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The #1 Mistake Beauty Brands Make Developing Natural Products

August 06, 2021 Gavin Collier
August 06, 2021
Drew Graham via Unsplash

In 2021, a natural beauty line is a must-have for cosmetics brands. We've moved past the point of it being a “trend”––it’s a new way of thinking for consumers. Four years ago, beauty brand Kari Gran found that a staggering 75% of women aged 18-34 found it important to buy all-natural products. Interest in these types of products has only escalated since then.

As a result, brands are clamoring to develop natural formulas catering to the three-fourths of their target market who want fewer synthetic ingredients. At our cosmetics manufacturing facility, we're seeing a huge influx in requests for natural formulations, and we expect the rise to continue. The problem is, many companies entering the natural beauty space for the first time make one crucial mistake that costs them time, money and sometimes the trust of their customers.

They don't know what they want.

Going into business, any kind of business, without a plan is a bad move. Most entrepreneurs understand this, and have pages of plans for financing, marketing, and structure. For some reason, when it comes to natural care products, expectations don't typically match reality.

Part of the issue lies in the fact that “natural” is a confusing, catchall term that leaves brands scratching their heads and unsure of how to proceed. There is some enthusiasm for defining "natural" in a legal sense to help give more substance to the industry, even going as far as the introduction of a congressional bill. For now, however, the reality is that any product can be labeled as natural, regardless of the actual ingredients.

Because of this, brands often come in with the assumption that products can be formulated with all-natural elements and still accomplish the same goals that traditional cosmetics do. “Natural” is usually taken to mean non-synthetic, so lab-made chemicals that are typically used to stabilize and change formulas are out. Naturally derived ingredients have a different look, feel, and scent from what you may be used to.

There are other special considerations in the natural products space, too. The type of language used in marketing must be precise to avoid both legal issues and consumer blowback. Many third-party certifications that lend credibility to your products cost additional money and take months to go through.

All of these considerations should be part of an overarching business plan, but they are often an afterthought for eager entrepreneurs ready to take over the industry with their twist on an existing idea or newly discovered ingredient.

So how can brands avoid this mistake? We suggest starting from the desired end result and working backwards through a series of planning steps to ensure that there are no drastic surprises or setbacks throughout the development process, from that brilliant idea all the way to market.

Know what the product needs to do

A single beauty product cannot solve all issues. This is particularly true when dealing with natural ingredients. While some ingredients can accomplish multiple goals, it’s important to have a focused mindset on the primary purpose of your product, and then hold the line.

You also need to be aware that most natural formulations achieve less dramatic results than their synthetic counterparts. Things like plant stem cells definitely have an anti-aging effect, but it takes longer to see results than with the chemical compounds that have been on the market for decades.

If you have a clear goal in mind of what the product has to do, it becomes easier to target and test ingredients to get the best possible formulation. If you have specific ingredients in mind, you can plan more precisely based on the cost and time that it will take to obtain specialized materials.

Know your target market

Branding is just as important as the product ingredients. It is vital to conduct consumer research to find out what is on the minds of your target audience. Understand if your customers care about labels such as organic or non-GMO, or if they just want to feel like their products are naturally made. All of these terms are different.

Research goes beyond the chemical makeup of your products. Consumers these days want an entire experience every time they make a purchase. Some demographics care about a commitment to the environment and charitable donations, while others want upscale packaging or personalized service.

The region, income level, education, gender, social media presence, and lifestyle of your customers are all factors that affect their decisions. You need to be aware of what matters to them before you begin a product formulation. This will change the way you sell the end result.

Know what certifications you need or want

There are almost as many certifications for natural products as there are ingredients on the market. Each serves a specific purpose and targets a specific audience.

While it would be nice to have the backing of every watchdog organization when formulating natural cosmetics, these certifications can cost thousands of dollars each year, and must be granted for each specific formulation. Every time you change a fragrance or even the size of the bottle, that might mean getting recertified.

With all of this at stake, you need to dive into the research around certifications and decide which ones are realistic for your product and budget. The Environmental Working Group, Leaping Bunny, and USDA are good places to start.

Have an open mind

Finally, once your careful plan is in place and you are ready to start the process of building the perfect natural beauty product, be prepared to change it.

Natural products are just different from traditional cosmetics. Because we can’t add anything engineered, stabilizers, or chemicals, coconut oil can really only do what it does. Creams won’t have the bright, shiny look that you are used to. They will look natural, with natural colors and a natural feel.

Listen to experts with a background in chemistry, testing, and product formulation. They really are there to help, because your success is their success. Come with well-thought-out ideas, but be prepared to shift your expectations if the ingredients you had in mind don’t come together in the best way.

In the end, we all want the same things: self-care products that are good for the environment, good for the people who use them, and good for business. With an actionable plan and clear goals in mind, all three are possible.

Gavin Collier, JD, is currently the CEO of Dynamic Blending Specialists, a global cosmetics manufacturing company committed to delivering innovative solutions to businesses of all sizes. Gavin holds both a bachelor's degree in biology and a law degree.

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