermatologists using this particular ingredient for this condition (acne). Neither of these dermatologists has yet brought a product to market – even though one of them has held their patent since 1984. My question is: can I still create my own formula using this ingredient? I am willing to add another key ingredient/s that may amplify/improve the effects of the first?
    Many thanks for your help

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Hello – Sure you could probably create your own formula with the ingredient. However, you cannot sell it as an anti-acne product. Anti-acne products are drugs and you are only allowed to sell anti-acne products that use ingredients from the FDA Monograph on the subject.

      1. Carmen

        Thanks Perry, I appreciate your help.
        I’m in Australia and have looked up the requirements here regarding this (Therapeutic Goods Administration – TGA). My understanding is that I could not make any therapeutic claims, however could claim the product was ‘a cleanser for acne-prone skin’ or something similar. The issue is that I’d be marketing/selling online and would obviously not just be targeting Australians. Are the regulations around this issue different all over the world? As you predicted, the ingredient (Carbamide Peroxide) isn’t listed on the FDA Monograph in relation to acne.

        1. Perry Romanowski

          Yes, regulations are different around the world. You’ll have to comply with any of them in the places where you will sell your products.

          1. Ibtisam Haider

            Hi, Perry
            i have come up with a hair removal formula which permanently removes hair and stops them from regrowing. i have used the formula on myself and it works.

          2. Perry Romanowski

            Unfortunately, if your product actually works it would be classified as a drug and you’d need to get an NDA through the FDA.

          3. Ibtisam Haider

            can you please email me on what i should do next and what steps i can take to market my product

  5. Sarah

    A unknown skincare company states that they have a patent pending for the last 4yrs on a carrier oil and essential oil blend. How can I verify that is true, I know creator and don’t believe? Also, we want to make our own blend of carrier oils and essential oils. Of the 16 ingredients they use we are using 5 of the same oils. But they feel same on skin and look same in bottle. Would this lead to being sued?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      You could search through the USPTO website to see if you can find their application. You can also search Google Patents for the same information. They probably filed for a patent and won’t likely get one but can still make the claim.

      It’s unlikely you’d be sued, but that’s a question you should ask a lawyer.

  6. Maria Vilela George

    Hi Perry! Thank you for all your answers! They really help!
    Since teenerger I had problems with my smelly armpitts! I tried all kinds of products, but no use. As I grew up, I began to use deodorants that promise last 24 or 48 hours and they worked! However, I began to study the chemical composition of these products and I chose not use them anymore.
    I studied aromatherapy and some years ago, I developed a deodorant 100% aluminum and other chemicals free using only essential oils and natural components. The result was incredible! Yes, I got it! Something that really works! People who used my natural deodorant said they enjoyed because it is natural, lasts all day, promotes an incredible freshness, and yes, SMELLS GOOD!
    In order to sell my deodorant do I need to register it at FDA? Also, is it a good idea have my trademark registered?
    Thank you!

    1. Perry Romanowski

      You don’t need to register with the FDA to sell a deodorant. Deodorants are cosmetic products and don’t require registration. You just can’t make any antiperspirant claims. It’s up to you whether you register your trademark or not. Unless you think someone else will steal it you probably don’t need to up front. But there is no downside (except cost) for registering your trademark.

  7. Aplomb

    Hello Mr Perry Romanowski, I have developed a medical cream / ointment for muscle recovery, it’s allot better than what’s currently out on the market, however I’m unsure on how to patent it and or start a lab production due to fees and so on.

    Would you kindly advise me on a safe and secure next step please?

    Thank you

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Medical cream / ointments for muscle recovery are classified as Over the Counter Drugs in the US. You’ll have to file an NDA with the FDA to be able to sell it.

  8. Genet Bogart

    Hello there, I have a hair moisturizer idea that is all natural and i am looking for a chemist to help me formulate it. if you are one, please contact me

  9. summe

    Hi Perry, Our(nonprofit 501(c)3 organization have started making our own all organic deodorant. It is only simple herbs and stuff that one can put in their home cooked dishes.I know that we are not the only one that use these products. Do we have to have our product patent. The reason that I am asking is because some people bake cakes to sell. They use the same ingredients as others, so why would I have to have a patent. It does not matter to us if if others try to copy it, simply because it has already been thought of years ago(my mother use to make it back in the late 50″s.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      No, you do not need to patent your deodorant to sell it.

  10. Macie Gilstrap

    My situation is different than many others that I have read so far. I haven’t created my own line of makeup, but rather came up with a faster and easier way to apply makeup. I came up with an example and prototype of my one step way to apply makeup rather than spending a lot of time applying, fixing, and perfecting. I want to introduce my idea to a large cosmetic company such as L’oreal but I’m afraid they will just steal my idea and make it on their own. I have searched both in multiple cosmetic stores and big retailers and haven’t found anything like it, I also searched on the patent website and found nothing. If I want to get my idea Infront of a big company what would you recommend? I know it will be something a lot of women will use.
    Thank you,

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Hello Macie – In your case you’ll probably want to get the patent. Then you’ll want to demonstrate sales of your product before a big company will take you seriously. You really don’t have to worry about companies stealing your idea for the reasons outlined in the post above.

  11. Haryanto

    Dear Perry,

    Thank you very much for your site. I have learnt a lot from it. I am trying to manufacture cosmetic product and wonder if you can answer some of my questions regarding manufacturing cosmetic products.
    1. How many and what kind of test we should do in order to manufacture and marketing it, is it just applying the product to some people, how many of them?
    2. As we understand that people have different skin type and I just wonder if the product could affect badly to some kind of skin, how we could anticipate that kind of problems.

    Thank you.

  12. Shelby Ibbotson

    Hi Perry,
    My partners and I have found a product that so far we have found no other products or patents like it. We are University students who are focusing on all different careers so we aren’t interested in necessarily starting a company, we are interested in selling our idea to an already established company. Is a patent what we need then? how do we do this on a budget?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Hello Shelby,

      In truth, you probably won’t find a company that is interested in purchasing your idea. As I like to say, ideas aren’t worth anything without execution. Companies want finished products with proven sales or at the very least functional prototypes that demonstrate the idea. In the cosmetic industry there is a significant NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome so unsolicited ideas from unknown inventors will mostly be ignored. Actually, most cosmetic companies ignore even ideas that are conceived by their R&D groups because coming up with new product ideas is the job of the Marketing group. You’ll have a little more luck if you have a patent but without proven sales, the prospects aren’t good.

      Perhaps your best route would be to develop a prototype, start a Kickstarter campaign, and launch the idea yourself. Then you can use your initial success to sell the idea to another company. Even if another company finds out what your idea is, you do not have to worry about your idea being stolen. Cosmetic products are successful because of good marketing. The actual product doesn’t matter as much as you would think.

  13. Melissa

    I found a product produced in Mexico and not sold in the US, but I love it and want to buy it and sell it here in the US; is that legal? Do I need to ask permission from the people who created it in Mexico? What can I do to bring this awesome cosmetic to the US.

    Thank you,

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Yes it would be legal to sell but you have to pay the appropriate import fees and make sure that the labeling is correct for the US. Since you will have to do different labeling you’ll probably have to get permission. You’ll also have to ensure that the product is safety tested.

  14. Andrea Barbosa

    Hi Perry,

    do I need a FDA or EPA approval for a medical shampoo for dogs? Can I launch my product on the market without a patent or any approval?

    Andrea Barbosa

    1. Perry Romanowski

      I’m not really sure. It wouldn’t be FDA since they don’t cover pet products. But the EPA may cover it.

  15. Narsi

    Hi. Thanks for all of the great information.
    I have really important questions please help me out
    (1)if i was to get a patent in USA,will it be international in every single country around the world!??is there such a patent?? That is international??
    (2)the product i want to manufacture is in makeup. So will i have to have the actual invention pre getting the patent??or the idea its self can be enough to get a patent??
    (3)i discovered that someone did manufacture a similar idea to mine but just mine is so different . More practical and useful and way advanced. Will that company that did my simlar idea be capable if stopping me from getting my product manufactured and company established??

    (4)what happens legally to someone that copied a patened product if they live in another company????

    Thank you so much

    1. Perry Romanowski

      I don’t know the answer to a lot of these questions and this is a thing you should check with a lawyer. Or you might post it in our forum.

      But my understanding is…

      1. No, a US patent doesn’t apply everywhere in the world. Some places but not everywhere.
      2. Yes, you need to have a working prototype to prove your idea can work.
      3. The existence of a similar product may prevent you from getting a patent unless you can show how yours is novel
      4. The patent holder is responsible for policing their patent which means if you find someone copying your patented idea you have to hire a lawyer to go after them. This can be really expensive and there is no guarantee you’ll be successful.

      1. Stephanie

        Question- how would I go about patenting a cannabis related product since it is still considered federally illegal?
        i have customer testimonies, established name in my state, and want to protect all of my hard work.
        Do you recommend trademark of my name and patent of my product and recipe?

        1. Perry Romanowski

          That would be a question for a lawyer. I don’t know. I doubt you can patent a formula like that but maybe. No, I don’t think patenting your recipe is worthwhile. See the blog post above for my reasoning.

  16. karen

    can you tell me how or what I need to do to differentiate my skincare products from OTC to ” distributed by Drs onle-which are referred toas medical Grade? What FDa requires, concentration of ingredients and different ingredients? Thanks

      1. Narsi

        Thank you so much. If you kindly would allow me to aak a couple of more questions.

        As i am not american and nor do i live in usa.

        1. Do patents have to be issued in the usa?
        2. Do you actually know or recommend a great patent lawyer for cosmetic in usa?
        3. Can i kindly have your email?i would like to have a paid consultation with you viA email or email you please to ask you a couple of questions privately about manufacturing something.

        Would highly appreciate it. Thank you

  17. Ana

    I do agree with what you say, however big companies like Unilever do hold thousands of patent for their cosmetic formulations. Why is it so?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Because they can get some marketing use out of saying their formulas are patented. Also, the scientists like to get their names attached to patents so it is a way to reward them for their hard work. It’s really just a luxury thing that doesn’t convey much of a tangible benefit.

  18. Tawanna

    Thank you Perry Romanowski. This was great. I really enjoyed reading the article and your responses. Blessings…

  19. Kim

    I have three products I make from all natural products:
    1. Joint and Muscle pain relief
    2. Skin ointment for dermatitis, eczema and fungal infections
    3. Scalp Exfoliator for treatment of severe dandruff and dry scalp

    What do I need to do to sell these i.e. FDA regularion, patent etc.

    Please help

    1. Perry Romanowski

      All of these products would be considered over the counter drugs and you are limited in how you are allowed to formulate them. You have to follow the OTC monograph. Basically, if you are not using approved ingredients you cannot sell the product. Here is a link to all the monographs

  20. Sharmon

    Hi I have been working on a few skin and hair care products. The ingredients are all natural and are nothing like those I have researched or have seen in stores. Would I need to patent my products? How would I go about getting them mass produced and sold in stores?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      No, you don’t need to patent your formulas. To mass produce them you go to a contract manufacturer. To get them in stores, you contact store buyers and pitch your product idea.

      1. Vanessa byrd

        Your answers have helped me so much because I have a body butter, and all of my customers tell me I need to patent it, but it’s only three ingredients, so now I can just spend my money on marketing, and Branding. Thanks a lot.

  21. Brenda

    As a menopausal older lady with a very dry rosacea skin I went on A quest to try and find a really moisturizing natural organic plant based moisturizer that is soothing

    I have tried so many brands but all have failed my expectations

    Since I love to mess around with different oils , essential oils and creams I decided to formulate my own . I am so thrilled with the results and have been using it for over 4 months now , and I wanted to know if I make ingredient labels and hand out samples to friends and family If that was the way to start marketing my product .

    How could I take it further after handing out my samples ?

    Sincerely Brenda

    1. Linda

      I have made a cream that does everything from take away aches to prevents wrinkles to soothes dry irritated skin I would love for you to try it I’ll ship it to you for free and I won’t charge you a penny to try it! My family and my husbands family love it! Email me if you are interested thank you hope to hear from you!

      1. Perry Romanowski

        Thanks for the offer but I’m not looking for a product that does that. Also, if you are producing a product that prevents wrinkles or takes away aches that would be a drug not a cosmetic.

  22. fifi

    Looking for an excellent trust-worthy manufacture to manufacture my skincare line. Any you can recommend?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Where are you located?

  23. Jennifer Bueschel

    I live out in the country and since we live as frugally as possible and I was tired of shaving, I did a search for homemade hair removal and discovered basic recipes to make sugaring wax and sugaring paste, a hair removal recipe used dating back through history dating back to Egyptian times. The blogs/ web sites etc used white sugar, lemon juice from a bottle (from concentrate) & water. Since I am myself holistic, organic and eco-conscience I used raw sugar, fresh lemon juice, purified water and organic guar gum. I fell in love after the results were astounding and the sugar was less painful than waxing. I’ve done research on the benefits such as exfoliation, etc. Since then, I have somewhat started my own business selling to friends, coworkers and family, all if them loving the results. I’ve created a logo, labeling, packaging, expanded to include my organic sugar scrubs I’ve always made for myself, held a successful “sugar party”, opened an etsy shop, a created a getting popular facebook page sharing history, how-tos, videos, etc.
    A major brand, Alexandria, is widely used in sugaring salons.

    Is an organic hair removal product such as this a “cosmetic”? I do know it falls under epilation since hairs are removed by the follicles.
    Is this a “patentable” product? Alexandria brand is patented..
    Trademark my logo, right?
    How do I get the organic seal?
    Am I correct in my thinking that copywrite is not needed because this is not a published item?
    what does it mean to be licensed?

    Thank you for your time,
    Jennifer Bueschel

    1. Perry Romanowski

      1. Yes, it is a cosmetic & is regulated by the FDA.
      2. If your formulation can be shown to be unique then it would be patentable. You have to prove it’s unique however.
      3. Eventually you should trademark the logo. But if you are a small unknown brand a trademark won’t help much.
      4. Look up the USDA organic program.
      5. Right copyright would not apply.
      6. People do not get licensed to make cosmetic products.

      Hope that helps and good luck!

  24. Leanne Cochrane

    I have a beauty product I have come up with. Have been making it and using it my self. Wwas told to take this to the market place I would have to paten it is this true also if I got a lab to make this for me would it then be safe to sell as it could burn skin. Or would I have to send it to dif lab for safety cheaks before I could sell. Many thanks

  25. Faye

    Hello Perry,

    Like most here I am developing a range of skincare and for me the whole idea of packaging, names and brand names are all over the place. I know what I kind of want to emit in my ideas but I have heaps of names and ideas and I’m not sure which would be the best to use. Are there professionals that can help me make this decision?

    My second question is: Does a mass marketed product need to have a longer (say 6 month+ ) shelf-life to be a success?

    Many Thanks 🙂

  26. Gabriella Leite

    I am curious about labeling regulations and trade secrets. This is my seconds line of skincare that I am trying to launch. I developed a formula that really got rid of stretch marks out if natural oils. I want to market this product but I am scared it can be stolen very easily since it is not a complicated formulation and it is all natural. How can I keep the ingredients a secret without making consumers suspicious that I am hiding chemicals? I want people to know that it is all natural and high end ingredients, no carrier oils or filler but I don’t want it to get stolen in a day.
    Thanks for any advice

    1. Perry Romanowski

      The short answer is that you can’t hide the chemicals. But don’t worry about people stealing your formula. Success in the cosmetic industry is more a function of how well you market the product, not how well it works. If it was such a simple matter to create a formula that really removes stretch marks, it would have already been made by one of the large companies by now.

  27. George

    Hi Perry I am still in the process of testing potential ingredients for a skin care product, however the most effective formulation within my most recent prototype only contains 3 major ingredients. Seeing as the product would be targeted at professionals within the cosmetic surgery industry would there be any way of protecting the combination ?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Not really. One thing you can do is to add a bunch of other ingredients at a low % level so they make the ingredient list look longer than it actually is. This could allow you to obscure the main functional ingredients.

  28. Dixie Robinson

    How can I find a labotory to mix my formular for selling status . As of now , I work out of my kitchen . How do I protect my product idea from being stolen once I find one ? Do I need a lawyer to draw up a disclosure agreement contract or is it safe to use the company’s contract only ? How can I get in contact with a mentor who have done this before and can walk me through it ?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      I wouldn’t worry too much about your formula being stolen. The thing that sells cosmetics is the brand not the formula so much. To find a lab or chemist I would suggest you post a request in our cosmetic science forum (

  29. Laure

    Ive been making an all natural salve geared towards tattoo aftercare (but is good for everything). I’ve done research to see if there is something like it with the same formula and havent found any. Every artist who has tried it and clients LOVE that it heals and takes away the itch, while other big name brands do not. I have a chance at a distributor carrying my product which means sooner or later national attention. Would it not be a good idea to patent it or should I just keep all records of my formulas – paper, disk and hard drives as proof that I was the original for formulating this? I realize patents do not protect copy cats but am wondering if this would help?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      In my opinion you would be wasting time and money getting a patent. It would be better to spend your money on marketing your product. You can keep your formula a trade secret like Coca Cola.

  30. sue

    hello Perry i am toying with idea of creating a new spott removing product from a natural plant that has been used on my island in the caribean for generation’s but untill now i know for sure there is not a real beauty product made from this plant how can i make sure that my manufacturer wont steal my idea and make their own ?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      In truth, you can’t. If you work with a manufacturer who would steal your idea then your idea will be stolen. Find people to work with that will not do that to you.

      But you have to remember that manufacturers are in the business of making product for other people to sell. They are not in the business of selling their product. And unless you can demonstrate that your spot removing product actually works better than anything else on the market there is very little danger to you even if the manufacturer does take it.

      Marketing sells cosmetics. As long as your formulation is good your marketing is what will make the difference.

  31. Sammy

    Regarding patents for self tanning non woven wipes, there are some patents but would it be ok to develop but with completely different solution? Or do these patent for non-woven impregnated self tanning wipes covers the form regardless of the formulation?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      I haven’t seen the patents so I can’t answer. That is a question for a lawyer.

  32. Amelia Labanon

    Please send me some information of about your services. I have a semi-permanent lig gloss/anti-aging lip treatment and an amazing primer, like no othe I have seen in the market and I have been a makeup artist since 1992. I am interested in marketing these two products.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *