5 TOP Secrets of Successful Cosmetics Formulations

5 TOP Secrets of Successful Cosmetics Formulations

Top Secret #1: Using the right materials in the right amounts in the right application
Sounds easy, right? You’d be amazed how many times formulators get one or more of these elements wrong. Let’s break it down, and you’ll see how mistakes can easily be made:

  • right material: this needs to suit the company philosophy and have the required efficacy with fantastic marketable claims. For example, if the company philosophy is natural products, then all ingredients must suit this philosophy including any actives AND any incidental ingredients the active may contain. Some active ingredients may contain incidental preservatives that conflict with company philosophy – so check this carefully! There is also a big difference between having a material with great scientific results and one that has a great marketing story – remember, the science behind how materials work on a cellular level CAN’T be told in promotional material! Claims made in marketing campaigns must be visible/appearance based, so if the material doesn’t have good in-vivo data proving those visible results, you’ll struggle to have an effective marketing claim. Even if you have the best product in the world if you can’t say anything about it, you won’t sell a single unit! Choose wisely to ensure the materials you select suit your company philosophy and have a fantastic marketing story to really drive sales.
  • right amount: if the in-vivo results of an active ingredient show efficacy when used in a cream base at 5% twice daily, then you need to use it in a cream base at 5% with directions to apply twice daily. All too often we see companies use active materials in lower amounts than the in-vivo test conditions to save on material costs; but if the active material is used less than its proven amount, you might as well not use it at all!
  • right application: there is no point using an active material that has been proven in a twice daily application (leave on product) in a wash off or once daily or weekly application. There are plenty of actives that suit wash off or low frequency use conditions; if that is the type of products you are creating then speak with your suppliers to get actives that work in those applications.

Top Secret #2: Get the actives to where they need to be
Cosmetic substances applied topically may:

  • sit on the surface of the skin and/or penetrate the very outer layers of the epidermis (stratum corneum). This is ideal if you are creating a ‘barrier protection’ product or trying to prevent transepidermal water loss: use appropriate film formers, hydrolysed proteins, barrier agents and lipids to achieve this.
  • penetrate to the mid-layers of the epidermis (stratum granulosum) to support hydration and suppleness claims. Osmolytic substances such as humectants can be effective carriers to this level of the epidermis and are useful where actives need to reach the mid-layers of the skin.
  • penetrate into the deeper layers of the epidermis (stratum basale). This is where a lot of high end actives need to penetrate; such as skin whitening agents, peptides and stem cells. To get actives to the stratum basale, you need to formulate effectively using one or more delivery systems such as suitable solvents, liposomes, encapsulation and/or micro or nano emulsions to penetrate effectively through the outer layers of the epidermis and reach the target site.

If you don’t get the material to its required site of activity, you might as well not have it in the formula at all!

Top Secret #3: Good sensory impact
The first thing a consumer will do when trying a product, is smell it. The second thing they will do is evaluate how much they like (or dislike) the product by the way it feels and spreads on application. Whether it is fragranced or not; high or low spreading; silky or cushiony… it needs to suit your target market sensory expectations. Even if it has excellent efficacy, if a consumer doesn’t like the way a product smells or feels, they won’t use it long enough to get the results! With an almost endless array of fragrances and sensory agents now available, there is no excuse to get this wrong… speak with your supplier to include the functional materials to meet the aesthetic requirements of your target market for a successful formulation!

Top Secret #4: Use the right method
Even the most careful material selection is worthless if you don’t use the right compounding method, and that method needs to be easily scalable to suit bulk manufacture. Method is crucial! In addition, a method that is tricky in the lab can become impossible in large quantities, and/or using materials incorrectly can dramatically affect a products shelf life and stability. Three of the biggest errors we see formulators commonly make include:

  • heating volatile materials – if you heat them, they simply evaporate… so why use them in the first place? Always check and add below their vaporisation temperature.
  • incorrect hydration/activation of gums/polymers – every gum/polymer needs its own specific method of hydration (water soluble) or activation (oil soluble). If you don’t hydrate/activate correctly, they may as well not be added!
  • adding materials in the wrong phase – the right materials in the wrong combinations, being over heated (or not heated at all, if that is required), the wrong shear… all of these items can make good material selection pointless.

But these are only 3 examples of what can go wrong… human error at the formulation stage can be the worst impact on formulation stability and scalability. Speak with your suppliers to get the correct processing information and create the right method for successful formulations, especially when working with new and innovative materials!

Top Secret #5: Ensure compatibility
This little secret, often overlooked, can have dramatic impacts on the shelf life and efficacy of a product. Here are a couple of scenarios:

  • incompatible pH – this is by far the biggest mistake we see formulators use. They may: select the right active, but put it in a base product where the pH makes it no longer bioavailable; or combine materials with very different pH requirements; or not allow for pH drift over the shelf life, which will always happen in water based products.
  • incompatible charge – some materials need to avoid anionic environments while others may not be electrolyte or charge tolerant at all! Using materials in an environment where the charge is wrong can lead to insoluble complexes forming or totally negate normal functionality.
  • incompatible polarity – in anhydrous systems, polarity of your lipids matters! Some viscosity modifiers specifically suit non-polar environments while others need polar activators; and others are specifically needed to hold polar and non-polar lipids together! The polarity of lipids, and how selection, combination and stabilisation can be impacted, is another scenario often overlooked by formulators until something goes wrong!

Exciting product launches come from using innovative materials to create industry leading products -find more at in-cosmetics Latin America and make sure you master these secrets to have truly successful formulations.

Belinda Carli is the Director of the Institute of Personal Care Science and the Official Technical Advisor for all in-cosmetics exhibitions around the world, ensuring you see the latest material innovations and solutions at every show. Learn how to get your formulas right! Study on-line, via distance education with the Institute of Personal Care Science, Industry Leaders in providing Certificate and Diploma level training in Cosmetic Science, Formulation, Brand Management and Regulatory Affairs. IPCS is as close to you as your computer, no matter where you are in the world! Find out more: www.personalcarescience.com.au or email info@personalcarescience.com.au

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