I decided in September of 2018 that I want to start making cosmetics. So I rushed out, bought a few things and proceeded to make a mess many times, with only one successful product, a lip balm.

So I decided that I needed to educate myself on the proper way to make a good cosmetic. I have did hundreds and hundreds of Google searches, many of them leading me back to this website. Since October of 2018 I have been reading, taking notes and saving open source formulas. I didn't and still don't have the money or time to go back to school and get my degree in cosmetic chemistry. I have learned a lot about the chemistry of cosmetic making and I now understand a great deal about what each ingredient does, is and how it is used in a formula.

The one thing that I am having the most problems with is how to create my own formula from the ground up. 

Let me back up for just a second and explain why I have taken an interest in cosmetics. Me and my daughter in law decided that we wanted to start a charity that would benefit low income women who want to find better jobs and get out of working poverty. We didn't want to beg for donations, so we decided that we would create and sell cosmetics to generate funding for our charity. We have been taking our time to learn everything we can because we want to do it right. Which leads me back to the previous paragraph. 

I understand that experimentation is a great way to learn how much of each product to use but I would like to use an educated guess verses just picking a random number to start with. The thing we are having a problem with is knowing how much emulsifier to start with. I have found many formulas online that include the amount of each ingredient but we would like to try our hand at creating our own.

So I guess my question is, should we just hire a chemist to create some formulas for us or can we learn how to do it without going back to school. I can read, understand and make a product from a formula very well. My problem really is knowing how much emulsifier to start with. I have read everything that I can about each individual emulsifier, which took me a few months. I understand why you might need a co-emulsifier or thickener and I am getting better at knowing which emulsifier I might need for a particular formula. Although I have a lot more to learn.

We have only made two more products since October of 2018. A spray on moisturizer and an anhydrous moisturizer and we believe it is time to start making other products. 

I am not looking for formulas, only advice about where I can learn more about choosing the right emulsifier and how much to start with. Or should I stick to using open source formulas and hire a chemist to create a couple formulas for us. Also some advice on how to present our wishes to a chemist so that he/she understands what we want and can create the formula for us.
Thank you in advance for your help. 


  • A lot of learning can occur from reverse engineering products. You can find the ingredients on the back of the labels of a product that you would want to recreate. Go through, look up function of each and try to identify the fluff ingredients. Then, I normally either use previous knowledge of ingredient percentages or the technical data available on ULProspector to find percentage or usage levels to start with. Separate them between the water and oil phase and the ingredients that must be added after cool down. Then all you can do is make a batch and see where you end up. Then alter from there. Most of the time it takes multiple iterations to get close to where you want to be. 
    If you don't have the time for that, or if that's not something you're interested in, send me an email at I work for a product development lab. 
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    @ToddZiegler69 - What you should do really depends on your main objective.

    If you want to learn to be a cosmetic chemist or formulator, then going through a course like ours ( ) is a good place to start. This also has the added benefit that you get to ask formulation questions as you go through and make your own formulas.

    However, if your goal is to "...create and sell cosmetics to generate funding for our charity" as you stated, learning how to make cosmetics is not worth your time.  Hire a cosmetic formulator or a contract manufacturer to make the products for you.  Find some products on the market that roughly match the type of products that you want and show them to the company/formulator so they can make something similar.

    Learning to make cosmetics and learning to SELL cosmetics require completely different skill sets.  Being good at making cosmetics will not help much at all with your goal of learning to sell cosmetics.  While it is useful to know about the ingredients in your formulas and roughly how things are made, this is of secondary importance to you selling products.

    Here is what you should do. 
    1.  First, go through our free report 
    2.  Then figure out who your customer is and what type of products they want to buy.
    3.  Create a brand name, graphics, start up social media accounts
    4.  Then, figure out what type of products you want to make.
    5.  Next, figure out how much you'll charge, and how you will take & fill orders.
    6.  Then, and only then find a contract manufacturer to make the products. 
    7.  Finally, get started marketing and selling your products.
    8.  Repeat this process until you've generated enough money that you don't need to keep on doing it or you can sell it to a big company for hundreds of millions of dollars.

    The bottom line is to answer the question for you want to become a chemist or do you want to build a cosmetic brand?  There is no reason you need to do both.
  • Thanks for the reply Perry. I personally want to learn how to make cosmetics but you are spot on about being one or the other. 

    For now I believe that I am going to split the difference. I have noticed a lot of ingredient suppliers sell finished bases that can be used as is or tweaked just a little. We want to do some of it in house and the reason why, is that, when someone receives our assistance they are required to spend 20 hours over a six month period volunteering with the charity. Right now the recipients spend 1 to 3 hours a Saturday bottling or applying lables. I am going to definitely take your course as soon as possible. 

    For now I am going to spend some time looking through the chemists section to see if I can find a chemist that will fit our needs.

    We are a new charity and we are still in the process of becoming a legal charity. What funds we have, come out of each founding members pocket. The only thing that we have in abundance right now is time and disire to succeed. We do have a plan and with your advice on how to proceed. I know we will succeed.

    Is there anything you can recommend when choosing a chemist? 
  • Many of the people on here did not go to school specifically for cosmetic chemistry, so don't feel like that is the only way to be educated.

    Choosing the emulsifier will always depend on the type of formula you want to make (oil in water, water in oil, etc) and the ingredients you have. To be honest there is always a bit of guesswork in choosing the amount to use. Depending on where you get your ingredients you can look at the suppliers recommended formulation tips/tricks. 
    If you read through posts on this forum, you'll see that it's always recommended to start by trying to copy a formula, then make simple adjustments and get a feel for how things work firsthand. If you have access to open source formulas and you like the feel, then start by making modifications to those. 

    You can also go the other route and hire a chemist, it really depends on what you want to make/ amount of time you would want to spend to learn how to make it. If you are trying to manufacture sellable products then I'd recommend just hire someone. You will need to do so much more than just make and test formulas;  you'll need  to  ensure compliance with regulatory label claims and your governments definition of cosmetics, packaging and design, marketing, fulfillment of orders, inventory management, quality controls. I could go on  but instead you can contact anyone on this page to learn more
  • "Learning to make cosmetics and learning to SELL cosmetics require completely different skill sets. " Agree 100%. We can make products, which consumes most of our time and resources, but a totally different mindset is required to sell. And, it's not just the making, what comes with this is all of the compliance around GMP, product registration, etc etc. Go get yourself a god contract manufacturer.
    Dr. Mike Thair
    Cofounder & Chief Formulator
    Indochine Natural
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