Element offers comprehensive support for the entire product development life cycle. With decades of experience supporting a variety of industries and product platforms including consumer and personal care products, nutraceuticals and dietary supplements and industrial products, our consultative teams of expert formulators assist companies of all sizes, from start-ups to established brands.

Typically, depending on available resources, new product formulations are developed either within a company’s internal R&D laboratory or at an independent laboratory partner, such as Element. Often, outsourcing product development activities can expedite time-to-market, as well as result in cost savings. Element’s teams of engaged and consultative expert formulators have decades of experience and an unmatched depth and breadth of expertise and capabilities, along with a proven track record of success developing a wide range of products.

Prior to embarking on the product development process, it is imperative to research similar, competitive products to identify both strengths and weaknesses. It is also critical to research existing patents to ensure the new product will not violate any legal restrictions if the product is too similar to an existing product on the market.

Significant product development resources

A plethora of resources are available, including listings of common ingredients frequently used within multiple types of formulations. Although resources will vary from product to product and between industries, at times, toll manufacturers and distributors are willing to provide valuable information to potential customers, including details regarding formulation(s) and/or discounted testing. However, it is important to keep in mind that some contract/toll manufacturers will retain the rights to the final product created, and customers can find themselves potentially locked into long-term contracts. Additionally, there is a risk of losing access to a formulation in these scenarios.

When you partner with Element, the assignment of intellectual property will be clearly defined within the project scope. Furthermore, our scientists have successfully recovered many lost and/or unknown formulas with our deformulation and reformulation services. Element’s subject matter experts have provided insights as to the basics of product formulation and the product development process.

The product development process

When formulating a new product, many smaller batches are produced to compare appearance, performance and texture to analyze and determine which version is the safest and most efficacious. Once the best version is selected, a larger batch is developed for additional testing before finalizing the formulation and embarking on scale-up activities. At times, minor differences in batches can occur as manufacturing processes are refined. Therefore, formulations may need to be modified slightly for larger scale production. Once the formulation is perfected, the product is deemed ready to be transferred to an external manufacturer or to in-house production facilities.

The Element advantage

Element’s combined decades of experience have helped organizations of all sizes from small start-up ventures to large, established manufacturers turn innovative product ideas into on-the-shelf products. Our skilled teams of formulators have the experience and expertise developing innovative personal care products, coatings, OTC products, adhesives, cleaners and household products. Furthermore, Element can tailor any protocol and project to client specifications, and we have a proven track record of delivering within tight timelines. With extensive wrap-around services, including shelf life testing, product performance and marketing claims testing, Element is the trusted partner of leading organizations.

To learn more about our extensive suite of product development and wrap-around services, or to speak with one of our experts, contact us today.


Surfactants, also known as surface active agents, are chemicals that reduce the surface tension between oil and water-based ingredients. As most ingredients are water-based, surfactants have a large scope of use. They also make products easier to interact with depending on the type of surfactant used in the formulation. Surfactants are commonly used in cosmetics, inks, coatings and sealants. Common surfactants used in products include:

  • Sodium dodecyl benzene
  • Sodium laureth sulfate
  • Glycerol diester
  • Glycol monoethylethers
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Dodecyl betaine
  • Lauramide DEA
  • C14-16 olefin sulfonate
  • Abiectic acid
  • Cocoamide DEA
  • Cocoamidopropyl betaine


Humectants are additives that help to absorb and retain the moisture in a formulation. Similar to a sponge, humectants soak up liquids such as water or other moisture from their surrounding environment and trap it inside the product. They are commonly found in both food products and cosmetics. Products may have drying reactions and dry faster than intended when humectants are omitted from the formulation. Humectants frequently used in products include:

  • Glycerine
  • Glycerol
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Propylene glycol
  • Sodium
  • Gelatin


Emollients are used to maintain moisture in commercial products. Primarily used in cosmetics and personal care products, emollients are responsible for the desired texture or feel, in addition to creating protective barriers. Common emollients used in products include:

  • Mineral oil
  • Propylene glycol
  • Lanolin
  • Beeswax
  • Shea butter
  • Olive oil
  • Squalene


Thickeners provide a base structure and shape and are used to intensify the feel of a product. Thickeners are often used in personal care and cosmetic products, as well as in coatings and inks. Products without thickeners may appear too thin or runny, resulting in difficulty when using or storing the product. Frequently used thickeners include:

  • Acrylate copolymer
  • Cellulose gum
  • Cetyl alcohol
  • Resins (PVP)
  • Bentonite clay
  • Xanthan gum
  • Glycol stearate


Much like the name suggests, neutralizers can neutralize the pH level of a product. If the pH level of a product is not neutralized, it could potentially have damaging effects. Neutralizers also may help balance out a product, add a buffering zone, resulting in a safer product, in addition to increasing the shelf life. Neutralizers are commonly used in soaps, detergents, and other personal care and/or cosmetic products. Neutralizers that are commonly used in products include:

  • Triethanolamine
  • Aminomethyl propanol (AMP)
  • Diisopropylamine
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Tetrahydroxypropyl ethylenediamine


Preservatives help increase the shelf life of a product. If preservatives are omitted, an initially well-performing product will have a short life cycle and an even shorter shelf life. Preservatives are most often found in food and beverage products, cleaning products and cosmetics. Frequently used preservatives in products include:

  • Parabens
  • Hexanediol
  • Butylparaben
  • Sodium benzoate
  • Chlorophene
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Ethylhexylglycerin

Processing aids

Processing aids can help prevent undesirable or unwanted chemical reactions and byproducts. Processing aids are used within a variety of products, including paints and coatings, food and beverages, cosmetics, and personal care and cleaning products. Common types of processing aids used include:

  • Citric acid
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Sodium chloride


Additives are responsible for specific product attributes, such as appearance, color, smell and/or enhancing performance characteristics. Additives can produce performance or sensory effects or properties, including anti-foaming, antimicrobial, deep or light colors, flowery scents, etc. Additives are used in most commercial products and types of additives can vary, such as vitamins or minerals added to formulations to provide health benefits. Commonly used additives include:

  • FD&C yellow #6
  • Orange B
  • Antioxidants
  • Sugars
  • Vitamins A, B and C

Active ingredients

Active ingredients are considered to be the powerhouses of a formulation and control factors such as thickness and feel, color, performance, etc. For example, active ingredients are the components that would remove a stuck-on stain in clothing. Typically, active ingredients are the most critical component of the formulation. Frequently used active ingredients in products include:

  • Aminobenzoic acid
  • Triclosan
  • Salicylic acid
  • Octyl methoxycinnamate
  • Adapalene
  • Ethyl alcohol

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