Article by: Perry Romanowski

Last week I did a talk in Dallas for the Southwest SCC. It was a good meeting and I felt fortunate to be invited.

While walking around Dallas after the meeting, I stumbled upon this open market where people were selling trinkets, crafts, food, and personal care products.

I don’t know about you but I’m always a little skeptical of DIY or hand-made cosmetics. I wonder about the testing that was done and just the general stability of products.

My suggestion is to stick with the store brands. These places are great for getting ideas for new products but as the products themselves go, I’d avoid them.




  1. Avatar
    Rebecca Midkiff

    If you are going to make products that you are selling on the open market you have a responsibility to do the testing and make sure you are selling a stable and safe product. If you can’t afford it then stick to making it for yourself, friends and family. You can do some basic testing fairly simply and inexpensively by investing in some petri dishes, and media. I also have an incubator but it was a bit pricey. You can alternately store you slides in a hot cupboard. People have been using handmade product for centuries but at some point they figured out rose and glycerin cream will keep whereas some others wouldn’t. The problem is there are too many people out there selling their products that don’t know what they are doing nor do they want to do the groundwork to learn. Here’s a good starting point:
    I am all for handmade cosmetics and make most all my own.
    Cheers Rebecca

  2. Avatar
    Nancy Liedel

    On another note…the stuff in the stall all looks like it was not manufactured by the seller. My stall is a set-up and a half and my soaps are not in perfect shapes like that. Some of that is professional packaging that cannot be done in a small setting and I may be wrong, but it looks like there is an aerosol in that setup. I don’t have the room to make those, nor the desire. It’s too much work and equipment. Blah. My main goal in life is to get the heck out of my small formulary and into something off-site and very professional, but I formulate from home because I have four special needs kids and when the school calls…I gotta be there. At least they know what the “Lye” sign means and handle themselves when I’ve got it out.

  3. Avatar

    Agree with you 100% Perry.

    I did a small market research on handmade products through reviews given on makeupalley 1 month ago. Of 127 vendors of handmade cosmetics I asked about safety and stability testing only 2% did so. The most given reason for not doing any testing was: ‘the prices of testing are too high’. 34% said they didn’t think testing was necessary. I hope to publish this one day but I have also received a couple of very angry and aggressive emails like ‘you steal our children’s bread, shame on you’. Which I thought was scary and weird…

    Nancy, did you preform any stability or safety testing prior to selling your products? (I don’t know what you mean by FDA compliant)

    1. Avatar

      The ones who complain and send odd emails are the ones we don’t want in the industry. As for stability testing being expensive? I call BS on that one. If you can’t store product at different temperatures for a few months and test it using the equipment you should be testing it with when you make it?
      As werner von braun said “It ain’t rocket science”

      1. Avatar
        Nancy Liedel

        FDA compliant means that I properly store, handle and dispose of product (I do draw the line at writing down every time I toss out the trash and why). I use proper tools, clothing and bleach in ten percent solution is your friend. There is a huge list here:

        As for testing, darn skippy I do. I keep samples long term and send them for preservative testing. Which is a HUGE cost, but worth every penny. I keep samples of every single thing I make (where are you supposed to put that? I have got to get a system), and I keep them in different temps, areas I know are dirtier than my bathroom (the kids bathroom. If a product can stay together there and hold up, it’s safe). Some get stored in the fridge and freezer for several months, some in the hot car, some in shower conditions, etc. Nothing leaves this house if I have even a hint of a concern, ever.

        I batch all my products and every item that comes into the house has a lot number on it created from the soapmaker program I use. I can tell you where the essential oil for the thirty sixth batch of my patchouli soap comes from. If something goes wrong, I need to be able to track it down and go to the middleman, or manufacturer. I also watch dates like a hawk. I am allergic to latex, so I buy nitrole and survive, I hate gloves, but I deal. It’s not my health I’m worried about. I check my scales for accuracy every time I use them and am not afraid to toss anything.

        All that said…I don’t have my soaps tested. It’s not required and right now, it’s a huge bulk of what I do. I am making syndent shampoo bars and conditioners, as well as serums and some lotions, but they are all in test phase and need another few months. My eye shadows and blushes should be free of microbes, but I’m going to send some out for testing to be sure. They are mineral products, but you can’t be too careful.

        We recently had a local problem with a woman putting FDA Dyes not approved for eyes in eye shadow. One woman may lose her sight. I am dead transparent. I am working on a series of videos that show me making product. It’s a good idea for independents to be so transparent you can see our insides. No questions, no problems and if I make a mistake, I know I’ll be called out on it.

        When I started I had no idea what a huge task this was going to be, but another formulator wrote, in one of my forums, “I do it because my customers are trusting me with their largest organ, their skin.” I put that (it’s not the exact quote, but I can’t remember it right now, verbatim), in a frame and put it by the sink where I wash up and glove before going into the formulary. You cannot be too careful. There are probably areas I need improvement on, but lord knows we all have those areas.

        This may sound defensive, it’s not. It’s actually whining, because I dropped a container of Magnesium Stearate on the floor this morning and had to trash it. I detest tossing things, but there is no five second rule in formulation.

  4. Avatar

    Good point. I didn’t mean to suggest that all open market products were bad. I’m thankful there are thoughtful makers like you out there and I hope people continue to support you.

    1. Avatar
      Nancy Liedel

      They will, or won’t. It’s a darn fickle industry. As we all know. 🙂

  5. Avatar
    Nancy Liedel

    Since I sell my soaps at a crafters market, and am FDA compliant, why don’t you just ask the vendor? I can tell you everything about everything I make. I know my raw materials inside and out. I’d bore you to tears with the information on everything and in good part, it is because of what I’ve learned here and in the formulator class I’ve, almost, finished.

    Leary is wise, but independent manufacturers can be amazing, or not. It depends, so ask. I hate to see my baby tossed out with the bathwater and I’ve worked very, very hard over the past two years on my soap, alone.

    1. Avatar

      No problem with the Good Independants selling good product, well made and honestly labelled. There is more than enough space in the market for all of us. You sound like someone who is in it for the long haul. Welcome to the industry
      Let me ask you, how you would react if you were selling your products where another vendor was selling soap made from tallow, but passing it off as vegetable, and fragrancing it with room freshener. Oh and being rather disparaging about other peoples efforts as well

      1. Avatar
        Nancy Liedel

        Sadly, I’d keep my mouth shut. There are a lot of idiots in the industry who pass off stuff incorrectly and I used to get very upset. One woman soaper out there who is very successful says she colors her soap with Ultra Blue, which comes from Lapis Lazuli. I about passed out when I read that, followed by more medical claims than an infomercial. I am not the soap police and I really wish everyone would be honest, but I am a member of the Handmade Soap Makers Guild and I think that makes me take this very seriously.

        I have reported one woman to the FDA for medical claims, but she’s still in business. They don’t have the staff, or the time. I take back what I said at first, I would report someone using animal products and claiming vegan to the FDA. Why? My Vegan containers, mixers, work areas, and equipment are ONLY used on vegetable based products. I would never use Carmine (lipstick, not soap) and turn around and use the same container for an all veg product I call vegan. I can’t separate labs, but I can do everything possible to avoid mixing animal products with vegetable products. So yes, I’d turn her butt into the FDA and I hope someone would do that to me if they caught me making a medical claim, or flat lying about something, but I’m pretty careful not to do it. I do say the Activated Charcoal soap helped with my acne, but everyone is different so I have no idea if it will work with their skin. Always CYA.

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