Three big issues when formulating organic

Three big issues when formulating organic

Belinda Carli, Institute of Personal Care Science


Consumers invariably search for balance in their lives; and one of the ways they search for this balance is to use more ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ products both internally and topically. The ‘green’ sector of personal care has grown continuously over the last 10 years, but organic formulations tend to face bigger challenges in terms of marketing claims, efficacy, stability and aesthetic suitability.

Big Issue #1: Marketing claims

There are already a variety of ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ products in the market place – so if you want to launch or build your organic brand, how are you going to make sure you stand out? Even more importantly are the number of brands claiming to be organic or natural or have organic or natural in their branding… yet they contain relatively little organic content. A consumer can’t always tell the difference. If you want to make ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ your main claims, then you need to be certified. All certifiers have different rules, so you need to determine at the start which certifier is best going to suit your needs in terms of their rules and global coverage.

You also need to remember that to comply with organic rules, your formulas need to be very carefully constructed and contain a certain input of naturally derived and organic ingredients – how is your brand going to be different to another brand that is also certified organic and follows these principles? Just having organic extracts, essential oils and plant oils is not going to give you a strong enough point of difference compared to organic brands out there, so think carefully how you are going to market your point of difference against competitors with certified organic products, and competitors who make organic claims but aren’t certified. It is the reality of what you will face, so be prepared!

Big issue #2: Stability

Formulating organic products means you can only use the approved ingredients the certifier allows, and then must also stick within certain input % of organic, natural and naturally derived content. This can make it hard to stabilise formulas over a prolonged shelf life, but is essential to achieve for export regulatory purposes and for consumer acceptance. You will need to discuss these types of issues with your R&D department or formulator and be prepared for more extensive R&D and stability programs to ensure a good shelf life before going to market – trying to skimp on R&D or stability testing is not a good idea when it comes to ensuring quality organic products. It’s hard enough to get distribution and sales once you are out there – you don’t want to jeopardise your brand by not having done your stability homework before you hit the marketplace!

Big issue #3: Suitable aesthetics

Being limited to organic, natural and naturally derived ingredients means you may need to compromise on skin feel too. Many semi-synthetic or synthetic ingredients have been modified to be performance or aesthetic enhancing. You may need to discuss this with your R&D department of formulator and be more flexible with required aesthetics to enable a suitably commercial but certified organic product to be created.

Until very recently, there were no natural volatile oils – but now there are. There were no suitable carbomer replacements – but now there are. There was limited choice in good preservation at neutral pH, and hardly any surfactants to choose from, but now there are.

Find the solutions you are looking for.

Going green isn’t as hard as it used to be, but there are still limitations, and if you aren’t aware of the many solutions now available, formulating natural and organic will be much harder than it needs to be.


The Institute of Personal Care Science provides on-line formulation, cosmetic science and regulatory training, that’s as close to you, anywhere in the world. Having provided training in over 40 countries around the world with Internationally Recognised Diplomas, they’re the world’s leading professional online provider to the personal care industry. For more information, visit:


Belinda Carli will host a Formulation Lab session at in-cosmetics Asia 2018 How to formulate with natural surfactants on 1st November, 16.15-17.15 

Register for free entry to in-cosmetics Asia

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