Develop your skills to create a range of high-performance oil-based, pressed, gel-based, emulsion-based and bi-phase serums just like those sold by the high-end brands (and even better!).
Use advanced active ingredients and expertly apply them to your serum formulations. Create specialist targeted serums for the face, eyes and lips to address specific concerns and deliver visible results.
Add advanced formulation skills and specialist knowledge of active ingredients to your skillset. Create truly effective serums.
Add exciting new high-performance products to your skincare range to delight your customers.
It takes you step-by-step through everything you need to know to formulate your own custom, high-performance serums that deliver visible results. Learn from experienced and professional cosmetic scientists and be supported every step along the way.
Vitamin A (including retinol and retinyl palmitate), Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), pro-Vitamin B5 (panthenol), Vitamin C (including ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate and ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate) and Vitamin E.
Pracaxi oil, cacay oil, watermelon seed oil, prickly pear oil, guava oil, perilla oil, buriti oil, tamanu oil, blueberry seed oil, natural silicone replacements and more!
Matrixyl 3000, Matrixyl synthe’6, Syn-ake, Argireline NP and Ceramide NP.
Lactic acid, glycolic acid, malic acid, citric acid, salicylic acid, willow bark extract and blends.
Over 75 active ingredients that are toning, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, antimicrobial, skin brightening, skin barrier strengthening and offer sun protection.
Over 10 humectants including hyaluronic acid, over 10 antioxidants including co-enzyme Q10 plus a wide range of natural emulsifiers, preservatives, gums and solubilizers.
Have fun, get creative and be proud of your achievements!
Whether skincare formulation is your passion and hobby, or you want to expand your beauty brand, this is the training for you.
|Duration of access||18 months’ access. This can be extended for a small renewal fee.|
|Prerequisites||Some prior knowledge of skincare formulation is beneficial. Internet access and access to a computer, mobile phone or tablet is needed to access the online classroom.|
|Study time required||Approximately 70-100 hours. Most students complete the course within 6-12 months.|
|Certificate||Your certificate is issued on successful completion of the end-of-course assignments.|
In this module, we will cover some of the essentials of formulating. As this is a more advanced course we expect that you’ll have this foundational knowledge already. We have included this module as a useful reminder, but feel free to skip it if you like.
0.1 What is a formula?
This lesson will help you write a formula in the correct manner and explain why professional cosmetic products are written as formulas.
0.2 Using a product development brief
Use a product development brief to design your products to ensure they are formulated to achieve your desired outcome.
0.3 Equipment for your home lab
Determine which pieces of equipment to buy to set up your own small-scale lab at home.
0.4 Professional lab equipment
Learn about the professional laboratory equipment that is useful for home formulators who are serious about formulating or who manufacture products for sale. We compare magnetic stirrers, overhead stirrers and homogenizers so you understand the difference and which, in our opinion, are worth investing in (and which are not).
0.5 Testing and adjusting pH
Learn about different methods of testing pH and their pros and cons, how to work with and look after a pH meter and how to adjust the pH of a product.
0.6 Good manufacturing practice (GMP)
GMP is essential for producing high-quality products and is a fundamental requirement if you sell your products. Our handy checklist will ensure that you have easy-to-follow guidelines in place.
In Module 1 we’ll delve into the different types of serum we’ll be creating on this course, their purpose, ingredients and characteristics. Plus you’ll learn about formulating for different skin types and concerns.
1.1 Introduction to formulating serums
Discover what makes a serum high-performance and explore the possible functions/benefits of serums and ingredients that can help achieve this outcome.
1.2 Types of serum formula
Evaluate the pros and cons of oil-based, gel-based and emulsion-based serums. Understand how to decide which best suits the product you are creating and which will best deliver the benefits you desire. Explore how the intended time of application and location of application may affect the type of formula you create.
1.3 Skin anatomy and physiology
Discover the layers of the skin and describe how skin cells move through these layers from production to shedding away. Understand the function of the lipid barrier and the possible effect of a damaged barrier. We’ll explain why most anti-aging products contain antioxidants and discuss the causes of hyperpigmentation and some approaches we can take towards resolving it.
1.4 Formulating for different skin types
In this lesson we’ll explore the characteristics, causes and skincare solutions for mature, oily, dry, sensitive and normal skin. You’ll learn about the specific concerns of each skin type and identify ingredients that are beneficial for these different skin types and concerns.
Increase your knowledge of cosmetic ingredients by learning about a wide variety of functional ingredients, lipid ingredients, humectants, chemical exfoliants, active ingredients and fragrances, including the benefits they offer and how to use them, and identify suitable ingredients to use in your formulations.
2.1 Classification of ingredients
Learn about typical ways to classify ingredients and about the role different ingredients can play in your formula.
2.2 Compatibility of ingredients
Not all ingredients are compatible with each other! Discover the factors that affect ingredient compatibility and how this impacts product development and creation.
2.3 Functions and benefits of ingredients: an overview
In this lesson we provide you with a very useful chart that summarizes the functions and benefits of 75 active ingredients and 59 carrier oils and butters. You will be able to look up ingredients by their function, skin type or the benefits they offer, select ingredients using the chart to assist you and identify suppliers that sell the ingredients.
2.4 Functional ingredients
This is such a big topic we have divided it into several lessons.
2.4.1 Functional ingredients: preservatives and chelators
Discover when and why you need to use preservatives and chelators, 13 preservative options (including 11 that are COSMOS and/or Ecocert certified) and five chelators (four of which are COSMOS certified).
2.4.2 Functional ingredients: thickeners
In this lesson, we will cover the purpose of thickeners, 20 natural thickener choices and how to select which thickener to use.
2.4.3 Functional ingredients: natural emulsifiers
Learn about what emulsifiers are and why they are used in cosmetics, and discover 15 natural emulsifiers for cosmetics.
2.4.4 Functional ingredients: solubilizers
In this lesson, we cover polarity and compatibility of ingredients, natural solubilizer options and how to work with solubilizers.
2.4.5 Functional ingredients: pH adjusters
Learn about the role of pH adjusters and ingredients used to adjust the pH.
2.5 Lipid ingredients: carrier oils, waxes and esters
This lesson is a deep dive into the many different lipid ingredients you can use in your serums! We’ll explore a variety of lipids including waxes, esters and 20 advanced/specialist carrier oils including pracaxi oil, cacay oil, watermelon seed oil, prickly pear oil, guava oil, perilla oil, buriti oil, tamanu oil, and blueberry seed oil.
Humectants are powerful moisturizing ingredients that also plump the skin and improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles. Learn about 11 humectants in detail including the different weights of hyaluronic acid (HA).
2.7 Chemical exfoliants: AHAs and BHAs
Discover the amazing benefits of AHAs and BHAs! Learn about their functions, differences, preferred pH range and factors to consider when formulating with them.
2.8 Substituting ingredients
If you cannot find a certain ingredient what do you do? We give you a six-step process to find suitable substitutes.
2.9 Active ingredients
This is such a big topic we have divided it into several lessons.
2.9.1 Active ingredients: antioxidants
In this lesson, we cover the role of antioxidants, benefits of antioxidants to the skin and several categories of antioxidants including vitamins, phenols (phenolics) and quinones, organic acids, flavonoids and carotenoids.
2.9.2 Active ingredients: vitamins
Including vitamins in your formulas is a sure way of creating high-performance serums! Learn about a variety of vitamins and their derivatives including Vitamin A (retinol), Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), pro-Vitamin B5, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
2.9.3 Active ingredients: toning, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and skin brightening ingredients
Discover a variety of active ingredients that are toning, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and skin brightening, and how to use them.
2.9.4 Active ingredients: peptides, skin barrier strengthening and sun protection ingredients
Discover a range of peptides, skin barrier strengthening ingredients (including ceramides) and sun protection ingredients, and how to use them.
2.9.5 Active ingredients: botanical extracts
Learn about six types of botanical extract (water extracts, tinctures, glycerites, macerated oils, CO2 extracts and dry extracts) and examples of each type including gotu kola, edelweiss and green tea.
2.10 Natural fragrances
This lesson includes four types of fragrance that can be used to fragrance natural cosmetics including natural fragrance oils, CO2 extracts, essential oils and absolutes. You’ll learn about 23 essential oils in detail, including their qualities, properties and benefits, and which essential oils are phototoxic.
2.10.1 Essential oils reference chart
A handy reference chart to use when formulating.
2.11 Researching ingredients
Everyone loves learning more about ingredients but you need to be careful which sources you use as there is a lot of unreliable information online. We’ll share our favorite useful and reliable resources so you can conduct independent, further study into ingredients of your choice.
2.12 Supplier list: cosmetic ingredients and equipment
With hundreds of entries, our global supplier list will help you to identify reliable cosmetic suppliers worldwide and obtain the ingredients you require.
We’ve covered simple anhydrous (oil-based) serums in our other courses. This module takes your knowledge of anhydrous serums to a whole new level! Create a range of textures from smooth, elegant, non-greasy liquid oils serums to decadent pressed serums.
3.1 Formulating anhydrous oil-based serums
In this lesson you’ll learn all about performance anhydrous serums in two formats: liquid, oil-based serums and pressed serums. We’ll discuss their characteristics, functions/benefits and properties/qualities. You’ll discover the ingredients they contain and analyze examples on the market. Most importantly, you’ll use the templates and worksheets provided to formulate your own!
3.2 Formulation example: Antioxidant Concentrate Serum with Vitamin C
In this lesson we share a formula for an antioxidant concentrate serum. This antioxidant-rich formula features a range of effective antioxidants, including Vitamin C, which work in synergy to help slow down the formation of signs of aging on the skin and protect against the negative effects of oxidative stress, due to sun exposure, pollution and stress.
3.3 Formulation example: Camomile Soothing Serum
Learn from our example formula designed to reduce inflammation and redness, and soothe irritated skin. It features a selection of soothing and anti-inflammatory botanical extracts.
3.4 Formulation example: Barrier Support Serum with Ceramides
The example formula provided in this lesson is formulated to repair a damaged lipid barrier and alleviate dry, flaky and sensitive skin. It will restore the skin barrier and thus keep the skin protected from environmental factors and features ceramides as one of its hero ingredients.
3.5 Formulation example: Repairing Lip Serum with Vitamin C and Coenzyme Q10
Our example lip serum formula is formulated to help restore the protective barrier on the lips, to keep lips from drying and to protect them from future damage due to environmental factors. Much more than just a lip balm it contains a variety of protective antioxidants and repairing phytosterols and phospholipids in a luxurious and rich-textured serum.
3.6 Formulation example: Golden Rose Pressed Serum
Learn about a new type of serum that is jelly-like or semi-solid in consistency. Our example Golden Rose Pressed Serum is formulated to help restore the protective barrier and to protect the skin from oxidative stress. It contains luxurious natural ingredients that are permitted in COSMOS certification.
3.7 Troubleshooting anhydrous serums
Learn how to solve common problems you may encounter when making anhydrous serums.
Gel-based serums create hydrating, light textured, easily absorbed products perfect for under eye and facial use. Discover when gel-based serums are the best choice, how to create different gel textures and skin feels, and which ingredients can be included in your gel-based formulations to target different concerns.
4.1 Formulating gel-based serums
Learn about gel serums in detail including the different types of gel-based serum, their functions/benefits and properties/qualities, suitable ingredients and packaging, and how to extend their shelf-life. Plus, use our templates, examples and worksheets to help you formulate your own gel-based serums from scratch!
4.2 Formulation example: Brightening Serum for Hyperpigmentation
Students often ask us how to treat hyperpigmentation. This serum contains the answers! Formulated with specialist ingredients to brighten existing pigmentation marks and to prevent new ones from forming.
4.3 Formulation example: Moisture Boost Serum
Our moisture boost serum formula contains hyaluronic acid and a total of 10 humectants to intensely moisturize dehydrated skin. Added benefits are that skin looks plumper and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles are reduced.
4.4 Formulation example: Vitamin C and E Gel Serum
Formulated to protect skin from oxidative stress due to sun exposure and pollution, and thus to have an anti-aging effect. It contains Vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid which is very effective but notoriously unstable. In this lesson you’ll learn how to optimize a formula to stabilize ascorbic acid and reap its benefits!
4.5 Troubleshooting gel-based serums
Learn how to solve common problems you may encounter when making gel-based serums.
4.6 Laboratory test reports: Gel-based serums
Learn how to interpret the results of preservative efficacy testing.
Emulsion serums combine the benefits of anhydrous and gel serums – they can contain a complex mixture of water soluble and oil soluble active ingredients. Have fun using different emulsifiers and other ingredients to create a range of textures from light gel-creams, to thin milky emulsions or rich, succulent emulsions. Create a wide range of professional emulsion-based serums including eye serums, night serums, balancing serums for oily skin and serums formulated to keep the skin looking firm and youthful.
5.1 Formulating emulsion-based serums
Learn how emulsion-based serums are different to regular lotions and discover a special type of emulsion serum called a gel-cream serum. Discover their functions/benefits and properties/qualities, suitable ingredients and packaging, and how to extend their shelf-life. Plus use our templates, examples and worksheets to help you formulate your own gel-based serums from scratch!
5.2 Creating emulsions
Learn in detail how to create successful emulsions. We cover the science of emulsification and the practical steps you need to take to create stable emulsions with natural emulsifiers, including polymeric emulsifiers.
5.3. Formulation example: Balancing Gel-cream Serum with Niacinamide
In this lesson we share a serum formula designed to balance sebum production, reduce skin oiliness, reduce acne formation and strengthen the skin barrier. It features niacinamide as one of its hero ingredients.
5.4 Formulation example: Toning Eye Serum with Caffeine
Our toning eye serum formula is designed to gently soften and moisturize the skin around the eyes, and also to tone and tighten fine lines on the skin. See step-by-step how we have formulated this serum for the delicate eye area and make your own toning eye serum with caffeine.
5.5 Formulation example: Anti-aging Night Serum with Vitamin A
Our Intensive Anti-Aging Night Serum with Vitamin A is formulated to help replenish antioxidants in the skin, to prevent collagen breakdown and stimulate new collagen synthesis to keep the skin looking firm and youthful. Our example formula reveals all the secrets to creating this powerful night serum!
5.6 Troubleshooting emulsion-based and gel-cream serums
Learn how to solve common problems you may encounter when making emulsion-based and gel-cream serums.
5.7 Laboratory test reports: Emulsion-based and gel-cream serums
Learn how to interpret the results of preservative efficacy testing.
Bi-phase serums are really fun to formulate, create and use! They are separated into two distinct phases – a water-based phase and an oil-based phase – and must be shaken before each use. If formulated to contain botanical ingredients that also add lovely color, bi-phase serums look great on a shelf!
6.1 Formulating bi-phase serums
Learn about the magic ingredient that will keep your phases separate, which ingredients to avoid using in bi-phase serums and how to color your phases using natural ingredients. Most importantly you’ll use the templates and worksheets provided to formulate your own!
6.2 Formulation example: Anti-redness Bi-phase Serum with Gotu Kola
This serum, which features gotu kola extract, soothes inflammation and reduces redness and features. The oil phase is formulated to have a strong yellow-orange color, which settles prettily at the top of the bottle.
6.3 Formulation example: Anti-pollution Bi-phase Serum
This formula utilizes two main approaches in fighting pollution – a film-forming ingredient to create a protective film that minimizes the amount of pollution particles that get to the skin; and antioxidants that fight oxidative stress due to pollution and other environmental factors. Anti-pollution skincare has become an important skincare category and now you can tap into this latest consumer demand.
6.4 Formulation example: Exfoliating AHA Bi-phase Serum
This two-layer serum has a sweet fruity scent and is formulated to exfoliate dead skin cells, increase cell turnover rate and hydrate the skin. AHAs are a wonderful addition to a skincare routine: learn how to formulate with them safely and effectively.
6.5 Troubleshooting bi-phase serums
Learn how to solve common problems you may encounter when making bi-phase serums.
6.6 Laboratory test reports: Bi-phase serums
Learn how to interpret the results of preservative efficacy testing.
Formulating Advanced Natural Deodorants
Formulating with CBD and Hemp Seed Oil
Formulating Vegan Skincare
Formulating with AHAs and BHAs
Formulating Body Serums.
A digital copy of the international bestselling book: A-Z of Natural Cosmetic Formulation
Formulating Face and Body Washes with Natural Surfactants
The full details of the program can be found here.
Have a question? See our answers to your most FAQs here.
If you need more help please reach out to our customer service team at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is our most advanced course so it is not suitable for complete beginners.
If you have some experience of making skincare products already, for example you have made facial oils, balms, creams and lotions, and you are ready to study and formulate more seriously then the course will be suitable for you.
If you are an experienced formulator but have yet to formulate with a wide range of actives, or you want more knowledge of how to do so, then the course is also perfect for you.
If you are a complete beginner then we recommend that you take either our Certificate in Making Natural Skincare Products or our Diploma in Natural Skincare Formulation first. Our Skincare Specialist Program contains our Diploma in Natural Skincare Formulation and our Advanced Certificate in High-Performance Serum Formulation at a reduced fee. This is perfect if you’d like to take this course but you don’t have any prior experience.
In our courses in general we always focus primarily on natural ingredients and use close to 100% naturally derived or COSMOS approved ingredients. In the Advanced Certificate in High-Performance Serum Formulation the vast majority (around 90%) of ingredients we use are naturally derived and permitted by the major natural and organic standards such as COSMOS. We include a wide range of natural emulsifiers, solubilizers, gums, thickeners, carrier oils, esters, fragrances, botanical extracts, humectants, antioxidants and other active ingredients.
In the Advanced Certificate in High-Performance Serum Formulation a small number (around 10%) of the ingredients we include are synthetic. We have only chosen synthetic ingredients with close ties to nature, for example they exist in nature but are made synthetically or are “nature-identical”. Two examples are niacinamide (Vitamin B3) which is often used in natural cosmetics as it does exist in nature but the ingredient is made synthetically and peptides which are not permitted in natural/organic certifications because they are made synthetically, even though they only contain naturally occurring building blocks (amino acids).
We have included these ingredients as we wanted to include a wide range of the most popular and effective active ingredients. Our chosen ingredients have a specific benefit/activity that is very important in high-performance serums, but can’t be found in any natural form/source. Any ingredients that are synthetic are clearly marked as such in our course materials, giving you full knowledge and complete control over what you use in your formulations.
We like to put the power and the choice in your hands! So you can absolutely take the course and create formulations that are 100% natural or organic or suitable for COSMOS certification if you wish.
Yes! The Advanced Certificate in High-Performance Serum Formulation is accredited by the CPD (Continuing Professional Development) Certification Service.
The CPD Certification Service is the leading independent CPD accreditation institution operating across industry sectors. It is a globally recognized institution and accredits courses by prestigious organizations including the University of Westminster and the London School of Economics – and ours, too! The CPD Certification Service assesses each course individually, evaluating the quality of training materials and learning activities against the highest standards. We are delighted to have passed the formal and impartial CPD accreditation process carried out by the team of experienced assessors at the CPD Certification Service. See our Accreditations and Memberships page for more information on our professional memberships and accreditations.
Yes! The course is a fully online training program that consists of online training videos, downloadable workbooks and worksheets and an online student support group. It is designed to be taken from home from anywhere in the world and the products we make meet global quality and safety standards. We’ll provide information on ingredient suppliers in many different countries. We have students in over 120 countries so you’ll be joining a thriving community of global students when you join!
Yes, when you have finished the course there will be several assignments to submit. These are straightforward to complete and based on the material covered in the class. On successful completion, your course certificate will be issued.
We are very proud to have a team of qualified, experienced, professional cosmetic scientists supporting our students. They are here to help you with questions or doubts about ingredients, formulas, methods and guidelines pertaining to your specific course. You can ask them your questions in our weekly tutor Q&A hosted in the online classroom.
When you sign up to the course you also get to join our private online student community (hosted on Facebook), in order to meet and discuss with other students and graduates of the course, who have lots of knowledge, expertise and ideas to share.
Now! You can get started with the course right away.
The course is a self-study, self-paced course so you can study at a time that suits you. All the lessons are pre-recorded, so you don’t need to worry about joining us at a set time.
From September 2021, we are releasing the improved and updated Third Edition of the course featuring brand new, fully redesigned textbooks, workbooks and videos. We are releasing one module per week from 22nd September to 19th November. Once all modules have been released and you have completed them in order, you will then be able to move freely between all the modules to revisit lessons as you wish.
You will have access to the course inside the online classroom for 18 months. You will be able to download the course textbooks to save on your own computer. We also give you the option to renew your access to the classroom for another year, for a small fee.
We are an international school with students worldwide. US dollars are the most widely recognized and accepted currency. You can check the exchange rate for your local currency using xe.com or another currency converter.
As part of the course you receive a comprehensive global supplier list featuring hundreds of cosmetic suppliers all around the world.
We have featured a wide range of ingredients in the course including some that are common and easy to obtain. As this is an advanced course, some ingredients are more specialized and depending on where you are based you may need to order them from overseas suppliers that ship internationally.
We give plenty of guidance but there isn’t a set supply list which means you can choose which ingredients you wish to buy.
The Third Edition of the Certificate in High-Performance Serum Formulation will be released into the online classroom according to the following schedule:
|Release: 22 September|
|Module 0 – Introduction to Formulating|
|Release: 1 October|
|Module 1 – Introduction to Formulating High-Performance Serums|
|Release: 8 October|
|Module 2 – Serum Ingredients|
|Release: 15 October|
|Module 3 – Formulating Innovative Anhydrous Serums|
|Release: 22 October|
|Module 4 – Formulating Gel-based Serums|
|Release: 29 October|
|Module 5 – Formulating Emulsion-based and Gel-cream Serums|
|Release: 5 November|
|Module 6 – Formulating Bi-phase Serums|
|Release: 12 November|
|Release: 19 November|
|Bonus Module: Formulating Body Serums|