Should you use a blend for your cosmetic formulation?

The primary job of a cosmetic formulator, namely creating cosmetic products, can be challenging.  That’s mainly because you are trying to achieve a number of goals with every formula you make.  Each formula has to…

  • Perform the primary product function well
  • Be aesthetically appealing to consumers
  • Remain stable for a year or more
  • Remain safe to use over the life of the product
  • Have a story your marketers can use to sell the product
  • Be easy for your manufacturing people to make
  • Remain within the desired cost parameters

And these days you also have to worry about sustainability, ingredient inventory, environmental impact plus a host of other issues specific to whatever type of product you are making.  Oh yeah, you usually are on a strict time crunch and the project has multiple parallel paths requiring different formulas for each option.

It can be tough.

Raw material blends

The raw material suppliers know the formulator’s challenges and have devised a solution that can make things easier for you and also help them sell more of their own product.  The solution is raw material blends.

Raw material blends are ingredients sold to you as a single product, but they contain multiple ingredients you could have bought separately. The blends can be simple like a preservative blend of DMDM Hydantoin plus Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate (Glydant plus). There are lots of preservative blends.  Or the blends can be more complex like this hair conditioner base from J Edwards International.

Should you use a raw material blend?

Whether you should use a blend or not depends on your company, their risk tolerance and the speed at which you need to get products out the door.  Let’s briefly look at the benefits and disadvantages of using ingredient blends.

Benefits of blending

There are a number of benefits to using a blend.

  • Speed of formulating - Depending on how complex the blend is you should be able to get to a finished formula more quickly.
  • Speed of production - With less ingredients to add, your production time should be shortened. Plus your compounders will like having to add fewer ingredients.
  • Product stability -  If you’re using a blend the supplier should have done testing on it making you less worried about product instability.
  • Less chemical inventory - If you only have so much room for ingredient storage using a blend can help make that more efficient.
  • Reduced cost - Using a blend may or may not reduce your product cost

Disadvantages of blends

Given all those benefits, you might be wondering why everyone doesn’t use ingredient blends when making their products.  Well, you just have to consider the disadvantages.

  • Reduced formulating flexibility - If you are buying a blend that comes with a specific ratio of one ingredient to another you can’t easily adjust those ratios. You could just buy the individual ingredient and adjust the ratio that way but if you’re doing that there’s less benefit to using a blend.
  • Increased cost - While the blend may reduce cost it may also increase your product cost. It really depends on the blend and your particular application
  • Less knowledge about formula - A huge disadvantage to using a blend can be that you don’t know exactly how much of every ingredient is in your formula. Often, suppliers don’t tell you the exact blend ratio since it’s a trade secret so you don’t know exactly what is in your formula. And if the supplier ever made a change, that could change your formula without your knowledge.
  • Increased risk - Most blends are customized to a specific supplier so if you’re using a blend, you limit yourself to a single supplier. And if that supplier happens to stop making the product, change the product in some way or goes out of business, you’re in trouble. It’s rarely a good business practice to have a single supplier for your ingredients.

So, should you use a cosmetic ingredient blend or not?

That just depends on whether you (or your company) think the benefits outlined above outweigh the disadvantages.

Personally, I don’t like to take on that much risk and also like to know exactly what is in the formulas I create. If I ever did use a blend I would certainly make it a point to know exactly the ratio of all the raw materials blended together. That way if it ever happened that the blend was no longer available, I could readily reproduce any formula I created.

What do you think about using blends?  Leave a comment below.


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How to Become a Cosmetic Chemist

The job of a cosmetic chemist, or as they call it in the UK a cosmetic scientist, requires you to do a wide variety of things both in and out of the lab. Your main responsibility will be that of a formulator. This means you mix raw materials together to create cosmetic products like lipstick, nail polish, skin lotions, shampoos, toothpaste and any other type of personal care product.

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