How to Sell Makeup Online

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It’s easier than ever to sell makeup from home

The American beauty and cosmetics market is not going anywhere. It was worth $60 billion in 2016, and that figure is set to reach $90 billion by this year. That’s plenty of profit to go around, so why not get in on it? 

We’ve compiled this guide to make it as easy as possible to sell makeup from home. So, without further ado, check out our step-by-step breakdown: 

Selling Makeup Online

  1. Find your niche
  2. Source a manufacturer 
  3. Brand and package your makeup
  4. Choose a platform
  5. Promote your makeup

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.

1

Find Your Niche

The beauty industry is already massive, and the US market is expected to keep growing by 3.5% annually. While that means you’ve got a huge potential audience, it also means you’ll have to find a way to stand out from the crowds of other people who sell beauty products online. 

To set yourself apart, don’t try to appeal to every consumer – if you cast too wide a net, then your products won’t strike a personal chord with anyone. Instead, ask yourself two questions to narrow down your target audience:

  1. What makes your product unique?
  2. Who will that unique selling point (USP) attract?

Your USP could be as simple as low prices or unconventional colors, or as complex as sunburn-reversing moisturizer (and if you manage to come up with that one, let us know). Anything that clearly and boldly sets your product apart from the competition is what you should be aiming for.

by sarah skincare company
Beauty brand By Sarah has made a name for itself by focusing solely on organic, chemical-free skincare. By honing your brand’s defining characteristics (in this case, all-natural ingredients), you’ll be able to create a distinct identity.

If you’re having trouble coming up with an original idea, try thinking of a USP that would convince you to make a purchase. After all, there’s no demographic you know better than your own! Mentally run through your daily beauty routine, and see if there are any gaps that a new product could fill. Does your mascara always refuse to wash off? Maybe you can sell the strongest eye makeup remover on the market. Is your beauty routine boring? Maybe a funny face mask will be your ticket to success.

2

Source a Manufacturer

If you’re not making your beauty products from scratch, then the question is: what kind of manufacturer do you want to work with?

If you’re making your products at home, then more power to you! Just read up on your state’s ecommerce regulations to make sure you’re creating and selling by the book. The FDA has specific guidelines for manufacturing cosmetics at home that are easy to follow. Homemade products like lip balms and perfumes will be easy to create under these regulations – just be sure that the ingredients you’re listing on your labels are what’s actually in your product!

There are two main options for sourcing a manufacturer. The first option is working with a manufacturer to produce your own unique product. This means researching cosmetics manufacturers – either locally or abroad – who will work with you to create an original line of products. This is a great option, because you still get the branding benefit of labelling your products as “original.” You may even be able to find a suitable manufacturer in your area, which would make it easy to oversee the creation process. Check this list of cosmetics manufacturers in the US to find out if there’s a good supplier that’s also local to you.

The second option is white labelling, or using a generic product that the manufacturer allows you to rebrand under your own label. As far as cosmetics go, this usually means slightly altering the color/fragrance/etc. of a beauty product, and then selling it with your own branding. White labelling is convenient because you’re getting a ready-made product at the click of a button, which you can then sell through your own brand. Of course, the drawback of white labelling is that it’s difficult to establish credibility, since you can’t claim that your products are one-of-a-kind. 

If you decide to go with this model, you’ll need to conduct thorough research into your supplier. Here are some questions to keep in mind as you consider potential white label manufacturers:

  • Are there any ingredients that you don’t want in your products? If you’re looking to sell organic or vegan makeup, for example, make sure your supplier can accommodate those requirements. Similarly, you’ll want to find out what kind of preservatives a supplier uses to keep products fresh.
  • Is the supplier approved in your country? For US-based businesses, you’ll want to ensure that your supplier is in compliance with both the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). Unlike drugs, cosmetics do not need FDA approval before they go on sale, but the FDA still conducts inspections and provides regulations to ensure that “adulterated and misbranded” products are removed from the market.
  • Are there order minimums? Make sure you don’t end up with a supplier that demands more volume than you’re ready to commit to at the start. As your business becomes more established and gains more customers, your inventory orders will grow. But when you first start selling makeup online, it’s best to save money and resources where you can – including on inventory!
  • Does the supplier provide product packaging? If your supplier doesn’t supply the physical packaging of the product, you’ll need to figure out where you’re going to get it. You can package your products at home, with the benefit of ensuring the quality yourself – but we wouldn’t recommend this unless you have design experience! Instead, you can source through a separate supplier. There are plenty of dedicated cosmetic packaging suppliers to choose from, most of which will let you customize the packaging to align with your brand.

Whether you decide to make your own cosmetics, work with a manufacturer, or white label products, it will help to take a look at the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guidelines for cosmetics. These are just guidelines (as opposed to hard-and-fast regulations), and they’re a great point of reference to help ensure that your manufacturing process is setting you up for success.

3

Brand and Package Your Makeup

“Branding” encompasses all of the seemingly small elements that add up to the way people perceive your product. This includes your images, tone of voice, and logos. It might seem overwhelming to work with so many moving parts, but the trick is to choose one element, customize it really well, and then simply match up the other elements to that same tone. This saves you time, and ensures that your branding will be cohesive. And cohesion is important: 70% of participants in one survey reported that consistent branding is crucial when communicating with customers.

We recommend starting with your brand’s imagery – specifically, your brand’s colors! This will inform the decisions about logos, packaging, and tone that will come later. Color schemes don’t happen randomly – in fact, pretty much every brand logo you pass on the street has had hours of thought put in behind it.   

This is where knowing your niche will come in handy. You can use color psychology to align your brand colors with the interests of people in your niche. For example, purple calls to mind motifs like wealth and luxury for most people. So if you’re marketing a sophisticated, upscale product, then this is an ideal color to use. Meanwhile, blue evokes a sense of trust and security, which is why you’ll see a lot of banks using it for their branding (think Chase and American Express). If you’re looking for more color-specific tips, we’ve written this breakdown of how to choose a color scheme for a website, and the same principles apply to choosing a color scheme for a brand.

Once you’ve finalized your color choice, you can use it to inform everything else. Obviously, if you pick a blue color scheme, you’ll want to reflect that in your logo and product images. But you can also use it to figure out your brand’s tone of voice – a “blue” brand should use messaging that’s trustworthy and calming, for example.

Want more in-depth tips on branding? Our How to Build a Brand guide will tell you everything you need to know

Once you know what your brand is going to look like, you can start to think about packaging. It’s true that packaging was created to keep products safe during transport, but you’ll limit your business if that’s all you use it for! 

Branded packaging creates a fuller experience for the customer, and it’s especially important for an online business. With no brick and mortar store to create an experience for shoppers, you have to rely on your “unboxing experience” to pick up some of the slack. Stylish, fun, and experiential packaging is also an effortless marketing tactic in the age of Instagram and YouTube.

youtube marketing example

While some companies pay social media influencers to push products online, many people still create organic videos and posts that can also gain a lot of traction. Even without the factor of online engagement, great packaging still goes a long way: online businesses that pay particular attention to their packaging report, on average, a 30% increase in consumer interest. That’s a great way to retain loyal customers! 

Labeling your makeup

When you’re selling makeup online, you’ll need to pay attention to your country, state, and region-specific requirements for labeling beauty product packaging. These requirements concern elements like ingredient lists, safety and allergy warnings, and any messaging/claims made on the packaging. The FDA’s Cosmetics Labeling Guide is a resource you can use to ensure that your makeup is correctly labeled before you send it off.

4

Choose a Platform

Now that you’ve created a product people are excited about, the next question is: where to sell beauty products online? The three most effective platforms are ecommerce website builders, online marketplaces, and dropshipping. The best way to sell makeup online ultimately comes down to what works best for you, but we’ll explain the particulars of these top three methods so that you can make an informed decision. 

Ecommerce website builders

Ecommerce website builders are designed to make creating your own website as easy and stress-free as possible. The setup process usually involves choosing a template, then using a guided drag-and-drop editor to customize your site’s layout. After that, you can easily add ecommerce functionalities through apps and widgets that often even come pre-installed.

Ecommerce website builders at a glance

Cost$20-30/month, plus transaction fees
ProsBuilt-in customer support services, easy to use but still extremely customizable
ConsHave to promote and drive traffic to the site yourself
Best forThose who want to create a personalized shopping experience
Best providersShopify, BigCommerce

Shopify and BigCommerce are two of the best ecommerce website builders on the market, and we’re going to use Shopify as our case study because it’s the top-performing builder in our in-house research.

Ecommerce website builders like Shopify are great for customizing your website, and subsequently your customers’ shopping experience. If you’re serious about creating a strong brand for your products, then ecommerce builders are the way to go. Take a look at the Shopify editor below – it really is as simple as clicking “add product” or “customize theme” to get your site up and running!

shopify editor screen

Because you’ll be creating your very own site, and not selling products as part of a larger marketplace, the downside is that you won’t have a built-in audience to work with. Instead, you can use tactics like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to raise your site’s rankings on the results pages of search engines like Google. Don’t let the acronym scare you off – SEO can actually be really simple, and we’ve written a comprehensive Shopify SEO Review that will really set you on your way.

Pricing Summary 

Shopify’s cheapest fully-fledged ecommerce plan is the Basic plan, which costs $29/month. This price covers a range of ecommerce apps and features, and includes everything except the 2.9% transaction fee, which becomes 0% if you decide to use Shopify Payments. You can try Shopify out risk-free through its 14-day free trial.

Not thrilled with Shopify?

Read our ranking of the 7 Best Ecommerce Platforms to discover more options

Online marketplaces

You can think of online marketplaces as “communal” online spaces, where many different vendors are selling products on the same website. The most obvious example of an online marketplace is Amazon. Customers use online marketplaces for the variety that they’re able to provide.

Online marketplaces at a glance

Cost20¢ listing fee, plus 3.5% of your sale price
ProsBuilt-in audience, quick setup process
ConsCompetition for buyers’ attention, not as customizable as website builders
Best forThose looking to sell fast
Best providersEtsy, Glambot.com

Etsy and Glambot.com are two great online marketplaces for selling makeup. Glambot is specially focused on beauty products, but we’re going to focus on Etsy, because it attracts a massive audience – and that’s the main appeal of an online marketplace.

etsy makeup results page

As of 2018, over 39 million users bought on Etsy. That means that if you sell beauty products online via Etsy, more than 39 million searchers will have access to your products – so, unlike with an ecommerce website builder, you won’t have to worry very much about driving traffic to your listing. That being said, you will have to compete for attention with the millions of other active sellers on Etsy, which can be a hassle.

The other major difference between online marketplaces and ecommerce website builders is that you can get started faster with online marketplaces. For example, since the Etsy platform itself is already set up, all you have to do is add your product listings to the existing site – whereas on Shopify, you would first need to take the time to create the website. However, the tradeoff is that online marketplaces can’t offer a personalized, distinct shopping experience the way that ecommerce website builders can.

Pricing Summary 

Etsy charges a 20¢ listing fee, plus 3.5% of your sales. What you’re really paying for here is Etsy’s pre-existing audience, and the ease of setup that this platform provides.

Dropshipping

Dropshipping is a surprisingly simple model in which you, the retailer, don’t actually have to handle any products or ship any stock. Instead, customers order products through your online store, and you alert your supplier. Then, your supplier ships the product to the customer. One major appeal of dropshipping is that it’s easy to budget for – since you don’t actually stock supplies yourself, you don’t have to worry about not breaking even!

Dropshipping at a glance

CostCost of an ecommerce builder or online marketplace, plus about $30.00/month for a dropshipping supplier/app
ProsMakes budgeting easy, no worries about restocking products
ConsImpersonal experience for both the buyer and the seller, more expensive because of third-party selling
Best forThe armchair entrepreneur
Best providersOberlo app (via Shopify)

You can use either an ecommerce website builder or an online marketplace to start dropshipping. The above sections will give you enough information to weigh the pros and cons and make your own decision, but if you ask us, ecommerce website builders are the better tool for selling makeup online. They offer more personalization without sacrificing ease of use, and Shopify even offers a dropshipping app called Oberlo.

oberlo app

Oberlo is designed to integrate with Shopify stores, and allows you to quickly import products and automate tasks. Of course, Oberlo is just one of many useful apps for dropshipping, but it’s rare to find an ecommerce builder and dropshipping app combo that fits together as seamlessly as Shopify and Oberlo.

Pricing Summary 

Dropshipping will include the cost of the ecommerce website builder or online marketplace that you choose, plus the cost of a dropshipping app/supplier, which is about $30.00/month.

Intrigued? Read our full guide to Starting a Dropshipping Business for more information
5

Promote Your Makeup

So, you have an online presence. Now it’s time to spread the word! The easiest way to promote your products is by using – you guessed it – social media.

It’s no secret that social media is the easiest way to boost your reputation by word-of-mouth, and most brands are actively taking advantage of that: as it stands, at least 96% of beauty brands have a social media account. The main purpose of a social media presence is the opportunity it provides to engage with your audience. 

You can get started by following popular people and pages within your chosen niche, and interacting with them to gain a following. You can also tweet, pin, post, and share relevant original content to get people talking about your brand. Social proof from real people is the best kind of advertising that you can do, since 92% of consumers believe suggestions from people they know over the suggestions of impersonal advertising. Think about it: you’d probably trust a restaurant recommendation from a friend or coworker over a shameless promotion on a billboard. When someone’s Facebook friend shares your company’s post, it means a lot more than if you had promoted it yourself.

Want more in-depth tips on promotion? Our How to Market a Product guide will tell you everything you need to know

How to Sell Makeup Online: Recap

At this point, you know all of the basics necessary to successfully sell makeup from home. It all starts with getting the proper legal footing, and from there you can get into the fun stuff, like customizing your product and promoting it online. 

To recap, here are all five steps:

Top tips for selling makeup online

  1. Find your niche
  2. Source a manufacturer
  3. Brand and package your makeup
  4. Choose a platform
  5. Promote your makeup

When it comes to choosing a platform, it’s pretty much a decision between ecommerce website builders and online marketplaces. Depending on which method you choose, we recommend Shopify and Etsy, respectively. And you can’t go wrong with Shopify’s Oberlo app if you decide to go for dropshipping. 

Regardless of the platform you choose, it’s a great experience to sell something you’re passionate about – and the beauty market couldn’t be a better place to start. Good luck, and keep us posted in the comments!

How to Sell Makeup Online: FAQs

This option will be worth the hassle if you’re passionate about the creation stage of cosmetics. The bulk of the work will involve experimenting with formulas and testing them until you find the right one. If you can do that, then this model is great for branding and for your own peace of mind – you’ll know exactly what’s in every product!

The FDA describes a cosmetic as a product intended for uses such as “cleansing the human body, making a person more attractive, or changing a person’s appearance,” while a drug is classified as a product “intended to affect the way a person’s body works, or to treat or prevent disease.” Cosmetics and drugs are regulated differently, but if you’re selling the likes of lipsticks and moisturizers, then you’re safely in the “cosmetics” realm!

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About Maura Monaghan

Maura Monaghan

I grew up scribbling in notebooks, and until recently the thought of relocating my writing to the digital world seemed like an impossible goal. But when I finally took the plunge and created an online portfolio, I immediately saw the benefits of having my work out on the web. Since then I’ve learned everything I can about creating different websites, so that I can help those in a similar situation get online without a similar headache.

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