How to Find Starting Cosmetic Formulas

Creating new cosmetics is what cosmetic formulators are hired to do. But if you’re new to the cosmetic industry or have concentrated on one specific area, you probably haven’t had the chance to formulate many different types of cosmetics. So, what do you do when you’re asked to create a formula that you’ve never made before? Read on to find out.

Find a good starting formula

Sure, you could just start from scratch combining cosmetic raw materials in different proportions to see what you get, but this isn’t the best way. The best way is to find a starting formula that someone else has previously created. Then, modify it to meet your needs.

Unfortunately, if you don’t know where to look, finding starting formulas isn’t easy. That’s why we’ve created the following list of the best sources for starting formulations.

Patents

The big cosmetic companies love to patent as many formulas as they can. This prevents other people from duplicating their formulas. Fortunately, it also requires them to publish (some version) of the formulas they are patenting. This makes them excellent sources for starting formulas. You can search US patents by going to the USPTO.gov website or even better, search Google Patents.

Books

There are a number of cosmetic science books that include formulas. Even better is that these books give explanations of why they are adding certain ingredients. You can get most of them at a large library or even buy them online. Some of my favorite books for finding formulations include.
Harry’s Cosmeticology
Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology, Third Edition
Chemistry and Manufacture of Cosmetics: Science 4th edition

Google Books

If you can’t afford to purchase the books above you can find preview copies of them online via Google Books. This won’t give you the entire book but it often provides you with the pages that have formulas for which you might be looking. Just go to Google Books, type in the search term for the formula you want and take a look.

Chemical Suppliers

One of the most helpful things the raw material suppliers do is create starting formulas. Of course, these formulas are usually packed with high amounts of the supplier’s ingredients but they are an excellent place to start. Here are some of the best supplier formularies that I’ve used.
Croda
Stepan

Trade Journals

There are many suppliers who do not have formula websites so they send their starting formulas to trade magazines to publish. These trade journals have put together compilations of formulas on their websites. Some excellent resources include.
Happi
C&T Cosmetic Bench Reference

Online Aggregators

These are websites that exist as hubs connecting suppliers with cosmetic formulators. If you haven’t signed up for these services, you’re missing a great opportunity. The following two websites are particularly helpful for finding starting formulations.
Innovadex
SpecialChem4Cosmetics

Ingredient Lists
If you really can’t find a good starting formula for the specific product you are making, then getting an ingredient list of an existing product is also a great way to get started. Get the ingredient list, then make a guess at the relative concentration of the most important ingredients and try it out. Refine, refine, refine until you get a formula you like. Start with these websites to get the ingredient lists.
Drugstore.com
Ulta.com

There you have it. The seven best sources for starting formulas. Remember that starting formulas are always just that…places to start. You’ll always have to modify any formula you get from any of these sources. For example, if you copy a formula from a patent you have to modify it to sell it. If you try out a supplier’s formula, you’ll often find that it doesn’t actually work or stay stable.

But once you get started, that’s when the art of cosmetic formulation begins. There is no substitute for making batches and testing them out.

Good luck!

Do you know of a place for good cosmetic formulas that we missed? Leave a comment below.

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