New Ideas in Cosmetic Product Development: Creating Consumer-Friendly Concoctions


As customer complaints about cosmetic products increase, CPG companies can use electronic lab notebooks to support the creation of high quality products that will win customer support. Image credit: Flickr user kuldeepk2k

One of the most important sectors of the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry is personal care products, and customer loyalty in this sector is at a premium. When it comes to purchasing cosmetic products like shampoo, conditioner, soap and body lotion, customers often find a brand they like and stick with it for years. If it doesn’t work well the first time, the chance that a customer will continue to use it is slim to none. That means that CPG companies need to be able to make a good first impression.

Newly released FDA records indicate that customer complaints about cosmetic products have increased significantly since 2004. In order to avoid becoming the target of consumer complaints or FDA investigations, CPG companies need to be able to optimize their research processes to avoid errors without significantly reducing lab productivity. Electronic lab notebooks can support both of these goals during the research and development process for cosmetic products.

The Recent Increase in Consumer Complaints About Cosmetic Products

The personal care product industry is largely unregulated by the FDA, but consumers and healthcare professionals do have the opportunity to report negative side effects from cosmetic products to the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s Adverse Event Reporting System. Until recently, that information was not reported to the public, but in December 2016, it became available by request through the Freedom Information Act.1 Researchers at Northwestern University took advantage of the newly released data, covering all consumer complaints about personal care products from 2004 to 2016, to learn more about side effects from cosmetic products.

In June 2016, the researchers published a paper in JAMA Internal Medicine that summarized their findings. According to their data,  the number of consumer complaints increased significantly between 2004-2016, with the greatest increases occurring in 2015 and 2016. The most common CPG products to get complaints were hair care and skin care products, and they usually caused problems like hair loss, hair breakage and local skin irritation.2 Currently, the FDA does not require CPG companies to ensure that their products do not cause these side effects, but it is essential for CPG companies to do so anyway. Otherwise, they put both the health of their customers and the reputation of their brand at risk.

Indeed, there was one product in particular that the researchers reported was largely responsible for the 78% increase in complaints in 2015 and the 300% increase in 2016: WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing and Conditioner Products. Complaints about the product had rolled into the FDA, with consumers reporting instances of hair loss, hair breakage, balding, itching and rash. The manufacturer of the product, Chaz Dean, Inc, is now under investigation by the FDA. Now that FDA records about consumer complaints are publicly available, CPG companies have an even greater incentive to avoid releasing products that have adverse side effects, since doing so could end up putting them in the same position as Chaz Dean, Inc.

Using Electronic Lab Notebooks to Support Consumer-Friendly Cosmetic Product Development Efforts

Preparing a new cosmetic product for market requires extensive laboratory testing, in order to ensure that it will meet the needs of consumers without causing harmful side effects. Even though specific FDA requirements for hair care and skin care formulations are minimal, CPG companies still have to make sure that every product that hits store shelves is of the highest quality. Not only is it important to avoid consumer complaints, but the FDA also has the power to recommend a recall for a personal care product, which can be another major barrier to market success.

Of course, researchers at CPG companies do not have unlimited time and resources to dedicate to the evaluation of a single new cosmetic product. Lab tests need to be thorough, but if too much time is spent on the testing process, the cost of the product could end up so high that it is out of the price range for the average customer. That’s where electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) can be extremely helpful. With ELNs, it is easier for researchers to access data from previous development projects, which reduces the likelihood of experimental duplication. Information transfer via ELNs can also improve the efficiency of collaborative efforts when multiple researchers are working toward the creation of a single new cosmetic product.

ELNs also come in handy in those rare cases when CPG companies find that a certain personal care product is receiving an unusual number of consumer complaints. The technology makes it easy for scientists to quickly locate and evaluate the data that was collected during the R&D process, rather than having to search through endless pages of paper notebooks. That way, it is much easier to determine what went wrong and what needs to be done to improve the product for the future. In no time, the formulation can be altered accordingly.

BIOVIA Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs) enable researchers at CPG companies to formulate top-notch hair care and skin acre products, while still maintaining a high level of lab efficiency. Contact us today to learn more about how this technology can revolutionize data use at your company.

  1.  “More health problems reported with hair and skin care products,” June 26, 2017,
  2.  “More health problems reported from cosmetic products,” June 26, 2017,