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How To Start A Makeup Line (Costs, Guides & More)

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Skye Rhodes

Do you want to know how to start a makeup line?

The first use of makeup can be dated back to prehistoric times where natural pigments extracted from plants, fruits, and the husks of certain insects were used to paint tribal patterns on the face and arms, but today we will teach you how to start a makeup line from scratch in the modern age.

Throughout the years, the use of cosmetics has evolved from being used traditionally in rituals to be a mark of power and prestige, for example, the use of white face paint and red lipstick in Asian cultures.

In this modern age, makeup has become more accessible in terms of distribution and color range; and is used in many different settings, whether it be for work, for use in the fashion and costume industry, or as an expression of character and creativity.

However, recently newer brands have flooded the market mostly pioneered by social media influences like Rihanna’s line Fenty Beauty and James Charles’ recent eye shadow palette in partnership with Morphe.

Since cosmetic products are always seemingly in demand, starting a line of your own might seem easy but there’s a lot that goes into making and successfully marketing your product.

This article will take you through the process of how to start a makeup line, the pros, and cons of certain materials; making your brand, and successfully marketing your product.


The Product

To start your makeup line, you must have your product.

Cosmetics have undergone so many developments and specializations, that there is almost a unique product for every letter of the alphabet.

It’s up to you to decide how comprehensive or basic you want your line to be; and if you want to expand in the future.

Categories of Cosmetics

Cosmetic products are specialized through where and why they are used and how they are packaged for distribution and application.

Before the application of the product, many consumers use a ‘base’ to smooth the overall shade and texture of the skin and to improve the overall application and longevity of makeup throughout the day.

This is the purpose of primers, concealers, and foundation.

Makeup products centered around the eyes and eyebrows include eye primers, eye shadows, mascara, and eyebrow pencils and gels.

Products for lips include the most common lipsticks, lip gloss, and lip balm; but have grown to include products such as lid primers, conditioners, and plumpers.

Other products have been developed to help enhance certain features on the face through applications such as highlights, bronzers, blushes, and other contouring products.

These products can be made and distributed in various forms such as powders, gels, sticks, and emulsions.

What Goes Into The Product

The ingredients and formulas differ depending on the type(s) of products you are producing since each different type of cosmetic have needs based on use and application and the colors and finishes you decide on.

When it comes to cosmetics, there are two primary categories based on the ingredients that go into them: ‘synthetic’ and ‘natural’.

Synthetic Vs. Natural

As time has progressed, people have become more conscious of what products they use and put into their bodies; and there have been many debates over whether using synthetic ingredients over natural ones is better, worse, or doesn’t matter over-all.

So what are ‘natural’ and ‘synthetic’ cosmetics?

Synthetic materials are those that have been chemically produced or have undergone intense chemical processing.

Natural materials are derived almost exactly from their source as it exists in the environment and there is very little chemical change to the material.

Many chemists and cosmetologists argue that synthetics are more cost-effective to produce since they can be made in large amounts at one time and there is consistency with the formula.

Conversely, natural materials require large amounts of the starter and yield very little in comparison and the chemical makeup of the yield is not at all times consistent.

Additionally, natural cosmetics tend to expire faster than their synthetic counterparts and may contain more allergens than synthetic products since they are not 100% pure and their compounds are not all identified.

The main arguments against using synthetic cosmetics are based on the types of chemicals used with BPA and Phthalates being some of the major ones.

Many say that exposure to these chemicals is the leading cause of accelerated aging, various types of cancers in women, and have a general level of toxicity when applied daily.

Cosmetologists and leaders of well known traditional brands have argued against this point, stating that the large amounts of these chemicals used to conduct tests are disproportionate to the actual amounts used in their product.

However, with the rising success of ‘clean and green, non-toxic’ cosmetics, they have been pushed to remove some of these chemicals such as parabens and sulfates from their formulas.


While several materials can be used to create cosmetic products, there are just as many recipes and processes available for each cosmetic product on the market.

The materials used, their proportions and the method of manufacturing not only varies with each different product; but also vary with the different needs one specific product has to satisfy.

One such example is a very common cosmetic product, a foundation.

It originally was used as a base for cosmetic application and these days it can be produced as a powder or a liquid; and it’s formulated for a variety of shades of skin, skin types (oily, dry, medium), and coverage preferences (light to heavy).

Similarly, other cosmetic products have undergone development to meet the specific needs of the fashion community.

Many of these specializations can be done by following the original processes but simply adjusting certain measurements or adding another material to achieve the variety needed.

Many of these processes can be carried out on a small scale for a start-up business and don’t need a large building or complicated equipment to make.

Pigments And Dyes

The use of pigments and dyes in the cosmetic industry has a rather colorful history.

‘Pigments’ vary from ‘dyes’ in the sense that dyes are water-soluble and pigments are oil dispersible.

The first pigments used were derived from clay, semi-precious stones, and other natural pigment sources.

As time pressed forward pigments evolved to include heavy metals such as lead, copper, and other harmful materials like coal tar.

Just as how cosmetics can be divided into ‘synthetic’ and ‘natural’; the pigments and dyes used to give them their color can be split into ‘organic’ (meaning compounds containing carbon) and ‘inorganic’ sources.

Organic dyes are synthetic (i.e. chemically-derived) and are labeled based on two categories: FD&Cwhich denote dyes that are approved for use in food, drugs, and cosmetics; and D&C which denotes dyes that are safe to use in drugs and cosmetics, but not food.

It’s important to note that while these FD&C and D&C chemicals are labeled as being safe for ‘food’ or ‘cosmetics’ and can carry very vibrant hues; some of them still make use of harmful chemicals that can be harmful to the body with constant use.

‘Lakes’ are a type of pigment formed from reacting to the dyes discussed above with a stable binder such as a metallic salt e.g., aluminum.

Lakes can be classified as either ‘high dye’ or ‘low dye’ based on how much dye is used to make the pigment.

These lakes have the same advantage as the dyes in that they have a vibrant range of colors but they carry the same disadvantages of them being harmful with long-term use.

‘Botanicals’ are a natural source of pigments, but are not widely used since some are not approved for use in cosmetics and others do not set well and thus incur a lot of ‘bleeding’ of the color.

Another pigment that has been commonly used even from ancient times is ‘carmine’ which is derived from the dried body of cochineal and is popular for its red hue.

Due to its source, it can’t be classified as cruelty-free or free from animal derivatives.

Mineral compounds such as oxides and mica pigments are also another form of pigment that can be used.

These compounds were originally sourced straight from the earth, however, it was found to contain harmful elements when sourced this way, thus the FDA has implemented rules regarding using these pigments in cosmetics.

Additional Additives

Over the years, growing concerns over the health of their skin and the effects of constant wear of cosmetics have led to brands incorporating a mixture of additives into their makeup for various purposes.

Many of them are added as a means of protection from UV rays and to boost the elasticity of the skin and others are added to help smooth complexion and heal marks and lesions on the skin.

Some of these additives are:

Funding Your Makeup Line

So now you know what can be made and ways to make them, how much does it cost to start your makeup line?

To start your makeup line, there are many things to consider: the scale of operations, location, equipment, labor, materials and processes, testing, licenses, and funding.

If you decide to work through a contract manufacturer, they will take care of the location, equipment, and materials and the associated cost would be whatever is agreed upon between yourself and the manufacturer.

However, if you decide to oversee the operations yourself, the process will be understandably a little more expensive.

Size, Location, And Labor

When starting your makeup line, decide on whether you want to operate on a large, medium, or small-scale operation.

It’s advised to start small and eventually grow your business since it’s easier to fund a smaller operation and use the profits towards expanding.

The next thing to consider is where your operation will be based.

This will determine the amount of money that will be spent on either renting or buying a building and the land tax associated with it.

Research has shown that the cost to rent a lab facility, with the necessary equipment, runs anywhere between USD 5000 to USD 50,000.

This cost varies with the options of building a laboratory facility, buying a pre-existing one, or renting a laboratory.

Next to consider is the labor force needed to operate the facility.

This again depends on the scale of operations.

Smaller businesses require a smaller labor force to upkeep and are easier to manage in the beginning stages of your business.

The cost of employment depends on how much you are willing to pay them per hour and needs to take into consideration the minimum hourly wage as dictated by that area, state, or country your operations are based in.

A good tactic regarding employment payment is to ensure that you have enough funds to pay your labor force for the first three to six months when your business hasn’t quite gained traction yet.

Materials And Processes

As discussed earlier, makeup can be made using a variety of materials which then will class your line as either ‘synthetic’, ‘natural’, ‘organic’, ‘vegan’, or ‘cruelty-free’.

Some of these materials are more costly than others thus affects the overall cost of creating your line.

The materials and processes for synthetic makeup are overall cheaper than natural cosmetics; however, the market leans more towards the latter set of labels on products.

Testing Your Product

To distribute your product after manufacturing, you need to be able to say and prove that your product is safe for use.

This is done using running your products through a variety of tests:

  • Microbial Testing: also known as Preservative Efficacy testing, is done to test the effectiveness of antimicrobial preservatives in your product
  • The average cost of USD 350 per product
  • Stability testing: this is done to test if your product holds well, changes color, will get contaminated, or will continue to work (and for what length of time) when stored in different conditions
  • The cost of testing depends on the lab doing the testing for you
  • Safety testing: while this is optional, products that go near the eyes, or contain SPF, BHA, and AHA should undergo safety testing
  • These tests run anywhere from USD 800 to USD 4000 depending on the scale and laboratory employed to run these tests

Licenses, Permits, And Insurance

In addition to these tests on your products, you will need a series of licenses, permits, insurances, and important documents to make sure that your business is lawful.

Some important licenses you need to start your business are a business license, a resale license, a manufacturer license, and an esthetician license.

A business license is required by most states to legally own and operate a business and a resale license is required to sell your product.

A manufacturer’s license is required if you are undertaking the manufacturing of your product; however, it’s also a good idea to contact your local department of health or branch of the FDA for any additional requirements needed for your area.

An esthetician license useful as the process to obtain this license allows you to understand different skin conditions and thus enable you to adapt your products accordingly in the future.

The most important insurance types you need to look at when starting your makeup line is property and liability insurance.

Property insurance is just as its name suggests, protects your property in the event of a disaster.

It’s not necessary and can be omitted if you have a tight budget.

Liability insurance is the more important of the two, and covers you if some accident occurs at your place of business or if there is a mishap when your client uses a product and experiences an adverse reaction; granted that it doesn’t occur very often.

About USD 5000 should be budgeted for acquiring these insurance policies and licenses.

Accessing Funding

Now that you have an idea of how much it takes to start your makeup line, how do you acquire this funding?

Small scale businesses usually don’t require a lot of funding to start, however medium and large-scale operations would need a loan to be taken out from a bank to be able to be funded.

Marketing Your Brand

So now that you know the range of products you can make and the cost needed to start your business, how do you ensure that your products are bought and your business becomes successful?

This is where marketing comes in.

Marketing your product takes a lot of planning and reviewing, and you’re going to revise a lot of the plans you made initially.

There are several aspects of marketing that you need to consider to successfully get your business and your products into the market.

Your Target Audience

This might sound like a performance-type of requirement, doesn’t it?

Well, marketing is somewhat like performance, and knowing the ‘audience’ or customers you want your products to be used by is important.

Different cultures and social niches use makeup in various ways to identify themselves, and tailoring your product to these specific groups and niches will almost guarantee sales and product satisfaction.

Knowing your target group can also help you to decide how you want to brand your product and what visual appeal you would like your product to have.

You can learn about their preferences by carrying out surveys or by observing the kind of media they define their style with.

Developing Your Brand

There are many steps to take when developing your brand and you can do this either on your own or in collaboration with a graphic design artist.

First, you need to decide on a name for your product line, then decide on a theme and a subsequent logo that can effectively display this theme in an image.

There are specific color combinations and stylizations that are more appealing to others, but it’s good to remember that often a simple logo can be appealing once designed appropriately.

Attaching a catchy slogan to your product name or logo can also be another good addition to your brand.

Let your theme and logo be consistent throughout the packaging, as this will add to the overall visual appeal of your product.

Create a brand goal or vision statement and make sure that you keep consistent with it; customers don’t appreciate inconsistencies and will not follow up with a brand that does not deliver on its word.

Make business cards, email headers or signatures, and other visual templates that incorporate your logo and slogan into them.

These will help to make your brand and business more tangible, especially when you use them when reaching out to sponsors and clients.

Advertising Your Product

One of the most important aspects of advertising your product is to ensure you have an audience to advertise to.

This means creating a social media presence for your brand before launching.

This can be done by creating pages on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram a few months before you are ready to launch your product line.

Posting content such as your goals and themes and visual samples will start to attract your audience so that by the time you actually release your product to the market you will have clients who are ready to buy into your business.

Additionally, having a strong follower base at the time of launch will help you with marketing, as they will in turn recommend your product to their friends and family when they use your product and express their satisfaction with it.

Another good tip is to develop a website for your product to sell directly off of.

Not only will this give you a professional online appearance, but you ensure that 100% of the profit goes to you, instead of to a third party when hosting it off of another site.

As your business grows, releasing your products to be tested by social media influencers, and sponsoring them can be a good way to reach other followers and attract them to your page.

Final Thoughts

Starting your own makeup line is quite like starting your own business, and just as daunting.

It requires a lot of planning and preparation, and once you learn how to start a makeup line, you have to commit to it.

Once you take the necessary steps to ensure that the practices and business you are doing are legal and trustworthy, and you build your customer base, you are sure to succeed.

Start small and grow big, it’s better to invest gradually than overcompensate and have to recover from a staggering loss when starting on a large scale.

The makeup industry is one that is constantly changing and evolving and is constantly in demand for new products and creators, that’s why it’s important to know how to start a makeup line properly.

Learn your market and adjust your product to suit- it doesn’t make sense to produce a product that is cost-efficient for yourself but will eventually fall under a lot of criticism for its materials and processes.

Just as how using makeup allows people to express themselves and/or their creativity; creating your own brand allows you to express yourself to your clients.

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