One of the biggest challenges a formulator faces is creating products that are different than their competitors. Unfortunately, most cosmetic chemists have to do this using the same ingredients that everyone else can use and the public is not good at discerning subtle differences. This is why most cosmetic formulas end up relying on packaging, story, fragrance and color to stand out. Most cosmetic chemists find this unsatisfying.
A strategy that still holds promise for allowing you to make your cosmetic formulations stand out is the creation of multifunctional cosmetics. While there is no single definition to what constitutes a multifunctional cosmetic, there are three aspects of it that can impact your formulation.
This is the most obvious type of multifunctional formulation. Essentially, you create a formula that will have multiple benefits during one application. This would include things like a 2-in-1 shampoo which combines both cleansing and conditioning in a single product. Antiperspirant/Deodorants are also technically multifunctional products as they combine both wetness protection and odor relief. This type of multifunctionality has also been applied to makeup, skin products, hair styling products, oral care and more. For some companies multifunctional products are their primary innovation strategy.
Creating a list of different types of cosmetic products then randomly choosing two to mash-up into a single product is a great way to generate new product ideas
Multifunctional Cosmetic Ingredients
With the push to sustainability and reduction of compounds, multifunctional ingredients will play a more important role than ever in the cosmetic formulating business. Multifunctional ingredients are those which have dual purposes in a formula. For example, some fragrance ingredients will double as preservatives. Emulsifiers can both keep the formula stable while thickening the system. They can also have a significant effect on the feel of the end product. These type of ingredients can help formulators reduce chemical inventory, reduce formula complication, and improve ease of manufacture. They are also an excellent source of patents if you can find multifunctional ingredients.
When I worked at Alberto Culver we had a product called VO5 Hairdressing. The marketing department wanted to increase use up rates and thought that if they could find other applications for the product it would help. So, we discovered that you could use VO5 hairdressing for lots of things like removing scratches from wood, stopping squeaking doors, using it as lip balm, protecting from chaffing, etc. The idea is that your formulations may have been designed for one function but if you give it some thought you may be able to discover other functionality or applications for which the product might also work.
Differentiating your formulations will continue to be a challenge all cosmetic formulators face. You can achieve some real differentiation if you apply some of these principles of multifunctionality.