Can you learn to formulate natural skincare professionally by taking an online formulation course? The resounding answer is yes, you can. By opting for independently-accredited courses that offer an encouraging, supportive learning environment, both formally and with an enthusiastic student community, you can set your sights on gaining the theory and the practical skills needed to become a competent cosmetic formulator.
If you are thinking about taking up natural cosmetic formulation to change career, start a side hustle or a full-time small beauty business or to relish the joy of learning new skills, this blog post gives you insights into why you should make the decision to follow an online formulation course. You don’t need tertiary-level qualifications as a cosmetic chemist to be a cosmetic product formulator. We explain the differences between the two career paths in our podcast: Do you need to be a cosmetic chemist to formulate skincare?.
Here, we give you some top tips gathered from our student community on how to make the most of your investment in time and money in your online formulation course. First, let’s look at where learning to formulate can take you.
Where an online formulation course can take you
With over 17,000 students from over 180 countries training with us on our online courses at Formula Botanica, we have seen first-hand just how empowering learning the skills of natural, organic cosmetic formulation are. Our graduate gallery is a showcase of over 200 successful indie beauty brands that have been launched on the back of the online training we provide as a school accredited by the UK’s Open and Distance Learning Quality Council.
Our graduates have made their mark in the fast-growing natural, organic and indie beauty sectors, quickly becoming pioneers and achievers. In 2021, the last full year of the statistics we gather on our graduates’ awards, we saw some 60 of our alumni win over 130 beauty accolades for their brands and natural cosmetics’ products.
In addition, we have trained over 400K aspiring natural cosmetics’ formulators, beautypreneurs and enthusiasts on our series of online formulation masterclasses and courses. These free online beauty courses have covered starter-level formulation for beginners as well as some specialist topics such as colour pigments for makeup. Many of our free masterclass attendees join us as students and go on to complete our online foundation course, the Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation, and continue to our advanced courses in order to deepen their skills and knowledge.
Structure and flexibility: key to successful online learning
At Formula Botanica, we understand the need for step-by-step learning that can take you from total beginner to advanced cosmetic formulator. We advise starting with our foundation course, the Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation before progressing to our Advanced Diploma in Organic Cosmetic Science.
We also run a continuous professional development (CPD) membership site, The Lab at Formula Botanica. It provides accredited training through monthly Mini Labs dedicated to specific areas of natural formulation. For example, The Lab has covered deep dives into ingredients like bakuchiol and peptides, as well as Mini Labs on industry trends with experts contributing on areas such as cosmetics’ regulation and cruelty-free beauty.
We have gathered top tips from our students, graduates and tutors to help you make the most of your learning experience whichever online formulation course you opt for.
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Top tips for learning cosmetic formulation online
1. Set a routine
Set aside a regular slot to dedicate to your course. Ideally, find a few clear hours at the same time each week free of interruptions so you can pick up where you left off and move forwards with your course. Get ‘in the zone’ during the time you have available. We know from our masterclass series, which are delivered in bite-sized lessons over 10 consecutive days, that a little and often helps you avoid overwhelm and overload. If you are learning the theory of cosmetic formulation, you might manage regular, half-hour slots during the week. When it comes to practical formulation, you will need to give yourself more time to prepare your tools, ingredients and formulation beforehand and to ensure you don’t rush while formulating.
2. Prepare and plan ahead
To make the most of the time you have to study, as you are probably juggling the demands of your course with work, leisure time and family life, you need to prepare for practical formulation sessions well ahead and be methodical.
Commercial lab formulators follow strict procedures including Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). You will need to get into the mindset of a professional formulator from the start, even when making those first beginner-level formulations.
Planning, researching, documenting and revising your formulations are key to learning how to formulate competently. Rushing a formulation, substituting ingredients before you understand them and have researched how compatible they are, and other similar approaches will likely lead to failure and disappointment. Patience is everything. Take your time and don’t rush your course. Ultimately, taking your time to absorb new formulation skills and adopting best practices as you formulate is time well spent – and you will waste fewer ingredients too.
3. Be part of the indie beauty community
Our online classroom, which is our student community group on Facebook, has over 12K members. It is a lively place where our students share their successes – as well as their failures – because there is so much they can learn by playing an active role in the natural, organic and indie beauty community. On this site, we feature many graduates who have been generous in passing on their tips on how they started out in natural formulation and in business. Their stories are a goldmine of information and are offered in a spirit of cooperation. Key reasons to join the Formula Botanica community while you study with us include:
Inspiration: It is helpful to see what others are creating as their formulations can help you change your ideas about what is possible. By seeing what others are doing you are more likely to be able to create manageable and sustainable goals for your own learning and formulating.
Stronger together: A solo journey is a longer one. People find friends for life in this community.
Expanding your horizons: If you join a community you get to know what people are doing, what they have learnt and what they have discovered. With our students across the world, there is always someone who can help advise you to find, for example, that all-important ingredient you want.
Increased determination: If you join a community, you will be rewarded in ways you could not imagine. As one of our students said: “The online student platform has been great inspiration to me. Each time I see others formulating amazing products, I say to myself, I can do it.”
Even early in your learning, share your journey and you will find like-minded people at the same stage, as well as those more advanced in formulating who are happy to offer advice. Join in also to develop your own, unique voice in this groundswell of natural formulators who are on a mission to change the mainstream cosmetics industry for the good. Community is invaluable to your online learning experience.
4. Start with the basics of formulating
We can’t stress often enough how important it is to start with basic equipment and a small store cupboard of ingredients when first learning to formulate. Your course is already an investment, but you can rest assured that you can learn a lot with just a dozen or so multipurpose ingredients such as botanical oils, butters and waxes and some easy-to-use emulsifiers which get you started with beginner-level formulations. When you are more advanced, are scaling up batches of cosmetics or thinking about applying your formulation skills to a starting a small business, you will need to invest in more equipment, a dedicated home-lab space or that heavy-duty homogeniser you’ve been eyeing up. These articles will help you know what is needed when you first start learning to formulate:
Beginner’s guide to setting up a home lab
Behind the scenes in our students’ labs
Cosmetic formulation kit: 12 tools to get you started
5. Take ownership of your learning
At Formula Botanica we train our students to take ownership of their journey into natural formulation by encouraging them to research ingredients in depth, and use their knowledge to formulate their own unique products. Of course, part of your learning is to work with framework formulations to gain a thorough understanding of how functional and also high-performance ingredients work – and work in synergy. However, we don’t wish to see you develop a cookie-cutter approach to formulation.
As Sarah Brown, natural beauty pioneer and founder of beauty brand Pai said to us in a podcast interview, the world doesn’t need another eye/face/body cream unless it is formulated with a difference. That might be the difference of using upcycled ingredients or working with social enterprises or sustainable ingredients that are local to you. There are many ways to make a difference. This article has plenty of ideas to explore for your own beauty products:
As you learn, train yourself to take a critical look at off-the-shelf beauty products and to think about your mission and what drives you to learn to formulate. Whether you wish to formulate to provide more sustainable personal care products for your own family or to launch a small beauty brand, use your course time well. We’ve had graduates develop cosmetic products they formulated as part of their coursework into hero products with which to launch their brands.
Take an online formulation course with Formula Botanica and see where it can lead you too.
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Liz is Formula Botanica’s Content Coordinator and joined our team in August 2020. Liz worked as a professional blogger, journalist and site developer for many years and was also part of the Formula Botanica student community. Read more about the Formula Botanica Team.
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