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How to start a makeup line in 10 steps

How to Start a Makeup Line and Build a Cosmetics Business

One of the best eCommerce business ideas you can execute is starting a makeup line to capture a share of this large and dedicated market. In this post, we'll provide some detailed steps you can take to launch your own makeup line with topics that include choosing your niche, researching your competitors, finding a manufacturer, and branding your products.

The cosmetics industry is globally valued at about $380.2 billion, with over $49.2 billion generated by sales in the U.S. alone. In fact, American women spent an average of $182 per month on cosmetics, perfume, and bath products in 2021.

Whether lipstick is your passion or glittery eyeshadow is your dream, we'll help you get started on your journey to becoming a successful makeup entrepreneur.

Why are you launching a makeup line?

When it comes to starting a business, your reasoning matters. Your reasons for starting a makeup line will inform everything from your business entity to brand imagery and language to packaging and ingredients.

Frankly, if you just want to find a product that makes money but have no interest in why people buy makeup and beauty care items, it’ll be hard to stand out. However, if you’re looking to solve a problem, fill a need or introduce something totally unique, you’ll find it’s much easier to create a trusted line of products that truly stand out.

This was the case with cosmetic brand Tiazartzy. Its founder, Tia, is a micro-influencer and resin artist who sells her art on Instagram. She started her makeup line in 2020 after creating a viral foundation brush that received rave reviews. Tia now offers products like melanated setting powder and her famous viral makeup brush via her online store.

How to start a makeup business in 10 steps

01. Conduct market research

There are three components to market research that you should focus on when developing a new cosmetics line, including:

  • Your target audience: The foundation of any successful makeup business starts with having a deep understanding of your customers. The best way to achieve this is by focusing on who your products are for. What needs do your products fill? What will make them stand out above similar products? We recommend creating one or more buyer personas to clarify your target audience, outline their needs, and identify how your product can help.

  • Your competition: You’ll need a good understanding of what’s already on the market before you can decide what your makeup line will include. Research what other makeup businesses are doing and selling. Analyze their pricing strategies, branding approach, and differentiators. This provides valuable insight about the competitive landscape and can help you ideate how to differentiate your products and establish a unique selling proposition (USP).

  • Your opportunities: Having a better understanding of your audience and your competition can help to identify gaps in the market. On top of all this, you’ll want to engage in conversations and follow beauty influencers online to stay in the know and improve your networking. Forums like the Natural Beauty subreddit offer a wealth of information about trending ingredients, complaints, and needs.

02. Create your brand concept

The most successful beauty companies have strong branding behind them. Start by defining your brand values, vision and corporate identity.

Maybe you want a product that does two things—smells great and is good for sensitive skin. Maybe you want to create a “pro-age” cosmetic line that’s gentle and flattering for women over 50. After you’ve clearly defined the purpose of what you do, the elements that form your brand concept should come naturally.

At this stage, you’ll also want to think of a business name that’s meaningful to you, plus resonates with your target buyer. You can use Wix’s business name generator for inspiration. Your brand logo should similarly reflect your values and vision; using a Beauty Logo Maker can help you achieve this.

03. Develop product ideas

Start brainstorming product ideas that fit with your brand concept. Refer to your research during this process, but also talk to people and try to get into the mind of your target customer.

Remember, a makeup or beauty product is only as good as its ingredients and formulas. You may have to speak with a chemist to develop unique formulations and textures that are both high-quality and affordable (we’ll get to that soon). After you’ve identified a few ideas, narrow it down with the help of focus groups and surveys.

04. Write an eCommerce business plan

Draft an eCommerce business plan to show potential investors and lenders (such as angel investors or a business incubator), plus document how you’ll grow your business. Securing funding will give you a head start—be that a loan from family, or a line of credit from your bank.

Your plan makes for a more convincing pitch and helps you clarify where your dollars will be spent. It should clearly outline the result you’re expecting from an investment. Explore some funding options for small businesses, which include options like bootstrapping to crowdfunding to business loans. Whatever your goal, there's likely a funding option that can help you get started.

Your business plan should outline how you intend to establish your legal structure. Options include Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Nonprofit or Corporation. You’ll need to research the legal requirements and paperwork for getting set up. Consider hiring a lawyer or an accountant to sort out these details.

Finally, you’ll need business insurance to protect your assets and reduce the potential for harm. Do your research on eCommerce business insurance to learn about the different types of insurance available, what they cover, and what works best for your business.

05. Design your branding and packaging

Your packaging and design elements represent the face of your brand. When coming up with a unique design, consider the preferences and needs of your target customer. If you’re not up for designing your own packaging, you can always hire a professional designer from the Wix Marketplace.

If you’re bootstrapping, try out tools like Adobe Express that are cost-effective and easy to use. You’ll eventually need professional product photographs, which you can take yourself or with the help of a photographer.

You should also plan for how you’ll package and protect your products. Think about what type of containers, bottles, tubes and applicators best suit your product range.

Further reading: Ecommerce product packaging 

06. Formulate and produce your makeup

There are a few different approaches you can take when formulating your products:

  • Produce the products yourself: You don’t need to be a chemist to formulate a makeup line, but it's helpful to have some knowledge of chemistry, biology, or cosmetology to understand how different ingredients work together and affect the skin. Knowledge of aromatherapy and essential oils is also extremely helpful for scented products. If you’re uncertain, you can hire experts in each of these areas to provide guidance and assist in product development and formulation.

  • Private labeling: If formulating products from scratch isn’t your jam, you can work with a cosmetic lab or a contract manufacturer to develop your products based on your specifications. Private labeling specifically involves working with a manufacturer to create your products, but branding and selling products as your own.*

  • Wholesaling: Wholesaling is when you purchase items in bulk from a supplier. Items are ready-to-sell and are often sold at a discounted price when you make a bulk purchase. In a similar vein, if you prefer to source products locally, you could reach out to local retailers or manufacturers to see if they offer wholesale pricing.

  • Dropshipping: With dropshipping, you don’t have to hold onto any inventory or worry about having to create the products yourself. Instead, your dropshipper handles everything from manufacturing to shipping for you. Dropshipping offers a lower barrier to entry and is relatively cheap to start, since you don’t have to invest in inventory upfront.

* Note: The exact steps of your cosmetic development or sourcing process, from conceptualization to manufacture, will vary depending on what you're making, how complex it is, ingredient availability, and more. One cosmetic developer notes that it usually takes his team at least 12 weeks to formulate a new product. Make sure that you understand all the steps of the development process—even if you outsource—so that you can set realistic expectations for launch.

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07. Test your formulas for safety and efficacy

All makeup and skincare products need to be tested so that you know that they're safe for consumers. Some common tests for makeup products include:

  • Stability testing: Expose the product to different temperatures, humidity levels, light conditions and other external factors to see how they affect things like appearance, texture, color, and odor over time.

  • Microbial testing: Check if the product is free of harmful organisms like bacteria, fungi, yeast, and mold, all of which can cause infections or spoilage.

  • Performance testing: Evaluate how well the product delivers its stated benefits. You’ll test factors like coverage, pigmentation, wear time, hydration and sun protection factor (SPF).

  • Safety testing: Assess if the product causes adverse reactions to skin or eyes. This includes reactions like irritation, allergy or inflammation and toxicity.

For certain tests, you can apply products on yourself or willing friends, family and customers. This is known as consumer testing. Other tests may require professional services from a cosmetics lab or a third-party testing company that has specialized equipment and expertise. Most private label and contract manufacturers offer testing services.

Once testing is complete, you'll need to make any necessary changes to your formula before moving on to manufacturing your products.

08. Finalize manufacturing and sourcing

As touched on earlier, you can choose a contract or private label manufacturer like New Look Cosmetics and BPI Labs to produce your products. Companies like these will work with you to source the raw ingredients for your products but they typically require you to commit to a minimum order amount (e.g., 1,000 lb. of dry product).

Alternatively, you can source raw materials and packaging yourself which gives you more control of where you get your materials, plus allows for smaller batches.

In general, here are some basic steps that you’ll want to take when sourcing your products:

  • Identify the type and quantity of raw materials and packaging components you need. 

  • Look for suppliers of raw materials (substances or mixtures) and packaging components (bottles, jars, labels, etc.) that meet your criteria.

  • Contact potential suppliers and request samples and pricing so you can evaluate quality, cost, and availability.

  • Negotiate contracts with selected suppliers and establish delivery terms, payment methods, and quality control procedures.

  • Create a plan for storing and handling raw materials and packaging components to prevent mix-up, contamination, or damage.

We recommend creating a production schedule that outlines how much of each product you need to order and when, as well as the amount of time needed for production. This keeps production on track and helps avert unexpected issues, like running out of stock or holding onto inventory too long that it puts your cosmetics in danger of expiring.

09. Choose a retail strategy

Where will you sell your first makeup product line? Big-name retailers like Sephora and Morphe are stocked with popular makeup brands, so it's not always possible to pitch your products to their buying managers and secure an order.

It's smart to build an eCommerce website and use that to generate direct-to-consumer (D2C) orders. You could fulfill them yourself, or find a distributor to fulfill and ship orders made through your online business. They’ll take a cut of your sales as their fee but having a distributor takes the stress out of fulfilling orders alongside other plates you’re spinning (including sourcing products, marketing and customer service). You don’t have to have all of your stock taking up a spare bedroom.

You could also use marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon to sell your cosmetic products, though you’ll want to do your due diligence and understand the quirks of each platform. This includes getting familiar with marketplace requirements, studying the competition, and analyzing the core audience. Note: Wix offers multichannel campaign tools that help you to get launched on new sales channels with minimal hassle. For example, you can edit your multichannel product listings and track inventory all from one place.

10. Think of a marketing plan

In terms of getting your brand out there, you’ll want to brush up on eCommerce SEO basics. By learning how to optimize your product listings and other pages for search engines, you can boost your chances of reaching millions across the internet with your eCommerce website. Explore eCommerce templates to help you get started.

In addition to this, create an eCommerce marketing strategy that incorporates multiple channels like social media platforms, search ads, video selling and a business email. Aim to develop relationships with local retailers and influencers, too, to pave the way for partnerships and co-branding.

Ready to launch your makeup line? Create an online store today.

Looking to start a makeup line in a specific state?

How to start a makeup line FAQ

How much does it cost to start a makeup line?

The cost of starting a makeup line can vary greatly, depending on the size and scope of your business. However, you can expect to spend anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 or more on startup costs. Some of the most common expenses include:

  • Product development and testing

  • Manufacturing

  • Packaging

  • Marketing and advertising

  • Shipping and fulfillment

  • Legal and regulatory fees

  • Business overhead

How profitable is a makeup business?

Is starting a cosmetic brand profitable?

Do you need a degree to start a makeup line?

Geraldine Feehily

Geraldine Feehily

Marketing Writer, Wix for eCommerce

Geraldine is a marketing writer for Wix for eCommerce. She uses her broad experience in journalism, publishing, public relations and marketing to create compelling content and loves hearing user success stories.

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