Title aside, this isn’t a post to scare you into compliance or crush your hopes and dreams. It’s purely a subject close to my heart, as at one stage I had a business selling skincare; and I learnt a lot from it that I want to share. Sit down, because this is going to be a long one.
I started my business before I even knew how to formulate skincare. For me, DIY skincare had been the ‘recipes’ you find on pinterest where you whip some shea butter with a carrier oil of choice, some rose water, a touch of beeswax, and voila! You have a product. I remember being so confused when I handed those products to my family members and said “hey, look what I made! Please use it!” and received responses of “it’s a bit greasy,” “it takes forever to sink in,” “why does it feel so different to my store bought face cream?” Looking back, I flinch at the thought of those products and all the cosmetic formulation rules they broke. I even took them to a market once, and I remember well how a woman came up and put some on her hand to try, but instead of taking the small half pea sized amount I recommended, she smeared a large chunk over her hand. She promptly left after remarking that it was too heavy. I understand that products such as what I was making are still trending on youtube, pinterest, and in the ‘three-ingredient’ face cream natural community; but one has to admit that they leave something to be desired.
My business progressed substantially as I learned how to properly and safely formulate (no more greasy unpreserved products), expanded my range, and began making more advanced labels.
While I loved formulating, loved labelling, and loved speaking to customers, there is a lot to having a business that people don’t necessarily talk about. So here’s a brief summary of the things you should know if you are thinking about selling skincare.
Key Lessons on Selling Skincare
- It is going to be really hard – Unless you have a large starting fund, you are going to have to learn and do everything yourself as you won’t be able to source work out to others. Product photography, formulating, packaging, shipping, advertising, marketing, etcetera, will all be on you. Balancing everything can prove to be very hard, as you may find you are not good at everything. Unfortunately, being able to do each of these things well is essential to the success of your business. It is a competitive market out there and the natural beauty industry is the largest growing cosmetic industry, so you will need to ensure your products shine.
- It will not be profitable (at least not for a while) – I don’t think my business ever made profit. To try and sell more products, I would expand my line so it would appeal to a larger audience. But this needed ingredients, and ingredients cost money. That’s not to say that your business will be run that way, you may be the most business savvy person out there! No matter how experienced you are though, for any business there will be profit losses at first as you need to invest money into supplies, equipment, advertising, and the like, as well as build up a client base.
- You may lose your enjoyment for creating – I’m not sure what it is about creating skincare that you love. Maybe it’s the science behind it that keeps you on your toes, sharing your hobby with others, the joy of using a product you’ve made, or the excitement of formulating something that actually works. Either way, turning your enjoyable hobby into a business can slowly sap the joy from creating. As a business you will be making the same product over and over again, so if what you love about skincare is creating new products, then you will not enjoy this side of your business. Your products may not sell, leaving you frustrated as all you want is to share your products with the world. This may not happen, but keep in mind that it is a possibility you need to be wary of.
- You don’t know everything – As I stated above, when I began making skincare I thought I was doing so correctly, but I wasn’t. Though I have learned a lot since then, it would be foolish for me to think I know everything now. I have not studied chemistry and cosmetic science, so the scientific side is still fairly new to me. You will find that in the world of cosmetics, there is always something to know. New ingredients are coming out everyday that you may want to familiarize yourself with, as they all have unique benefits. New research is released weekly that warns you away from different ingredients, and it is at your discretion to decide what is applicable to you and what you believe. In terms of business, there is a whole host of skills to learn, such as accounting, and which regulations you need to comply to. Don’t assume that you know everything or are doing everything correctly, and always be open to and searching for new information to ensure your knowledge base is up to date. Your utmost priority should always be the safety, stability and efficacy of your products.
In case it hasn’t been made clear, I decided to step back from the skincare business game as I realized I went into it for all the wrong reasons. I love making skincare because I love creating new products, so making the same product over and over again was not enjoyable for me. It also wasn’t rational, as I wasn’t making any profit to cover the time I was expending into it. All business owners, I’m sure, do a multitude of work that they don’t charge for, and skincare is no different. We can’t charge people for the hours spent formulating, practicing, learning, or the time spent designing the labels and packaging. I think if we did, skincare would be worth a lot more than it is.
The moral of this story is to think carefully about why you want to sell your skincare. If you are inspired to sell skincare as you think it is an easy way to make money, has flexible hours so is therefore suited to your current lifestyle, and is something you will enjoy – tread carefully. Start your business because you want the challenge, you have the initial money to invest and are stable financially, so you feel no rush for your business to be successful, and most importantly start your business because you enjoy all the things that come with it (or at least the majority of them, because no one likes washing dishes and you will wash a lot of dishes).
I feel the need to add that you may experience all of the things I’ve mentioned in this post, and you may experience none of them. There is a lot to enjoy about owning your own skincare business, and I could just as easily write a post titled ‘why you should sell skincare’. It is an exciting adventure and exhilarating to watch the progress that you make, knowing it was all your hard work that achieved it. You will meet some wonderful customers and you may very well change their lives. Knowing that you have helped someone’s skin, and as a result improved their life, is one of the most rewarding things that you can do. You will laugh, you will cry, and it may be the best thing you have ever done and turn out wonderfully. But please, be aware of the tough side of owning your own business and be prepared. Too many people jump into selling skincare too quickly, with too little thought.
This post only touches on some of the key things to consider before starting a business. Others have written extensively about the topic. Susan from point of interest has made some great points about the reality of having a business, and turning a hobby into a business (see here, and here), and Viola on reddit has also articulated some well thought out points.
Next in the series I will explore the more logistical side of what factors you need to consider when starting your business (i.e. state regulations).