How to Start a Cosmetics Business
Updated: May 23
If you have an appetite to run your own business, then you may have wondered how to start a cosmetics business. Getting into the lucrative world of skincare and beauty is appealing but the reality, as we have found, is highly complex and very hard work.
My initial inspiration to create our own handmade bath and beauty products was because I wanted products for our bathroom that didn’t use single use plastics, were handmade and cruelty free. With this key objective in mind, I started to think about the regulations that apply to the industry. For anyone considering how to start a cosmetics business, this is a crucial element that must be thoroughly understood to remain legal.
So, my journey began with studying the legal requirements for cosmetic products, understanding INCI names, how to get them properly chemist approved, registering products on the appropriate cosmetic portals, the legal requirements for label design, the standards for weighing products, and so on.
It was essential to learn about each ingredient and to know what the maximum level of those ingredient concentration is allowed. For example, ‘leave on’ products will have to be identified at a much lower concentration to ‘wash off’ products. We have had to develop an understanding of allergens and, of course, keep up-to-date with any changes in the legal status of such allergens. When such standards change the implications are huge and require a great deal of organising and logistics to update.
You can read the UK government pages for “Making cosmetic products available to consumers in Great Britain” and this will outline some of what you need to do for selling of cosmetics in Great Britain.
Of course, when we first thought about how to start a cosmetics business, the stage that is most enjoyable is coming up with a new product! This is where you can really get your creative juices flowing and go through the steady process of trying new fragrances, colours and nutrients to find a combination that excites you!
This process of testing, amending, asking third party opinion continues for sometimes months before a product will be ready. Does the product foam as you want; does it dry quick enough; is it too thick or thin; is it too solid; and so, the work continues. Finding a great fragrance is tricky as I prefer allergen free. Allergens are present in both fragrance oils and essential oils and so it is a balance between aroma and allergens.
Once you have your fragrance of preference then select a colour to go with it. When you are ready, I would recommend doing sample size versions and ask friends and family to try them for you. Put together a questionnaire and ask for some feedback as this will really help fine tune your product. You might like to keep these questionnaires anonymous if possible so that you can encourage honest comments.
This was never truer when we started developing a solid shampoo. A solid shampoo needs to cleanse hair (obviously), leave it soft and revitalised but, importantly, it needs to foam too. Getting this balance of cleansing and surfactants to create the foam is very time consuming but equally very satisfying when you finally get it right.
How to Start a Cosmetics Business – Keeping it Legal!
When you have your product ready to go then a chemist product safety report is needed and this can take a few weeks to conclude. When this is done, you can start making! Your working environment will need to be clean, organised and with your formulas detailed for precise reproductions each time.
Record keeping is essential as every product production will need a batch code that will enable you, at any time, to look back and identify exactly what went into your product. We would suggest that you keep your batch code records in a spreadsheet and backed up on a cloud platform as these are important for future reference.
In the UK government web pages above, you’ll find reference to keeping an up-to-date document with information on the cosmetic product (called the ‘Product Information File’ or ‘PIF’).
You must keep your PIF records for ten years and include for each product:
• A description of the product
• A copy of the product safety report
• How good manufacturing practice has been followed
• And evidence for the cosmetic product’s effects
The EU/UK regulations are equally stringent about statutory information on your labels and so make sure that you have the necessary information and formatting. In the UK and EU, you will have to show the weight for your product (which needs to be measured on a set of scales certified to Trading Standards level). Finally, you will also need to register your product on the necessary cosmetics portal for your marketplace.
Get Marketing your Business
When all is ready, then you can start the income generating side to your business and get your branding, advertising and promotional activities going. There are many avenues to selling your products and you can choose between:
• Direct website sales
• Using marketing portals such as Etsy or Amazon
• Sell direct via fayres or markets
• Promote through family and friends
• Wholesale distributers
• Trade sales to retailers
Developing your marketplace will take time and investment but this is an enjoyable part of any business, albeit very hard work!!
I hope this is useful if you are thinking of how to start a cosmetics business and in a later article, we will the skills required to run a small business. We recently did a quick tally of the skills that we have had to learn, and these cover many aspects including finance,
marketing, sales, logistics, employment, etc. The above is, of course, not an exhaustive to-do list when looking at how to start a cosmetics business and you will need to do your own research. However, I hope you find some of my experiences useful and do leave a comment if you are starting out or on the same path.
The journey is sometimes frustrating, often very difficult but also is exciting and rewarding!