Is purchasing ingredients on Amazon a good idea?

The short version

It depends, but it’s not my preferred place to shop. I recommend purchasing your ingredients from a shop that specializes in selling DIY skincare ingredients as they have fresher inventory, better documentation, far better selection, higher quality ingredients, and the prices are almost always better! You can find a big list of such shops here.

In some cases Amazon can be ok—depending on what you’re purchasing and who you’re purchasing it from.

The long version

Amazon can be an ok place to purchase some ingredients, with a few caveats:

You will usually pay a price premium, though this heavily depends on where you live—and the product is unlikely to be better quality.

Some reputable DIY suppliers (like TKB Trading and Making Cosmetics) have Amazon storefronts; if you want to shop on Amazon you will get great products by shopping a reputable supplier’s Amazon storefront, but you’ll pay higher prices than you would on the supplier’s website. I assume this is due to fees imposed by Amazon. The below points do not apply if you’re shopping the Amazon storefront of a reputable supplier.

Stick to simpler ingredients. I’d feel reasonably confident purchasing basic, widely-available, single-INCI ingredients like BeeswaxShea ButterCocoa Butter, and Coconut Oil, white sugar, and cornstarch on Amazon. There are hundreds of different brands selling these ingredients on Amazon, so be sure to read the reviews for the product (both positive and negative) and google the brand before choosing who to purchase from. I’d also be wary of products that use computer-generated imagery of the products rather than actual product photos. If they’re just showing a smooth beige-ish CGI brick I’d look for a company that shares photos of actual product (hopefully the one they sell and not just a stock photo) instead.

Avoid more niche, specialty ingredients. I would not purchase emulsifiers, preservatives, surfactants, or actives on Amazon unless you are shopping the storefront of a trusted supplier (like TKB Trading and Making Cosmetics). Every single person who has had a bad experience making my Simple Sulfate-Free Shampoo Bar used a cheap SLSa from Amazon and the bars never got hard 🙁 I’ve seen preservatives for sale for more than twice the price a reputable supplier sells them for, and with wildly incorrect INCIs and product descriptions to boot.

Watch for grade differences. Make sure you aren’t buying craft or industrial grade ingredients; we want cosmetic grade. Some of the ingredients used in skincare are also available as food grade. This grade is certainly safe for use on the skin, but some oils can be processed differently for food vs. cosmetics; e.g. nut oils are often toasted for food to enhance their flavour (and scent), but they aren’t for cosmetic grade versions of the same oils.

Check product descriptions for red flags. Are usage rates in drops? Are they advertising miracles or making drug claims? Unfortunately, a lot of the red flags in a product description aren’t obvious to newer makers. I often see completely synthetic preservatives marketed as being natural on Amazon—that’s something a new maker wouldn’t necessarily know is inaccurate, but it’s a big red flag.

Don’t purchase your essential oils from Amazon. Fake and adulterated essential oils are very common, and Amazon sellers do not supply the documentation we need to work with essential oils safely. Dr. Robert Pappas of Essential Oil University frequently runs chemical analysis of essential oils sold on Amazon and finds they’ve been adulterated with ingredients like mineral oil (click for an example), isopropyl myristate (click for example), and synthetic fragrant compounds (click for an example).

Don’t buy ingredients for products you mean to sell. Their documentation from Amazon sellers usually isn’t good enough if you intend to sell. Additionally, the higher costs will eat into your profit margins.

I would not purchase ingredients that can be unethically sourced, like micas, from Amazon.

 

Posted in: Ingredients