One-Trick Pony needs her trick back
April 19, 2010 1:33 PM   Subscribe

There's a hair product my friends and I love that's been discontinued. Do you know of any companies or chemists that can duplicate it using the ingredients list on the back of the container for a reasonable price? Is there a minimum volume? Can I sell the extra on Ebay? Is this possible or just a pipe dream?
posted by TorontoSandy to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would go into a salon and ask for a recommendation for similar products. But I am a pessimist.
posted by bunnycup at 1:36 PM on April 19, 2010

The problem with ingredients lists is that they (usually) don't give proportions. They only list the ingredients in order of weight. The first ingredient in the list could make up 10% or 90% of the product; to find out the amounts of each ingredient listed would require a detailed analysis of the product's chemistry. This could turn out to be very expensive unless you're planning to produce the product on quite a large scale.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:43 PM on April 19, 2010

Hopefully you've contacted the company and expressed your concern. Sometimes they can help direct you to places where there is still product available or lead you to a similar product.
posted by 6:1 at 1:44 PM on April 19, 2010

You might want to ask the haircare boards on Makeup Alley for a good replacement, or if the product is listed in the review section, see if any of the reviews recommend a substitute.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:57 PM on April 19, 2010

I bet if you google the ingredients of the product you'll find some similar products to try out.

Yes, there are companies that do things like this- they're called private label manufacturers. There will be a minimum- nobody is going to put gears in motion to crank out six bottles or whatever. As to duplicating from the back of the label, that's not possible without expensive tests, as LMd Bea Arthur pointed out.

As for selling it on EBay, it depends. You can try to sell anything. Will people buy it? Maybe. I wouldn't, not from some random seller of a single hair product that popped up out of nowhere. Will it be legal to say it is the exact same formula as XXX Hair Product? I don't know about that, either.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:01 PM on April 19, 2010

Like oneirdynia said... discontinued does not mean that they gave up the patent on the formula. Even if the company went out of business the best you can hope for is a murky complicated legal battle which only the lawyers will win.

Unless it is a really small company that makes the product by hand, or close to it, and you get to talk to the CEO/owner of the company face to face (or maybe "buy out" the company if someone was running it as a cottage industry out of their basement or something) you're never going to get your hands on the formula in a legit manner.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 3:58 PM on April 19, 2010

When I had a cosmetics manufacturer try to mock up something from a formula (with actual proportions and instructions), their fee was...either $750 or $1500 (can't remember) for a liter or so. We were not planning to have them produce it on a larger scale, but that would have been the first step, if we did want it produced. The price per unit afterward might be more reasonable.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:09 PM on April 19, 2010

(I should add that this was not something with particularly expensive raw materials, and that in the end, even following the formula given by a previous manufacturer, the sample product did not turn out as expected and would have taken revision. Just to give you an idea of what's involved.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:13 PM on April 19, 2010

Best answer: A company called (formerly Somerset Cosmetics Co.) sells ingredients for skin care, hair care, cosmetics, etc. The website has a lot of info, recipes, tips. A few years ago I contacted them about duplicating a skin lotion that was not available in the states. I had the ingredients list but did not know the proportions. They replied that they would work out the formula for $50. In the end, I didn't do it. And just skimming the website now, I don't see a link for an analysis by a chemist but you might try them.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:52 PM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

If they patented the product (which is doubtful) you'd have everything you need as soon as the patent expired. Most often, though, this kind of thing is a trade secret, meaning it's just like everyone else's whatever it is only slightly different.

If you make a product identical to someone's secret product, well, they should have patented it and gotten their 15 years of free and clear exclusivity (or whatever it is these days).

Your best bet really is to call the company and ask if there is any more in stock anywhere.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:29 PM on April 19, 2010

I think looking for a replacement would be a best bet - speak to people who are knowledgeable in that sphere. I feel your pain - there are few styling products I can use as I'm allergic to many things, and I ended up hanging onto bottles of aqua mousse long beyond their expiry date until I found a substitute. What is it about the product you love, and are you sure the company haven't discontinued it to make an almost similar product?

(Twinbrooke - what's the lotion, by the way?)
posted by mippy at 8:01 AM on April 20, 2010

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