how to start a skin care business brand

How to Start a Skin Care Brand – Getting Started with Essential Wholesale & Labs

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Wondering how to get started building your skin or hair care brand with Essential? We’re here to help! The possibilities are almost endless, but we’re sure we have a solution that will fit your needs.

To start we walk through the foundations of a skin care brand: the business side of things. This includes how to establish your mission, target market, and brand. Next are the steps to start your own skin care brand. And finally, if you’re unsure which product is right for you, we discuss our services with pros, cons, and who they’re best suited to.

It may sound like a lot, but we have thousands of customers just like you making it work and know you can, too!

What to Know Before Ordering Skin Care Bases

People tend to approach starting a skin or hair care business from two different angles: either they have found or created a wonderful product they fully stand behind, or they want to build a company and determine the right products afterwards to meet their vision.

Either way works! But each take some careful planning and execution to create a scalable foundation for your business.

The first questions to ask yourself are do you know your:
• Purpose or mission?
• Your target market and audience?
• What is your brand and identity as a business?

These questions can take some time to answer, so let’s break them down into more manageable pieces.

Your Purpose and Mission as a Brand

Defining your purpose helps guide all other aspects of your business, so it’s important to have a clear idea of why your brand exists and what you’re aiming to accomplish. Feel free to dream big (or small) here—it’s your chance to set the direction of your ship as you launch.

The key is to incorporate what you do with the goals or reasons of why you do it. This shouldn’t focus just on what you do, but why. Yes, you might make an oatmeal-focused line of products. But why? To bring relief to sensitive skin by nourishing it with the gentlest natural ingredients. Here are some made-up examples of possible purpose or mission statements.

• Craft premium arnica creams that moisturize and provide relief for skin of all types
• Create handmade soaps to cleanse and delight
• Relieve dry skin with a full suite of clean beauty products
• Bringing sustainably-crafted, effective skin care to Portland/Brooklyn/The World

Your mission will help shape all your decisions in terms of target market and branding. Once you have your mission defined, it’s time to focus on who you’re really talking and marketing to.


Target Market and Audience

Who are you selling your products to? Are you creating premium expensive products that only those with lots of spare cash can afford? Or instead are you focused on daily use for the average consumer? Make sure you have a clear answer to this, and do research on similar products to make sure you understand what they sell for and where.
What problems are you solving with your products? Who experiences those problems? If the answer is almost everyone, narrow down who you want to focus on. Perhaps key in on your local area, people who are similar to you and likely experience similar issues in terms of skin or hair care needs, or local mothers’ groups, etc.

Once you know where you want to sell and who you want to sell to, go visit a brick and mortar, ideally, or websites of places where you would like to sell. For instance if you’re focused on a farmer’s market, go visit and check out their skin care offerings. Interested in selling in Sephora? Do the same.

In whatever location you’re targeting, think about what the products look like, what they cost, who is buying them, and why they’re buying them. Is this a once a year treat? Is this their monthly purchase? Do they expect premium packaging?

Once you know who you are selling to and what resonates with them, it’s time to narrow down your brand and brand identity.


Defining Your Brand

Your brand should have an identity made up of its authentic voice, your values (sustainability, clean beauty, etc.), and graphics like your logo and other marketing materials. And don’t forget—your brand should resonate with your target market and audience.

If you run a salon or spa your brand is mostly defined for you already, and this process should be a lot easier.

We have a few blogs to help you get started:

Creating Your Brand’s Logo
Golden Rules of Graphic Design – Branding Your Products
Marketing Tips for the Start Up Beauty and Skin Care Business

First Steps Working with Essential Wholesale & Labs

We always recommend customers start by ordering samples to get a feel for our products and how you might scent or customize them. You don’t have to follow this order, but here’s an example of next steps for someone looking to use stock products:

1. Order Samples – Try out as many samples as you need to find your new favorites. Our experienced customer service team can provide recommendations based on your criteria.

      1. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, check out this guide on how to read a cosmetic label.

2. Consider Ready to Label – these items are already packaged in retail-sized containers. Create your own labels to match your brand, your salon or spa, or an event like a wedding or other customized gifts.

3. Choose Your Hero Product(s) – Find (or create) a her product to base your initial sales on.

A note on hero products: A hero product is your star item that you may base your marketing around almost exclusively as you get started. Check out this blog on how to choose and market your hero product.

4. Organize your packaging – order samples first and test that your chosen product works in it. There are many packaging suppliers; here are a few: McKernan, Container and Packaging, Qosmedix

5. Find a designer or create your own labels – Once you know the label dimensions for your chosen container you can start designing your labels. Try out the Avery website (but consider what material for the labels, i.e. waterproof or not), or find a designer in your local area or on

6. Print labels – There are many label printing companies, and some affordable options include Sticker Giant and Lightning Labels

7. Get filling equipment – For at-home filling you’ll need funnels, icing bags, scoops/spoons, sanitizer, wipes, gloves, scale

8. Send out samples – Send out samples to friends, family, and most important, offer samples to people who don’t know you but do fit your target audience.

9. Choose and expand sales channels – Now is the time to start your website or other sales endeavors like applying to local markets. With beautiful marketing materials in hand you’re ready to start selling.

10. Ask for reviews – Are your first happy customers willing to provide reviews? Ask them and then if possible add them to your website as soon as possible

Our Services & The Way We Work

Essential Wholesale & Labs creates premium bulk skin and hair care. We sell wholesale to the public, meaning you don’t need to be a retailer or have a reseller’s license to buy from our website. There are no minimum order quantities on those products, either, so you’re welcome to buy as much or as little as you like.

But “Labs” is also part of our name, and we have an excellent lab staffed by experience cosmetic formulators to create custom formulas unique to you.

All of this takes place at our facility in beautiful Portland, Oregon, so you know exactly what you’re getting and where it’s made.
We want skin and hair care to be accessible to entrepreneurs of all types and have a variety of ways to get started selling your own branded products.


Choosing the Model For You – Product Types & Services

Almost everything on our website can be divided into two categories: stock products or ingredients. We refer to these as finished goods and ingredients, and neither one has a minimum order quantity.



Ingredients: We have a vast selection of responsibly-sourced ingredients at reasonable prices and of premium quality. Start here to make products from scratch or modify a base. Think adding vitamins or essential oils to a lotion or serum.

• Full control
• Chance to learn how ingredients work together
• Ideal to customize or complete any base

• Requires hands-on work to formulate or mix in
• Need understanding of at least basic cosmetic formulation

• Those with cosmetic formulation experience
• Anyone who wants to add essential oils or fragrance oils to scent a product
• Aromatherapists
• Candle makers
• Soap makers



Stock Products: Our huge array of stock products was created by our experienced formulators and they have proven to be reliable, stable, and effective. We have full routines for all types of skin and hair, with scented and unscented bases

Many of our customers purchase these stock products and, through inspired branding and sometimes additional ingredients, make them their own.

• Easy to work with
• No minimum order quantities
• Allows for customization
• Time-tested and approved by customers

• Not fully unique to your brand
• Requires slightly more work to fill, package, and label products

• Anyone looking for reliable products that can easily be customized
• Brands focused on quality and sustainability
• Those not looking to create their own formulations


Ready to Label Stock Products – Retail-sized multipacks waiting for your label

This is the easiest way to quickly enter the market: 6- or 12-packs of retail-sized products that are awaiting your labels. These packs include some of our best sellers and are a great way to start small and try out a new market (or give as party favors, free samples, etc.). There is no minimum order quantity for the multi-packs, though if you want us to label them for you minimum orders start at 144 units.

• Pre-packaged and ready to go, just need your label
• Fastest to market
• Easy way to test your brand vision without a big commitment
• Time-tested and approved by customers

• Can’t (easily) customize the formulation
• Smaller selection than our bulk stock products

• Anyone ready to enter the market quickly!
• Those who don’t want the hassle of finding packaging and filling product


Semi-Custom – Start with an existing stock product and make minor changes

Contact us to add a simple ingredient to one of our stock bases. This is a great way to customize a proven product with your own special touch, without the hassle of having to source the additional ingredient, measure quantities, and thoroughly mix it in. This includes adding or modifying a scent with essential or fragrance oils, or adding or subtracting just one or two “simple” ingredients (this does not cover changing the preservative or emulsification system, for example).

• Easiest way to customize an existing product
• Gives a special custom touch to match your brand
• Removes the hassle of sourcing quality ingredients and the mess of mixing them in

• May take slightly longer than ordering stock products

• Anyone looking to have a customized but time-tested base
• Those who have tested the base product and are ready to introduce their own version to their brand



Full Custom – Work with our lab for a unique product designed just for you

Our experienced certified cosmetic formulators and aestheticians are here to work with you to create your dream product. We develop custom formulas or improve existing products, often able to fix that one issue that doesn’t seem to budge. We offer a wide range of services from concept and product planning to finished products – all handled within our FDA Registered and cGMP-compliant facility by our experienced professional staff. Essential’s manufacturing process meets USDA Certified Organic and Oregon Tilth standards and we can work with you to help earn those certifications for your products.

• A custom, fully confidential formula unique to your brand
• A chance to stand out from the crowd and create your dream product with the help of professionals
• Send us your labels and packaging and we will fill your product and professionally label it for you
• You’re matched with your own dedicated Account Manager to guide you through the whole process, offer direction when needed, and help ensure your success

• Not urgent: Takes 4-8 weeks to get the process started
• Minimum order quantities apply
• Requires upfront deposits

• Committed brand builders who want completely unique products
• People with a clear brand and product vision
• Not constrained by very tight deadlines and understand this is slightly more of an investment


At this point you’ve made a lot of progress to building or expanding your skin or hair care brand. We’re so excited to see what you do with it! The possibilities are almost endless.

If you’d like a boost with the digital marketing of your growing business, check out our intro to digital marketing.

As always we’d love to know what you think, what you decide to incorporate into your brand, and what else you’d like to read about.

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