This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Private label cosmetics are beauty products manufactured by one company and sold under another brand’s name. You can learn how to sell private label cosmetics profitably by finding the right supplier, developing a brand, and marketing your private label cosmetics.
Small retailers can bring in several thousand dollars per month easily selling private label cosmetics. Samples typically cost $40 to $100, while a whole product line may require $1,000–$5,000 in investment.
Here’s how to sell private label cosmetics line in six steps:
1. Identify Profitable Products
The first step in starting a successful private label cosmetic line is making sure there’s high consumer demand for the products you want to sell. Use tools like Google Trends and pages on Amazon like the Best Sellers list and Movers and Shakers pages. When used together, these tools can give you a clear picture as to whether or not people are searching for and buying the types of cosmetics you want to sell.
- Google Trends: Google Trends shows you whether searches for a particular keyword are increasing or decreasing, and how much general interest there is for that term.
- Amazon Best Sellers list: Amazon’s Best Sellers list can be narrowed down into any product category or subcategory so you can see what cosmetics are most popular and get a feel for the current competition.
- Amazon Movers and Shakers: This list shows products that are experiencing sudden growth or popularity, which is helpful for spotting trends.
- Visiting boutiques and other retailers: See what other retailers are featuring in-store and even check the packaging to get ideas for potential suppliers. Keep in mind, the most popular brick-and-mortar places for women to buy cosmetics include drugstores, mass merchandisers, and department stores, so it’s a good idea to check out those spots.
Find a Niche
It’s possible to have a successful private label line with a few individual products. However, the best way to sell private label cosmetics successfully is by finding a niche and building a product line around a certain category or interest. Having a cohesive product line will help in developing a strong brand and targeting a specific audience.
Popular cosmetic niches include:
- Organic cosmetics
- Vegan cosmetics
- Cannabidiol (CBD) cosmetics and skin care
- Sustainable and environmentally friendly cosmetics
- Paraben-free cosmetics
2. Research Private Label Cosmetics Suppliers
There are two primary ways you can source products for your private label cosmetics company: online or in person at beauty industry trade shows. Before you start looking at suppliers, define exactly what you want in your private label cosmetics line. For example, do you want only organic products? Do you need skin care products, makeup, or both? Are there specific ingredients you want or don’t want?
Keep in mind: Natural and/or organic beauty and skincare products are the most popular, with an expected compound annual growth rate of nearly 10% through 2027. It’s important to consider these preferences—more specifically the preferences of the buyers in your niche—so you can omit and avoid unnatural ingredients and chemicals that may turn potential buyers off your products.
Here are a few more questions to consider when researching private label cosmetics suppliers:
- Are they Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved?
- Do they print labels and packaging for you?
- What are the order minimums?
- What are the label and packaging fees?
- What is the turnaround time for new orders and reorders?
One of the easiest ways to start your search for suppliers is by Googling “private label cosmetics USA.” This search gives you a long list of suppliers to start with. Visit a few supplier websites, and you’ll see that most cover the full spectrum of private label cosmetics from customizable makeup programs to full skincare lines. Most suppliers offer a huge assortment so you can mix and match products to craft a unique and complete beauty products line.
Supplier websites also give you insight into how their ordering process works. Many suppliers even list very low minimum order requirements. So depending on the range of products you want to start with, it’s quite possible to launch your own beauty brand for just a few hundred dollars using private label cosmetics.
You can refine your Google search further for specific requirements on your must-have list by including terms like natural, organic, and cruelty-free in the search box. Include whatever terms you require to define your own unique beauty brand. Grafton Private Label Cosmetics is a popular company that offers a lot of options.
Other popular online cosmetics manufacturers and suppliers include:
Ensure Products Adhere to All Regulations
In your online research, you’ll undoubtedly find suppliers based overseas, especially in China. While these suppliers may offer lower pricing, imported cosmetics don’t always meet US purity requirements and other legal standards. Going this route could expose you to inconsistent products, customer complaints, or even lawsuits. With so many US- and Canada-based private label cosmetics suppliers, there’s no reason to take this chance.
In the US, cosmetic safety laws fall under the FDA. Cosmetics products are FDA-regulated, not FDA-approved—so while most cosmetics and ingredients don’t require specific approval before being sold to consumers, there are other laws and regulations in place to ensure consumer safety.
The FDA can and does inspect cosmetic manufacturing facilities. While manufacturers aren’t specifically required to register their cosmetics businesses or undergo specific formula testing, they can choose to register with the FDA Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program, which assists with transparency in cosmetic ingredients. This is why many retailers choose to purchase their private label cosmetics from US-based manufacturers.
Beauty industry trade shows are an excellent way to meet many private label suppliers in one convenient location. At these shows, you can get hands-on experience with many products and even leave with plenty of free and low-cost samples to review. Best of all, trade shows let you discuss your goals with potential suppliers in person and develop a relationship.
Cosmoprof North America is one of the most popular beauty trade shows. It’s also great for small businesses because they feature suppliers of all types and sizes, including new brands and manufacturers. They also have specific sections dedicated to environmentally friendly products and startup companies. Plus, there are plenty of activities and networking opportunities.
Other popular beauty industry trade shows include:
If you decide to attend a trade show, look up the show organizers on Google and contact them to make sure you have the correct credentials for entry. Most merchandise trade shows are free to attend for qualified retail buyers. Some require just your state sales tax number while others need proof of an existing online or physical business. It’s best to find out ahead of time to make sure you’ll be admitted.
3. Request Samples & Review Products
If you search for private label cosmetics suppliers online, you’ll see most offer low-cost sample kits or single samples. In general, expect to pay between $40 to $100 per company to have samples shipped to you. Going this route costs money but gives you a chance to check out products in person. If you can attend an industry trade show, you can pick up loads of samples all at once, plus test out samples on the show floor.
However you acquire samples, once you have them, your next step is to thoroughly review each product to see if it meets your expectations and fits your beauty brand. Here, your opinion matters most, but it’s also a good idea to get input from others.
If you have a shop, spa, or set of clients, you can get them involved in trying different products to see what everyone likes. After all, they’re your potential buyers. If you don’t have an existing clientele to tap, gather some friends to try products and provide feedback.
It might take a few rounds of reviews and maybe even a few rounds of sample items from different suppliers, but eventually, you’ll find a collection that defines your brand. When you have a solid idea of the line you want to sell, it’s time to think about how you’ll sell it.
4. Decide How to Sell Your Cosmetics Line
Before placing your initial order, you need to decide how you want to market and sell your private label cosmetics line. You can start small with one sales channel, add products to an existing shop, or set up multiple sales channels at once.
Popular channels for selling cosmetics include:
- In-store: Sell cosmetics at a salon, spa, specialty fashion boutique, or natural foods shop using a point-of-sale (POS) system like Vend
- Online through your own website: Create a website using an ecommerce platform like Shopify
- Amazon: Sell private label cosmetics on the Amazon Marketplace
- Social media: Sell products directly through a Facebook Shop, Instagram account, or TikTok
- Markets: Become a vendor at local home, gift, and craft markets or community events
- Sell to other retailers: Because you are developing your own line, you can sell those products wholesale to boutiques, spas, and brick-and-mortar stores
“As mainly an online company, we find selling as a private label to our retailers is more profitable. Since our retailers have brick-and-mortar stores, they have more reach in the community than an online store. Even though we print the retailer’s name on the product label, we still have our name on the back of the label in small print. That way, it is transparent to the customer where the product was made and by whom.”
―Laura Hatt, Founder, Dolphin Wood House
If you plan to sell primarily on Amazon, some private label cosmetics suppliers like Nardo’s Natural make the process quite easy. If you use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) to store products and ship orders, it sends your items to Amazon for you too. This is something to consider if Amazon sales are your main focus.
You have many online selling options beyond Amazon too. These include ecommerce websites, blogs with online store sections, and social media channels like Facebook and Instagram. Even if you think you’ll sell primarily on Amazon or through social media, it’s still a good idea to consider launching your own ecommerce website. Your own site is the best place to build a brand identity and audience uniquely yours and under your control. Diversifying your sales channels is a great way to grow your brand and sell more products.
Choose a Fulfillment Strategy
Before placing a product order, you’ll also need to decide how to store your cosmetics and get them to your customers after they place an order so they don’t spoil or decline in quality. You need to make this decision ahead of time so you choose a supplier that can meet your specific fulfillment needs—and so you provide the correct shipping address.
If you plan to sell private label products in person at events or in your spa or retail store, there isn’t much of a decision to make: You’ll need your products on-hand. However, if you plan to sell primarily online, you need to decide where to store your products and how they’ll be packed and shipped.
Some cosmetics products need specific temperature and environmental settings. So if you need to use a storage center or warehouse, for example, you’ll need to find one that’s climate-controlled.
Your warehouse layout also needs to be organized in a way that allows you to easily grab the oldest stock—in other words, the products that are nearest their expiration date. You don’t want aging inventory to sit on shelves so long they expire and become unsellable, so it’s important to set up systems to mitigate such losses.
There are four main choices for order fulfillment, including:
- Dropshipping: With dropshipping, every aspect of the order fulfillment process is handled by the suppliers who ship orders directly to your customers; it can be difficult to find private label suppliers that offer dropshipping, but this is a popular fulfillment strategy for startup ecommerce brands.
- In-house order fulfillment: In-house order fulfillment is when businesses manage their own storage and shipping operations; this is best for brick-and-mortar stores and established brands.
- Outsourced fulfillment: Online sellers can outsource to third-party order fulfillment companies to handle product storage and shipping customer orders. This is a good option for businesses that don’t have the time to handle their own operations or are experiencing rapid growth or seasonal sales spikes.
- Hybrid order fulfillment: Businesses can also combine any of these order fulfillment approaches to handle online and offline sales.
As your private label business grows, you’ll spend an increasing amount of time packing and shipping online orders. That’s why it’s a good idea to try outsourcing your fulfillment process so you can spend your time running your salon or online store.
5. Design Your Branding, Logo & Packaging
As you explore potential suppliers, you’ll find that most take care of the labeling and packaging process for you. You supply your logo design, and they do the rest. This is the simplest way to label and package your private label cosmetics. It produces a professional look and ensures that your labels are correct per ingredient lists and other packaging requirements.
Many private label cosmetics suppliers also provide free images of your branded products, like the ones below from Nardo’s Naturals.
If you’re selling your beauty collection online, you can use these images to build your website or Amazon listings. This saves you the time and expense of photographing products yourself or hiring a pro.
Most private label cosmetics suppliers charge label printing and packaging fees on top of your product cost, so be aware of this during your research. These fees are listed clearly on most supplier websites. If you have any questions, a call to their customer service line should clarify any packaging fees or process questions you have.
To get your logo on your products, most suppliers ask you to upload your logo with your order. Suppliers provide logo specifications, including the number of colors allowed, size restrictions, and file types. If you don’t have the design skills to create your own logo, you can find budget-friendly freelance artists to design a great logo on Fiverr. If you don’t have a solid idea for your brand’s logo, head to Pinterest and search for private label cosmetics packaging to find loads of inspiration.
6. Order Private Label Cosmetics
After you’ve selected your private label cosmetics supplier, decided which items you want to carry in your line, and designed your branding, you’re ready to place your order. By this point, you likely have spoken with a customer service representative, so this step should be simple. Here are some things to note and double-check:
- Private label cosmetics are generally paid for upfront, so expect to pay via credit card when you place your order.
- Make sure your product pricing and label printing fees are accurate.
- Be aware of turnaround times required for the labeling process.
- Understand that most private label cosmetics don’t accept returns.
- Be aware of shelf life, temperature regulation requirements, and expiration dates for the items you’re selling.
In most cases, after your private label cosmetics order is placed, you’ll have a few weeks until it arrives. Use this time to launch your website, set up on Amazon, and get your social media pages up and running—or work on your store or spa setup for your new beauty line display.
Selling Private Label Cosmetics: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much does it cost to start a private label cosmetics company?
Private label cosmetics samples cost $40 to $100 per company, and developing a whole line could cost $1,000 to $5,000. Upfront costs vary greatly depending on whether you’re starting a brand new business or adding a new product line to an existing business, and whether you’re storing product in-house or dropshipping. If you’re starting a new business and either selling products in person or fulfilling customer orders in-house, startup costs will be a few thousand dollars for sample products, a website, logo and package design, initial wholesale order, and shipping.
Do I need a license to sell cosmetics?
You’ll need a resale license like any other retailer would. However, you don’t need any kind of cosmetology license or education to sell makeup or skincare products. If you’re planning on applying makeup to customers, offering makeup or skincare services, or demonstrating skincare products on customers, you’ll likely need a cosmetology or esthetician license, depending on your state.
What is an example of a private label brand?
Massage Envy, a national spa chain, has a private label skincare line called CyMe. These products can only be purchased at Massage Envy locations. Target also has a popular private label beauty line called Sonia Kashuk.
How do I sell private label with Amazon?
To sell directly on Amazon, you will first need to register as an Amazon Seller. You’ll also want to trademark your private label brand. Once you have a registered trademark, you can apply to Amazon’s Brand Registry. Enrolling in Amazon’s Brand Registry gives you complete control over your product page, images, and product details.
The average consumer spends nearly $200 per year on cosmetics, an industry valued at $93.1 billion in the US alone. Plus, consumer spending in the beauty industry is on the rise with the COVID-19 pandemic. Learning how to sell private label cosmetics is a simple and low-cost way to build your own beauty brand. Entry costs are low, and the variety is so great that even fashion boutiques, healthy living brands, and active lifestyle businesses are expanding into this high-demand market. Once you’ve selected your supplier and products for your initial line, you need to design your logo, place your order, and plan out your selling strategy.