Do You Have the Need for Speed Formulating?


Social media, YouTube tutorials and the blogosphere tend to impact the beauty and personal care industry in more ways than most give them credit for. According to Trendanalytics, a whopping 82% of women feel that social media has impacted the definition of beauty. However, this doesn’t pertain solely to consumers, it also has a substantial impact on the product development process.

The role of a formulator in 2017 can have its challenges, especially when beauty trends go viral on social media in mere hours and little known product formulations rapidly become the belle of the industry’s ball. Bubble masks, anyone?

Cosmetics & Toiletries caught up with Irwin Palefsky, president and CEO of Cosmetech Laboratories, Inc., to hear his opinions on the speed formulating process and how formulators can get in-demand products to market quickly, without compromising safety and efficacy.

How can formulators quickly begin the product development process in order to get the trending product on the market while it’s still in demand?

Irwin Palefsky (IP): Once formulators have a clear idea of what they want to create, the sooner they understand what they don't know, the quicker it will be for them to get a product developed. When entrepreneurs come up with an idea or see an unmet need, they immediately start to create and will often run into technical or unexpected issues regarding regulatory. Gathering input from other disciplines up front about these pitfalls will help prevent the drawbacks from arising down the road.

Doing this kind of research doesn't involve a lot from a time perspective, it’s more about gathering people who can keep formulators on the path to a product that won’t get blown out of the water for reasons other than it doesn't work.

Should formulators rely solely on the marketing department when it comes to trends or take it upon themselves to know what consumers are interested in?

IP: If there was a place to go for the next trend, everyone would be going there. The growth and innovation in this industry come from the startups, the entrepreneurs, people building a niche trend that fits into a place in the marketplace and get consumer reception.

Personal care formulators should look outside of the industry to an area that may lend itself to the next new product idea or concept in the cosmetic area. A chemist friend of mine used to read literature about all the other industries except for the cosmetic industry in search of new ideas.

What is the difference between a fad and a larger trend? What are some indicators to be aware of when formulating?

IP: A fad addresses an immediate situation that may not necessarily be a permanent situation. In other words, if you have a new hair care product that's great for people with short hair that's fine, as long as short hair is still in style.

If you are solving a problem, such as addressing fine lines and wrinkles, those areas are going to be more persistent. If the product does what it is supposed to do, then it's not going to be a fad. It’s going to be a trendsetter.

How can members of the R&D team ensure products they formulate quickly to keep up with consumer demand and are safe to use while still maintaining efficacy?

IP: There are a number of factors that go into formulation: understanding the safety of the product based on its ingredients, performing safety tests on the product and understanding its preservative efficacy of the product. Speed is the enemy of most of them.

A good stability program will take at least 3 months. Preservative and safety testing could be six weeks to two months. All of these can be done at the same time, but that is assuming they are all going to pass. If the preservative test fails and you need to change the preservatives then you'll have to re-do the other tests. Ideally, these tests should be done sequentially, but that could add another three to six months into the program.

Formulators must understand there are factors inherently involved in the launching of a product. In my opinion, you need to give them at least a minimum of nine to twelve months to be on the shelf.

What safety concerns can arise when attempting to get products to market at a hurried pace?

IP: A lot of the issues you will run into with products are irritation issues, but skin sensitization and allergies are difficult to predict. Everybody is allergic or sensitive to something. The more people a product is tested on, the higher the chances are of running into those issues. A formulator will never be totally comfortable with the safety of the product until they test it on to as many people as possible.

Are there any regulatory hurdles for this kind of formulating?

IP: In the cosmetic industry, there are no regulatory specifications for the type of safety testing that should be done. I think it would be good for the industry if there were more uniform testing protocols put in place to give some level of confidence in the safety of products. Formulators should pay attention to the market in which the product is going to be sold. They will most likely have their own regulatory requirements to take into account.

Should formulators rely on shared information between other brands’ formulators when it comes to formulating “trendy” products?

IP: Formulators will not share the uniqueness of the products they formulate because that's what gives them the competitive edge, but there are some industry basics, such as safety and preservation, that should be shared.

In your opinion, what are the fundamentals of speed formulating and what should formulators keep in mind?

IP: The trick to speed is staying focused and not changing direction somewhere in the middle. Bottom line, resist the urge to keep changing and modifying a product. It's always easier down the road to come up with a new and improved version of a formula but first get the formula out there.

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