Interested in learning the do’s and don’ts of how to start a makeup business? We’ve got you covered! Keep reading to learn more about how to build your own cosmetic business and start a successful online store.
You probably have a skincare routine. Maybe it’s just a facial cleanser combined with sunscreen. Maybe you’ve already taken things to the next level and popped that face mask out once a week. Maybe you love shopping for new beauty brands and picking out a new lipstick, eyeshadow, toner, or blush.
It doesn’t matter how deep or how far in the beauty and skincare routine you are: What matters is that if you’ve got that entrepreneurship spark and you’re already thinking about how to start an online business, chances are you’re contemplating the possibility of opening a cosmetic business and even starting your own makeup line.
But how can you carve a special place in a broad and competitive sector like the beauty industry? And what do you need to know before you build an independent makeup line? Is there a way to start a beauty brand without manufacturing your own products?
Well, line up your brushes and turn on the lights to face the makeup mirror because we’ve got all the answers, and we’re about to tell you everything you need to know on how to start a makeup business.
💄 Interested in learning more about the business-y side of things? Here are some recommended reads that might interest you:
- What is E-business? Definition, Types and Pros & Cons
- What is Ecommerce? Definition, Types of Ecommerce and FAQ
- 20 Ways to Make Money from Home in Canada in 2023
- Think (and Write) Business: Here’s How to Write a Business Plan
The foundation of a makeup business
The first thing you need to decide before you start a makeup line or a beauty brand is which business model you want to follow.
This is an important decision, not least because it’ll affect all of your operations — from how you’re manufacturing (or outsourcing) your cosmetics line to your packaging, your order fulfillment process, shipping times, and more.
Regarding working in the beauty industry, three main business models are worth exploring. Each has advantages and disadvantages, so it’s up to you to run the calculations and figure out what will work best for you.
1. Manufacture your own makeup line
Most entrepreneurs who are interested in how to start a makeup business are likely entertaining the idea of starting their own makeup line.
This is one of the best ways to help you position a new brand inside the beauty industry. After all, you’ll be able to create a product not on the market yet, catering to a target market that your direct competitors might have overlooked.
The trouble is, starting a cosmetics line involves extra consideration — and some extra planning, too.
After all, you’ll be responsible for the whole manufacturing operation, which includes stages like outsourcing ingredients, establishing formulas, conducting tests and experiments before launching a new item, and making sure your inventory is always well managed so the makeup won’t get ruined due to external situations, like an unforeseen summer heat wave.
Caliray is a California-based beauty brand that manufactures its own items and is big on the clean makeup game. Their products are all sustainable and toxin-free; the brand gives off a “California Girls” vibe.
More control and more liberty since you’ll be in charge of the creative process
You’ll also be in charge of manufacturing the cosmetics, which requires a more significant upfront investment.
More control over brand positioning since you’ll be owning the entire operation
More work in terms of maintaining stock, calculating shelf life and holding inventory
2. Resell other beauty brands
Instead of building a cosmetics brand from scratch, why not go in a different direction and consolidate your brand as a place selling beauty products from other brands?
If that wasn’t clear, here’s a shorter version of our elevator pitch: Why not build a beauty marketplace? That way, you won’t have to worry about the manufacturing part.
Building a marketplace that specializes in beauty products is also an excellent alternative for entrepreneurs who feel more at ease on the managerial side of things since you’ll have more time on your hands to build your brand image and work on relatively minor — but unquestionably significant — aspects of your business, like packaging, customer service skills and shipping partnerships.
Beauty Bridge is a great marketplace for beauty products. Not only do they offer tons of different products and work with a wide array of brands, but they also have special sections on their website to redirect visitors to specific products — which is great for customer experience.
You can build and manage your e-reputation by working with established makeup brands
You’ll need to offer competitive shipping fees that rival those of standalone stores
No need to spend money on creating and manufacturing your own makeup line
It might be harder to find your unique selling proposition
💄You like the idea of a marketplace, but were you thinking more about selling in a marketplace? We can help with that, too!
- How to Sell on Etsy: Turn Your Hobby Into a Business
- How to Sell on Amazon in 2023: A Step-by-Step Guide + Awesome Tips
3. Dropship with an online store
A third option for people who want to start a makeup line but don’t have lots of money to pour into the manufacturing process is starting an online store and working with the dropshipping model.
We already mentioned in our dropshipping guide that this business model allows entrepreneurs to sell products online without having to hold inventory. With dropshipping, you’ll also be able to sell products that were already manufactured and are ready to be shipped to customers.
If you’re interested in exploring the beauty industry with dropshipping, keep in mind that you’ll have to investigate with your suppliers' things like:
- The ingredients they’re using in their makeup lines
- The possibility of offering customizable packaging
- Shipping times
No upfront investment is needed
Little or no saying in the ingredients used by your supplier
You can start selling immediately after picking out your products
It might be hard to get a personalized packaging
And get this: You can start selling online right here, with Shoplazza! Check out the video below and our other blog posts for more info.
- Find the Best Dropshipping Suppliers for Your Business
- How to Start a Dropshipping Business in 10 Easy Steps
- Global Product Sourcing: Dropshipping 2.0
- How to Scale Your Online Business with Dropshipping in 2023
Bonus tip on how to start a makeup business
There’s also a fourth business model that might interest entrepreneurs who want to know how to start a makeup line: working with a private label manufacturer.
These companies have played a big part in the global beauty industry during the past years, and they’re especially helpful for small businesses who want to sell their own personalized makeup products but don’t have the time, money or resources to make this happen.
While companies like Onoxa offer pre-made skincare formulas and products that you can customize with your own branding, there are also other options out there that work together with you to develop a unique formula — beware that this might cost you extra, though.
How to start a makeup business
Now that the foundation on how to start a makeup business is complete and you’ve already picked out the business model you’ll work with, it’s time to tackle some other decisions you’ll have to make — for instance, deciding who your ideal customer is.
A great way to discover this is by conducting market research because you’ll be able to collect and analyze data about your potential target market.
There are also some other elements you might want to consider before you open your cosmetics business since they’ll significantly impact how you’ll market your products and how the beauty brand will be perceived by customers online.
Let’s check them all below.
Find your niche and target audience
One of the most pressing matters for any brand that wants to establish itself in the cosmetics industry is picking out its intended target audience.
This is especially important because most makeup brands are already facing stiff competition—so try to be as specific as possible. Maybe you’re interested in catering to diverse and yet niche groups, like:
- Makeup artists
- Drag queens
- Makeup influencer
- Dancers and actors
- Young adults with sensitive skin
- Older women with acne-prone skin
Mehron is an excellent example of why beauty brands should focus on specific target markets. Currently, they develop specific makeup products for people interested in cosplaying, special FX and body paint.
Run some tests
This goes for all four beauty business models we covered above: You should always test your products for possible allergens and ensure they adhere to public safety and health concerns.
When it comes to a makeup line, you might also want to run a few tests to see if:
- That water-proof mascara really is water-proof
- If those “last all day” claims are true
- If it works on different skin tones
- If the shade that your supplier or private label partner is displaying on their website matches the shade you want
Bonus tip on how to start a makeup business
You can also take your tests to social media, since that’ll help you generate a good hype about your products. Check out what Caliray did on their TikTok, right after launching their so-called “surfproof” eyeliners:
Decide on packaging
Makeup is great, but a satisfying package can be even greater — and, if you play your cards right, it might even help you increase sales.
There’s also one important thing to remember about packaging in the cosmetics industry: Because makeup can look different on different skin tones, it might be a good idea to feature the packaging on your product page, instead of featuring models.
That way, the focus remains on your product and on the quality of your makeup line. Just take a look at what Axiology does on its website:
Axiology’s packaging is even more awesome when you read their mission statement, since they are committed to a sustainable and plastic-free business model. This kind of political stance can do wonders for a green marketing strategy, and it’s definitely something you should have on the horizon.
💄 Now is a great time to learn how to enhance the photos of your products and how to write a mission statement!
Beware of local regulations
Another thing you should keep in mind before you start a makeup line is that makeup is a regulated product, which means that you’ll have to comply with your local government’s regulations if you want to sell those items.
Also, bear in mind that each country has its own regulations, ok? Here are some of the most official records we could find for Canada, US and Australia:
- Cosmetics Laws & Regulations - FDA
- FDA Authority Over Cosmetics
- Regulatory information for cosmetics - Government of Canada
- Cosmetics regulation - Australian Government
How to stand out in the cosmetic industry
One of the most pressing challenges that makeup brands face is designing an efficient marketing strategy to help them hook customers and increase sales.
Ideally, you should try to work with four pillars in mind:
1. A focus on diversity
2. A story to tell
3. Transparency about the formulas and ingredients you’re using
4. Sustainability and environmental impact
To illustrate how you can put all of those elements to work in your favor, let’s take a look at Tower28’s website — which gives a true masterclass on this topic.
When visitors access the store’s homepage, they are faced with a beautiful and sun-light picture that highlights diversity and indicates that Tower28 is interested in anyone that has sensitive skin.
This focus on sensitive skin, by the way, is the brand’s main selling point. When you dig a little deeper in their website, you find that their whole mission is actually centered around creating products that can help all kinds of different sensitive skin—a mission shouldered by Amy, the founder herself.
Pretty cool, right? But it just keeps getting better.They actually have a pretty extensive list named “You Can't Sit With Us”, that indicates everything potential customers need to know about their products.
That way, Tower28 can stay true to their words and offer crystal-clear transparency to visitors.
Bonus tip on how to start a makeup business
You can also harness the power of customer testimonials and display those on your product pages, like Tower28 does.
This is a great way to convince potential customers and showcase the quality of what you're selling — just remember to ask permission before you get those published, ok?
💄 Check out some more strategies you can adopt to increase sales:
- The Best Welcome Emails for Guaranteed Sales (+ Welcome Popup Examples)
- Limited Time Offer: 6 Examples to Boost Your Sales
- Product Launch Strategy: Build Yours Today to Skyrocket Sales
- 7 Proven Heatmap Tactics to Increase Ecommerce Sales
How to market a cosmetics business
We already shared quite a few examples of how you can smartly market beauty products on this post, but it might be worth sharing some pro tips too.
The first thing that a cosmetics business should focus on is the visual aspect of their marketing assets. Makeup is all about looks, after all — and while this doesn't mean that you should invest solely on models for product photography, it does mean that you can benefit a lot by partnering with a social media influencer.
Having an influencer marketing strategy is also great to build a social following, since it’ll furnish your brand with a ton of relevant and eye-catching content.
Bear in mind that makeup is basically one of the “founders” of the social media influencing as we know it today: Makeup tutorials and makeup unboxing experiences have been one of the staples of TikTok, Instagram and YouTube for years now, and they are still going strong.
💄 Interested in learning more about how to make money ons social media? We can help!
- UGC: Why User-Generated Content is Good for Business
- Like and Subscribe: How To Make Money on YouTube
- How to Use Instagram Stories: An Infographic for Your Business
- TikTok Ads Manager: A Guide to Advertising on TikTok
- How to Make Money on TikTok: The Ultimate Guide for Businesses
Also, try to be as engaging and detailed as possible with your product descriptions: Be upfront about allergens and ingredients, indicate the product’s durability on skin and any other information that might help customers.
Axiology, for instance, has a great template for their descriptions. You can see that they create concise one-liners and put special emojis on each of them, to make the reading experience quick and fun.
Remember: The quicker a visitor finds the answer they’re looking for, the quicker they’ll click on the “Add to Cart” button.
Bonus tip on how to start a makeup business
Another way to encourage sales is offering your customers something unique and that is actually valuable to them.
This will, of course, depend on your target market. If you’re selling to makeup artists, you can create an online course and gift that content to customers who reach a specific threshold with their shopping.
You can also do something like a customer loyalty program or a rewards program, similar to what Cheekbone did. This is great tool that’ll help you build a strong sense of community with your customers.
Start a makeup line FAQ: everything you need to know
Now you’re all set to start a makeup line and build your own brand. Just to make sure you’re extra prepared, though, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions about how to start a makeup business.
Why start a cosmetics brand?
The cosmetic industry is one the largest and most well-established ecommerce niches, and there’s still a nice profit to be had. During the past years, consumers have been steadily moving away from the big players and opting instead to shop with local and sustainable brands.
How much does it cost to start a makeup line?
That’ll depend on the business model you’ll adhere to.
If you’re planning on working with a private label company, bear in mind that you’ll have to pay them (which can be costly, depending on the range of products you want to work with). You’ll also need to factor in shipping costs, so be careful.
Also, keep in mind that the overall cost will be significantly larger if you’re planning on manufacturing yout makeup products yourself.
You can, however, start a cosmetic brand with dropshipping, which would cost you significantly less.
How long does it take to start a makeup line?
If you’re working with a private label company, starting a makeup line will probably take about 3 to 5 months (and maybe even longer if you’re working with a more artisanal and independent method). With dropshipping, you can start almost immediately after having set up your online store.