Guide for New Natural Skincare Formulators

Creating Consistent Formulations: A Guide for New Natural Skincare Formulators

One of the best things about choosing to formulate skincare using natural ingredients such as herbs, carrier oils, butters, botanical extracts, and essential oils is that each ingredient whispers a secret tale of beauty, potency, and transformation. Each ingredient has a history of use preceding the dawn of cosmetic chemistry and industrialized cosmetic–sometimes over centuries, and in several different countries and cultures.

As you embark on this journey with nature, the path to creating your perfect skincare elixir may seem shrouded in mystery. Yet, fear not! With the right guidance and a sprinkle of patience, you can unlock the potent magic of natural ingredients and craft consistent, effective skincare formulations every time. Today, I’ll let you in on a little secret–the difference between feeling clunky and confident as a formutor is CONSISTENCY. So in this post, I’ll share 6 ways to ensure that your natural skincare formulations are sure to come out the way you want them to, every time.

6 Ways to Create Consistent Natural Skincare Formulations

1. Store your ingredients correctly

storing herbs and oils correctly

Proper storage of your ingredients is vital to ensure their efficacy and longevity. Most natural skincare ingredients should be stored in a cool, dark place, preferably in air-tight containers, to avoid exposure to air and light, which can degrade them. Additionally, certain ingredients like polyunsaturated carrier oils should be refrigerated after opening to prevent rancidity.

Be mindful of expiration dates as well, because when ingredients have spoiled, degraded, or gone rancid, that will effect the efficacy, consistency, and possibly even safety. Most natural ingredients will last at least a year when sourced, handled, and stored properly but some will have longer or shorter shelf lives. If an expiration date is not listed on the package, ask the manufacturer or distributor what they recommend.

2. Source high-quality natural skincare ingredients

dried herbs tied up

The quality of your skincare products relies heavily on the quality of the ingredients you use. Therefore, it’s crucial to source high-quality ingredients from reliable suppliers. Look for suppliers of cosmetic grade ingredients that provide detailed information about the origin, extraction method, and purity of their products. Always request for Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and Certificate of Analysis (COA) to verify the quality and safety of the ingredients.

If you are procuring herbs and botanical extracts from a farmer, rather than a supplier or distributor, they should still have batch records or other records to give an understanding of the quality, purity, and freshness of the ingredients. If they don’t have an MSDS or COA (which small farmers or herbalists might not, due to the cost of these lab analyses), ask questions about growing conditions, how they manage pests, when they were harvested, how they were stored, and how they avoid things like cross-contamination. Most farmers and herbalists are proud to share their methods for ensuring quality and consistency with their customers.

3. Keep excellent records

keeping good batch records

Keeping comprehensive records is crucial to creating consistent skincare formulations. This includes recording:

  • The exact percentage of each ingredient used.
  • The order in which ingredients were mixed.
  • The temperature at which each phase was heated.
  • Observations during formulation such as changes in color, consistency or smell.
  • Any adjustments made during the process.
  • Results of stability and microbial tests.
  • Customer feedback (if available).

4. Ensure your natural skincare formulations always equal 100%

In cosmetic formulation, all the percentages of the ingredients in a formula must add up to 100%. You won’t create high quality, consistent products by adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

This is not only a standard practice but also ensures the product’s safety, stability, and efficacy. If your formula doesn’t add up to 100%, there might be too little or too much of certain ingredients, which can affect the product’s performance or even pose safety risks. There are very few exceptions to this.

5. At-home microbial and stability testing

cosmetics lab testing

While professional laboratory testing is always the gold standard for commercial products, at-home microbial and stability testing can provide valuable insights for hobbyists and small-scale formulators.

Microbial testing involves observing your product for mold, yeast, and bacteria growth using test kits such as those found at Formulator Sample Shop consisting of “plastic slides coated on one side with Rose Bengal Agar (for yeast and mold growth) and on the other side with Nutrient-TTC Agar (for bacterial growth). There are four (4) dip slides and 10 sterile swabs included with each kit. Each dip slide is supplied with a transparent, shatterproof protective tube. Each kit you purchase comes with a color chart and instructions to help you interpret the results.” 

Stability testing checks how your product behaves under different conditions (like changes in temperature or exposure to light, or even the passing of time). For example, if it melts and then cools down, will it return to its original state? If you’ve made an emulsion, does the water phase and oil phase stay together, or does it separate? If you’ve formulated an anhydrous product with a combination of liquid oils and solid plant butters and waxes, does it stay the same consistency, or does it separate or get grainy? I’ll cover how to conduct at-home stability testing in another post.

6. Formulate in percentages and use consistent units of measure

Using percentages instead of volume measurements (like cups or spoons) ensures accuracy and consistency in your formulations. Using a scale that measures in grams to the hundredth or thousandth for precision is also highly recommended. This allows you to scale up or down your formulation with ease while maintaining the correct proportions of each ingredient. That won’t be the case if you measure using measuring cups or spoons, or a pinch of this and dollop of that.

Do you want help learning to formulate natural skincare?

Rachael Pontillo

In conclusion, creating consistent skincare formulations requires careful sourcing and storage of ingredients, meticulous record-keeping, adherence to formulation percentages, and proper testing. Remember, practice makes perfect. Keep experimenting, keep learning, and you’ll be on your way to creating amazing skincare products in no time.

Do you want my help? Check out my self-paced online course, Create Your Skincare Pro Essentials. It will give you everything you need to succeed! If you have questions about the course, feel free to contact us.


2 thoughts on “Creating Consistent Formulations: A Guide for New Natural Skincare Formulators”

  1. Formulators Sample Shop don’t ship to Australia (well they do but they charge $200 to ship one microbial kit). Can you recommend other brands or suppliers of microbial kits with more reasonable shipping to Australia? Thank you. Love the blog by the way!

    1. Rachael Pontillo

      Hi Annie, I’m not sure–I’m really most familiar with American suppliers. ships internationally and they do sell test kits, but I’m not sure if they’re any cheaper to ship. Try eBotaniq or New Directions Australia–I can’t speak to their service or pricing, but they are in Australia. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

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