The challenges of skincare formulation for indie brands

Many products are formulated without understanding the challenges of skincare formulation. Also, there are safety considerations? Do they test their products for microbial contamination? What about product stability?

To provide just one example of the challenges, let’s look at working with essential oils. Yes, you can use synthetic fragrance. They just make things feel good, whereas good quality essential oils can do some good.

Working with essential oils in formulations has challenges. For example, some essential oils in product formulations can oxidise. Or chemically change. Sometimes causing the product to discolour. And in others, causing the product to become irritating to the skin.

Also, some essential oils can be corrosive to packaging. Especially if the packaging is low quality. And if the formulator uses the essential at higher amounts than recommended. Or where the essential oil isn’t fully solubilised or integrated into the formulation.  Here, packaging failure can speed up product oxidation. Negative customer perceptions of the product may include pump failures, packaging cracking, or discolouration.

The above are all examples of what we look out for during Stability Testing of the product before we release it for sale. These changes are only seen over time.  Stability Testing typically puts the product under heat stress for 3 months at 40C. It is not an exact science. But it provides the formulator an insight into what might happen at room temperature over 12 months.  This is the minimum standard formulators should aim for in a commercially viable product.

These are challenges of skincare formulation. Always ask the qualifications and experience of the formulator. Also, if the products are registered with the cosmetics authorities.

Dr. Mike Thair

Master Formulator

Indochine Natural Sdn Bhd


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