We all love something for free. And this is especially true when we are starting up an indie beauty brand and working out how to fund our new business. The last thing we want to do is rack up costs on research when we know that a lot of useful information is online, if only we knew where to find it.
In these days of information overload, not to speak of misinformation circulating online, it is hard to know where to start. Which business resources should we prioritise as regular reading on the beauty industry? Which sources are trusted and offer value as opposed to sales-based articles pushing products, certifications, funding schemes, apps and more? And how do we make the most of all those e-newsletters that we signed up for but hit delete on as we simply don’t have time to read them?
If you are struggling to filter out the best and most valuable information to help take your beauty brand or business idea forward, then this post has some useful links to bookmark. At Formula Botanica, we scan, filter and digest hundreds of articles on the beauty business each month. We have seen some free online resources go behind paywalls, but most allow you to read several articles a month without the need to take out a paid subscription.
Here, we’ve selected some of our top beauty business resources that we read and turn to time and again. Let’s call them essential, as it would be impossible to give a comprehensive list of everything. Even though some of our resources are based in certain countries, such as the UK, many of their resources (sustainability reports, market trend features and so on) have widespread reach and are of global interest.
Don’t forget that this blog with nearly 500 posts is a mine of information on everything from sustainability issues to women of colour in beauty, and from cosmetics’ regulations and start-up funding to the latest on beauty in the metaverse. In addition, head to the archives of Formula Botanica’s Green Beauty Conversations podcast for insights into the issues, ingredients and trends shaping natural formulation as well as mainstream beauty sectors. Subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss an episode.
Essential beauty business resources
Personal Care Magazine
This is definitely one resource every formulator should know about. Not only is it free, it also offers a wealth of industry, ingredient, supplier, manufacturer and formulation news. When you register for its email updates, you can opt to receive a print copy too, but we advise going paperless. It’s global, so it has different language versions available too. Formula Botanica CEO Lorraine Dallmeier has had two articles published in Personal Care: Four pillars of sustainable beauty and a business interview. The magazine is a mine of information, and its supplier-provided formulations are a useful research tool to see which ingredients are trending and to gauge the percentages that are used in different product types. Personal Care also lists key beauty industry events around the world, which, now that we are back to travelling more, are worth keeping abreast of.
Cosmetics & Toiletries News
Cosmetics & Toiletries is a magazine available in the States to industry professionals in formulation and cosmetic science. It defines itself as the “definitive peer-reviewed cosmetic science resource”. The good news is that a lot of content is freely available on its website, and you can subscribe to its e-news to get alerts on the latest articles. As you would expect from any industry journal, you will find articles that focus on proprietary, brand-name ingredients and leading figures in the corporate cosmetics’ world. But, among the semi-sponsored articles are those covering topics like the definition – or lack thereof – of “clean beauty” ingredients, news of a vegan, botanical pigments, the growth of the Halal beauty market and so on. We think it is important to see what is happening at a corporate level and in research and development, as often big cosmetics’ firms are nudged by consumer demand and indie beauty trends towards greener, more sustainable practices.
Billing itself as a “gathering spot for the thriving indie beauty community” and born as an initiative of Indie Beauty Expo, Beauty Independent launched in 2017 as a voice for the indie beauty sector. Start-ups, the beauty brands of tomorrow, pioneering founders and their products, the background of the industry and more are all on its radar. Its remit is therefore different from many beauty media outlets which tend to be aimed at beauty consumers. Beauty Independent wants to hear about and reflect on indie beauty’s struggles as well as celebrate its successes. Brand news and reports, retailers, investors and market trends are covered, and all articles give space for us to hear from founders and insiders, so we get plenty of personal insights directly from the industry. The media platform operates a paywall. You can read up to five articles a month for free, but you can opt for membership to unlock all the content.
Beauty Independent also runs its annual Beacon Awards with categories spanning innovation, inspiring brands, outstanding contributions to the industry and game-changing retailers. Formula Botanica brands have gained coverage in Beauty Independent over the years; look for Flower & Spice. Formula Botanica CEO Lorraine Dallmeier has been interviewed several times for Beauty Independent. If you are a US-based brand, you can explore Beauty Independent’s mentoring scheme.
Byrdie started out in 2013 and says it is the largest beauty site on the internet with some 9 million readers a month. It boasts some 10,000 content items and a large editorial team of writers, many of whom have worked for leading beauty and fashion magazine firms like Conde’ Nast. The beauty coverage is divided into skin, hair, makeup and fragrance. Interestingly, the site’s navigation breaks down skincare into categories such as oily, dry, acne-prone and anti-ageing, much as you would expect of a beauty store. Typical topics include trending cosmetic ingredients, emerging brands (we saw an article on Formula Botanica graduate brand Nopalera), black founders and the best skincare products for women of colour, eco-friendly makeup, and so on. Byrdie is a mine of information on the latest in the beauty industry, and while written for beauty consumers, it has plenty of food for thought for formulators and indie founders researching their market niches.
Glossy is a leading fashion and beauty news platform with a business model based on a mix of free articles and paid-for, members-only content. It is certainly a buzzy, insider place for beauty news and gossip, trends, and reports. Its coverage ranges from the lives of movers and shakers, whether industry figures or influencers, to insightful articles on topics such as post-Covid beauty spending and beauty accelerators. One feature that caught our eye was about micro-influencers offering the most social media value to brands. Glossy dishes up a daily e-newsletter direct to your inbox, which is worth scanning through first thing to keep abreast of what is happening in the beauty sphere. You can release more content by signing up to be a Glossy panel member which means agreeing to participate in ad hoc industry surveys. Although paid membership is not cheap, you can access up to three articles a month for free.
Regulatory, safety and associations
Cosmetics Ingredients Review
You will have come across the Cosmetics Ingredients Review (CIR), probably without realising it. This independent, US-based body oversees the INCI list of cosmetic ingredients and has the role of examining, approving and assigning new INCI names. The CIR was set up in the 1970s with the support of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Federation of America. As a formulator, you will be using the INCI to write your formulations professionally. Apart from INCI, why might you be interested in the work of the CIR though? On this blog, we have quoted the CIR Expert Panel numerous times in relation to the safe use of cosmetic ingredients. The CIR website has an ingredients’ library with reviews and documents that are essential – and free – to access in your research. Only recently, we drew on the panel’s findings on the safe use of fatty acids in our post on formulating with botanical oils.
Cosmetics, Toiletries & Personal Care Association (CPTA), UK
The CPTA is the leading industry body in the UK, representing the cosmetics, toiletries and personal care sectors, and acts on behalf of its members as a voice to the government and other key stakeholders. While this might seem oriented toward big business only, indie beauty founders can find a wealth of useful information on the CPTA website. The CPTA addresses issues such as sustainability, diversity and safety. All these are of as much relevance to small beauty businesses as large ones. In fact, as we have noted on our podcast, it is often the small, independent beauty founders who are able to innovate in sustainability as they can devise local initiatives and be agile in acting. Take a look at the CPTA’s blog to see plenty of articles that make research accessible, go behind the scenes on ingredients, and delve into topics such as labelling and the feel-good factor of cosmetics. The section on sustainability section has plenty to review, including a deep dive into green chemistry. Its market statistics (UK, EU and global) make for interesting reading on the post-pandemic growth in cosmetics. Large trade associations like the CPTA offer useful resources. See if you can find the equivalent in your part of the world too.
British Beauty Council
Sign up for the British Beauty Council e-news and you will often be among the first to hear the latest beauty news. The council represents beauty industry stakeholders in the UK, including people employed in the industry. It offers a more campaigning, activist voice than the large trade bodies generally do and reflects the pulse of the beauty industry’s grassroots. We interviewed Anna Teal, The British Beauty Council’s Pillar President for Innovation in our podcast on the publication of the council’s in-depth sustainability report: The Courage to Change. While UK-based, the council’s work, reports and articles have widespread currency wherever you are in the world. Issues it covers, from inflation’s impact on the beauty industry to supporting World Afro Day, are of global relevance.
Supplier and ingredient research
This is a massive portal of chemical materials and suppliers, covering cosmetics and personal care along with other industries. UL Prospector is a business-to-business portal, so it requires you to be a business to register for access. You can request samples from suppliers through the portal, which makes it easier to communicate with manufacturers who may not be in the habit of replying to smaller entites or indie beauty founders.
What makes UL Prospector of even greater value is its knowledge base of articles covering market trends, latest ingredients, formulating practices and more. We took a look at its recent features and came across articles on the top cosmetic trends for the year, as well as those on ingredients like retinol and niacinamide, for example. The portal’s homepage for cosmetics and personal care shows its most searched-for ingredients, which gives a nice indication of what is hot and trending.
Knowing the INCI of a cosmetic ingredient is not the whole story. Where the official INCI list stops, the INCIDecoder site starts. It fleshes out the background of ingredients by providing an easy-to-use search function that renders results in plain English. Type in an ingredient such as benzyl alcohol, and the results page gives you the chemical structure and a clear definition of this preservative, along with general usage levels, CosIng information, and a list of commercial, brand-name products you can find it in. You can spend quite some time enjoying looking up ingredients on INCIDecoder, and it is a good place to start research before you head to heavy-weight scientific reports and resources. By seeing which brands use which ingredients, you can get a feel for what lies under the bonnet of certain types of products. INCI itself does not include all cosmetic raw materials, in particular many that are derived from food sources. So, if you were interested in finding out how to use banana in your formulations, you could type “banana” into INCIDecoder and find the ingredients’ list of brand products containing banana extracts to give you an idea of the ingredients you could search for and use. Sign up for free for INCIDecoder emails, which cover the latest ingredients they have decoded.
The Lab at Formula Botanica
Crossing boundaries between ingredients, cosmetic formulation, indie beauty business and industry insights is our own membership site, The Lab at Formula Botanica. Open to both our students and anyone interested in natural formulation, The Lab offers monthly topical training modules called Mini Labs. With a finger on the pulse of the natural beauty sector, The Lab provides value to natural cosmetic formulators and indie beauty founders through its unique combination of professional training, the latest cosmetic science research, and ingredient, formulation and equipment libraries, as well as live masterclasses with external experts who provide insights into the trends and topics shaping the industry.
Once enrolled in the Lab, you gain instant access to its entire library of content of well over 30 Mini Labs. With its constantly updated online libraries, the Lab’s resources rival those of published cosmetic textbooks, which need expensive, time-consuming reprints to remain current.
In addition, Lab training is now externally accredited by the CPD Certification Service UK, which means you gain formal recognition for your learning, research and time spent completing the Mini Labs. The advantage of the Lab is its combination of continuing professional development and immense research resources on a single website.
Certifications and Awards
Gaining certification and entering awards take time, and you need to plan well ahead to get started on either. We have done the legwork for you in two blog posts in which we compile a round-up of certification schemes and beauty industry awards of interest to natural, indie beauty founders and brands.
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Liz is Formula Botanica’s Content Coordinator and joined our team in August 2020. Liz worked as a professional blogger, journalist and site developer for many years and was also part of the Formula Botanica student community. Read more about the Formula Botanica Team.