Minimalist formulas: create great cosmetic formulas with only a few ingredients!

Belinda Carli, 15/05/2023

Are you looking to create cosmetic formulas with minimal ingredients that still have fantastic results?

It’s incorrect to think a formula must have a long list of ingredients to work effectively; in fact some consumers prefer shorter ingredient lists as they consider the product to be more pure and focusing on its key performance benefits rather than ‘fluff’. While this perspective may or may not be accurate depending on the way a cosmetic formula is put together, if your cosmetic brand wants to appeal to  the minimalist modern consumer, then this blog will tell you how.

Minimising the ingredients your formula uses can also mean cost savings in procurement, storage and even dispensing and production times, so there can be multiple benefits from keeping it simple.

Minimalist formulas

Minimalist formula tip #1: Choose functional ingredients with active benefits

There are several emulsifiers now that provide additional moisture protective benefits with clinical evidence – these should be one of your first choices when it comes to shortening your needed ingredients. If you are creating cosmetic formulas to boost hydration, these emulsifiers can negate the need for other active ingredients but still provide fantastic evidence for marketing and performance benefits.

Another great addition can be your humectant – these are osmolytic materials that help enhance penetration for delivery of actives. Simply using a humectant to boost suppleness can therefore mean enhanced activity to the mid-layers of the epidermis. Find out more about delivery of actives with our penetration enhancers video.

Your lipids (oils, butters and waxes) may also have additional claims and performance benefits, while providing the desired sensory aspects of a formula. Look for oils with efficacy data and/or sensory benefits rather than using oils purely for their emolliency. 


Minimalist formula tip #2: Choose multi-functional active ingredients

When it comes to selecting your active ingredients, research widely and choose wisely! Look for active ingredients that have more than one benefit to suit your consumer’s needs. For example, why choose an anti-ageing active if that is all it does, when you could find an anti-ageing active with antioxidant, skin renewal and possibly whitening claims and data?

With so many active ingredients now available for cosmetic formulations, speak with your suppliers or conduct the searches to find materials with multi-functional and multi-claims benefits – and of course make sure they have the evidence to support the claims and performance to ensure results and a great marketing story! Get tips on how to choose actives for cosmetic formulations with our video: how to select the best cosmetic active.


Minimalist formula tip #3: Consider each ingredient carefully

We’ve mentioned some key cosmetic ingredient choices – but once you’ve constructed your cosmetic formula, review it again. Is each ingredient really performing more than one function? Do you have some active and functional materials with more than one benefit to boost the claims and performance of your finished product?

Also consider other ingredients like your gums or polymers. While they are an essential cosmetic ingredient to boost the stability and shelf life of your product, certain gums and polymers can enhance the sensory aspects of your formula and possibly further boost claims.

Even your preservatives and antioxidants need to be considered! Some preservatives and antioxidants have multi-component ingredients. You want to make sure you avoid having a short INCI list of the key ingredients you want to promote if you then have an exhaustive list of preservatives… consumers are always wary of those final additions, so choose wisely!


Minimalist formulation videos

Get inspiration from our formulas where we minimize the ingredients but still yield maximum results! Watch:

  • Minimalist moisturizer formula – only 4 ingredients!
  • Minimalist natural conditioner formula   
  • Oil free anti-acne minimalist serum
  • How to make crème-gel moisturisers

Happy formulating!

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