Using a recipe can be a great way to get started in creating your own skincare products. You see a fun, quick tutorial and think, “Hey, I could do that!” If the recipe is successful, seeing what you’ve accomplished can build your skills and confidence. Just like any other creative pursuit, learning by doing is the best way to retain information.
But other people’s recipes can only take you so far. Studying the art and science behind skincare formulation will open up a world of knowledge and possibility, and allow you to create products that are personal, customizable, and truly reflect your values and needs.
The Pros and Cons of Following Skincare Recipes
If you’re an absolute beginner, following a recipe can be a good way to develop the practical skills needed. It’s a quick and simple way to start creating products.
Recipes are also useful when trying out new ingredients, a new technique or testing a new piece of equipment. For example, you can become familiar with your scale and equipment without having to think too much about the success of the finished product, or you can learn how to use a particular emulsifier properly. (Yes, using different emulsifiers will change how you make your products!)
When you are little more advanced, you can also use a recipe from a source you trust and quickly swap out one essential oil for another to change the scent, or one carrier oil for another to change the qualities, properties and feel of the product.
Recipes are also a source of inspiration, even for more experienced makers because they can sometimes introduce an interesting new ingredient to try, or suggest a new approach to a skincare challenge.
However, copying a recipe sometimes means copying mistakes.
Depending on the source of the recipe, you may not be able to troubleshoot any problems with it if you can’t get in touch with the author. Books can go out of date as new research emerges, and even online, it can be hard to track down the source.
If you need to troubleshoot someone else’s recipe, then all you have is your best guesses as to why it’s not working. From body butters that go grainy, or ones that are too dense and heavy on the skin, to lip balms that turn waxy and cakey, it’s virtually impossible to adjust the formula to work precisely the way you want without understanding the science behind the ingredients and interactions.
Following recipes is also limiting.
It limits what is possible for you to make—you can only make what you find.
It ultimately limits your skill, because you are copying someone else’s creation, rather than learning to create your own. And unless you know how, you’ll likely make some big mistakes that will mean your product either won’t be stable or worse—it won’t be safe. You may not know it from looking or smelling either!
Also, following recipes limits what you are able to do. For example, you can’t adapt something for your own needs, skin type or values…
…unless of course, you know how. And that’s where formulating comes in.
What is formulating?
Something you might not have heard of (or you may have but not be completely sure what it means) is formulating.
Formulating is the practice, art, and science of making skincare products following a professional framework that enables you to design a product that is safe, stable, effective, and delivers the result you seek for the person intended.
There are two parts: Formulating on paper, and formulating in practice.
The first part of the formulation process means selecting your ingredients and putting them together on paper. After that recipe is created, you then are able to try out your formulations, review them, and make any adjustments before trying again.
What is the difference between formulating and following recipes?
Following recipes enables you to become good at making products, but it doesn’t give you the skill to be able to create your own recipes; you’re always following someone else’s!
Formulating enables you to become good at designing your own products from scratch, like the professionals do. And that means there’s virtually no limitations on what you can create and how you can customize your products.
What are the benefits of formulating?
Formulating is the skill that allows you to deliberately select ingredients to solve a particular problem, deliver specific results, and bring about a certain set of outcomes keeping in mind the desires, needs and values of those people who which it is intended. Because of this, you can design your own masterpieces.
Understanding the science behind cosmetic formulas means you can tweak them, use alternate ingredients, change and mix things up a bit, and more easily expand your range of products. You can use this knowledge to design intentional products tailored to the needs of your target customers.
This is the key to creating products that sell like hotcakes.
Formulating provides a structured process which enables you to be creative in a way that brings results; you can experiment with more success, instead of potentially wasting materials through trial and error in an attempt to modify someone else’s recipe.
Learning how to build your own formulations on paper saves you time and money.
Learn the skills to formulate like a professional, not an amateur. When you know how to formulate you can discern which recipes are correct and safe and which aren’t. You can also take a recipe someone else has created and change it more effectively to suit your needs and desires whilst still ensuring it’s going to be safe and stable.
Also, by understanding the safety concerns and best practices around formulation, you’ll have peace of mind that you are creating high quality, safe products. It’s your responsibility to sell products that are safe for your consumers.
Don’t take any chances.
When you know how to formulate you can adjust recipes to suit you.
Formulations you make yourself can be based on your hands-on knowledge and study; when you learn how to put it together, you know how to take it apart, adjust it, and make it yours.
Once you’ve started to get a handle on the how-to of a particular process, you may want to change it up a bit, adjust the effects of the product, or add on a new, complementary product to a line. Beyond simple changes, it can be difficult to know how to adapt the recipe if you don’t know why the recipe is (or isn’t!) working in the first place.
Take it to the Next Level
Studying formulation in-depth through a program such as our course in natural skincare formulation also assists you in understanding how skin works. You will learn how to select ingredients based on the benefits they offer for different skin types and different needs.
By studying the essential functions and attributes of the skin itself, you’ll come to understand how to create products that promote healthy skin, address common concerns such as aging and sun damage, and keep the skin hydrated. You’ll take a deep look at different categories of ingredients, from emollients to occlusives to humectants, and learn how to choose the proper carrier oils to achieve the result you desire!
You can learn more about our Diploma in Natural Skincare Formulation here.
The Beginner’s Guide to Formulating Natural Skincare Products (From scratch, like a professional!)
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from scratch – rather than simply following recipes!
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- What formulating is and why you need to be doing it!
- The difference between following recipes and formulating your own products.
- How to formulate like a pro! Seven top tips for becoming a confident skincare formulator.
- Our step-by-step process to designing products people love.
- Four easy ways to personalize your skincare products.
- Choosing the right carrier oils for your beauty products.
PLUS: Receive two free worksheets!
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