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How to create a care line in 11 steps [Case study] (2024)

Megan Cox woke up one morning to find she’d made $10,000 in sales overnight. At the time, she was a student at MIT and had just launched a skincare line, Amalie Beauty – her first foray into entrepreneurship.

Over the next few years, Megan developed her brand into a six-figure business. But while her eyelash serums and facial oils were selling more and more, she was losing interest in running a direct-selling skincare brand. It was at a crossroads: expand or sell.

Megan decided to sell, diverting her attention to another skincare business she had developed on the side. That company is Genie Supply, a beauty lab of its own that makes products for hundreds of other founders who started out like Megan, with an idea and a passion for skincare.

With a wealth of experience in both direct sales and manufacturing, Megan has no shortage of advice for those wishing to create a line of skincare products. Here she shares the hard lessons she’s learned along the way, and advice on everything from labeling to finding a skincare manufacturer.

Creating a skincare brand involves research into topics such as basic chemistry, production standards and ingredient sourcing. You may also need a substantial initial investment.

But it’s possible to get started on a shoestring budget, as Megan found, if you’re passionate and resourceful. Here’s how to create a skincare line from scratch, thanks to the lessons Megan has learned throughout her career in the beauty industry.

1. Get started (even if you don't feel ready)

The global skincare industry is expected to be worth $204.61 billion by 2030. Much of the growth in recent years can be attributed to independent brands. “Traditional brands – Estée Lauder, L’Oréal – aren’t growing,” Megan explains. “Independent beauty and clean beauty are driving the growth of the entire beauty industry. Traditional brands react by buying up smaller companies to maintain their position.

Tarte, a line of natural beauty products created in 1999 in founder Maureen Kelly’s one-bedroom apartment, joined Sephora’s range in 2003, brought in $12 million in 2008 and sold the majority of its shares in 2014 to global beauty giant Kosé. Maureen started her business with $18,000.

If you’re trying to figure out how to create a skincare line, don’t forget to consider lead time. It takes no less than 12 weeks to develop a skincare product. However, most skincare product lines take much longer to research and develop, test and bring to market. Skin care products also require extensive testing, which takes time.

With skincare trends evolving rapidly, it’s better to take advantage of a good idea now than wait until everything is perfect.

2. Do your research

Market research is particularly important in the beauty sector: the industry is saturated and trends evolve rapidly. But the ever-changing landscape means there are still opportunities for newcomers to launch skincare lines. Keep an eye on trends by following beauty publications and influencers, and using a tool like Google Trends to validate your ideas.

“With the arrival of Generation Z, the way people spend their money is changing dramatically,” Megan explains. “There’s plenty of room for innovation.

Competitor analysis

Her formal scientific training helped her to formulate products, but it was on the web that she found the most useful information. “I had some knowledge of chemistry, but really, all the research is available,” she says. “There are a lot of smart people on the internet who share information for free.

Your research should include competitive analysis, market research and keyword research to determine the viability of your idea. It’s also at this stage that you need to make some calculations: how much will it cost to set up a business, and how will you finance it?

3. Find your skin care niche

New skincare product founders can gain by identifying audiences underserved by brands currently on the market. There’s no clearer example of this than in the cosmetics industry, where independent brands have taken the lead in offering inclusive cosmetics for a wide range of skin tones.

It’s important to spot trends as soon as they appear, but beware of ephemeral trends and make sure you have a sustainable plan. “Recently, I’ve seen people become overly addicted to the hottest ingredient of the moment,” Megan explains.

While product development cycles have accelerated in recent years, they can’t always keep pace with ephemeral trends. “You’re already four months late,” Megan tells these customers. “By the time you get to the market, the trend may be over.

It’s through innovation, not hype, that independent skincare brands can avoid these pitfalls. While traditional brands cast a wide net, independent brands have the option of approaching a niche market or tackling a specific problem – and problems change less often than trends.

Whether you want to broaden your scope or stick to the basics in terms of formulation or product type, you can rely on a strong brand philosophy and story to connect with your audience. “If you want to formulate your products in a certain way or exclude or include certain ingredients, you really have to think about it,” Megan explains.

Vegan skin care products

Appealing to a specific diet or lifestyle choice is a popular way to find a niche in the food sector. The same applies to skin care. Cruelty-free and vegan beauty and skincare products are gradually becoming the norm rather than the exception. By ensuring that your products meet this standard from the outset, you won’t have to adapt later when the market demands it.

Natural care products

The trend towards clean beauty shows no signs of stopping. The wellness movement has extended to skincare, with many consumers paying attention to what they put on their bodies – and not just what they put on them. If you’re thinking of launching a skincare line in this niche, pay close attention to your inventory and supply chain: products without synthetic preservatives spoil more quickly.

Other trends and niches in skincare

Find a niche for your skin care business by studying current and emerging trends, as well as underserved markets. Here are a few ideas:

  • Skin care for specific skin conditions (e.g. oily skin, eczema, dry skin or rosacea)
  • Adaptive skin care (e.g. ingredients that respond to the skin’s needs)
  • Multi-purpose products (e.g. face and body balms)
  • Cosmetic skin care products (e.g. cream blush with moisturizing properties)
  • Innovative products (e.g. hydrocolloid patches, skin-focused vitamins, spa-quality tools for the home)
  • Skin care for specific target groups (e.g. cancer survivors)
  • Cutting-edge ingredients (retinol, probiotics, hyaluronic acid, etc.)
  • Simple formulations excluding common allergens or offered at lower prices (e.g. organic ingredients, natural ingredients, clean cosmetics).

4. Invest in your skincare brand

Before even considering product development, determine what you stand for. You can develop your skincare brand and expand your audience long before you start making products or launching an online store. This is the time to get to know your audience, gather feedback and build trust. Use the opportunity to refine your brand story and build excitement around your next launch.

Megan thought her clientele would be like her: young people with natural eyelashes damaged by eyelash extensions or trichotillomania (a disorder characterized by pulling out one’s own hair).

Surprisingly, his product attracted a different audience.

“We found that it was very popular with older women and people who had just undergone cancer treatment,” Megan explains. “I wasn’t expecting that at all. It embraced this unexpected market and actively supported cancer survivors by donating a product to a cancer survivor for every bottle sold during the campaign.

This change in branding and marketing was made possible by Amalie’s size, but it’s essential to put a few key elements in place right from the start. Maintaining a consistent brand voice and presence increases recognition in the marketplace and builds trust.

Brand identity is also extremely important in the skincare industry. Compelling packaging that appeals to the aesthetic needs of your target audience gives your brand a professional edge. Make sure you develop a clear set of guidelines for your brand to ensure that it follows a set of rules wherever it appears.

5. Use the resources at your disposal

“I had no money and no experience,” Megan explains of her decision to start a business. Her initial investment was exactly $1,812 (one tenth of Tarte’s start-up costs) – it was all she had.

Megan set up her business for $700, bought 500 bottles and a few thousand boxes, and paid for her first month’s subscription on Shopify. He had 6 dollars left.

With no money left for marketing, Megan had to get creative. She visited an online forum for cancer survivors, which led to a few sales. But it was a simple phone call to his hometown newspaper that was the catalyst for his breakthrough. The newspaper interviewed her, which brought in a few extra sales, but the turning point came when the story was picked up by the national newspaper and the Associated Press. “I fell asleep, and when I woke up, I learned that we’d made $10,000 in sales and sold out,” she recounts.

When creating your own skincare line, find creative ways to make the most of your budget, whether it’s starting your own home-based business, trying out organic marketing ideas or financing your growth.

6. Familiarize yourself with the formulation and manufacture of skin care products

There are several methods for formulating products: making them by hand at home, renting a dedicated manufacturing space, working with a lab to create bespoke products, or taking a private label or white label approach with a beauty manufacturer.

Creating a home care line

Simple formulations, such as facial oils, can be made at home. However, to manufacture cosmetics in Morocco, you’ll need to comply with DNP guidelines on ventilation, air control and surfaces. Although your manufacturing processes must meet NPD standards, there is some flexibility for companies that manufacture in fits and starts. Mobile cleanrooms – essentially pop-up tents – are designed for this purpose and are ideal for small businesses.

“If you’re starting out on a small scale, it’s interesting to work on site with the ingredients and try to understand what’s going on,” Megan explains. “But at some point, you’ll always need to work with a manufacturer. Many successful beauty product founders, like Melissa Butler of The Lip Bar, started their lines in their own kitchens, but moved to a manufacturing plant as they grew.

Experimenting with formulations yourself will help you understand the properties you’re looking for in a formulation (consistency, appearance, fragrance), enabling you to have informed conversations with your manufacturer.

7. Develop a relationship with your skin care manufacturer

Services Façonnage Cosmétiques

While there are advantages to working with manufacturers in China, such as price and available options, Megan and her partner moved Genie Supply to the U.S. to bring manufacturing closer to its customers and improve the overall experience.

“Beauty manufacturing, in general, is a bit of a black box,” explains Megan, who had to learn the ropes on her own. That’s why his new company invests resources in customer training and provides transparent information on its website. If you’re new to skin care, find a manufacturer like Genie Supply who can guide you through the process.

White-label and private-label skin care product lines
White labeling involves applying your own brand and limited customizations to an existing product. This is an advantageous method for those looking to monetize a personal brand (but who have less interest in product development). Popular creators and influencers often use this method to monetize their large audiences.

Private label skincare lines work in a similar way, but are more customized to brand and product specifications. They are generally developed in partnership with a private label laboratory such as Genie Supply. With these models, you can still launch your own skincare line without any experience.

8. Subject your care formulas to rigorous testing

Megan learned the hard way that it’s important to test every step of the way. Amalie’s product formulation and packaging were tested, but the interaction between the two was disastrous. The product proved incompatible with the glue and the brushes disintegrated. “Packaging was a big problem for me,” Megan explains. “I’ve lost a lot of my customers because it wasn’t reliable.

Experienced laboratories are an asset for newcomers to the industry. Manufacturing in North America can be more expensive, but the advantage is access to factories and the opportunity to participate in the testing process.

9. Understand safety and labeling laws in the skin care sector

Just like setting up a food business, launching a skincare business involves risks: you’re manufacturing products that can potentially harm health. It’s important to learn about preservatives, shelf life, allergens, and the proper storage and handling of skin care products. It’s also important to carry out thorough laboratory research to find out whether you’re working with a competent partner in these fields.

Product shelf life

Customers often expect products labelled “natural” or “organic” to be free of chemical preservatives. The absence of preservatives can have a considerable impact on stability. When Megan launched Amalie, her products had a shelf life of 12 months.

When her distributors couldn’t sell out fast enough, Megan had to replace out-of-date units, or risk damaging her beauty brand. “It cost me a lot of money, but I won’t let a shoddy product carry my name,” she explains.

Labelling laws

Legal requirements can be daunting for those starting a skincare line from scratch, and each country or region has its own rules. Megan, who had the opportunity to find her way around on her own, has put together a visual guide on the Genie Supply website to help her customers. “Five years ago, I would have killed to have a guide like this,” she says. “That’s why I created it.

A reputable laboratory can help you ensure that your packaging meets standards and that products are correctly labeled, but ultimately the responsibility lies with you. “No one checks up on you,” says Megan. “You need to do your due diligence and make sure you’re complying with FDA labeling laws. You can also contact a lawyer.

Stability and safety of skin care products

While it’s possible to start skincare from home, there are limits. “If your products contain water,” explains Megan, “you risk putting your customers at risk.

Genie Supply and other reputable laboratories subject ingredients and formulations to rigorous testing to ensure that they are free from yeast, mold, bacteria and fungi during a product’s shelf life and use. “We also test for microbial and viral pathogens,” says Megan. “If you do anything with water, don’t hesitate to call in a laboratory.

Licensing for skincare brands

In the United States, you don’t need a federally recognized license to sell homemade cosmetics and skin care products. However, the FDA carefully regulates this sector and requires certain ingredients to be approved. Laws differ depending on the country where you manufacture and sell your products. Make sure you get all the information you need, or seek the advice of a lawyer.

10. Build trust with your customers through transparency and content

Confronted with contradictory information and a plethora of choices, the beauty customer tends to be discerning and naturally skeptical. Establishing a climate of trust with your audience is essential to building long-term relationships and regular customers.

Under the U.S. Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, the FDA requires manufacturers to list all ingredients in their products. According to Megan, this is a fact that many skincare brands try to manipulate.

“Why do you put honey, metals and all that junk in your product? It doesn’t even work,” says Megan. “They are simply trying to confuse consumers. She built the trust of her first brand on ingredient transparency, and uses the same approach with her B2B customers.

Content marketing and customer education

Content marketing is not only a strategy that can help potential customers find you (more on that later), but it also helps establish your brand’s authority. Megan used this tactic to develop her business and personal brand, capitalizing on the popularity of beauty product reviews and “unboxings” at the time.

This strategy has made Megan a trusted expert, and she has devoted much of her blog to reviewing products other than her own. At its peak, it was blogging four times a week, which caused its organic traffic to skyrocket. It also used content to develop its newsletter, offering downloadable content in the form of beauty guides.

Other brands are also successfully adopting this approach, creating blog posts that bring value to the audience and information-rich product pages that build buyer confidence.

Ratings and Customer Reviews

Positive reviews are another sign to potential customers that your product delivers what it promises. The number of options available on the market, unpronounceable ingredients and misleading advertising prompt skincare consumers to consult online reviews before buying.

11. Build on what makes you unique

Marketing is one of the biggest challenges for many entrepreneurs. And because it’s competitive and constantly evolving, the skin care sector demands constant attention to this aspect of the business.

It’s not enough to have a great product to succeed in the skincare industry; beauty entrepreneurs must devote a great deal of attention to defining their audience and understanding their unique needs.

As the traditional model for selling cosmetics runs out of steam – “you stick a celebrity on the brand and hope it sells”, according to Megan – the time is ripe for niche brands to shine. Consumers are looking to connect and identify with a brand. It’s not enough to have a great product – to succeed in marketing, beauty entrepreneurs must devote a great deal of attention to defining their audience and understanding their unique needs.

Whether or not you decide to tie your personal brand to your company, you should always use brand storytelling to make your brand human. Engage in comments and conversations, feature real people such as your customers or relevant influencers in your content, and stay open to feedback.

Charlotte Cho, founder of Then I Met You, incorporates her family history and elements of her Korean heritage into the formulation of her products and her brand. She has even published a book to share the philosophy behind the brand. Charlotte’s customers don’t just buy her products for their skin benefits, but also for her story.

Uniqueness can be achieved through product differentiation, brand history, brand design or marketing.

How to create a skin care line FAQ

How to make skin care products to sell?

If you’re just starting out, you can experiment with basic skincare formulations on your own to get a feel for color, consistency and fragrance. Some skincare products can be made at home, but more complex formulations containing water or emulsions require a manufacturing partner for safety reasons.

How much does it cost to create a skincare line?

The cost of creating a skincare line varies according to the production method used. Even if you plan to start a skin care business from home, you’ll need a small investment for materials, packaging and other business expenses. Plan on a larger budget if you want to work with a manufacturer, as many require minimum order quantities, and product development can be costly.

How do you launch a private-label skincare line?

Private label and white label are excellent ways to enter the skincare business if you’re new to it. With white labeling, manufacturers sell identical products to several brands, which then personalize them with their own logo and brand. Private label involves a little more personalization, and allows you to work with a manufacturer to create a branded product within the limits of their offering. Thanks to these user-friendly methods, you don’t need to know much about creating a skincare line before you get started.

Where can I find manufacturers of skin care products?

There are several directories of skincare product manufacturers that you can access with a simple Google search. In the world of skincare, however, it’s important to examine manufacturers carefully. Look for reviews and testimonials, ask for references and samples of skin care products.

How to price skin care products?

Add up your costs: how much it costs to produce the product, plus associated overheads, plus your profit margin. Examine your competitors’ prices and make sure your products are within a reasonable price range. You can test prices on your website to determine the most advantageous range in terms of profitability and sales volume.

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