Luisa, how can I start a cosmetic line with no money?
Simply put, you can’t.
Starting a cosmetic line is no different than starting any other business. You’ll face diverse expenses and therefore you must have some money to start off.
However, thanks to what you’ll learn in this article, you’ll minimize the risks and initial financial investment.
Ok, now we can start…Let’s see what they are.
Starting a cosmetic line with no money, tip #1: FORMULATE YOUR OWN PRODUCTS
Formulating and producing your own products instead of hiring a chemist or working with a manufacturing company will help you to save tons of money.
The bad news is that you really need to master the art of making cosmetics before the products you make are good enough (and safe) to be sold to the public.
Sorry, you can’t improvise.
While there’s nothing wrong in starting by formulating your own products, they might come out with an excessive “artisan” look that can discourage some buyers, if you have never done it before. Nevertheless, formulating your own products is definitely something you should attempt, when on a low budget.
Surely you don’t need to be a chemist to be able to formulate good quality products. You can be pretty successful as self-taught formulator. But, the point is that if you’re just starting out with zero experience in formulation or production , it’s going to take a while (months/years) before your handcrafted products will be good enough to be presented to the public.
Not only you need to learn how to properly formulate, but you’ll also have to learn how to make sure your products are safe for your customers. For example, you’ll have to learn what GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices) are and put them in practice while manufacturing.
Don’t know where to start?
Explore the only ebook that guides you from beginning to end. I wrote it to help people like you!.
Furthermore, you should acquire a minimum knowledge on how the beauty industry works, what makes a product a best seller, and other insights. Finally, you should have a solid understanding of some math and physics principles because you need to grasp them in order to formulate.
You might be tempted of buying some “Learn how to formulate” course online to scale up the learning curve fast.
I’ve seen so many out there. Some are even crazy expensive!
Online courses are great, yet they only scratch the surface of what you really need to know to properly formulate cosmetic products.
Let me explain.
At least once a week, I receive an email from someone who took the “XXX advanced course in formulating skincare” asking for advice.
The problem with these courses is that once they’re over, students are left alone trying to figure out whether what they’re doing is right or not. They turn to me for advice on how to finalize formulations, solving stability issues, etc.
They end up paying twice.
Yes, there are Facebook support groups where you can ask questions, yet the answers you’ll receive rarely come from the “professors;” they come from students like you so what’s the point?
Even if you are able to get in contact with the course professor, do you think he/she is going to actually take more than 10 minutes to examine your formula and explain where you did wrong? If you’re lucky, they’re just going to say, “replace X with Y” or “lower the amount of Z.”
Practice is what is going to make you good at formulating cosmetics. Not these courses.
So what can you do if you don’t have the patience or time to wait?
Keep reading. I’ll tell you how to breeze through the whole process!
Starting a cosmetic line with no money, tip #2: use “modified stock formulations”
Whether you’re aware of it or not, many formulators out there simply use stock formulations and make minor changes to differentiate them enough, one from the other.
What are stock formulations ?
They are formulations that anyone can use for creative cosmetic projects. Usually they’ve been developed by professional formulators and are contained in searchable databases.
If you have read my other posts, you probably noticed I always discourage people from using formulations easily found on DIY blogs. With stock formulations, like I mentioned, there’s no such issue, as they’ve been created by professionals rather than by hobbyists.
The downside of stock formulations is that they’re accessible to anyone. If you follow my content, you know that I always advocate for unique products when starting a cosmetic line. That’s why using stock formulations is not enough. Make an extra step!
Replace/remove some of the ingredients, add a nice custom scent, and the formula will become your own.
What really makes a huge difference when it comes to successfully selling cosmetics products are “marketing ingredients.”
They’re usually present at very low percentages, and this is why they rarely affect the formulation’s performance in a drastic way.
Unique Tips To Start Your Beauty Brand
delivered for free in your inbox? Yes, please!
Where to find stock formulations
Here’s a list of websites that offer professional stock formulations. Keep in mind that some of these formulas come from raw materials supplier; therefore, inevitably they’re trying to push their ingredients by including them in the formulas. Always remember that:
- Most likely not all the ingredients you see are 100% necessary (for the reasons above).
- You are free to look up an INCI name and find another supplier for the same ingredient.
Here are some websites with nice stock formulations.
Makingcosmetics (includes beginner formulations)
BASF (includes natural concept formulations)
How to customize a stock cosmetic formulation
To replace ingredients and customize a stock formulation, you must first identify those ingredients that are not 100% necessary, a.k.a the marketing ingredients. Then think of possible replacements for the other ingredients.
For example, let’s say you have a lotion formula with jojoba, almond oil, and a bunch of marketing ingredients. If you replace these 2 oils with equivalent ones, the effect on the final product will be minimal. On the other hand, if you touch the water content, emulsifier, % of main ingredients and so on, you are going to alter the whole thing (which you don’t want to). When you’ll be confident about your skills as a formulator, you’ll definitely want to move one step forward, but when you’re a beginner this procedure of making small changes can take you far.
As stated above, marketing ingredients are present in a very low % so that it’s very easy to identify them (see following example).
As a general rule, do not choose formulations with lots of ingredients. The more the ingredients, the more complicated it gets.
Being able to use stock formulations will allow you to save a lot of money. Formulation development is one of the most expensive steps in starting a cosmetic line.
Manufacturing & Sourcing ingredients
When it comes to manufacturing, it’s hard not to spend anything. This is one of the steps that definitely requires money.
To spend as less as possible, I would suggest the following:
- Manufacture yourself.
- Start with few units (250/500)
It’s also true that the simplest the product you need to manufacture, the easier it is to do DIY. So, again, be very careful, what product you choose to develop because it can make a huge difference. To learn how to set up a cosmetic lab for small/medium batches manufacturing read here.
And here’s a video where I describe 3 products that are super easy to make. Each one of them is a great starting point.
People object all the time when I say this; they ‘re passionate about a specific product and don’t want to develop another one only because it’s easier to make.
BUT you need to understand that sometimes compromises are necessary to succeed in the long term. Start small with a product that’s easy to make and has a simple formula.
Once you start making your first sales (one of the best moments of your life…) invest the profits into another product and so on.
When you want to start a cosmetic line with no money, you can’t expect to launch the perfect product!
Trust me, this is the way to start. Once you have some cash rolling in, you can focus more on product development, if that’s what you want.
As far as the ingredients, the best way I know to source them when you’re on a tiny budget, is to ask free samples to suppliers. You can use an ingredients database such as ulprospector.com to find suppliers within your country.
Lately I’ve seen a lot of common ingredients being sold on Amazon , too. The advantage of buying from Amazon is that you don’t have to pay for shipping which is super fast too.Beeswax
Starting a cosmetic line with no money, tip #3: DIY LABELS
To save as much as you can for labelling and packaging, do as follows:
- Forget about US suppliers when it comes to packaging. Go to Alibaba.com or Aliexpress.com or DHgate.com instead. Oversea suppliers have a huge variety of packaging at a fraction of the cost. Always remember to negotiate the price and to ask for samples before placing a big order.
- Launch a design contest or hire a designer. Design contests are when you have designers from all over the world sending you unique ideas based on a brief. Price is around $600 for a contest, and I highly recommend the website 99designs. They also released a cosmetic branding guide that you can find here. If you prefer to hire a designer, the best way to save money would be going on Fiverr or Upwork.
- Use a website like Canva.com to design your own labels and then print them out using a professional printer and labels from Avery.com
- To check whether you have all the required information for the label to be FDA compliant, design the packaging according to this table below. Then, go to the store and buy the same product as yours to make sure all the information are there (and they’re in the right position).
From the FDA website
Starting a cosmetic line with no money, tip #4: Focus on what really matters and learn to save money.
While there are expenses you cannot avoid, some others are totally useless.
Completely useless are expenses such as: business cards, brand new Mac for your office, new desks and furniture, and, in general, everything that is not directly related to your cosmetic product, yet only serves the purpose of letting you feel like a “real” entrepreneur.
If you subscribed to my newsletter, you know that spending too much money on unnecessary things is what I consider the #1 mistake when starting a new business.
Unique Tips To Start Your Beauty Brand
delivered for free in your inbox?
For example, starting a legal business entity doesn’t have to be complicated and expensive.
When making the first steps, you definitely don’t need to hire a lawyer and you surely don’t need to waste months creating a business plan.
Websites such as Legalzoom allow you to create your business entity effortlessly with a few clicks. Legalzoom is the service I used to register my business so it’s 100% guaranteed.
Use all your financial and physical energies to focus on product development. Everything else needs to come (and will come) at a later stage.
If you have read this post, you’ll probably don’t have much money (yet) to invest in a cosmetic line. That is totally fine and shouldn’t discourage you. The good news is that if you have a job, you can start saving some money right away. It doesn’t matter whether you’ll be launching your line next week or a year from now; what matters is that you don’t stop pursuing your dream only because of money. Saving money requires sacrifices, yet is doable. Start by saving a little each month.
One passion I have, besides cosmetics, is finance. One app that has helped me tremendously to save money is Qapital. Qapital allows you to set automatic deposits and round up each transaction so you save money automatically and effortlessly.
The average annual amount saved by its users was $1,400 per year, enough to make your first steps in the cosmetic industry.
I want to spend a few words on credit cards. Way too many people end up in debt when starting a business. As minimalist, I stay away from debt; at the same time, I understand that sometimes it’s a necessary step to get started. My suggestion is to use your brain when making a decision. To be 100% honest, credit cards have saved me many, many, times because of the delayed payment. I’m also a fan of credit card bonuses which I regularly use to pay for flights or redeem as statement credit.
After reading this post, do you still believe it’s impossible to start a cosmetic line with no money? Let me know in the comments below!
32 thoughts on “Starting a cosmetic line with no money- Practical tips”
Great article, very optimistic, thoughtful and realistic. Thanks Luisa, you are great.
you’re awesome, thank you!
How can I contact you?
There’s the contact page. Or you can send an email to email@example.com
Great article, very helpful thank you.
Thank you for reading!
Hello. Thank you so much for this article. This is the best site!
We are selling sugar scrubs from a home-based business and doing pretty well. We want to make sure that our labeling is FDA compliant. I noticed that there is no link in the article for the table to create the labels. The article states: “To check whether you have all the required information for the label to be FDA compliant, design the packaging according to this table.” But I couldn’t find a table. Would you please be able to share that information?
I have updated the article with the table. Here’s the link for the full list of labelling regulations according to FDA https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetics-labeling-regulations/cosmetics-labeling-guide Good luck!
Me gustaría iniciar una linea de cosmeticos de belleza para exportar desde.mi.pais de origen Republica Dominicana , quiero trabajar de la mano con usted para tener productos propios.
Sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.
hey luisa my name is also luisa
hey well he said what I ve been wanting to do he wants to be able to make hes own beauty cosmetics line and ship it to the dominican republic and he wants you to make hes products and have hes own merchandise own label ….. 🙂 witch is the same questions i was going to ask you ?
Hi Luisa. Not sure I understand the question, but I noticed you bought the ebook. Hopefully the answers you’re looking for are in there.
This is a good site for someone (like myself) trying to start a private label for cosmetics products (ie skincare). I’ve been reading a lot on your site and am grateful for such a good write up sharing by you.
I am keen to start my own private label (skincare products) under my own brand/trademark (I already owned the trademark), and dropped you an email. Looking forward to receiving your email.
Happy new year and thank you.
Jimmy Ng @ KaizenOne
E: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Jimmy, I did not receive any email from you. Can you send it again?
Great article! Loved it!
What is your opinion on “Formula Botanica” course or “Perry Romanowski’s course? Please let me know.
I didn’t take any of those courses, but they seem legit and valuable. Both will probably provide you with the basics you need. I briefly talk about online courses in this video https://youtu.be/XvRGqLnq39k
Hello Luisa, such a great article thank you so much.
I love that you are honest about what is really important when you wanna start your own cosmetic line.
I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years but, i never had the courage to really look into it, and how to get started because i always thought that you need thousands of $$$ and to be honest the competition out there is insane.
So, here i am, finally i had the courage to do some research which landed me on your site and your article gave me hope. I have the passion and drive and its been one of my “silent dreams” which now i feel optimistic that I CAN DO IT!!!
Thank you so much 🙂
Good luck , Carolina. Wish you the best.
I like all the tips which you listed in this post about starting a cosmetic line with no money. Thanks for sharing these useful tips with us.
Thank you for reading!
how can I contact you and do you have a business page that I can follow?
there’s the contact page on the website. Facebook page is Luisa Fanzani :))
Thank you so much, I look forward returning to your site often. I am in the very early stages of starting my own business and would probably have given up, except for a couple of “customers ” who rave about the difference my products have made for them. It is neither easy nor quick, so thank goodness it is (usually) enjoyable!
Wish you the best, Luna! Good luck!
Thank you kindly for the article and the knowledge. Starting my own makeup line with a couple of products to be realistic is something I’ve thought about for yrs. I started wearing makeup later in life bc your skin changes with time and I wanted to feel beautiful. I’ve been told numerous times that it’s not worth it and I gave up . But the truth is I don’t want to have any regrets and I want my son to be proud of me.
Wish you the best, Ginette!
I am new
This article helped me a lot
Will keep sewking advice from u
Awesome. Cant wait. You covered everything. Once im satisfied i have a safe and marketable product, should i offer small free test samples? Also whats the easiest item to start with? I have tins for lip balms. I have soap and i also love the idea of awesome lotions beard products etc. im a big fan of quality essential oils, so i will include them in all of my products. Im excited but i think i should start with practicing my new trade. I will be the guinea pig because i dont want anyone to get sick because i did not follow best practices. Its covid now and my husband is not working. We are far from starving, yet i want to help bring in $$$. The sooner i start, the better. Ive had successful businesses before. If i follow your advice i know i can do it. Im thrifty with money and already shamelessly ask vendors for free samples. I bought pipettes gloves hot plate seperate utensils , but i dont have the ph meter. Do people sell used ones? And do you offer any free recipes you think are winners? Can i buy your boojknvia venmo please? Or paypal zellie etc?! Lmk asap.
Watch this https://youtu.be/XBycLYOTO60
Hi are you familiar with the face masks that comes in packs???… I’m interested in those for my masks and I’m ordering the kit off of amazon… I will be able to mix up any ingredients I need too for all skin type with the kit… I really like the idea having ready to use masks in the packs…. Are you familiar???
Hi Danielle, not sure what you mean…but good luck with your project!