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14 Oct

Hi everyone! I just wanted to let you know that we have now moved over to a nicer, more responsive site :

As with every move, it never goes as smoothly as you hope for, and I would appreciate it if you could let me know if the blog is not working on your particular browser (a print-screen would help!). Kindly email me here┬áso I can make all the appropriate adjustments and hopefully keep helping anyone who’s searching for their place in the cosmetics industry!

xx Susan.


2014’s Resolution & Formulating a Mascara

21 Feb

There is such a thing as taking on more than you can handle. As an entrepreneur and one with an energizer-bunny kind of energy all the time, I thought I could do almost anything but 2013 was absolutely manic. From taking on consultant roles, to starting a joint venture with a manufacturer, mentoring start-ups as well as getting married and running So Susan, I have to admit taking on so much does have its disadvantages, one of which is the inability to focus well on the one thing that drives me : my passion for creating and formulating colour cosmetics. I’ve had to delegate this to Lara, our incredible chemist as well as Phillipa who is tasked with sourcing for packaging and putting both fill and componentry together. 


2014 marks a clean slate for me as I strive to say “no” to every single project that comes my way. It is a time for renewal and resolutions (and sticking to them!), and a laser-like focus on breaking boundaries within my industry. Which takes us to an exciting piece of news I can’t wait to share with you… We have just received the complete prototypes of So Susan’s very first hyaluronic acid mascara! 


OK, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Hyaluronic Acid, it’s a natural component found in nearly every part of your body (including your eyelashes and brows) that stimulates the production of collagen, maintaining skin elasticity and in the case of your scalp and lashes, hair strength and growth. Trust me when I say this is the only mascara that makes a difference to my short, stumpy lashes and is the only one I wear on a daily basis (did I mention I wear contact lenses? It’s perfectly safe for contact lens users by the way). The formulation is now on its way to completing a clinical and in-vivo trial (i.e. using human testers, one of which is my dear friend Beth who volunteered, thank you so much Bethie!) and results are looking extremely promising, with an average of 53% increase in overall appearance of lash length. And you know we always insist on visible results, none of that microscopic ones that can only be seen at a certain angle, under special lights in a lab!


So the formulation went well, I thank my lucky stars because it almost always doesn’t. The harder part though was the primary packaging. Tweaking around with various gold injected tubes which came out either too garish or too subtle, we ended up going for a gold-plated component which did the trick. Then the printing (cue stressed-out groans) which did my head in. The printing on the cap had to align with those on the body, and it didn’t (extremely frustrating when that happens). So we had to get our chinese manufacturer to reverse the process and print very very carefully (which is easier said than done when you’re producing 50,000 pieces under very tight timelines!) after the cap had been screwed on to the body. This is then taken apart again, packed and shipped to Italy to be filled, after which the cap is then screwed properly back on and sealed.


Final results are divine, we’re all over the moon so here it is… We’ve named it Flutter Mascara for very obvious reasons ­čÖé

Flutter Mascara


Making All Questions Public

11 Jul

Thank you so much for supporting my blog and my everyday journey in this tireless, beautiful industry. When I first started writing about my personal experiences as a cosmetics entrepreneur, I never thought it would be as inspiring for others as it has been for me. I’ve had so many emails asking a whole melange of questions that it’s been difficult to reply to everyone, even though believe me I do try very hard. Therefore from now on, all questions will be made PUBLIC on the blog. It would be great to have your comments, maybe even suggestions, solutions and ideas that we can all creatively share.


Highly Recommended Courier : Royale International

10 May

I can’t remember who first told me about Royale International, I probably read it in a review site or something like that, but boy am I glad I contacted this company! Anyone who’s ever tried getting samples (packaging, tools & accessories in my case) from China knows that suppliers will normally provide it for free, but would never ever ship it free to you. Any requests of getting them shipped on credit, and then refunding them the amount when you order is normally rejected.

The most competitive quote I got in the UK is from a courier company called Fast Lane International┬á(0.5kg sample pack for GBP25.25).┬áReally good service, although waiting times on the phones can sometimes try your patience during peak hours. Also, the pick-up can take 2 working days, so not quite the perfect courier if you wanted an urgent delivery. However, I’ve never had a failed pick-up or a failed delivery and I honestly thought this was the bees’ knees when it came to international couriers, great service, amazing prices.

Then I emailed Royale International, who are based in Hong Kong. A reply came back within a day, with rates and a credit application form. I swear I don’t think they ever sleep! My emails were answered so promptly, even with the ghastly time difference between the UK and Hong Kong, and my credit application approved within hours. The BEST part is their prices. GBP 17 for a 0.5kg parcel from the smallest, most remote parts of China, it really doesn’t get any better than that.

Now the test : I had 2 packages picked up, both fairly unimportant samples just in case it was delayed or lost. Once confirmed, the pick-up happened within 24 hours which I was seriously impressed with. No weird forms to fill in. Ben, my account manager, called after 2 days to confirm the packages were on the way to me, and even their approximate time of delivery, to ensure I’d be in to sign for it. I was by that time, seriously impressed. However, in order to write this blog and give you a true review of every single portion of their courier service, I went out deliberately, thereby “missing” their delivery. Lo and behold, their driver called to let me know he was nearby, and whether I was in to sign for the package. It’s great when courier drivers call you, these are the people who handle your packages directly and having this additional little form of security makes you entrust them even more. I wasn’t, and he promised delivery the following working day, which of course arrived bang on time.

So yes, give them a call, get yourself an account, Royale International comes highly recommended.

Choosing Bottles for So Susan and Test-Filling Them

7 Mar

As you all may or may not know, I’m working on a new (semi-eponymous) cosmetics line called So Susan which not only allows me to indulge in my love & new-found obsession of combining skincare with colour (I turned 30 in 2011 and anti-aging peptides are my new best friends!), but also enables me to really blog about my progress right from the beginning.

I am truly devoted right now to developing the best foundations for different skin dilemmas (mine is extremely dry with the occasional breakouts when I’m stressed, and I want soft, flawless DEWY skin), packaging them in luxurious, upscale glass bottles. Some of the decisions I have to make involve the make & colour of every single component of the botte, from the cap to the rim, to the pump head, to the bottle, to whether it should be an airless pump, to the colour, size & positioning of the logo, whether it should be silkscreened or foil-stamped or engraved, how the bottle is to be labeled (to abide by cosmetics directives & regulations), etc… It’s not uncommon to find myself sitting down for hours, staring at bottles, turning them around in my hands, pouring different coloured oils & foundations in just to see whether the logo shows through nicely.

Just so you know, there are minute differences in the picture of the 4 bottles above (which I probably didn’t manage to capture on camera very well) i.e. the colour of the gold rims, the positioning of the So Susan logo & the colour of the pump head.

Being already a stickler for beautiful packaging, when the line carries your own name, you really want to get it right. Hence the huge amount of samples after samples I’ve requested from my chinese manufacturer (I will name them once production is finalized and I am definitely assured of their quality) in order to compare different printing effects or colours.

The other thing you need to do is to do a test-fill yourself. Obviously, your contract manufacturer will have their own test-filling procedures, some put them under different heat conditions, with the tests lasting for a month, some for 3 months, some in between. But doing it yourself ensures you know without a shadow of a doubt how the product looks like in your primary packaging & more importantly, the manner of which it is dispensed (does it squirt a good amount out? How many pumps does it take for the product to finally show?). Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and gauge their expectations after having spent money on a product.

By the way, if you’re worried about high courier costs from China for samples (I hardly ever come across asian manufacturers who courier samples at their cost, unless you’re committing to large orders) , I’ve finally, finally┬áfound a great, low-cost courier service provider by the name of Fast Lane International. I really need to spread the word about these guys because what they do is truly exceptional : pushing the cost of couriering small packages from the Far East all the way down (GBP25 for small 0.5kg packages). Which is amazing news for us cosmetic brand owners as we rely so much on China, Taiwan & Hong Kong for our components. Register online for another 10% off their quoted price, it really doesn’t get any better than that!

A good contract manufacturer should be able (and want!) to send small bulk samples of the final formulation to you. It doesn’t have to be a whole vat, anything between 80g – 150g should do very nicely. If you were to test-fill 30ml bottles (most likely the industry average for face emulsions), that would give you 2 – 3 filled samples, including some product loss during the hand-filling procedure. What you could also do is make sure they’re filled neatly, and then get them over to be photographed professionally (please do NOT do it yourself unless you are a professional photographer. A good picture does credit to your brand commitment and helps you sell your range, don’t skimp on this). You’re then ready to upload it onto your website, or do some nice “coming soon” social media marketing to get customers excited about your new product.

Steve Jobs, thank you for enriching our lives

6 Oct

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart

– Steve Jobs, Stanford 2005

Urban Decay’s Pizza PR

4 Oct

So word is Urban Decay has teamed up with Eddie’s Pizza Truck during NY Fashion Week to target audiences in an unusual way. After all the ubiquitous links with cupcakes, candies and anything sweet in our industry, I suppose this is one partnership that really garners attention.

Great for Urban Decay, perhaps not too fantastic for Eddie’s Pizza Truck – it just looks like a big cosmetics advertisement and I’m not feeling hungry at all! Typical food colours like yellow and red are completely absent. In their place, Urban’s put up purple, fuschia, dark blue, not lip-smacking and definitely not hunger-inducing. This is one PR stunt I’m just not feeling.