How to start a cosmetic business in France

France has many specialities, but beauty ranks highly among them. The inventors of high fashion and master perfumers also boast a thriving cosmetics industry, with French makeup brands producing the most beloved and sought-after products around the world.

While this is a competitive industry, it's also one full of opportunities, whether that's emerging demographics or shifts in taste. By following our tips on starting a makeup business in France, you can tap into this font of knowledge, and start to benefit from the coveted 'Made in France' designation.

Plan your products

The obvious starting point for any makeup or cosmetics business is to consider the products you want to sell. Every business needs a unique selling point, and this is a must in such a competitive market and industry. For many entrepreneurs, this will be the thing that inspires you to start a makeup business in the first place. That could be a product that you want but nobody is making, one that you think could be made for less money, or an audience that isn’t being served.

The two major growth areas in makeup generally are organic makeup, and makeup for ethnic minorities, who have been historically overlooked by major cosmetics businesses. While there are still growth opportunities here - particularly for the minority population, which is increasing rapidly in France - you will still need to find something unique that sets your products apart, and is also feasible for a small business to produce.

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The best advice is to start small and concentrate your efforts on a flagship product. While this could have several offshoots - for example, concealer for different skin tones - you want to zero in on a product that works, and establish a brand identity around it. By successfully bringing one product to market, you’ll limit your risk and give yourself a platform to build from. Start too broad, and the quality of the products, your performance and your brand image could all suffer.

Work within French and EU laws

Depending on your experience within the cosmetic industry, you might not be aware of the laws that apply to products. This is particularly true if you are planning to start or expand a business in France, which has its own set of laws governing product safety, and which ingredients can and cannot be used in cosmetics. Knowing these laws will help you stay on the straight and narrow, but it will also dictate how you put your products together.

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The substances that are allowed and prohibited for use in cosmetics are set by EU law. This includes colourants, preservatives and UV filters, as well as the usual chemicals and ingredients. Beyond this however, France also has its own framework for cosmetic safety. Any makeup made in France or for the French market needs to abide by French laws on packaging and product safety. Both the French laws and EU laws are neatly contained on the French cosmetics regulator’s website.

For labelling, all makeup products will need to include:

● the name and address of the responsible person (the business);
● the nominal content at the time of packaging, indicated by weight or volume, except for packages containing less than 5 grams or less than 5 millilitres, free samples and single doses;
● the date of “minimum durability” (date until which the cosmetic product, stored under appropriate conditions, continues to fulfil its initial function and remains compliant);
● any special precautions for use;
● the manufacturing batch number or the reference allowing the identification of the cosmetic product;
● the function of the cosmetic product (unless this is clear from its presentation);
● the list of ingredients (preceded by the term “ingredients”), in decreasing order of their weight at the time of their incorporation into the cosmetic product.

What this probably means for your business is starting with simple ingredients, and maximising the value you get out of them. You may not be able to come straight out of the gate with something dazzling and scientific, but that isn't necessarily where the greatest interest lies. By focusing on products that are both within your means and which will minimise the burden you face in terms of sourcing and testing, you'll make life easier for yourself, and avoid the risk of legal hurdles.

Invest in quality production

While your makeup products don't need to be chock full of fancy-sounding chemicals, your packaging and production needs to look the part. In a crowded marketplace, packaging which catches the eye is key, and a premium quality box and dispenser will give the image of a quality brand. For this reason, it's worth investing in quality design and packaging - even if a bit of gold embossing and a nice tube or tub costs a little more.

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Something else to consider is how you will produce your actual products. While a home beauty business can subsist on making products in bathtubs and sinks, starting a makeup business in France means taking things a bit more seriously. Once you've established the ingredients for your product, you'll want to explore the production process, and look at the equipment and expertise you'll need to produce it en masse.

This is particularly important in France, where guarantees of quality reign supreme, and the 'Made in France' label is taken very seriously. Once you're happy with your production process, you can apply for certification from the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) for 1,400 euros, an important step in selling your products outside the EU. Within the EU, the Community Customs Code requires that the 'final transformative process' (i.e. manufacturing) takes place in France to be able to call your product 'Made in France', though local certification schemes may have stricter requirements.

Enjoy the benefits of France!

Starting a makeup business in France has obvious benefits for your business, whether that's from a brand alignment or recruitment perspective. But starting any business in France is an adventure, and one with a myriad of positive outcomes. As well as the improving environment for businesses under the current government, France is among the best places in the world to live and work.

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With a strong infrastructure, an array of beautiful towns and cities, ample startup funding and a high quality of life, France is an ideal place to start your makeup business. For more information on starting a business in France, download our French formation guide using the form below. For any more information and to speak to us about starting a company in France, get in touch with us today via our contact page.

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