home blog Build your Private Label Brand (Part 3): Build your Hero Product

    Build your Private Label Brand (Part 3): Build your Hero Product

    It’s time to build your product line. As we mentioned in the previous lesson, the industry prefers innovation over variety– there are tons of cosmetic products available to the average consumer but few options in niche markets. So, let’s get to work building the product you’re best known for: your hero product.

    A “hero product” is the face of your brand. This item is what your brand is best known for, what it’ll primarily advertise, and most likely the one product you’ll produce and sell the most of. As the first item you’ll formulate, this product is the most important to your brand.

    Step 1: Finding the Perfect Formula

    Let’s determine how your product will be formulated and produced. There are thousands of ways to build a product’s formula, with an even larger number of ingredients to choose from. Fortunately, if you’ve already determined your product niche, you may have already narrowed down your ingredient options or focus. In any case, a focus on product quality will be of utmost importance to longterm customer retention.

    For example, if you’re looking into anti-aging skincare, focus on products containing ingredients that can reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Your ingredients list will focus on peptides, retinoids, and L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C).

    Cosmetics development companies and cosmetics chemists formulate cosmetics products. While the formulation process varies, there are six general steps to effective product formulation:

    • Defining your Product. This step is relatively simple. List and write down what you want your product to do and how it achieves results. This step is easier if you’ve already figured out your niche market.
    • Finding your Custom Formula. This step is usually when most people bring cosmetics chemists into the picture. During this time, you’ll work directly with your chemist to narrow down several potential formulas for your product. You can develop something completely new or build off of an already existing formula to create your test products.
    • Testing and Revision. Arguably the most time-consuming step, this is the point where you and your chemist (or chemists) work together to create test products from your potential formulas. After each test, revise your formula or eliminate one of the possible candidates to reach your final product. This phase should also include stability testing, which will help make sure your product has a long shelf life and is suitable to use and package.
    • Test Input and Feedback. This step relies on test subjects to see how a product sells. During this step, you’ll work out any kinks with your product to make it perfect, based on user feedback. This is also a great time to make sure your product is FDA-compliant.
    • Production Scale and Planning. At this point, your product is just about ready to go out on the market. However, you’ll still need to determine your batch size and how to sell your product. At this point, it’s best to work with your skincare supplier to determine how large your first order of sellable products will be and how it will look to consumers. This phase can also be challenging if your formulations cosmetic chemist is independent or not affiliating with the oem cosmetic manufacturer, since they will need to understand the procedure that was developed.
    • Full-Scale Market Production. As the final step in our formulation process, this is the point where you’ll be producing your product to sell on store shelves or online. As your brand grows, your oem cosmetic manufacturer also needs to be able to scale production effectively. 

    When you’ve finished formulating your product, it’s essential to keep in mind that many ingredients could be potential allergens. During the formulation process, always prioritize ingredient names and look into potential allergens associated with various active ingredients and extracts– this will play a vital role in your packaging.

    You don’t need to be a chemist to create private label cosmetics products. However, if you’re planning on creating a cosmeceutical product, consulting an expert may help improve your chances of success. To determine whether or not you need a cosmetics chemist on your team, consult the pros and cons:


    With A Cosmetic Chemist

    Without a Cosmetic Chemist

    Unique Product Formulation


    Not Necessarily

    Requires Multiple Samples and Trial-and-Error


    Yes, but feedback testing is from a different source

    Extra Fees for Chemist work and Formulation



    Safe Lab Testing and Product Stress Tests



    Required to Sell Cosmeceutical Products


    Cannot sell cosmeceuticals without lab testing and FDA regulation

    Step 2: Pack it Up

    It’s time to package your product! From an aesthetics perspective, your packaged hero product is the fully realized “face” of your brand– it’ll be what consumers notice on store shelves or online, in advertisements, or just in a friend’s makeup bag. But more importantly, from a technical standpoint, your packaging will be a safe means of storing and transporting your product. Typically, cosmetics manufacturers have experience in the aesthetic portion of package design and are experts in the technical aspects of packaging a product. You want to be sure that the packaging is appropriate for products that are light, air, or temperature sensitive.

    When designing the packaging for your product, there are a few things you’ll need to consider:

    • Your product’s expiration date.
    • How your product reacts with packaging materials.
    • How your product reacts to the external environment.
    • The temperature and humidity required for your product to stay in usable condition.


    Packaging development companies test a product’s packaging via stability tests and stress tests to ensure a product has the longest shelf life possible. Chemists will measure the temperature, light, and humidity requirements for storing a product safely, then cross-reference these results with packaging types that best fit the product’s needs. For example, if a product can fade or oxidize in bright light, you’ll need an opaque container to store it. If a product melts at high temperatures or is prone to molding, the packaging will need a tight seal to prevent external heat and bacteria from entering the product. Longer shelf-life also allows you to get larger initial purchase orders (POs) and gain from volume discounts.

    If you’re working on a much smaller scale, making your own packaging isn’t too difficult either– just make sure you consider your product’s storage needs before you package. For example, homemade soaps and lotions just need a durable container to hold the product, but any dyed products that may fade in bright sunlight will need something opaque to keep the sun away. Many people try to buy product in bulk and fill themselves to save money, but if not done under the appropriate conditions and the appropriate packaging, this could lead to product quality issues and unhappy customers!

    Pros of Making Your own Packaging

    Cons of Making Your Own Packaging

    Less expensive! You can buy packaging items in bulk online.

    More expensive

    More options for unique packaging methods and container types

    No package stress testing

    Gives a cute, personalized touch

    No way to guarantee a product safety seal

    Ideal for local sales

    Difficult to ship long distances

    When selling products online, you won’t have to worry as much about making your product stand out among other products since consumers won’t be looking at the physical product and comparing it with competitors in real-time. So, you can focus more on packaging stability as opposed to looks– it might save you some money too!

    FDA Regulations

    To sell a cosmetic product, the United States Food and Drug Administration does not have to approve an item unless it contains color additives. However, the FDA has regulations that cosmetics companies must follow to sell a product effectively. The FDA primarily enforces its regulations through surveillance, product testing, and routine inspections. While many ingredients aren’t fully regulated by the FDA, the organization will have a set of limitations or labeling requirements for many ingredients and products. If a product doesn’t meet regulatory guidelines, the FDA will first send out a warning letter detailing the product's name and what aspect isn’t regulation-compliant. If changes aren’t made, the FDA will then issue a recall. It is important for your formula to stay within advised FDA monographs for certain active ingredients to avoid being

    Cosmetics products, specifically cosmeceuticals, occupy a tricky space between the FDA’s definition of a drug and a cosmetic. Currently, the FDA website defines cosmetics as variations of the following products: skin moisturizers, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail polishes, eye and facial makeup, cleansing shampoos, permanent waves, hair colors, and deodorants. If a product is intended for therapeutic use to treat skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema, it is considered a drug.

    Cosmetics manufacturers don’t have to register with the FDA to be FDA-compliant. However, it’s still a good idea to consider manufacturers registered with the FDA’s Voluntary Cosmetic Regulation Program to ensure your products are in safe hands.

    Pros of FDA Registration

    Cons of FDA Registration

    Decreases risk of product contamination

    Cannot sell on a large scale

    Increases production safety among workers

    You have to pay a fee to register

    Increases trust in product safety

    Registration requires strict inspections

    Can sell nationally on a large scale

    Not good for small-scale side ventures

    Step 3: Finding Your Partner

    If you’re looking to sell on a larger scale, it’s time to find your Private Label partner. Partnering with a manufacturer or distributor as a private label cosmetics brand has its benefits to creating a larger business overall:

    Working Alone

    Working With a Manufacturer

    Working With a Retailer

    Complete control over all aspects of your company

    Quick, large-scale manufacturing

    Large selling platform

    Small-scale, personal sales techniques, and brand image

    Order products at wholesale prices

    Guaranteed order from a retailer, but orders are subject to change

    You have to pay for ingredients and packaging

    Includes product formulation and packaging

    Chance to build brand on a national or international scale

    Not always able to ship long distances

    Allows for long-distance shipping

    Allows for long-distance shipping and sales in multiple stores

    Must purchase machinery for product creation

    Provides machinery for creating products

    Machinery availability depends on retailer resources

    Using a Private Label vs Custom Formulation

    Depending on the partnership you’d like to have, your cosmetics brand may end up being a private label business or a white label business. Going the private/white label route allows you a much FASTER time to market since the products, packaging, and testing has already been done. You also can likely get smaller initial order quantity. Essentially, the oem cosmetic manufacturer allows you to pick existing products and place your own label on the product. You still have a personalized private label line, but you don't have authority or customization of product or packaging. Ultimately, choosing how you sell your products will come down to how you want your brand to look: private label companies still have complete control over their brand image.

    Custom formulation is available to people with very specific product guidelines and brand messaging in mind. However, the timeline to get a product from initial ideation to finished product can be 9-12 months to consider R&D, stability testing, and production. You also need to take more time to consider packaging size and sourcing, as well as supply chain issues. Custom formulation also requires larger minimum orders, since the ingredients and formula is unique to your product. However, this is still a great option for those who have large scale distribution and very specific ideas around their product.

    Building the Partnerships

    Now it’s time to find your product manufacturer and distributor. Sometimes, your product’s manufacturer and distributor are the same, but it’s more likely that you’ll meet your distributor after meeting your manufacturer. It’s the manufacturer’s job to create your product, and the distributor’s to sell it. Chances are, you’ve already been working with your manufacturer to develop your product, and now it’s time to sell. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) do not necessarily have a distributor, as you are selling your own products online. But you need to consider moreso your marketing costs and building the brand awareness. Practicing estheticians, cosmetologists, and dermatologists have a built-in distribution channel as their own practice and clients!!

    The best way to find a cosmetics manufacturer or distributor is to get your name out there. Visiting trade shows, contacting distributors online, or using pre-established business affiliations is a great way to start looking. When you run searches to research distributors, go local with searches like “cosmetics manufacturers near me,” “cosmetic development companies near me,” or “cosmetics distributors” with your location name.


    Need Help?

    Here are some quick links to help get you started with making and marketing your hero product:

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