Choosing your private label cosmetics laboratory is maybe the most important step to a successful private label skin care brand. The quality of your product is paramount to your success in this 160-billion-dollar industry. There are several ways to de-risk yourself. Most importantly, make sure you have all the information regarding the laboratory and its processes. You should know exactly what to ask your private label manufacturer regarding developing the product and the contracted terms.  

Owning your formula

Many private label cosmetics laboratories will have stock formulations you can use. Some allow you to tweak the formula slightly to differentiate yourself. The obstacle here is that the manufacturer still owns the formula. If they go out of business or decide to discontinue that stock formula, you’ll have to choose another. This will cause inconsistency with your product and brand, and you might lose a large part of your loyal customer base.

There are three ways you can go about owning your formula. You can contract a cosmetic formulator to make your product for you, and then send it to a manufacturer you would like to work with. They will never own your formula though. If you know a lot about formulating cosmetics, you can do it yourself. Or you can go with a manufacturer that offers a service where you work with an in-house cosmetic formulator to design your own product according to your specifications, and with the expertise of the formulator. The advantage here is that if you don’t like the manufacturer, you can take your formula elsewhere, whereas with stock formulation you’re locked in.

Make sure it’s safe

Your product formula has the most impact in terms of safety and reliability. Consumers are more educated about what goes into their skin care products than ever. With the industry booming, they don’t have to settle for sub-par products. Choose a cosmetics laboratory with an established R&D department and a reputation for the safety of their products.

Many manufacturers use ingredients that are less expensive to make their skin care products. This increases their margins but might negatively impact your reputation and brand. Every year, a large number of cosmetic manufacturers are exposed for using harmful chemicals or unsafe procedures. Make sure to ask about their processes, and where they source their ingredients from. Stay informed on the Good Manufacturing Practices for skincare to compare with the information your manufacturers provide you with.

Use quality raw materials

Cheap beauty laboratories will often produce products that are inconsistent. As mentioned before, this could really hurt your brand, reputation, and returning customer base. You should be aware of the active and inactive ingredients that assist in the formulation of your product. If you sell products under your name it makes you legally responsible in all areas, such as your labeling (which is regulated by the FDA) and the claims you make on your product packaging. Make sure these are consistent and true. Ask your manufacturer where they source their raw materials from.

What to ask your potential Cosmetics Laboratory

You should know as much as possible about the cosmetic laboratories you are considering using. It’s always good to know how long they have been in business, to gauge their experience in the industry. You also want to know what other cosmetic products they manufacture, in case you want to expand your brand.

Lab-testing is another important factor. You should be aware of the various tests they perform. Do they do a CTFA Challenge test? How about stability testing and determining what your product’s shelf-life is? Also, ask whether the formula is already tested in a lab when it gets to them.

Find out about their pilot run and how they can help you scale. Once you are up and running, you want to know that your manufacturer can help you scale your business quickly. In the beginning you will want to know what their MOQ (minimum order quantity) is. Once your demand grows, you’ll need to scale up. Then you’ll want to know their maximum production capacity, and what the turn-around time is to produce the amount you are looking for. This is important for your inventory management and ensuring that you don’t run out of stock and lose sales.

It’s always a good idea to ask for a referral from another customer. Contact the customer and ask about their experience with the cosmetics laboratory. But the most important takeaway should be that you want to own your formula. You can avoid losing out on a lot of business if something happens to their formula or if they discontinue the stock formulation you are using. You also don’t have the problem of being locked in with one vendor, so that if you’re not happy with their service, you can easily take your business elsewhere.