Selling Cosmetics Online: A Step by Step Guide

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The cosmetics industry continues to boom with people constantly on the hunt for everything from hair products to makeup, skincare, and everything in between. If you choose to sell cosmetics online it can be hard to find a gap in the market – beauty brands are plentiful in today’s online world, but that doesn’t mean finding tips on how to sell online is impossible.

In fact, if you can build an online brand selling cosmetics and carve out a space for your business, you could be on the path to major ecommerce success.

To help you get started we’ve put together this step-by-step guide to selling cosmetics online.

#1. Find Your Niche

The best way to sell cosmetics online is to find a strong niche.

Honing your niche is an important part of building a brand online because it allows you to stand yourself apart from the competition, attract customers to your online store, and build confidence in the products you offer.

Humanery homepage
Humanery is a great example of a brand that identified a gap in the market and found its niche.

While you can opt to sell a wide range of cosmetics online, we recommend finding a niche and building a product line that is centered around one or two key categories. 

Whether you want to sell makeup online or hair products, a niche will go a long way to building the foundations of your brand.

Popular cosmetic niches include:

  • Cruelty-free cosmetics
  • Organic cosmetics
  • Vegan cosmetics
  • Cosmetics aimed at specific problems such as spots or hair loss
  • Makeup aimed at specific skin tones
  • Haircare for specific hair colors, textures, or styles

#2. Create Your Brand

Creating your brand is an incredibly important part of selling cosmetics online and once you’ve decided on your niche, you’ll be able to let this be the foundation for the brand you create.

Your brand is how people recognize your business and it covers every part of how you present yourself to your audience.

From the name, logo, colors, and fonts you use to the tone of voice and how you communicate with your audience, everything works together to create your brand. 

A strong brand is essential, especially in such a populated industry. Your brand will help you to stand out from the crowd and will help to build trust in your business. 

Advice from the Experts

Top tip! When creating your brand, undertake some competitor research first. Make sure the brand you are creating isn’t too similar to anything that’s already on the market. Your brand needs to be unique to your online store.

#3. Source Your Products

The next step to selling cosmetics online is to source your products. After all, you can’t build a cosmetics ecommerce empire without any products to sell.

There are various different methods you can choose between when it comes to sourcing your products. We’ve listed them below so that you can decide which is the best way to sell cosmetics online for you.


With dropshipping, you’ll choose a dropshipping supplier who can handle the whole order process for you. Once a customer has placed an order on your website, it goes straight to your dropshipping supplier who will fulfill the order for you.

How does dropshipping work

When it comes to sourcing your cosmetic products via dropshipping, you’ll need to find a dropshipping supplier who provides the products you’re looking for. We recommend always asking for samples to ensure the quality of the items.

While dropshipping takes the stress of order fulfillment out of your hands it does limit the products you can sell on your online store to those available from your chosen dropshipping supplier.

White Labeling

White labeling is a popular product sourcing method for many online cosmetic retailers. 

The process of white labeling allows you to select an “off the shelf” product and formulation and place it in your own, branded packaging. 

For example, you can select a pre-made shampoo from a white label supplier that is then placed in your branded packaging and sold on your online store.

It’s particularly useful for smaller businesses that may not have the budget to create their own formulations. 

Remember, just like dropshipping, requesting samples and conducting extensive research and quality control are crucial with white labeling.


Sourcing your products from a wholesaler can be another way of selling cosmetics online. 

With this method, you would source existing products that are likely already on the market to sell from your online store. 

While your products wouldn’t be bespoke to your online store, you can choose how much you sell them for and how you market them to customers. 

One of the key benefits of sourcing your cosmetic products from a wholesaler is the price. Usually buying in bulk from a wholesaler will result in the cost per item being considerably lower than if you were to purchase them from another retailer to resell.

Manufacture Your Own

If you want to sell truly unique and bespoke cosmetic products on your online store then the best way to source your products would be to manufacture them yourself.

It goes without saying that this method is the most time-consuming and expensive as you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time and resources to finding the right ingredients and creating the right formulations. 

If you choose to manufacture your own products you’ll also need to ensure they meet all the appropriate regulations and requirements set by the FDA. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of your state before manufacturing your cosmetics. 

#4. Get Online

Once you’ve sourced the products you want to sell, you’ll need to decide exactly how you want to sell them and get your business online. 

There are various popular ways of selling cosmetics online – and remember, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one option. You can start small and as your business grows, introduce other channels to your catalog.

Popular channels for selling cosmetics online are:


Online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, and Etsy are great places to sell cosmetics. Many of the most popular online marketplaces are trusted by online shoppers worldwide and have a ready-made audience for you to target with your products.

Online Stores

Setting up your own online store is one of the best ways to sell your cosmetics online. 

Building your own online store gives you complete control over every element of the buying process, including how your items are presented to customers and the checkout process.

You’ll also be able to avoid having to pay any commissions or seller fees that can crop up on other online marketplaces.

Website builders such as BigCommerce make building your own online store easy.

Creating your own online store doesn’t have to be complicated. By using a website builder such as Shopify, BigCommerce, or Wix you’ll be able to create a fully customized online store no matter what your skill level and budget. 

Social Media

Did you know that you can also sell products via social media?

Many social media platforms now offer users the ability to not only promote their products but to sell them directly to their followers too.

Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram both now include a shop feature that allows users to purchase an item from a company without having to leave the social media app. 

Advice from the Experts

Top tip! No matter how you decide to sell your products online, don’t forget the importance of taking high-quality photographs and writing detailed product descriptions. We also recommend including an ingredients list for each of your cosmetics products. 

#5. Decide on Your Packaging and Shipping

Choosing the right packaging for your products is an important step when learning how to sell cosmetics online. 

The packaging you choose for your cosmetic products will ensure that they get to your customer in one piece with no leaks or damage. 

The key things to think about when choosing your ecommerce packaging are ensuring it will protect your items while still being both environmentally and budget-friendly.

You’ll also need to decide how you’re going to ship your products to customers. There are multiple different shipping providers to choose from including FedEx and USPS, each of which will have their own rates and shipping options.

Depending on the shipping provider you choose you’ll need to set the shipping times and rates for your products. Next-day delivery and free delivery both prove popular with customers but be sure to only offer these if your budget allows. 

#6. Promote Your Website

Now that you’ve sourced your products, created your brand, and set up your online store, the final piece of the puzzle is to promote your website and cosmetic items to your target market. But how?

There are various ways you can promote your website including:

Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest marketing tools at your disposal, and best of all it’s completely free. 

Building up an engaged and relevant social media audience is a great way to raise brand awareness and drive more traffic to your website, which will hopefully result in more sales.

Undertake some audience research to understand which platforms your target market uses the most and the types of content they engage with. 

Then all that’s left for you to do is to create social media content that will engage your audience and convince them to make a purchase. Learn about how to create a social media strategy with our handy guide.

Email Marketing

If email marketing isn’t part of your wider digital marketing strategy then it needs to be.

Email marketing allows you to build relationships with your audience and keep communication lines open. It’s a particularly good way of keeping users who have engaged with your brand but who are yet to make a purchase within your ecosystem. 

Marketing emails can include anything from product recommendations and unique discounts to prompts for users to return to their abandoned carts and complete their purchases. 


If you’ve built a website then you need to ensure it’s optimized for search engines. SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, does exactly that.

With so many people using online search engines such as Google to find products to buy online, you can’t afford to be missing out on that potential traffic. 

By optimizing your website for target search terms related to your product offering, you can ensure that your online store is appearing in search results. 

Key things you can do to ensure your website is correctly optimized include using keywords within your content, ensuring the user experience of your website is the best it can be, and building a backlink profile. It’s often a good idea to start a blog to show customers (and search engines) that you’re an expert in your field and provide helpful advice. Our guide on how to start a beauty blog has some helpful tips for cosmetics brands!

For more tips, check out our article on WordPress SEO.

Advice from the Experts

Top Tip: The best online store builders come with built-in tools which integrate across different platforms, to help you market your business wherever your customers are.

Selling Cosmetics Online: Summary

As we mentioned at the start of this article, the cosmetics industry is booming and if you follow the steps in this guide, you’ll be able to cash in on that popularity and build a successful brand. 

There are a lot of online cosmetics brands out there though so you’ll need to be willing to dedicate time to learning the ropes and making the right decisions to help your brand stand out.

Following this guide will certainly help you out so to recap, the main steps to selling cosmetics online are:

  1. Find your niche
  2. Create your brand
  3. Source your products 
  4. Get online
  5. Decide on your packaging and shipping
  6. Promote your website

Now you’ve reached the end of this guide you’re ready to get started, so make sure you come back and let us know in the comments how you get on!

Frequently Asked Questions

While some people choose to create and manufacture their own cosmetics to sell online, there are other ways of sourcing products. 

You can opt for a dropshipping method, buying your products from a wholesaler, or white labeling pre-existing formulas. 

While you don’t need your own website, we always recommend having your own online store to sell any kind of product online.

Website builders such as Wix, Shopify, and BigCommerce make building your own online store stress-free.

Whether or not you’ll need a specific license to sell your cosmetic products will depend on the products and ingredients.

Cosmetic products fall under FDA jurisdiction and we recommend checking the rules and regulations for your local state to be sure you’re compliant. 

Written by:
Black and white headshot of Lucy Nixon smiling at the camera
I’ve been a content writer for Website Builder Expert since 2021. Through almost a decade in the digital marketing industry, I’ve built up knowledge on everything from growing ecommerce businesses to building websites. I love breaking down tricky topics into digestible and engaging content for readers. Breaking down the jargon and uncovering the best platforms, tools, and strategies, I’m a meticulous researcher who’s committed to providing our readers with tips and advice that’s tried and tested.

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