Organic Formulators Tell All: Finding Natural Ingredients

2020-09 Finding natural ingredients

When new students join us at Formula Botanica and launch into their organic cosmetic formulation courses, they often feel overwhelmed at the prospect of finding natural ingredients. There are so many exciting botanical ingredients available to the natural formulator these days, it can be difficult to know where to start.

To keep pace with the growth of the green beauty sector, we see suppliers bringing to market exciting, innovative active and functional natural ingredients as well as extending the already vast options in carrier and essential oils. The Formula Botanica team has seen this first hand at some of the large industry events we’ve visited, such as incosmetics Global which showcases new natural cosmetic ingredients and trends.

We appreciate that knowing how to go about sourcing natural ingredients can seem challenging for the new formulator. For this reason, we guide our students at the outset and provide a directory of trusted suppliers around the world as well as a suggested starter kit of essential natural ingredients.

As students progress though our Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation, often carrying on to our advanced and specialist diplomas, they hone the skills needed to research and source natural ingredients and learn what to ask of suppliers. We are thrilled to see them develop confidence as formulators and find their own unique voice as they develop truly inspired product lines of their own.

Help in finding natural ingredients

For this post, we decided therefore to tackle the issue of how to find natural ingredients from a different angle by tapping into the experiences of our now 10k-strong, worldwide community of students and graduates. We asked our volunteers two key questions:

  • How did you find natural ingredients for your formulations; and
  • Which one ingredient do you love the most for formulating and why?

In their replies, you will read about how they mastered and now love some of the trickier family of ingredients to learn about such as emulsifiers. Their comments also show their sheer determination to source natural ingredients locally and sustainably wherever they live to keep true to their ethos as green formulators. We think you’ll find their insights inspirational and their advice honest and helpful if you are just starting out as an organic formulator or thinking of joining one of our formulation courses.

In the latest @formulabotanica blog students give the low-down on finding the best suppliers and choosing hero ingredients for their natural beauty lines. #naturalformulators #DIYbeauty Click To Tweet

Student Tips on Natural Ingredients

April MacKinnon

April MacKinnonHow I find my natural ingredients: Many of our formulations are based on traditional herbal medicine. We work with Canadian-based suppliers who are able to provide traceability and organic certification which is critical for our GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice). Other ingredients we have sourced from suppliers with strong social responsibility values. We’ve partnered women-run cooperatives in developing countries and we work also with Canadian, organic farmers to source items like sunflower oil and beeswax.

My favourite natural ingredient:  This has to be certified, organic, extra virgin olive oil. It has scientifically-documented properties beneficial to skin and a wide range of uses: it is a wonderful carrier oil for herbal infusions, is skin soothing when used in balms, makes beautifully smooth textures in emulsions, is shelf stable, and is readily available in bulk quantities. An all-round winner of an ingredient for me.

Discover April’s brand: Anointment Natural Skin Care

Naz Bashir

Naz BashirHow I find my natural ingredients: When I first started buying ingredients I felt super over whelmed! As I got on with the course, I grew in confidence and learnt how to find reliable suppliers. I looked for suppliers that had good labeling and a large, quality range of stock. I made sure I took a close look at their labeling so that I could identify their batch numbers, as this is very important when documenting your products. I also looked at how they source their ingredients and what they are doing as a supplier to be sustainable? Do they fit in with my values as a brand? I always go for a reputable supplier; I want good quality ingredients!

My favourite natural ingredient: One of my favourites is broccoli seed oil, purely because it is suitable for all types of skin and works wonders for sensitive skin. It is high in vitamin A, also known as retinol which is currently on trend in skincare.  Broccoli seed is a natural, beneficial and gentle source of retinol.

Discover Naz’s brand: Solo Skin London

Jenni Tuominen

Jenni TuominenHow I find my natural ingredients: I wanted each product to have its roots in my home region of Scandinavia and in particular Finland by drawing on some of the high-performance, natural, anti-ageing ingredients that our pure and beautiful forests offer. I look to Scandinavian ingredients such as birch sap, oat, lingonberry, pine bark and sea buckthorn and get them to play a big role in each product. All of these ingredients have been known for centuries for their amazing skincare and wellness benefits. Our manufacturer gave us really good information when I asked about how to find suppliers of these ingredients.

My favourite natural ingredient: I just love birch sap! For centuries it has been used (internally) to keep diseases at bay. It is super hydrating and detoxifying and luckily for me, it is finally getting the hype it deserves! Birch sap water is super concentrated, and in skincare, it has a vast number of active elements that can give exceptional health and vitality to the skin. It is also recognized as a pure, potent anti-ageing ingredient; it is said that by stimulating cells, birch sap can boost cell regeneration by 25%. Birch sap restores the skin’s suppleness and gives a beautiful radiance and glow. It’s also said to provide more hydration to the skin than hyaluronic acid. It is just pure magic!

Discover Jenni’s brand: Henua Organics

Eliza Gong

Eliza GongHow I find my natural ingredients: I purchase mostly from the USA as it is difficult to get most of the required ingredients in Asia in manageable quantities. Many of the suppliers here offer minimum order quantities (MOQs) that are too large for early-phase businesses like mine which need time to gain traction in the market. It can be difficult to obtain the necessary paperwork for ingredients such as COAs (certificates of analysis) and MSDSs (material safety data sheets) as my local suppliers tend to offer them only to those who purchase in larger quantities. It will be challenging to maintain a proper Product Information File (PIF) without these. For now, I have to import most of the ingredients.

My favourite natural ingredient: I love making creams and lotions. So, the emulsifier is the love of my life in formulating! I can replace any oils and butters or water, but not my emulsifier. The one I particularly like to work with is the Montanov 68 MB. It is quite versatile and I am surprised how it can be coaxed to work with at a very low percentage, even one below that recommended by the supplier.

Discover Eliza’s brand: Eva Purity

Moira Newiss

Moira NewissHow I find my natural ingredients: When I was first setting out I wanted to create an anti-chafing balm using that was 100% natural but with as reduced a carbon footprint as possible. So I looked for ingredients such as organic beeswax from within Europe to reduce my reliance on tropical fruit waxes. I also wanted my balm to be extremely effective so I researched active ingredients that could help to prevent skin degeneration and help repair damaged skin, so for example I use allantoin which is an extract of the comfrey plant which promotes skin healing. I also needed the balm to withstand high temperatures as it could be used on the go and survive being transported in a car in summer, so I wanted a wax with a high melting point as part of my recipe. To help calm any inflammation I looked for an ingredient with anti-inflammatory action and decided that calendula was the best fit. I wanted all my ingredients to be natural and as many as possible to be certified organic to be sure they were sourced from a sustainable system of agriculture.

My favourite natural ingredient: I love calendula oil as it has a beautiful scent, a stunning colour and it can be used in so many ways in oil blends, balms, creams and lotions. I use calendula in my product for its preventative and defensive properties. Its active components are known to help reduce pain and swelling from inflammation, promote new tissue growth and strengthen the skin to help protect it from environmental damage.

Discover Moira’s brand: Skirr Skin

Morgane Rozenberg

Morgane RozenbergHow I find my natural ingredients: It was difficult to find adequate suppliers because I only knew either small retailers or the manufacturer who would only sell in large quantities that I couldn’t afford. Nights searching on Google proved useful; Chemberry, which is a vast supplier database and portal, was also a good source of information. Plus, I attended an incosmetics Global fair. But also, it is important to contact those large manufacturers and suppliers and ask them directly who are their distributors. As simple as that. Ask them. They’ll tell you!

My favourite natural ingredient: Each one of us in the natural cosmetic field has a particularity and I love, love, love making creams and lotions and comparing their texture, viscosity and skin feel and nailing down the best additives to make the most of a certain emulsifier I am experimenting with. I probably have around 20 emulsifiers that I like to play with when I have a bit of spare time.

Discover Morgane’s brand: Roze Mountain

Maggie Mahboubian

Maggie MahboubianHow I find natural ingredients: I try to include as many proprietary in-house ingredients and extractions as possible which helps offset my brand’s carbon footprint. I also enjoy growing and gathering many of the botanicals I extract so I’m better able to control quality and freshness. I’m striving to minimise ingredient decks and source primary materials from local producers. I do include ingredients purchased wholesale from commercial suppliers. But these must be organic with traceable origins.

My favourite natural ingredient: Oh there are so many! But, ultimately I will opt for the ingredient that started my journey: rosewater. I love it because it can be used on its own or mixed with other ingredients to create a toner or other water-based product or blended into an emulsion. It is multi-faceted and multi-functional. Unlike deionized water, it is alive! I understand the necessity to formulate logically, but rosewater is a passion that elevates my work.

Discover Maggie’s brand: Lalun Beauty

We had too many responses to include all here but we can see some formulation trends emerging among our students and graduates. It is wonderful to see Formula Botanica’s students pushing their creativity to be at the forefront of the indie, sustainable beauty movement by designing unique formulas that resonate with their own personal passions. Our students are playing their part in promoting sustainable natural ingredients by choosing local, reducing ingredient air miles, and persuading suppliers to reduce their minimum order quantities to help get them on the road to formulating and selling.

Now it’s your turn to find your hero natural ingredients

While it can be overwhelming browsing a supplier’s online store, by finding inspiration from your home country, continent, region or even from just outside your door, you can source ingredients that are unique and personal to you and save costs on the shipping of raw materials.  Narrowing down your ideas to address a specific niche of natural cosmetics, such as Moira did in developing her sports’ skincare line, also helps avoid the overwhelm. 

Our students have shown it’s possible to look to indigenous plants and locally-grown and processed natural ingredients to create your first products and later perhaps entire retail ranges based on local, more sustainable ingredients. You might not have access to all the amazing ingredients available internationally, but there are probably a host of suppliers near to you if you think laterally.

As we’ve students and graduates across the world, there is always someone in our Formula Botanica community who has faced the same issues as you and can point you in the right direction.

Do you love formulation? Do you have a favourite supplier or a much-loved hero ingredient? Drop us a comment below as we’d love to hear about your choices.

Would you like to join our vibrant community of natural skincare formulators? Want to become a professional organic skincare formulator, so you can confidently create your own unique cosmetics’ line?

Pre-register now for Formula Botanica’s Free 4-part Organic Skincare Entrepreneur Masterclass and learn how to start the natural skincare business of your dreams.


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Liz Ayling | Formula Botanica

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.


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