Where to get raw materials for making cosmetics

When I was working for a company it was pretty easy to get the raw materials I needed for making cosmetic formulas.  I would just look up a raw material, contact the sales person I knew from the company and ask for a sample.  Within a day or two I would have a sample waiting for me.  And if it was a material that my company already used (we had a few thousand in inventory), I could just contact our active ingredients cosmeticmanufacturing people and get a sample.  It was actually much more complicated than this but I knew how to get samples anyway.

However, now that I don’t work for a corporation and am independent, it is much more challenging to get raw materials.  In fact, it’s much more challenging to even find out about them.  But if you are going to be a cosmetic formulator, you’ll need to have sources for all the raw materials you might want to use.  So, in this post we’ll cover what you need to know about where to get raw materials to make cosmetics.

Learning about materials

Before you can get raw materials you have to know what raw materials you need to get.  There are over 15,000 raw materials listed in the INCI Dictionary and you can pretty much use any of them in your cosmetic formula.  This number is actually much higher because for every material listed in the dictionary there are multiple suppliers who make materials that can be slightly different.  So, you’ll want to narrow this selection down.

You can do this by first learning about the different types of cosmetic raw materials.  We cover this much more in-depth in our cosmetic formulation course.

Next, you can review things like the Buyer’s Guide from C&T.  A Buyer’s Guide is a listing of all the companies that sell raw materials plus the types of materials they sell.  Other sources include…

Happi Buyers Guide — Limited selection but useful
PCPC Buyers Guide — They list suppliers for over 3800 raw materials with international sourcing.
SpecialChem4Cosmetics — The INCI directory is an excellent source of raw material information.
ULProspector - An excellent source for raw material supplier information.

You can also learn about new raw materials at trade shows.  The best ones for the cosmetic industry include

New York SCC Suppliers Day

Getting Raw Material Samples

Once you figure out what raw materials you want to start testing, you’ll need to get samples. If you work for a big company this is simply a matter of contacting your supplier or distributor and asking for a sample. They’ll send it to you pretty fast. It is not well-known but the supplier sales people are judged on how many samples they can send out so you are actually doing them a favor when you ask for samples.

But if you don’t work for a big company it could be a bit harder to get samples. Your best bet is to develop a relationship with the sales person for the company that makes the product you want to test. This can be done at an SCC meeting or through LinkedIn. If this doesn’t work you can search Google for distributors of the raw material and ask them for samples.  They may send you something.

If getting samples doesn’t work you may have to buy the product to do your testing.  You can often buy directly from the supplier, the distributor or you may find sources of raw materials online such as through eBay or even Amazon. The website MakingCosmetics is also a good source of raw materials.

Final tips

There are a few things you should know when trying to get samples for raw materials.  First, if you are going to get samples, you’ll need a business address.  Companies will generally not send cosmetic chemicals to home addresses.

Next, when making cosmetics always follow Good Manufacturing Procedures (GMP) as outlined by the FDA.

In fact, when making cosmetics be sure that you know, understand and follow all the FDA guidelines for manufacturing cosmetics!


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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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