How You Get a Cosmetic Formula You’ll Love

How You Get a Cosmetic Formula You’ll Love

We make custom cosmetic formulas

Since our founding in 1995, formulating a personal care product that uniquely fits your market and brand has been the goal. We have created thousands of unique formulas with care and dedication. Whether you have an existing formula or product idea, our laboratory can bring enhancements that go beyond the value of a back-of-the-box cosmetic formulation.

In this article you will read:

  • How you can have a new product formulated
  • How you can transfer a product formula
  • Who owns a formula developed by BPI Labs
  • What our fees are for formulating
You’ll love our custom formulas

Each formulation is uniquely designed to deliver the benefits of the claims you would like to make. This will be done with an intimate understanding of how preservatives work in acids and bases, emulsion technology, natural and organic substitutes, and suspension technology among many other cosmetic technologies. After we’ve developed a sample, we’ll ask you to approve the sample. If you’re not satisfied then we’ll change it to suit your marketing needs.

How do we begin formulating?

We begin formulating after we’ve received some information from you on what you would like. The best possible information we can get are examples of product already in the market you would like to mimic or position nearby. Then we need a list of all your formulation requirements, including: ingredients you want used or not used, including categories of ingredients; whether your product should be organic; a fragrance you would like used; and any other requirements you may have.

The samples come next

BPI Labs will begin by developing a ‘dry’ formulation, which is a written set of instructions for completing a sample. These written instructions will instruct our laboratory to use certain chemicals and processes. Some of these chemicals may need to be shipped to BPI Labs, which may take up to two weeks. We’ll complete a sample and ship it to you, and we’ll retain some of the sample for stability testing and reference.

You have a formula you would like to use

If you have a formulation you would like BPI to use then we’ll have our companies sign a non-disclosure document (NDA) prior to BPI Labs receiving your formula. Then we’ll get to work evaluating and validating your product formula.

We’ll verify we can produce your formula

The process for using your formula is much like the process for new formula development. We’ll ask for a sample of your product for our laboratories reference. Next, we will develop a sample of your formula and send it to you while keeping some of the same for stability testing and reference. If we don’t have the materials in stock to complete your sample, we may need to wait up to 2 weeks for them to arrive.

What if we cannot successfully complete the sample

It is not unusual that some aspect of a formulation we receive from a customer is incomplete or misidentifies an ingredient or process step. Fortunately, we can usually extrapolate from what is available and design a solution. We will notify you if we do this and update you with any changes to the listing of ingredients if any were made.

A few last things you should know:

Formula Approval

If you love one of our samples, then we’ll ask you to approve the formula for manufacture. If you need changes to the formula, then our laboratory can usually create a new sample quickly since most or all the ingredients are already in-house. The important thing is that the formula meet your brand requirements.

Formula Ownership

BPI Labs is not in the business of selling formulations. Our company only makes money when we have long and fruitful manufacturing relationships with our customers. So if we develop a formula then we are going to retain the rights to that formula. However, we can offer these services to you free of cost. You can generate entire product lines with BPI Labs and request product improvements over time that keep your product fresh and appealing. We don’t charge for these services.

Formula Fee

Sometimes we do ask for a formula fee. Customers who are new to the cosmetics and personal care industry and who do not have a history of selling into this market may be asked to pay a $2,500 formulation fee. However, once we go into manufacturing, we’ll return this fee to you as a discount off your first order.


Formulations from BPI Labs are packed with value. The formulation process may take up to 3 or 4 weeks to complete. Sometimes it is much faster. The better our customer understands what they would like and can describe that need to us, the more likely we get the product right, quickly. Subsequent attempts at sample development usually have quick turnaround because we have all the ingredients in-house. We do all this, free of charge, because we want to earn your loyalty and business for the long-term.

    Our Blogs

    Specific Gravity Formula: Why you need it

    Specific Gravity Formula: Why you need it

    Why your formulation needs specific gravity

     BPI Labs does all its manufacturing in mass measurements because it would be impractical to mix and compound your product without a mass measurement.  Measurements done in cups, liters, and gallons, which are volume measurements, are imperfect at best, but in a manufacturing environment it would be impossible to guarantee great production results.  With a simple calculation using your product formula’s specific gravity, we’re able to convert from volume measurements to mass measurements.     Click here to learn more about why BPI Labs manufactures in mass measurements.

    Specific gravity is the key that allows us to convert from a purchase order written in volume, to manufacturing requirements in pounds or kilograms.  For example, if you were to order 4,200 bottles of conditioner and each bottle of conditioner contains 12 fluid ounces, then we could determine how many pounds of conditioner you are ordering with your formula’s specific gravity.  All we would need to do is find out how many gallons of conditioner would fill your 4,200 bottles, then use that number in a simple equation with your product formula’s specific gravity to see how many total pounds of conditioner is being ordered.

    Download our sample formulation sheet to begin using specific gravity in your formulas.

    What is specific gravity?

    Specific gravity is a comparison of weights between two different substances using the same volume unit. Usually we use water as the first substance since room temperature water has a well attested weight at sea level, and the other substance is your product formula. To get a formula’s specific gravity, we need to know the weight of water and the weight of your formula at some volume, like a gallon, liter, or cup. Then we take the two weights at the unit volume and divide them to get a specific gravity. The result from a specific gravity calculation in the personal care industry tends to be a number that is pretty close to one
    (1.00 +/- .05).

    Here’s an example where we derive a specific gravity ratio

    Let’s find the specific gravity of a private label bath product called Fantasy Foam Bath (FFB). One gallon of this FFB weighs 8.08 pounds. We can derive the specific gravity of this product by dividing 8.08 pounds by the weight of a gallon of water, which is 8.33 pounds at sea level and at room temperature.  When we take 8.08 and divide by 8.33 we learn that our specific gravity ratio is (0.97).

    [8.08 pounds of Fantasy Foam Bath per gallon  /  8.33 pounds of water per gallon = 0.97]

    We now know that the weight of Fantasy Foam Bath (FFB) at one gallon is equivalent to 0.97 times the weight of water at one gallon.  Specific gravity does not need to use gallons; this is just the volume measurement we used in our example.  Any volumetric measurement will work as long as the weight of water and your formula is known for the chosen volumetric unit.  For example, we would have arrived at the same ratio (0.97) with the weights of a cup of water and a cup of FFB.

      Any volumetric measurement will work as long as the weight of water and your formula is known for the chosen volumetric unit.

      How we use specific gravity in a conversion

      Let’s look at an example where we use specific gravity to make a conversion. Suppose a customer places an order for 4,000 bottles of FFB, each bottle holding 3.2 fl.oz. of product.  Filling this order requires [(4000 * 3.2) / 128] = 100 gallons of Fantasy Foam Bath.  Our formulation, written in percentages, says that for any amount of FFB there must be the following percentage of ingredients in the mixture:

      • 95% Water
      • 4.9% Surfactant X
      • .1% Preservative Y

      Our materials suppliers, who tend to sell in mass measurement, want to know how many pounds of Surfactant X we’ll be ordering, and the shipping company wants to know how much weight of Surfactant X will be shipped for pricing purposes. The production compounder, who will be mixing FFB, will also want to know how many pounds of Surfactant X to put into the mixing tank.  We need to use the specific gravity to find these weights.

      To find Surfactant X’s weight, we first take 100 gallons of FFB and multiply it by a specific gravity of (0.97) to understand the volumetric equivalent of water.

      [(100 gal. of FFB) x 0.97 = 97 gallons of water]

      We can then multiply this result by 8.33 lbs., since this is the per gallon weight of water at room temperature and at sea level.

      [(97 gal. of water) x 8.33 lbs./gal. = 808.01 lbs]

      This is when we begin to appreciate a formulation’s specific gravity.  The total batch of product will weigh 808.01 pounds and 4.9% of the total formulation is Surfactant X.  We will multiply 808.01 lbs. by 4.9% to understand that we need to purchase and ship 39.59 lbs (~40 lbs.) of Surfactant X to our factory to complete the order of 4,000 bottles of Fantasy Foam Bath.


      BPI Labs uses specific gravity daily because we’re using mass measurements to formulate and manufacture personal care product. Specific gravity removes error and assures production consistency by converting volume to mass for any unit of measurement. In our article entitled Turning Recipes into Formulas we explain why using mass measurements in production is better for consistent production in personal care manufacturing, and we encourage you learn more about this if you’re interested.

      Download our sample formulation sheet to begin using specific gravity in your formulas.


        Our Blogs

        Our Formulas Have These 6 Things for Completeness

        Our Formulas Have These 6 Things for Completeness


        BPI Labs’ formulas contain 6 elements that assure product perfectiveness each time we manufacture your personal care product. Does your formula have these? If not, then you probably don’t have a production-ready formula. If you want to know how we transition incomplete formulas into production-ready formulas, click here.

        The six things your formula needs

        To manufacture your personal care products accurately and consistently your formula needs the following six things.  These essential elements can be found in the formulation template we’re providing: Click here to download our formulation template.

        1. Specific gravity

        Your formulation’s specific gravity is a ratio of the weight of your formula compared to the weight of water in some known volume unit.  We need this ratio to determine the weight of your batches and each ingredient in the batch of product formula.  Our customers always order some number of units at some volume, like fluid ounces, and we will use specific gravity to convert their order into a mass measurement, like pounds.  Manufacturing in mass measurements is how we can produce your product perfectly each time, and specific gravity is the ratio we need to make the volume to mass conversion.  Read more about this here: Your Cosmetic Formula Needs Specific Gravity.

        2. Weight-on-weight percentages of ingredients

        Knowing each ingredient’s weight as a percentage of the whole formula assures manufacturing accuracy. Once we are aware of the weight-on-weight percentage of each ingredient, we can determine the amount of each needed for any batch of product, down to the gram, no matter the size of batch.  For example, if water is 10% of the formulation composition, then to make 10 lbs of product, we will need one pound of water.

        3. Supplier of ingredients

        Not every supplier makes an ingredient the same way. For example, one supplier may make the ingredient glycerine with 98% glycerine and 2% water, while another supplier’s glycerine may contain 90% glycerine and 10% water. Knowing the supplier for each ingredient of your formula and the supplier’s trade name for that ingredient guarantees we make your formula exactly the same every time.

        4. Processing instructions

        These instructions will include the instruments essential to mixing your product and when to add, mix, chill, or heat your product’s ingredients and to what degree. If a compounded product is heated for too long, for example, and too much water evaporates, it can ruin the entire batch. Processing instructions are another element needed to create a consistent product every time.

        5. Specification sheets

        This sheet describes the qualities of your product regarding look, color, viscosity, feel, etc. It allows us to compare your product to what we manufacture to certify your product is manufactured according to specification every time.

        6. Formula Number

        A formula number is your product’s name-tag at BPI Labs; it is what we use to identify your product. The formula number changes between versions of your formula, and the formula number helps us gather the correct ingredients and materials when we manufacture your product. You will also use your product’s formula number when submitting a purchase order.  Click here to discover how a formula is different from a recipe.


        BPI Labs guarantees consistent manufacturing results with these 6 essentials.  Every formula at BPI Labs has these essentials in addition to a record of production, which includes any troubleshooting we did to bring your product into specification.  We always review these historical records before production to verify we’re ready to manufacture your personal care product the right way every time.

        Our Blogs

        Turning Your Recipes into Cosmetic Formulas

        Turning Your Recipes into Cosmetic Formulas

        Why we need your recipe to be a formula

        We use the language of recipes and formulas to make a distinction between a product that is ready to be manufactured and one that is not. If you have instructions to manufacture a product that is measured in volume, or it doesn’t have weight-on-weight percentages, among some other aspects, then you have a recipe, and it isn’t ready to be manufactured. BPI Labs regularly turns recipes into formulas, and you should read on if you’d like to know how and why we convert recipes to formulas.

        The downside to a recipe

        A recipe of a personal care product will often take the form of a list of ingredients, each with a volume measurement, that equal some amount of product when combined. Examples of volumetric measurements include gallons, liters, quarts, tablespoons, or fluid ounces among some others.  Baking a cake is a perfect example of a listing of ingredients, with corresponding volumetric measurements, and a final result (1 cake).  Though recipes can help us bake a delicious cake, they prevent consistent and accurate manufacturing in a cosmetic manufacturing environment.  For example, volume measurements using large measuring cups would be laborious with over-pouring and cleanup, and inexact since we’d be eyeballing messy measurement lines.

        The mixing tanks used by BPI Labs are also large, opaque, and do not contain measurement marks like a common measuring cup. The constant movement (agitation) in a tank makes it difficult to get an exact understanding of how much product has been added or is needed. Moreover, air is often added to a mixture while mixing, which increases the mixture’s volume.  Finally, volumes can be deceptive since ingredients can expand and contract in warm or cold temperatures.  A chemical that is stored at fifty degrees Fahrenheit in a warehouse can expand as it sits in a 70 degree Fahrenheit manufacturing area, and we’re typically heating or chilling your mixture in a mixing tank to create your personal care product.

        The upside to a formula

        A formula for a personal care product is made with mass measurements. The amount of each ingredient needed to make your product is determined by the weight of each ingredient in grams or pounds. The advantages to using a scale instead of volume measurements include getting more exact measurements (down to fractions of a gram), not worrying about expansion or contraction of an ingredient’s volume during production, and the ability to scale the size of a batch up or down quickly with precision.

        Scaling a batch up and down in size is simple when using mass measurements and with formulations that call for percentages of each ingredient.  If 500 gallons of product is needed to fill 4000 bottles, then we can use something called the specific gravity equation to translate 500 gallons into pounds or grams of product needed.  Scaling a batch becomes as simple as looking at the percentage of an ingredient called for and multiplying it by the pounds of product needed, which we got from the specific gravity equation.  For example, if the formulation calls for 50% water (among other things), then we just need to multiply 50% by the total pounds of product we intend to manufacture.  Now we know how many pounds of water to use.  Maybe we’d like to make the batch 10 pounds larger; how much more water would we need?  We’ll just add another 5 pounds of water.

        By the way, if you’re interested in learning about specific gravity then read our post here.

        Translating recipes into formulas

        If we are asked to produce a recipe, the first thing we will try to do is convert it to a formula.  We begin by trying our best to follow the recipe’s instructions and create a sample.  Next, we’ll record the weight of each ingredient we used, weigh the final amount produced, and then measure the specific gravity.  We’ll send the sample to our customer for their approval. Assuming the sample is approved, we’ll turn our notes on the weights of each ingredient into a percentage of the total amount produced and record this into a formula with the specific gravity.  After these things, we will have the ability to create any amount of product requested and use the right amount of ingredient down to fractions of a gram.


        There is significantly more to a formulation than a listing of ingredients, percentages called for, and the specific gravity.  You can look at our post on the six things every formulation needs here.  Otherwise, you can trust BPI Labs to help you purchase a formulation or transition a recipe you own into a production-ready formulation your customers will be happy with every time.

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        Part 2: Choosing an Organic Standard

        Part 2: Choosing an Organic Standard

        How an organic cert. was made for personal care

        Previously discussed was the USDA NOP’s organic standard and the inherent challenges in using it to certify organic personal care product. 

        In this post we’ll discuss the creation of the NSF/ANSI 305 standard, which was established in 2009, and a little of how the market is responding to this certification.

        What is the NSF/ANSI 305 standard?

        The NSF/ANSI 305 standard was created in 2009 to fill the need for an appropriate organic personal care products standard. This standard is the only American national standard for the manufacturing and labeling of personal care products that contain organic ingredients and make organic claims (Oregon Tilth).

        NSF International, the creators of this standard, are a highly reputable public health certification agency recognized by the FDA, EPA, and the USDA for their work in non-food compound product registration.  The American National Standard Institute (ANSI), a non-profit organization that assists in the development of U.S. voluntary national standards, assisted in the standard’s development and adoption.

          How ANSI/NSF 305 works

          Like the USDA NOP standard, the NSF/ANSI 305 standard places restrictions on the materials and ingredients used to formulate and manufacture products. The most beneficial element of the NSF/ANSI 305 standard is that it allows organic ingredients to be processed with manufacturing methods and with substances not authorized under the USDA organic certification. These allowed methods and substances have been examined by the NSF International Joint Committee on Organic Personal Care and approved for organic personal care use.  Check out Oregon Tilth’s NSF/ANSI 305 Fact Sheet here to learn more about the standard.

          A few of the standard’s requirements include:
          • At least 70% of your product must be made with USDA NOP approved organic ingredients
          • No GMO-derived ingredients in your product
          • No petrochemical based ingredients in your product unless they are approved by NSF International
          Labels you can use

          Certification under this standard allows personal care products to make a “contains organic ingredients” claim. Your product’s packaging can also feature the NSF International label alongside the certifying agent’s label, Oregon Tilth in our case, to assure customers the product has been evaluated and holds up to organic standards.

          ​​Wholefoods Recognizes the Importance of NSF/ANSI 305

          Wholefoods is a proponent of this new standard, and we are sure to see others.  Back in 2010, Joe Dickson, the Global Quality Standards Coordinator at Whole Foods Market and a member of the National Organic Standards Board, stated that Whole Foods Market will require any personal care product sold in their store making a “contains organic ingredients” claim to be certified through the NSF/ANSI 305 standard. Dickson explained the importance of Whole Foods Market’s decision in enforcing the NSF/ANSI 305 standard in this statement:
          “This will make it easier for shoppers to trust organic labels in our stores, and help the organic personal care products’ market evolve and grow” (Dickson)**.

          **The blog article was located at: (


            Two organic standards are available for your product, but only one of them was designed with personal care product in mind.  It’s important to understand the differences of these two standards since they impact how and when you can bring product to market.  Being an organically certified manufacturer for years, BPI Labs stands ready to help you organically certify your personal care product.

            Our Blogs

            Part 1: Choosing an Organic Standard

            Part 1: Choosing an Organic Standard

            Organic certification can be tricky

            Choosing the right organic standard for your market and brand can be the difference between products that work and products that will never be manufactured.  BPI Labs has years of experience working with our certification agent, Oregon Tilth, in the development and certification of organic personal care products, and we can help you enter the organic market. If you don’t know who Oregon Tilth is or how products become certified organic, then read our article here.

            Entering the organic market successfully depends on what organic standard you’re aiming for.  In this article, you will read about the difference between the USDA’s NOP certification and the cosmetic industry’s NSF/ANSI-305 certification.  Then we will discuss the difficulty in achieving the NOP certification and why the NSF/ANSI 305 organic standard was created for the cosmetic industry.  Finally, we’ll tell you what we know about the market’s readiness to adopt the NSF/ANSI-305 standard.  Knowing these standards will help you set reasonable expectations for product development.

            The USDA organic standard, formed by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), is regulated with agricultural products in mind. According to the USDA NOP, personal care products are only eligible to be certified USDA organic and to use the USDA label on product packaging if the product is made of at least 95% food-based ingredients. So achieving USDA organic certification is a challenging task as the majority of personal care products cannot be made up of 95% food-based ingredients and still be an efficacious and user friendly product.

            One of the other great difficulties in producing efficacious personal care products is in the creation of preservatives that can keep your product within the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidelines for product contamination.  Organic matter is a natural breeding ground for all manner of microbiological cultures including some pathogens.  The FDA’s guidance on Title 21 of the CFR suggests that zero pathogens can be present and under 500 colony forming units (CFU) for products applied to the face and 1000 CFU’s for products applied to the body.  If microbiology is found in excess of those guidelines then the FDA considers your product adulterated and will take action to prosecute your company under federal law.

            If microbiology is found in excess of those guidelines then the fda considers your product adulterated and will take action to prosecute your company under federal law.


            The USDA’s focus is on the preservation and consumption of agricultural products, and their guidelines leave out many possible candidates for organic personal care ingredients and preservatives.  However, BPI Labs has found some suitable ingredients and preservatives that can be considered USDA NOP qualified. however, they are not guaranteed to work in many personal care products.  Consequently, formulation work for an organic product that satisfies the USDA’s NOP standards is difficult and usually prolonged.

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