For a very long time, I have researched and tried to learn as much as I can about cosmetic formulations for my business. When I have been able to, I have even blogged about it. Let's be realistic though. Cosmetic formulation is not something to take lightly when you are selling a product. There's actually a big difference between cosmetic formulation and DIY recipes.
With the wonders of the internet there are thousands of DIY recipes for almost everything, including lotions. There are so many it is overwhelming. What is concerning, is how many of these recipes are being used by individuals in their business.
What is the big deal?
Something to always ask, does the person have formulation experience and education? It is important to ask this of ANYONE selling you a product. One, they need to understand on a basic level how specific oils, fragrances, etc will affect the skin. Even with the small amount of information I learned in my anatomy of the skin as an aromatherapist, it is not enough. The individual has to know what those oils, fragrances, etc are composed of chemically when formulating any product.
Something else to ask, do they use preservatives?
Before you start running let me explain why you should ask and should want a yes answer to this. First, there are some really great preservatives out there that are not as harsh as some would have you believe.
Secondly, water breeds life. We all know this. When formulating for something as easy as a body scrub/polish, the formulator has to take into consideration the potential for water contamination into their product by the purchaser.
No, there is not a requirement to have to provide a preservative in a non aqueous product, but there is something to be said for the safety that a formulator considers when making something like a scrub.
Another really important question to ask is, do they test their products before they make them available for sale?
When I say test, I do not mean have friends and family or even potential clients use them and report back. I am referring to the testing that is done in a lab to make sure the product is stable and safe for human use as well as microbial testing.
If someone that found a lotion recipe online decided to start selling it without testing it properly, the results could be disastrous for the potential user. Every pumpable lotion I have found contains water.
If the preservative the formulator uses is not strong enough, it is not the correct one for their formulation they are using, or they decided not to use one, mold and bacteria can begin to grow in as little as 24 hours and take up to a full week or more before it is even noticed.
Does your formulator know the expiration dates of their ingredients?
This is something else to consider. While antioxidants may extend the shelf life of cosmetics, they do not last forever. Someone with proper training will take this into consideration when formulating products. Many trusted formulators also have to keep logs showing when the product or batch of a product is created as well as its expiration date.
What about aromatherapy?
Sadly, even trained aromatherapists forget that they're not true cosmetic formulators. While an aromatherapist is fully trained in proper dilution ratios to use in products for formulating purposes, they are not given adequate training in cosmetic formulation.
On the flip side of this, cosmetic formulators often work with aromatherapists to ensure they are using appropriate oils in their products. As some of you know by now, there are certain essential oils that are just not safe topically unless used in specific dilutions.
When is DIY safe?
If you are not selling your DIY products and are keeping them void of water, they can be relatively safe if the person you have received the information from is a master formulator, cosmetic formulator, or even someone who has spent years of self study in cosmetic formulation.
Unfortunately, of the millions of websites sharing DIY recipes, I have yet to find a true formulator that wrote the article. I am not saying all recipes are unsafe. I am saying be careful out there in the world wide web!
If you are interested in creating items to sell, please do your research. Take the coursework you need to take to learn about cosmetic formulation or the time to properly learn formulation through self study.
There are some amazing schools available now online! Get your products tested by a lab. Do the necessary processes to guarantee your product is safe. If this trade interests you, I am excited for you! It is an amazing journey to take.
In the meantime, stay creative and stay safe!