If your handmade skincare business has been up and running for awhile, you may be wondering if it is smart to start bulk purchasing some of your ingredients, packaging, and shipping supplies.
This is tricky waters.
Most handmade skincare businesses are operating out of personal residences with limited space, limited funding, and using natural ingredients with shorter shelf lives that need to be taken into account.
The tips below will help you to consider if bulk purchasing is right for you and your business (and how to do it the SMART way)!
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links (at no cost to you). Please read the disclosure for more information.
When Should Skin Care Businesses Start Bulk Purchasing?
Before getting into the nitty gritty of what and where to purchase in bulk, I want to make a case for starting small.
The majority of handmade skin care businesses are run by individuals in their own homes without a huge budget to spend (at least at the beginning).
I strongly, strongly encourage you to WAIT to purchase in bulk until you have a steady flow of orders coming in and have an established audience that loves your branding.
For many skin care lines, there tends to be a handful of ‘best sellers’ that can be seen as trends, but only when tracking over time.
Additionally, branding tends to evolve the longer a business is operating, with more ideas that come about after getting a feel for the production process and interacting with your customer base.
The last thing a small business needs (for their banking account AND morale) is bottles of ingredients expiring and boxes of packaging sitting around unused for products that ended up not being as popular as originally thought.
After you have a strong financial foundation, repeat customers, and visual branding details that you know you’re going to stick with, it can be a smart move to consider purchasing some of your supplies in bulk.
If you are interested in creating a cash flow strategy, you HAVE to check out the book Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. His concepts changed the way that I, along with many of my family members, approach our business finances.
Setting up your business with his accounting strategy will let you know exactly when it is right to make larger purchases for your skin care business.
Why Should Skin Care Businesses Consider Bulk Purchasing?
For those that have a stable, strong business foundation, there are many reasons that purchasing supplies in bulk could be a solid WIN for you!
To Increase Your Profit Margin
The most obvious reason goes first – when you buy in bulk, there can be significant price advantages.
Whether it is a lower cost per unit, free shipping, and sometimes even access to a larger catalogue, most companies make it worth your while to purchase from them in bulk.
If you have priced your products correctly and documented your overhead and supply costs (I highly recommend using this breakeven and profit calculator), then you’ll be able to easily see that when you SAVE money on your supplies and ingredients, you then also make MORE money on each product you sell (in business lingo, your profit margin increases).
Less $ for COGs + More $ made for each sale = Twice the financial benefits!
To Add Efficiency to Your Business and Bookkeeping
Hopefully you have a bookkeeping and inventory system figured out if your shop is cranking in the orders (if you don’t, start sooner than later, as those behind-the-scenes details can get MESSY if you wait too long to get your logistical information organized).
If so, you know the amount of time it takes to enter in any new inventory received each month, as well as making sure your books all balance out as you prepare for filling out your Schedule C during tax time.
When purchasing in bulk, you’re buying more all at once rather than making multiple smaller purchases. This means you’re spending less time documenting purchases, less time trying to find a gazillion transactions on your statements, and more time communicating with your audience or making product.
To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
This one tends to be overlooked, but nonetheless incredibly important and absolutely worth reminding my readership about.
Think about the difference of buying a large gallon size jug of jojoba oil that can last you 6 months versus purchasing one 16 fl oz. bottle a month.
By doing so, you are:
- Having the delivery truck drive to your house just one time (instead of 6), reducing emissions and fuel.
- Receiving just one cardboard shipping box and filler (instead of 6), reducing waste.
- Receiving just one plastic jug (instead of 6 smaller bottles), again reducing waste.
If we all work together to purchase intentionally like this as soon it makes financial sense for our businesses, we truly can make a difference by having a lower impact on the overall environment.
Tips for Bulk Purchasing Natural Skin Care Ingredients and Packaging
Just because your skin care business is financially ready to purchase ingredients and packaging in bulk doesn’t mean that this is the smart move for all items.
The tips below will help you decide what to buy in bulk and what is best to keep at smaller quantities.
Tips for Buying Essentials Oils in Bulk
If you create natural skin care products with essential oils, you already know that this is one of the pricier ingredient types in your inventory.
This makes the idea of purchasing essential oils in bulk quite attractive, as it can lower the overall costs if your orders are steadily coming in.
Before you jump into that idea, keep in mind that the shelf life changes depending upon the type of essential oil.
In general, the lighter, uplifting oils (such as citruses) have a shorter shelf life of about 1-2 years, whereas heavier, deeper oils (such as resins and woods) can have a longer shelf life of around 8 years…assuming they are stored correctly.
Make sure you bookmark this shelf life reference guide.
If you are trying to keep overall costs down, it is worth your time to modify your formulations to use essential oils that have an approachable price point.
Additionally, consider using the same 5-10 essential oils in a wide variety of your products (and combine them in different ways of course, so that your product line doesn’t seem limited).
Once you do this, you can easily buy basic essential oils in bulk (such as lavender, sweet orange, peppermint, etc.) – and continue buying less used oils in smaller volumes.
Tips for Buying Carrier Oils and Butters in Bulk
When purchasing carrier oils, butters, and waxes in bulk, you’ll have to know the recommended shelf life of each ingredient again.
Beeswax is a great ingredient to buy in bulk because it has indefinite shelf life, and jojoba oil is another winner for bulk purchasing for the same reason.
However, oils that have a quick shelf life (such as rosehip seed oil) are better left to purchasing in smaller quantities based on your incoming orders.
The biggest issue with purchasing butters and oils in bulk is the WEIGHT. These ingredients are HEAVY and shipping prices can get incredibly steep.
Search for an ingredient vendor that offers free shipping with purchase minimums, such as Plant Therapy.
Tips for Buying Herbs and Clays in Bulk
As you can see in our handy shelf life chart, many herbs and clays have indefinite shelf lives (if stored in an airtight container).
This makes this category AMAZING for bulk purchasing – and they can be used for so many things!
I purchase herbs in bulk for infusing in my carrier oils, as cold process soap additives, bath salt additives, and making my packages look gorgeous for a memorable unboxing experience.
I also purchase clays in bulk, as many are great as natural colorant options for soapers, powdered face mask ingredients, and bath soaks.
I recommend getting several large rubbermaid tubs to store your bulk herbs and clays – if moisture gets into a bag, they will become rock hard and unusable.
Tips for Buying Product Labels in Bulk
Oh my goodness.
Listen up people.
I’m about to save you five gazillion dollars over the lifetime of your skincare business.
You may think that labels don’t have a shelf life because they’re not an ingredient.
You would be wrong.
I learned this the (very, very) hard way.
Many label adhesives have a shelf life of about one year.
What this means is that the sticky part in between the label and the waxy sheet it is shipped to you on will eventually break down and not adhere the label to your product container.
(I found this out by purchasing literally thousands of dollars in labels thinking they would last me years…in which they did NOT and the customer service at the company I ordered from was unable to refund them. Ouchy.)
Generally speaking, once labels are stuck to a glass, plastic, or aluminum container they are fine.
I recommend ordering your professionally printed labels (or label sheets if you print from your own computer) in quantities that you’ll use in a six-month window, which will naturally increase in order size as your business grows.
Tips for Buying Shipping Supplies in Bulk
Purchasing shipping supplies in bulk is a great move…if you have the room to store them.
Shipping boxes are pretty pricey in small quantities, and you can save some major bucks if you buy cases at a time.
If you can, stick to just a couple standard sizes to purchase in bulk (you’ll know after being business for some time what the standard order size is for your product line and typical shopper).
You can always pick up the random box sizes individually at the post office as needed.
Before purchasing shipping boxes in bulk, make sure you have a dry storage space that is off the ground to prevent moisture from getting to your boxes, which causes warping and complete waste.
Certain box fillers, such as this crinkle paper, are also smart items to purchase in bulk.
Take care with buying too much shipping tape at once, as the same one year shelf life for the adhesive applies here too (just as discussed above with the labels).
Tips for Buying Product Packaging in Bulk
Assuming you have been a wonderfully smart business person and have done your market research to verify the desire for your skin care products, you’ll still want to hold off on buying large quantities of product packaging until you know what is going to sell well for your target market.
After you know what is a smashing success and that you’ll keep it running in your product line for a good long while, by all means, save money with bulk product packaging!
No shelf lives to worry about here, wahoo!!!
The BEST thing you can do as an indie product maker is to think AHEAD and use the SAME containers for a variety of products.
For example, use the same one ounce amber dropper bottles for facial serums, hair serums, beard oils, cuticle oils, etc.
By doing this, even if you rotate out products every now and again, you’ll always be able to use the containers for several things in your product line!
Best Bulk Purchasing Vendors for Handmade Skin Care Businesses
The vendors below have become my favorites over the last decade+ of running my own skin care businesses.
These are US-based companies, some of them family owned, and are that perfect ‘next step’ for handmade indie businesses.
You can buy in SUPER bulk if you want to, but these vendors don’t require the typical thousand unit orders. You and I are running businesses out of our homes – we don’t have a warehouse to store our inventory in.
These suppliers are the perfect segue into buying in larger quantities not available on regular e-commerce sites (like Amazon or Newegg), without having to step into the HUGE bulk purchasing sites (like Alibaba or Global Sources).
Plant Therapy is my first stop for natural ingredients, including essential oils, carrier oils, and butters.
As a certified aromatherapist, I take my ingredient vendors incredibly seriously (as all skin care makers should), and Plant Therapy checks all the boxes.
Aside from being the absolute best prices, they are transparent about the manufacture date of all of their ingredients, and also provide the ever-important GC/MS reports for their essential oils (you’ll learn how to read these accurately if you decide to get your aromatherapy certification).
They’ve recently redone their website and you have to dig a bit to find the bulk sections.
You can find Plant Therapy Essential Oils in Bulk here.
You can find Plant Therapy Carrier Oils in Bulk here.
My other favorite vendor for bulk natural ingredients is Starwest Botanicals.
This is where I get a lot of my dry ingredients, such as herbs, clays, and dried botanicals (if you’re new to handmade skincare, learn how to create herbal infusions here).
They also have an amazing assortment of other wellness ‘accessories’ that any maker will love, such as organic lavender dryer bags, organic teas, and culinary spices.
To order in bulk, you’ll need to apply by clicking on the ‘Apply for Wholesale’ button that is in their header (their approval system is super fast).
Please note that I cannot vouch for the quality of the essential oils they offer on their site, as I do not use them and they currently don’t offer GC/MS reports on their public-facing site.
My love for Papermart as my shipping and unboxing supply vendor goes unmatched.
They are a stateside family-owned business (which always has my heart), they have great pricing, and are super fast.
This is where I purchase tab lock shipping boxes, packaging tape, and box filler for all of my e-commerce orderes.
They don’t have any specific bulk section, as the website instantly gives you price breaks the more you purchase.
SKS Bottle & Packaging, Inc.
I get most of my product containers from SKS Bottle & Packaging.
This includes my lip balm tubes, aluminum tins for salves and lotion bars, glass amber bottles for face and hair serums, and jars for my body butters and face masks.
They have a bulk section for containers, yet they also offer price breaks as your order size grows.
I made the switch to getting all of my labels and printed promo from Avery a few years ago, and I am so happy with the move!
This is where I get all of my skin care products labels professionally printed, thank you notes, custom branded stickers, and business cards.
If switching label vendors has you pausing because of the tech involved, see how easy it is with this post all about printing product labels from Canva to Avery.
I hope this article gave you tons of inspiration for purchasing bulk ingredients and supplies for your handmade skincare business!
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