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Digital Tech and COVID-19 Change How Cosmetic Chemists Select Beauty Ingredients

Every successful cosmetics and personal care product begins with the right raw materials.

Discovering novel ingredients and finding the best supplier or source of newly sophisticated and uniquely effective beauty inputs is a whole new enterprise in 2020.

Informal Research on Beauty Ingredient Discovery During COVID

To help make sense of how manufacturers, brands, and formulators are finding the finest and newest technology in the cosmetics and personal care ingredient space, in September, I ran a poll right here on LinkedIn.

Nearly 125 highly qualified professionals responded from both within and beyond my personal network. And I sincerely thank each of you for taking time to record your vote or leave a comment!

What we learned from the poll is that in 2020, media matters.

I gave 4 multiple choice answers to the question, where are you discovering new ingredients this year?

The options were:

· Trade Media

· Ingredient Discovery Sites

· A product or formulations professional such as a chemist, R&D pro, or New Product Development Consultant


· Ingredient Suppliers themselves

I say “media matters” because 34% of respondents indicated that trade media is where they look to discover new beauty ingredients. (But I am thinking that number may be a bit skewed, since I currently work in trade media and some of you maybe chose that answer just to be polite.)

After trade media, ingredient discovery platforms, like UL Prospector, Novi, and Chemberry

and ingredient suppliers earned 26% and 27% of your votes respectively.

Beauty Business Thought Leadership Helps Sell Ingredients

Which means that in 2020, both branded content and online ingredient discovery platforms

are very smart strategies for getting new and time-tested beauty ingredients in front the formulators, new product development pros, and marketers that help beauty brands innovate.

An alternate resource, or perhaps I should say an alternate ingredient discovery strategy emerged in the comments section of my recent LinkedIn poll.

And that is that many brands, indie skincare brands in particular read peer-reviewed scientific journals to keep up with emerging beauty science, they also use Google search in creative ways, and they seek out co-operative farms around the world to source pure, traditional inputs and support local populations—often women—in the sourcing and production of natural and botanical ingredients.

And then from any or all of these sources, brands are creating their own in-house database of raw materials and ingredients that align with their vision, mission, and formulation strategy.

Cosmetics and Personal Care Ingredient Websites Feature Content and Data

I want to circle back though and look more closely at ingredient discovery platforms because

more and more often, those online sites are becoming places where all of these sorts of resources can be found.

These platforms have on-site search functionally and a broad catalog of ingredients suppliers to choose from. Those suppliers often share branded content and not only ingredient resources but also formulation resources on these sites.

Ingredient discovery platforms also post blogs, news, and notes from formulating chemists, product dev consultants, and other industry experts. And some even have or are now developing tools that allow brand leaders and their colleagues to create lists and share notes, effectively working within the platform to build their own databases and begin product development and formulation.

Looking at a selection of such platforms: What’s unique about Novi, for instance, is

that this ingredient discovery platform just teamed up with Sephora to help brands and formulators find ingredients that will meet Sephora’s clean beauty standards.

I’ll add a caveat here to say that industry organizations like the Natural and Organic Health & Beauty Alliance, also known as the NOHBA, have expressed concern with the de facto regulatory function that retailers are taking, especially in terms of clean beauty.

Nonetheless, customer preferences, retailer guidelines, and brand’s no-no lists function as gatekeepers in today’s beauty formulation space. Which is to say that scientific standards are immensely respectable, but if beauty consumers are ready for something even more restrictive, that’s okay too.

Now, the ingredients discovery platform UL prospector has been in business for over 20 years! since 1999. And the site helps formulators across some 10 industries—graphic arts, industrial cleaners, painting, metal working, plastics, adhesives, personal care, etc.—find the right inputs and suppliers. UL prospector is, no doubt, a legacy player in the ingredient discovery marketplace.

SpecialChem, another such, discovery platform, calls itself “the world's largest and free database with 46,000+ listed ingredients from 900+ suppliers” and serves not only cosmetics makers but also the adhesives industry, the coatings industry, the plastics industry, and so on.

Similarly, Knowde bills itself as “The marketplace for chemicals, polymers and ingredients.” And serves multiple industries including beauty.

By contrast, Chemberry, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, showcases ingredients and resources for only the personal care and the home care industries.

Susanna Groth who works in product and marketing at Chemberry shared comments on my recent LinkedIn poll, explaining that this site, is “aiming to speed up the innovation process by connecting brand[s] with 600+ ingredient suppliers and service providers.

“On our open platform,” she says, “you can easily discover, compare and request sample[s of] 37,000 different ingredients….Still, I think to not underestimate the role of Social Media,” says Susanna.

“Especially in 2020,” she says, “people are way more online and when you're in the early phase of a project it is easy to get influenced in Social Media. There are some great ‘Skinfluencers’ out there,” she says,” who are doing a great job in bringing transparency and knowledge in a customer-friendly format.”

Cosmetic Industry Suppliers Leverage Social Media Content to Good Effect

And Susanna’s final point is a good one. In my current work, writing daily beauty industry news as Editor of Cosmetics, I’m in contact with ingredient suppliers, I speak with formulating chemists and product development professionals, I receive and read countless

press releases, but I always have a listening ear turned to social, be in Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

For years, people have asked me how I know or decide what to write about every day, I look back at them with my own inquisitive expression and say, I know what’s happening in beauty because I’m listening to you.

And it’s true. As much as I’m ‘well connected’ and as much as I am innately observant, I am often reflecting the reality of the beauty industry—in any given moment—back to you.

So here in 2020, when I am not attending beauty industry tradeshows, I am listening all the more carefully to you, as you’re showing up on social media, in my email in-box, in our video chats and phone calls.

There may well be more than 4 ways to discover the newest and most effective beauty ingredients of 2020, but in the end, it is your choices and voices that determine the future of beauty.

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this DUviews item was originally posted to LinkedIn and now appears on


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