Article by: Perry Romanowski

Welcome to Day 20 of the 30 Days to Become a Better Cosmetic Chemist series

This 30 day challenge is all about giving you lessons and basic exercises that will improve your abilities as a cosmetic chemist.  cosmetic-ingredient-list

Get your copy of the Become a Better Cosmetic Chemist workbook

In this episode

In today’s program we’re going to talk about raw materials, ingredient lists, and what you can learn from them. We’ll be covering exactly how you can create a close approximation of any formula just by using their ingredient list.

In this episode you’ll find:

  • Six step method for analyzing an ingredient list
  • Where to find ingredient lists for products
  • Figuring out which ingredients are important
  • Finding the 1% line
  • Guessing the level of ingredients in the formula
  • Including important low-level secondary ingredients
  • Making your new prototypes

Today’s challenge

Follow the 6 steps and see if you are able to create a reasonable duplicate.

Put your analysis in the comments below.

My two favorite places to find LOIs is and

TAGS:30 days


  1. Avatar
    Endlex Victor Okechukwu

    hi perry
    my test is on permanent hair dye, the ingredient are as follows < water , sodium laureth sulfate, p-phenylenediamine, oleic acid, ammonium hydroxide, isopropyl alcohol, resorcinol, hydrolized collagen, vit.c, pentasodium pentetate, sodium hydrosulfite, sodium sulfite, fragrance.

    the important ingredients are as follows< water, sodium laureth sulfate, p-phenylenediamine, oleic acid, ammonium hydroxide, isopropyl alcohol, resorcinol, pentasodium pentetate, sodium hydrosulfite, sodium sulfite.

    i guess bellow 1% ingredients start from< isopropyl alcohol, . therefore the starting point should be as follows< water-75%, sodium laureth sulfate-5%, p-phenylenediamine-10%, oleic acid-5%, ammonium hydroxide-2%, isopropyl alcohol-1%, resorcinol-0.5%, pentasodium pentetate-0.5%, sodium hydrosulfite-0.5%, sodium sulfite-0.5%

  2. Avatar
    Endlex victor Okechukwu

    Hi Perry
    It’s an interesting lesson of day 20. Duplicating a product,

    How long will cosmetics formulating course last to completed?

  3. Avatar
    Endlex victor Okechukwu

    Hi Perry
    It’s an interesting lesson of day 20. Duplicating a product,

    How long will cosmetics formulating course last to completed?

  4. Avatar
    Christiana Willis

    Hi Perry,
    I am new at formulating and this series has helped me to learn a lot about formulating.

    I picked the follow product for my activity:

    Deep conditioning mask.

    Aloe Barbadensis (Organic Aloe) Juice, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Oil, Biotin, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil, Avocado Oil, Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Seed Oil, Carrot Seed Oil, Honey Extract, Silk Amino Acid, Green Tea Extract, Stearalkonium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, dl-Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut RBD) Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Limmnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Oil (Refined). Essential Oil: Grapefruit, Lavender.

    I am guessing the the 1% line starts at the honey extract. I guess the line is after the honey extract because extracts claims ingredients

    The important ingredients below the 1% line would be:
    Stearalkonium Chloride – For anti-static – 1%
    Phenoxyethanol – preservative – 1%
    dl-Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), – conditioning -1%
    Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein- conditioning and strength -1%

    Aloe Barbadensis (Organic Aloe) Juice -( Water and aloe extract 200x to turn water into pure aloe juice) -73%
    Cetearyl Alcohol – thicken agent and ingredients penetration – 3%
    Ricinus Communis (Castor) Oil -emollients – 2
    Biotin – not sure but I would guess 2%
    Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil, – emoillent – 2
    Avocado Oil – 2%
    Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Seed Oil – 2%
    Carrot Seed Oil -2 %

    Thank you,


    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Good guesses. This is a particularly difficult LOI because the company who put it together is not following the proper rules of ingredient labeling. Aloe should not be the first ingredient since it is mostly water. Water should be the first ingredient. This suggests that they aren’t necessarily following the 1% rule. It’s unlikely that Biotin is used at over 1% as that ingredient is very expensive and has no impact on the formula. It’s also unlikely that Panthenol is used at 1% for the same reason. The main functional ingredients in this formula are the Stearalkonium Chloride and the oils. It wouldn’t be a particularly good conditioner though.

      Nice work though.

  5. Avatar

    Dear Perry,
    First of all, thank you very much for making this 30 days VDO, it is very inspiring, brief of key information and (i would not say easy as i have no Chemist background nor working in Cosmetic field, however, i can make a different now 😉 understandable. I still working on the ingredient and sorting out what should be functional, formulation aid and surely claim ingredient.. not yet guess the % of the ingredient yet, but i am working on it! Anyhow, while looking at the ingredient of products (i look at the Body Shop body butter/ lotions), i have a question!
    I understand that once you have one formula you can just change small thing or just the fragrance/ color to make different to get more variety of products. I can understand if one product can have many ingredients i.e. emollient, conditioning agents, or even fragrances.. but i do not understand why one product needs more than one preservative ? The rose body butter i looked, there are 3 preservatives.
    I understand why we put preservatives, you did mention in Day8 (?) but 3 preservative! can you explain why? or instead of putting 3, can we just consider to put one, good one, better one??
    Thank you very much, Pu

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you’ve found the series helpful.

      The reason to use multiple preservatives is because your formulas will be attacked by multiple different types of microbes. Some preservatives work better against molds while others work against bacteria. There are not many preservatives that will kill a full range of the microbes that can attack your systems. This is why you should always have at least 2 different preservatives in your system.

  6. Avatar

    Hi Perry, I picked a difficult one. It is a gel that can be used as mask or cream, it is very jelly but not sticky.
    Shiseido Aqualabel Special Gel Cream:
    Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Dipropylene Glycol, Dimethicone, PEG-240/HDI Copolymer Bis-Decyltetradeceth-20 Ether, Silica, Sodium Chloride, Gellan Gum, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Juice, Phytosteryl/Octyldodecyl Lauroyl Glutamate, PEG/PPG-14/7, Dimethyl Ether, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate, Solluble Collagen, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Metaphosphate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Potassium Hydroxide, Citric Acid, BHT, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Sodium Benzoate, Fragrance.
    I guess the 1% line is between silica and sodium chloride.
    Water 68, Glycerin 10, Butylene Glycol 6, Dipropylene Glycol 4, Dimethicone 3, PEG-240/HDI Copolymer Bis-Decyltetradeceth-20 Ether 2.5, Silica 2,
    The following ingredients are below 1% but still important:
    Sodium Chloride 0.5 , Gellan Gum 0.5, (both important for the reology)
    Phytosteryl/Octyldodecyl Lauroyl Glutamate 0.2, emulsifier
    Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer 0.3, emulsifier
    Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Sodium Benzoate 0.25, preservatives

    1. Avatar

      the acrylate is needed to avoid the stickiness! I read it somewhere…

    2. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Nice job! This seems like a reasonable approach although I think your solids level is too high in some cases. For example, I doubt that Dimethicone is used at 3%. It’s typically no higher in a leave-on product than 1%. And Glycerin at 10% would produce a formula that is super sticky. I’d guess it is more like 5%. This would put the other glycols at 4 and 3%.

      For the important but less than 1% ingredients I think you’d want to include Citric Acid and Potassium hydroxide so you can adjust the pH.

      Interesting formula.

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.