How to Start a Skincare Line with No Money (My Personal Experience)

10 June 2021 How to Start a Skincare Line with No Money (My Personal Experience)

Table of contents

    How I built a skincare line from scratch without ANY upfront investments.

    How to start a skincare line with no money?

    It’s not easy, but not impossible either. Let me tell you how I did it!

    In December of 2019, I created and launched my own cosmetics line at the age of 17. I was still in school so I didn’t have a lot of money available to me. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop me from following my dream. Fast forward to 2020 and more than 20 stores carry my product. I even started a new company together with my manufacturing partner (this one ;p). We help small business owners like yourself create their own customizable cosmetics for an insanely low minimum order quantity. But more on that later!

    How to start a skincare line with no money

    How to start a skincare line with no money

    So let’s get straight to the point, how much money do you need to start? In my experience, anywhere from $2.000 to $5.000 is sufficient.

    But what if I don’t have that much money? I hear you ask. Well, neither did I. There are ways to get around having to invest this kind of money upfront, you just have to get a little creative. In this article, you’ll learn how to prepare and execute a successful pre-order campaign that when done correctly will allow you to start producing your skincare products without any upfront investments.

    This is what I did when I first started and I was able to raise more than $1.000 in pre-orders within 1 week.

    Keep on reading, because at the end of this article I’ll show you exactly how I executed this campaign. But first things first… let’s start with the preparations.

    Asking yourself “how to start a skincare line with no money?” Follow our Branded Hair Products process and start your brand today! 

    1. Knowing your customers

    It’s so important that you know who your customers are. Especially when you’re starting a skincare line with no money. When I first started my own cosmetics line I didn’t do enough market research and this came to bite me in the behind… The result was that I had to find customers for my products instead of having products for my customers. Believe me, it’s a lot easier the other way around. So don’t skip this step!

    So how can you find your target customers? I personally like to create what the marketing world calls a ‘buyer persona’. Here’s how you can create one:

    1. What’s your persona’s name?
    2. How old is your persona?
    3. What’s your persona’s gender?
    4. What’s your persona’s job title?
    5. How much money does your persona make?
    6. Where does your persona shop?
    7. What does your persona like to do?
    8. Where does your persona like to go on holiday?

    Having a buyer persona really helps you get out of your own bubble and think about your customers’ problems. We get caught up in our own thoughts too often, and we forget that we’re not creating products for ourselves but our customers.

    2. Building your audience

    In 2014, on launch day Kylie Cosmetics generated millions of dollars in revenue, all in a matter of hours. How did she do it? It’s all thanks to her massive social media following. Now you don’t need to become a celebrity just to be able to start a skincare line (although it would help ;p). You can replicate her success on a much smaller scale using a social media platform of your choice.

    Start by finding where your customers are spending most of their time online (be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) Once you’ve found them start actively engaging with them. Try not to self-promote and instead bring them value without expecting anything in return. Ideally, you’d do this daily for a couple of months in advance. This way you’ll have an audience when you eventually launch your skincare line.

    3. Creating your products & finding a manufacturer

    Now comes the fun part, actually creating your skincare products! But how do you go about doing this? Where can you find a manufacturer and how much does it cost? In this part of the article, I’ll answer all those questions and more.

    DIY skincare products

    I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of recipes for various DIY skincare products online, but is this something you should consider trying? It really depends on your goals and chemistry skills. When I first dipped my toes in the cosmetics world I started by making hair products out of my kitchen. It worked fairly well but wasn’t really my thing. I wanted things to be scalable and thus decided to find a manufacturer. That doesn’t mean you can’t scale at-home manufacturing, I know plenty of people that can produce 100-200 units at a time.

    So what do you need if you want to try and make skincare products yourself? Here’s a shortlist with all the basics you need:

    • A formula to start with, if you don’t have one you can easily find a basic formula online. Use this as a base and tinker with it until the product is to your liking.
    • An electric hand blender (here’s one from Amazon).
    • A big pot.
    • Raw materials (Making Cosmetics has a wide range of ingredients).

    IMPORTANT: With regards to at home manufacturing you should take the following two issues into account:

    Formulas can change when the overall volume of the batch increases.
    If you’re located in the EU the regulations are a lot stricter on how cosmetics can be manufactured. Please consult your country’s industry association or contact an expert on EU regulations.

    Alternatively, you can go and find a manufacturer to help you create your skincare line.

    Finding an affordable manufacturer

    Finding a manufacturer to partner with can be very difficult… I know it was for me, and I’ve worked with multiple manufacturers before finding the right one. Good manufacturers are hard to find and most of them don’t allow you to customize your products and/or they have a very high minimum order quantity (around 1000-2000 units per product). The upfront investment is more often than not too high for small brands that are just starting.

    That’s why I started Branded Hair Products by Mr. Coté. We aim to bridge the gap and allow small business owners to start their skincare line for the low minimum order quantity of just 24 units per product. With us, you can choose which products you’d like (we can make anything from skincare to haircare), what oils/extracts you want in them, what packaging you’d like and you can even create your own fragrance from scratch! Find out how we can help you and contact us here.

    4. Designing your packaging

    Packaging design

    If you’ve asked yourself “how to start a skincare line with no money”, then you have to be frugal with the money you do have. However, branding and marketing are everything when it comes to skincare. So don’t skimp on these!

    We entrepreneurs are often very passionate about our products, and that’s great! But it’s very important to translate that excitement into good marketing material for your customers. Let’s look at a couple of options we have regarding packaging design.

    Designing the packaging yourself

    If you’re feeling particularly artsy then designing your own packaging might be a good option for you. I tried doing it, but drawing is not really my specialty ;). Anyway, here are some things to keep in mind when designing your own packaging:

    • When designing your labels always make sure you use royalty free icons. Don’t just download graphics from Google.
    • Always use a template or measure your bottle/jar to make sure the label fits.
    • Use vector graphics, these can be scaled without losing resolution.

    Finding an affordable designer

    Your branding is arguably the most important investment you’ll make. If you can I would encourage you to save up for a talented and experienced designer (ours cost around $1800 for a brand identity, logo and packaging). That’s why we at Branded Hair Products by Mr. Coté only work with top-tier designers. But if you really don’t have the money for one I’d recommend sites like 99design. Fiverr is also an option, but I don’t recommend it. I tried it a couple of times, but the results were always lackluster.

    5. Building your website on the cheap

    Where I lack drawing skills, I shine in web design ;). These days it’s not that hard to build a great-looking website so spending money on a web designer isn’t really necessary. Shopify or Woocommerce are both great solutions (I like using Woocommerce, but it is a bit more technical than Shopify). If at this stage building a website is too much you can also opt for Shopify Lite, which hooks into Facebook and Instagram. Turning your social media into a store.

    6. Executing a pre-order campaign

    When you’ve completed all the steps above you’re ready to start your pre-order campaign. Remember that I told you I raised more than $1.000 in a week? Here’s how I did it… I first created a couple of samples (with labels and all). I gave a couple of these to salons for them to test the product and kept the rest to show to people.

    Given I was still in school I started there, everybody already knew what I was working on (it’s pretty much all I talked about). So when I showed the result people were very excited for me. I managed to get about $350 in pre-orders from teachers and students.

    After that, I pitched my product at a company I was interning at. There I raised another $300.

    I was also active in a couple of Facebook groups where my audience was very active (remember step 2). There I raised an additional $100. Had I been more active, this could’ve easily been $500-$1.000 but I dropped the ball slightly and didn’t create enough hype.

    At the end of the week, I went back to the salons I had given samples to and one of them decided to buy 24 units. Another $250, totaling around $1.000.

    Alternatively, you could start a crowdfunding campaign, but do keep in mind that starting one also costs money (video, images, fees). So if all you need is a few thousand then doing a pre-order campaign is a great way to raise enough money for a production.


    Now you know how to start a skincare line with no money. Now get out there and make it happen, I’m rooting for you! Below is a summary of what we’ve talked about in this article:

    1. Create buyer personas to discover who your ideal customers are.
    2. Find out where your customers spend most of their time online and build your audience.
    3. Pros and cons of creating and manufacturing skincare products yourself or partnering with a manufacturer like us.
    4. What to do if you want to design product packaging yourself and where to find an affordable designer.
    5. What options you have regarding building a website.
    6. How to execute a successful pre-order campaign.
    Vincent Coté
    Vincent Coté