The Challenges of Creating Cosmetics For Modern Consumers
Cosmetics consumers today seem to want it all: natural, safe, effective, planet-friendly, organic, sustainable, and
(pause for effect)
That last one is a bit of a biggie and might be why this has had my (and several of my clients) interest for quite a while now. Imagine being able to create preservative free (or self-preserving) skincare products that can 'stand alongside traditional creams and lotions' and perform and feel in such a manner that a user would not be able to tell the difference – either with application or general storage. They also have to have a shelf life comparable to traditionally preserved products.
Obviously, this kind of work does not come without challenges, but that's what makes it so very interesting.
Loosing the Water is a StartOne way of approaching a preservative free requirement is to start by excluding all water (and water-based liquids such as hydrosols and floral waters) and stick exclusively to anhydrous ingredients.
This nearly does away with the need of preservatives.
I say nearly because many products risk exposure to water or moisture because of they way they are designed to be used. Products such as scrubs, bath products of all types, cleansing balms, and anything one might dip into with wet fingers fits this category.
If you're making products for personal use, you're probably already willing to take the necessary precautions during use (carefully reapplying the lid immediately after dipping into the product with a dedicated scoop, etc).
Selling these types of products without an added preservative is do-able, but it will require additional instructions (and cautions) on the label, added disclaimers, and a shorter shelf life expectancy than a similar product with added preservative.
And that's OK if your customers are willing to take the extra precautions when using the product.
But let's be honest here: most people just can't be bothered.
Even if they think they will be super careful to keep the contents moisture free and abide by all the carefully written instructions on the label, it won't take more than a mere moment before they don't.
And the next time they look for a scrub, they will in all likelihood migrate towards a different brand.
Don't Ignore the Can't-Be-Bothered FactorIn my experience, unless you are presenting something earth-shatteringly new and different, it is unwise to ignore the 'can't-be-bothered' factor when you are developing and making products for sale.
Most consumers (myself included) suffer terribly from it.
Over the years, I have made and used many different cosmetics products. Some have had staying power, and some haven't.
Earlier, I didn't pay attention to the why and would just move on to newer and different things, but when I started analyzing the why, the same reasons kept popping up:
- the product was too fiddly to use (example: must be kept moisture free and/or requires scoop or other instrument to dispense product)
- the product had impractical requirements (example: must be stored cold, but warmed in hands before use)
- using the product always came with extra clean-up (example: scrubs that leave an oily film on tiles, or colored products that look great in the bottle but stain towels)
Not always, but really really really really often.
Getting a preservative-free product past the can't-be-bothered factor is major – especially when it has to stand alongside 'normal' cosmetics products.
But it is do-able.
Back to WorkHappily, I love what I do and going to work feels more like a reward than a chore, so I continue.
Speaking of which...
Pictured at the top of this post: something several of you keep asking me about (and thank you for your interest!). It's batch number scadrillion of a series of anhydrous 'creams' I am (still) working on. We're almost there. Shelf life is acceptable (12 months). Stability is too so far.