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Our Australian Master Formulator, Dr Mike Thair, shares his thoughts and experience in formulating new skincare products. And explains what goes into formulating new skincare products.

We are continually formulating new skincare products. These include body wash, face wash, shampoo, soap, face oils, hair oils, beard oils, and many more. And these are mainly for wholesale Private Label clients.

It’s a slow, tedious, and time-consuming task. And involves many skills.
Also, a lot of mathematics. Research. Plus in-depth knowledge of all-natural cosmetic ingredients and essential oils.

And my job as Master Formulator is to get formulations to a stage where others can easily duplicate or change them.

How does a Master Formulator turn a concept into a finished product? Why are many months required to bring a new product to life?

I wrote this description below of the product creation process from the artisan point of view. And hopefully, it will answer your question.  What Goes Into Formulating New Skincare Products? Or provide ideas for more questions, which I am happy to answer.



In Private Label work, the initial product concept comes from the client. I need to do some research to understand the client’s vision for the product.


The Olfactory Brief

In discussion with the client, we work on developing an olfactory brief. Here we think about the fragrance notes and raw materials that these notes will combine with.

And we only work with all-natural ingredients. Never synthetics.

The olfactory brief. It’s a starting point in answering the question. What Goes Into Formulating New Skincare Products?


Defining The Notes

Next, I choose the notes and ingredients that will provide the fragrance main theme and structure. The fragrance concept can define some notes. But I need to decide which essential oils can create those notes. And which essential oils to use as supporting notes.

I create notes with multiple essential oils. I place drops of essential oils onto paper fragrance test strips and fan the strips out, sniffing different combinations of the strips to help decide which ingredients to use in the fragrance.

This process can days or even weeks. Try and do too many in one day, and you risk suffering from olfactory over-load.


Writing The Initial Formula

In any skincare product, there is the base material or carrier, and the fragrance (essential oils). And one may affect the other in various ways. And a good knowledge of physics is important here.

I will usually start with writing the complete formulation. This includes the base material, and essential oil top, middle, and base notes.

I work in measurements of weight (grams). Never volume (drops or mL). This is because weight is more accurate. And can be quickly scaled up to large batches.

I prepare the formulations in Excel spreadsheets. These calculate the weight percentage of each ingredient in the formulation based on the specified ingredient concentrations and amounts.

And calculating ingredient percentages are important. Over the years, I have developed a feeling for reasonable percentages of each ingredient. And these percentages also help in following safety guidelines such as those established by IFRA. But ultimately, these percentages need to be calculated. Then checked against published global standards. It’s a lot of mathematics and involves going through the published scientific research.

I usually write formulations of 1,000 grams (1 kilo). And from here I can scale to any desired total amount once the ingredient percentages are determined.

Also, we need to have samples of the bottle the customer wants to use. These need to be calibrated by content weight. Plus, in our laboratory, we run several tests on the bottles.

By now, the formulation spreadsheet is looking complicated. It includes columns for ingredient concentrations and percentages in the finished product. As well as scaling factors to increase/decrease batch size.

And at this stage, I would think about ingredient costs. Our suppliers are contacted for details of ingredient availability and cost.  I am then able to provide the client with some early cost calculations.

Cost calculations. An important step in What Goes Into Formulating New Skincare Products.


The Selection of Raw Materials

We have used the same trusted suppliers for many years. The newest, about 10 years. Other’s, longer. And we are always on the search for new suppliers.

And with our preference to use plant ingredients, these can change depending on climatic conditions, etc. The final formulation must be robust enough not to be affected by these changes.


Weighing Out The First Trial Batch

When the formulation looks promising, I will weigh out a small batch on a scale.

With each small batch, I will test the result on my skin and/or on paper fragrance strips. After sniffing, I will adjust the amounts of ingredients in the formula. And maybe even add or remove ingredients.

Evaluating each modification can take several attempts. And sometimes I might need a few days away from the product fragrance to freshen my nose.


Testing, And Getting Feedback

The process continues with the creation of successive formulation modifications, followed by my testing on skin and paper. This process can take weeks.

At some point, I ask other people to test. This is important because each person’s nose, skin, and preferences are different.

Sometimes, feedback can be contradictory. For example, some say the fragrance has too much of one note, while others might say they would prefer more of that note. I collect all the input and then try to adjust the formula to work for as many people as possible. At the same time, we strive to fulfil the overall fragrance concept and product brief.

Finally, I will send a set of samples to the client. We prefer the blind testing approach where samples are only identified by a code number, not the ingredients. The samples usually cover a range of formulations fitting the product brief.

And it’s not just about evaluating the fragrance. Depending on the product, it needs to be evaluated in terms of its purpose and feeling on the skin or hair. This process can take a few weeks before we have any client feedback.

And feedback is an important step in what goes into formulating new skincare products.


Final Modifications And Scaling Up The Formulation

The client feedback may require modifications of the formulation. And again, producing samples is repeated. Along with more client feedback.

As with many creative endeavours, it’s hard to decide when to call the product done.

Once the final formulation is chosen by the client, it’s time to scale up the formulation to production size.



Regulatory Paperwork

All skin and hair care products require regulatory paperwork. This must be done before production and bottling begin.

In some countries we export to, they require that products pass a product safety assessment, and be registered/notified. Modifications to the formula may be required. But most of our formulating is done with the regulations in mind to prevent the need for changes at this late stage.

And once the regulatory paperwork is completed, and the product approved by the regulatory authorities, the labels are printed.

Another critical step in what goes into formulating new skincare products.


Bottling And Release!

The most exciting stage for our clients, and the Indochine Natural team. Months have gone by, and now the product has been formulated, batched, and finally, the product is ready to bottle!

Until this stage, it’s largely a solitary process for the Master Formulator. And for both formulator and client, it has involved a significant investment of time, money, and patience.

And with good luck, the result is satisfying for customers as well.

And hopefully the above goes some way to answering the question. What goes into formulating new skincare products?



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