Private Label Cosmetics Guide: What it Is, How It Works + Who to Work With
Maybe you woke up today and realized that you were a queen (or king – no judgement), who needed to bless the rest of the world with her unique prerogative on beauty.
..or perhaps this was a long time coming (shout out to the makeup stash that’s slowly taking over your apartment – hey, should it pitch in on rent?)
But today you want to know all about making your own private label cosmetic line.
You’ve heard the terms thrown around - “private label”, “white label” – but you don’t know what they mean.
And that’s how you ended up here.
So today we’re going to do a deep dive into private label cosmetics, including:
· What “private label cosmetics” is
· How much do private label cosmetics cost to manufacture
· Who to manufacture with, and
· How you can create a stand-out beauty line using private label cosmetics.
Let’s get started!
Q1: What is “Private Label Cosmetics”?
Private Label or White Label cosmetics (same thing) are just a fancy way of saying: Somebody else made it, and I put my branding on it.
That sounds awful – like you stole something or you don’t care about your beauty line – but it really isn’t.
There’s many reasons why someone might private label their cosmetics, but these are probably the top 3:
- Reduced Cost – In private label cosmetics, the base formulation is already made and owned by the manufacturer. This means you don’t have to spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to recreate the wheel. Most cosmetic formulations are within 5-10% of each other, anyway. So why would you pay to start from scratch?
- · Streamlined Decision Making – When you venture out into the world of cosmetics manufacturing, it can be really scary. There’s so many new terms, ingredients, packaging decisions, printing decisions – it’s all too much! When you white label your cosmetics, you don’t have to make so many decisions. You usually test the formulation - and if you like it, you – choose your colors, and give the company your logo to print. It’s really that simple. This is ideal for a beginner, who needs time to get their feet wet and catch up on all the industry lingo.
- Reduced Liability – This may not strike you as important, but it is. When you manufacture cosmetics in-house, you are responsible for the safety and cleanliness of the environment in which you manufacture – legally responsible. If a customer has any type of issue or decides to sue for any reason, you need to be able to show beyond the shadow of a doubt that you maintained clean, safe conditions during the manufacturing of said product. How can you prove it? With photos, lab notes, documented procedures, your internal company lab standards, proof that you were following GMP, batch codes… the list goes on and on. It’s way too much for a beginner or solopreneur to take on. When you manufacture with a contract manufacturer (that is – someone who makes your formula for you) or a private label lab, they take on the liability. They pay for the necessary insurance. You remove a huge liability from the process. I’m not saying don’t carry liability insurance – you definitely should – but when you remove manufacturing from your wheelhouse, you remove a lot of liability from your process.
Again, there’s many more reasons to private label – this is just the tip of the iceberg.
What I want to make clear is that there is no reason for the stigma around private labeling. There’s already so many tasks that an entrepreneur has to take on in running his or her business. What’s wrong with outsourcing, and reducing the burden?
Nothing, that’s what.
Q2: How Much do Private Label Cosmetics Cost to Manufacture?
This is a tricky question, because each private labeler has its own costs, MOQ (minimum order quantity) and structure. We can talk about the different kinds of manfacturers and the pros and cons of each:
No MOQ Manufacturers
There are a handful of “no MOQ” manufacturers in the US and China (likely elsewhere, too, but I am most familiar with the US and China). What they offer sounds amazing for a first-time entrepreneur that’s cash-strapped: no minimum order quantities, just buy what you need.
“5 units of eyeshadow? I can sell that!” you think, but what you don’t realize is that you’re always making a trade-off somewhere:
What you’re trading is customizability for the convenience of no MOQ.
This may sound fine in theory, but in reality it means
· No logo screeprinting or branding of any kind
· No customization of colors or finishes
· No input on your own brand, which means
· No way to stand out
If you can buy 5 units of yellow eyeshadow and the next person with a laptop and internet connection can do exactly the same thing, what differentiates your brand?
Problem: You completely give up brand autonomy and brand authority in exchange for low costs.
Solution: Work with a Low MOQ packaging manufacturer and/or Low MOQ private labeler to make it work. This way you have more choices and chances to stylize your brand, so that it can stand out. You can either find one factory that does both, or work with two different factories – one that specializes in low MOQ packaging/printing and one that offers private label cosmetics of the variety you want. Not to too our own horn too much, but we do all of this. We’ll circle back to that in a minute.
Low MOQ Manufacturers
With low MOQ manufacturers, there’s normally some type of MOQ (units or total dollars spent) or pricing scheme to fill a minimum order. You may have to pay some initial upfront fees, like a “plate fee” or “screen fee” to print your logo the first time, or you may have to buy a minimum number of units of each product (example: 500 lipglosses, 1000 palettes).
Usually you will be able to customize colors to some extent - whether that means choosing from a catalog of private label colors or actually being able to make your own custom colors – and most allow you to logo print, though you may be limited in your printing choices. Most low MOQ manufacturers maintain a catalog of several “in stock” packaging options, which you can customize to an extent (as previously mentioned, with limited logo printing options).
Very few will allow you to print as much as you want or make custom box packaging at low or no MOQ. We offer no MOQ screenprinting, with a flat fee per color and a step function on units (meaning it’s $210 per color for up to 500 units, but $240 for 1000 units, etc.). Our box packaging MOQ is 1000 units, but you can make literally whatever you want.
You can expect to spend $1000 - $5000 per type of product line manufactured (e.g. lipgloss line, eyeshadow line) with a low MOQ manufacturer.
We have some great low MOQ options available for private labeling now, including our $1000, $2500 and $5000 lipgloss / liquid lipstick lines (samples here). With over 50 color choices and the option to create custom colors for a flat fee of $125/color, it’s a pretty amazing deal. Oh, and it’s all made in the US, right in our Indiana lab.
This leads to the next point: custom manufacturers, more often called factories or labs – point blanc.
Most custom manufacturers will still have some private label formulas and colors, but their main focus is on large, completely custom orders. MOQs run in the 10,000+ range, and custom formulation charges run in the $10,000+ range. For packaging, 10,000 units could cost $3,000 - $20,000. Don’t forget the formula, filling, and assembly! Costs ad up when you are multiplying them by 10,000.
It’s all a bit much for a first-timer.
In any case, almost every factory – or, I should say, every good factory - can scale and customize with you. If they can’t, fire them.
If you’re ever in need of custom formulas or packaging, just email us to discuss or view our custom catalogs.
Q3: Who Should I Manufacture With?
I’m obviously a little biased.
After 5 years of manufacturing my own brand (and I still do manufacture for them, by the way) – with contract manufacturers, chemists, factories, and then finally in house – and 3 years on-the-ground in China: I know a lot about manufacturing.
Every week, I talk to dozens of budding entrepreneurs on the phone and hundreds on line. Every waking hour I’m in my own factory, finding new packaging, making new formulas, trying new colors, thinking of new, innovative ways to get more budding entrepreneurs in the beauty game.
So yeah, of course I’m going to say: Work with us; We’re the best.
The truth is, there’s plenty of manufacturers out there and only you can decide who works best for you and with you.
I’ve visited many private labelers, worked with a few myself over the years, and perused dozens of websites (I’ve also heard lots of horror stories and “this is why I switched to Genie Supply” stories, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Only you can decide.
Maybe what we have to offer doesn’t fit your brand, your budget or your timeline. Maybe we don’t vibe. That’s fine. Just make sure that when you do choose your manufacturer, you ask yourself:
· Do they have what I want?
· Am I sacrificing quality for price or convenience? Am I willing to make this sacrifice?
· Do I like the company? Do I like my rep? Can I see myself working together with them to solve problems? (And there will be problems; manufacturing is not easy) Can they grow with me? Can I grow with them?
· Does this fit my budget at this time? If not, how can I create and follow a budget to get to where I need to be?
· Are they in geographical proximity to me? Does that matter to me?
· Where are the vulnerabilities in this set up? What could possibly go wrong?
· Are they real, vetted? Can I talk to someone at this company? Are there reviews on line?
· Are the products safe? How can I be sure? What protocols do they follow?
These are just some of the questions you need to think about when choosing a manufacturer.
Just because someone else uses a company does not mean they are right for you. The oldest or newest company is not necessarily the best for you. There is no true “best” cosmetic manufacturer. The best one is the one that is best for you.
So make a list of questions, go out there, and do your due diligence.
Q4: How Can I Create a Stand Out Beauty Line using Private Label Cosmetics?
“Stand Out” meaning amazing, beautiful, gorgeous, daring, eye-catching.
You can do it. I have seen it, personally.
Design makes a huge difference.
You can take any old basic packaging component and with some really unique and beautiful design (and typically, simplest is best), you can create some really stand out, really gorgeous.
The beauty is in the details.
Pay special attention to:
· Packaging and presentation of packaging
· Formulation (wear, colors, etc)
· Overall brand aesthetic
In my opinion, many entrepreneurs try “put legs on the snake” - a Chinese saying that means they try to do too much, specifically with the design.
Private label is not an excuse to make something basic.
You can make it beautiful, unique – your own – with private label. With less tools at your fingertips, you just have to step up to the challenge.
The "how-to" of this is something I talk about quite a bit - and I will come back to it in future blogs. For now: you have all the tools you need.
So tell me: Are you ready?