How we develop our products
How does Cellular Goods approach cosmetic product development?
At Cellular Goods, we create effective solutions backed by science and the power of lab-made cannabinoids and we never compromise on quality, safety or efficacy. While this approach may sound simple, the process itself can be complicated given the many steps involved and the level of commitment required to bring best-in-class products to market.
Our development process goes far beyond formulation development — from packaging selection, stability and compatibility testing to label design, claims substantiation and notification, there are many steps involved in bringing a high quality, safe, compliant and effective product from concept to market. What follows is a breakdown of each phase of our New Product Development (NPD) process to help you understand the science and complexity involved in bringing an active cannabinoid skincare solution to market.
What does the concept development behind Cellular Goods skincare products look like?
From day one, our mission has been to develop products that are science-based and efficacy-led. In a nutshell, this means two things:
- We only develop products that are designed to solve a specific need.
- We only use ingredients that are proven safe and effective.
To meet the first goal, we must understand exactly what need our products are trying to address. To answer this question, we turn to market data and consumer insights in an effort to identify common need states and market gaps.
In skincare, use cases are expansive and can range from targeting redness and blemishes to improving skin hydration and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Our team conducts market research to understand what’s currently available for specific needs, as well as product benchmarking panels, where we dedicate a group of individuals to testing popular products on the market and identify targets for preferred sensorials in our formulas. Key sensorials we consider are ease of application, absorbency, texture, skin-feel and appearance and in some cases fragrance.
With cannabinoids as the foundation of our innovative solutions, we carry out extensive ingredient research and literature reviews to determine the benefits, mechanism of action, sufficient inclusion rates for efficacy and safety profile of each cannabinoid ingredient. We conduct a similar process for secondary actives, giving thought to complementary benefits we want these ingredients to provide in consideration of our target market, benefits, claims, sensorials and desired product certifications. With this ingredient information, we can build out our product concepts that address product gaps established by our market research and consider optimal delivery formats based on the chemical and physical properties of hero ingredients, desired benefits and intended use cases.
Once we have a data-driven understanding of what we are aiming to achieve and our ingredient plan for doing so, we are ready to start the formulation process.
What goes into the formulation development process to bring Cellular Goods formulas to market?
We work with industry-leading ISO-GMP certified contract manufacturing organizations (CMO) to bring our product concepts to life. We start this stage of the development process with a detailed brief to our CMOs, outlining our product specifications, required ingredients, target sensorials and form factor (i.e. serum, cream, oil, etc.). It is also worth noting that Cellular Goods is mindful of consumer pain points regarding skincare ingredient lists and strives to avoid pore-clogging ingredients, alcohol or drying ingredients, known allergens on the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) list, parabens, sulfates and excessive or artificial fragrance. We often call out these blacklisted ingredients in our briefs to ensure they are excluded from our formulas.
Formulation development is an iterative process that can take numerous rounds of feedback and reformulation before the sensorials are perfected and the end product is approved. However, the formulation is not all that has to be signed-off at this stage. Packaging plays a vital role in determining the appropriate product consistency based on how the product is dispensed or applied. Perhaps more importantly, packaging is also responsible for ensuring that product quality is maintained.
How does Cellular Goods choose its packaging?
Formulation development and packaging selection go hand in hand with respect to achieving product efficacy. When working with active skincare formulations, it is paramount that the potency of the active ingredients are maintained over time so that the desired benefits are continually realised. Take nail polish remover for example — the major active ingredient in these types of products is typically acetone, an extremely volatile liquid. How effective would your nail polish remover be if the bottle did not have an airtight seal to prevent the product from evaporating? Similarly, vitamin C is known to be sensitive to light and oxygen, which is why reputable brands package vitamin C formulations in non-clear glass.
The same issues exist for cannabinoids such as CBG and CBD. Both are light sensitive and known to degrade when exposed to oxygen and heat. We employ a detailed packaging selection process that involves vetting the barrier properties of various packaging materials and closure systems, while also considering the most practical form factor for product application. From bottles, jars and tubes to glass, aluminum laminate and various types of plastics, there is a lot to consider when choosing the right packaging format and material for our products.
Based on the stability profile of cannabinoids, we often opt for glass packaging, which is commonly regarded as ‘inert’ — it won’t react with the formula inside. Glass has preferred characteristics as it is impermeable to gases and can be readily spray coated or colour injected to prevent active ingredient breakdown from air and light. Glass also has improved recyclability compared to many plastics offerings.
Alternatively, specific plastics and polyfoil laminate materials are also good choices due to their opacity and low oxygen transmission rate (OTR). Plastic bottle formats offer double-walled options, whereby an added layer further protects against oxygen exposure. Thanks to the rising demand for packaging options that protect oxygen sensitive ingredients, like Vitamin C (and now cannabinoids), the cosmetics industry offers a wide range of airless pump bottles that create a vacuum effect when the product is dispensed, preventing excessive exposure to air and prolonging the formula’s shelf-life.
How does Cellular Goods conduct stability and compatibility testing on products?
Stability testing is an integral part of our development process. In essence, it is a process that indicates how a product will perform over time, and as a result can provide valuable information such as shelf-life or period after opening dates. More practically, it can also provide an indication of a formulation’s resiliency against heat, oxygen and light; and in doing so provide insights into the effectiveness of various preservatives and packaging solutions for maintaining product quality. Compatibility testing, on the other hand, is a fundamental check to ensure that the primary container continues to perform as expected over time and, in some cases, following transit. Stability and compatibility testing usually requires testing over a three-month period, making this phase of the development cycle one of the longest.
When it comes to product quality, we never compromise. We’ve gone above and beyond what’s typically done by way of stability testing to ensure that our products and packaging work together to maintain the efficacy of our lab-made cannabinoid solutions.
How does Cellular Goods carry out clinical testing to substantiate its claims?
Claims are an essential part of communicating to consumers the intended benefit of a product. From dry skin and irritation to blemishes and wrinkles, there is an endless list of problems that brands promise to resolve with their unique formulas. However, not all claims are created equal and sifting through the noise can be a challenge for even the most informed and skin-savvy consumer.
Understanding the requirements for claim making and how brands support benefits with data provides valuable insight for deciphering product marketing claims and picking the product that is best for you.
What does a label review for regulatory compliance involve?
Apart from the eye-catching designs and brand elements incorporated on packs, the UK and European Union (EU) set out guidelines on cosmetic product labelling which call out regulatory requirements that must be displayed on cosmetic product packaging. These requirements exist to ensure that consumers have the product information they need in order to use the product safely and, if needed, report any concerns regarding product safety or quality.
Regulatory requirements on cosmetic product labels include a number of items, such as product identity or function; the name and address of the firm responsible for placing the product on the market; country of origin; product warnings or precautions; ingredient list; pack content or product size; period after opening; product batch number and other regulatory symbols. Just as we have partnered with industry-leading manufacturers to produce our products, we have partnered with a global third-party consulting agency that specializes in cosmetic product oversight. Their expertise in science-backed beauty and cannabinoid skincare gives us confidence that our products are safe and compliant across numerous geographical markets.
If the product packaging includes all of the above, we can be certain that we are putting a compliant product on the market. At this stage, the product is ready to undergo a full regulatory review before approval for sale.
What is a product information file and why do we need to submit a cosmetic product notification?
The final step in the product development process involves compiling the Product Information File (PIF), the most important legal documentation for placing a product on the market. The PIF contains all the necessary information from a regulatory perspective and must be maintained by the designated Responsible Person. The PIF is submitted to an online notification portal in the UK or EU, depending on the intended market(s) of sale.
Once a product has been notified, it is permitted to be made available for sale. Luckily, at this phase all the documents required to build the PIF have for the most part been generated during the testing and manufacturing stages. The PIF entails the description of the product, Cosmetic Product Safety Report (CPSR) and safety documentation, manufacturing documentation, claims substantiation results and evidence of no animal testing data.
The Cosmetic Product Safety Report (CPSR) encompasses all the safety assessments conducted by a qualified toxicologist along with all product testing results and documentation to date. The aim of the CPSR is to evaluate the safety of the cosmetic product. This report includes physicochemical specifications of the finished product; microbiological specifications; preservative efficacy test or challenge test results; packaging material information; stability and compatibility testing data; user trial data and any undesirable effects (UE) or serious undesirable effects (SUE) reports.
Once the PIF is complete, the data package is submitted through an online portal. The CPNP portal allows the product to be made available to regulatory authorities for the purposes of market surveillance, market analysis, evaluation and monitoring consumer feedback. The CPNP also enables the product information to be accessed by poison centres or relevant bodies in the event of serious undesirable effects that require medical treatment. It is important to note the PIF is a live document that is constantly updated by the designated responsible person to include any revisions to artworks or additional product claims and supporting data. At this point, the product has been notified and is finally free for release to the market and is made available for purchase by our patient consumers.
What does the final result look like?
From day one of concept development all the way through to notification, the product development process is a lengthy, resource-intensive undertaking. However, at Cellular Goods, we understand that premium products take time to develop due to the research, formulation optimization, testing and regulatory approvals required. This expert process allows us to keep our promise to consumers and deliver best-in-class, efficacy-led cannabinoid skincare solutions that are supported by science and proven to work. After all, nothing that’s worth doing is easy.