Four Reasons Why This Mess Isn’t Jaclyn Hill’s Fault and 8 Things Every Brand Owner Must Start Doing TODAY to Avoid This Disaster.

We have all recently heard about Jaclyn Hills conversational lipstick launch (if you haven’t check these links)

Consumers have been showing pictures and videos of what looks like fibers or small hairs, holes and black spots on their new lipsticks.

As brand owners you can imagine how this public and wide scale backlash could devastate and crush a small brand.  No worries, let’s dissect what possibly could have happened in Jaclyn Hill’s launch and how you, the small brand owner can protect your brand from situations like this.

Jaclyn Hill launched her line online in May and very quickly Twitter exploded with pictures and images of hairs or fibers, black dots, mold, product discoloration, separation and even breakage.

As a consumer, spending $18 on a lip color you do expect a fully functional product and as a brand owner you want your consumers to love your products and become raving fans, not raving critics.

Let’s break down Jaclyn’s situation and why her manufacture is 1000% responsible and how YOU as a brand owner can protect yourself.

Old Products

Many people are concerned about the product being old because the logo has her former brand name Jaclyn Hill. The packaging and product age have little to do with each other. More than likely, they purchased the components and decided to use those for this run and switch to the update logo at the next launch.  

When purchasing custom components with your logo on it, you often have to purchase 10-20K units sometimes even up to 100K units.  My guess is that they decided to use the initial components on the initial run and then switch over and reinvest for the next run. As small brand owner it is impractical to throw away components when your testing a new launch. You could be throwing away $10-20K in packaging.

I believe it’s the original packaging with new product that went bad….Hear me out.

The Product

The product is unstable, from the discoloration of the color to the breakage of the on the lipsticks the product is unstable. The product appears to have stability issues, possibly bacterial and even mold.  This has everything to do with formulation and not the packaging.  It was not blended thoroughly as the colors are not consistent.  The products were not also cooled down correctly or the air bubbles worked out of the formula during production and in the filling process because one of the complaints on her brand are the holes and breakage.

If these colors are a custom formulation, I would have expected Jaclyn’s team to perform third party micro testing and shelf testing prior to production.  If the colors are private label and the containers are custom for Jaclyn Hill than I would still expect packaging compatibility testing prior to production.


It is possible that the formula passed the manufacture’s quality check.  

If the manufacturer rushed through formulation, filling and packaging and shipping and did a short 48-72 hour in-house micro testing and stability testing it’s very possible that the formula passed. However, formulas change and can change quickly after filling the product. Those changes can come from the production process, filling, storage conditions and shipping.

The normal process in manufacturing once a formula is approved is to go into production in this case they were making lipstick bullets.  They would mix all of the ingredients to ensure there is no grittiness, color is even and formula is smooth prior to filling. Since this is a hot fill the colors need to be filled into packaging relatively quickly into the packaging.  Usually once they see air bubbles some machines have the ability to tap out any air bubbles. This clearly didn’t happen in this case.

Once, the product is filled they perform additional micro testing for bacterial, molds, etc. and also a visual check on the product before releasing it to the client. If this step was missed or rushed, this could be the source of the issue for Jaclyn Hill’s brand.

Third-Party Testing

For new custom formulations, I always recommend sending them to a third-party test for extra bacteria testing and shelf life testing.  This can cost extra money and delay a launch but it will tell a brand how stable their formula is and prevent lots of these issues.

Final Inspection

If the customer (Jaclyn Hill) was in a rush and hurried the manufacturer to ship it’s possible that the product shipped too soon without being thoroughly inspected and they missed these defective products.

Either way, even if the client was pushing, it’s the manufactures’ responsibility to ensure quality products.  Sometimes that means advising the client that shipping too soon or in a rush can cause product failures.

I’m not saying Jaclyn Cosmetics’ is not at fault here because it is possible that her team knew about the issues and decide to take the risk to launch. However, my gut is that the formula failed after it left the facility and the Jaclyn Cosmetic’s team learned about it in real time as the complaints started to roll in.  

I hope that Jaclyn and her manufacturing partner work quickly to get this resolved and move forward. The brand can easily still recover if this is handled appropriately.

What Can Brand Owners Do to Make Sure They Are Covered?

As a product developer with over 15 years experience this is one of our worse nightmares.  Here are the things that we do to ensure that something like this never happens. This applies to custom manufactured products specifically or private label products that change packaging.

1. Manufacturing agreements in place.

This layout expectations as to who is responsible for manufacturing failures, packaging failures, shipping instructions and what the remedies are in case something goes wrong.

2. Perform third party testing on new formulas.

I always recommend third party Preservative Efficacy testing (PET) and shelf stability on new formulas. It can add to the cost $500 for the PET per formula and delay a launch 30 days but I would prefer a delayed launch than recalling an entire batch.

3. Quality standards established prior to the manufacturing run.

What are the acceptable variations in color, texture, scent?  How do you want the products to be packaged and labeled? We work with the production team to create a picture board so the entire plant from formulation to filling is on board.

4. Quality checking first, middle and last samples from the run.

This is more than 1 unit, you need a statistical number. That can be 10, 20, 50 of each piece for the run. For example, that 10 units from the first run, 10 units during the middle of the run and 10 units at the end of the run. You can check for quality disparities that way.

5. Timelines.

Allowing enough time to make sure that you don’t rush the production process.  In manufacturing nothing goes off without a hitch. Raw materials can run late, machinery breaks down, packaging doesn’t pass inspection, colors are in consistent and batches need to be remade. The 8-12 weeks is necessary in manufacturing to allow for these unknown variables.

6. Pilot batches.   

For new products a pilot batch of smaller quantities to test is a must. This allows the manufacturer to do a trial run and the brand to test it out before launching a large number.  I tell my clients going from making 12-24 cookies in the lab to 5000-10,000 is a bit of trial and error and while it’s science, it is an art to scale up a manufacturing from RD to full production. Having a pilot batch allows both the manufacturer and the client an opportunity to adjust as they go.

7. Product liability.

Make certain that you have product liability insurance both from the manufacturer and your own free-standing policy.  A million dollar policy should do unless you are high profile like Jaclyn Hill or selling in a large retailer.

8. Most important – relationships.

Build that partnership with your manufacturer. Very few national brands do their own manufacturing. They outsource it to a team of experience formula developers and manufacturers. It’s crucial, even as a small brand to have a healthy relationship with your manufacturing partner. Make it a win win and be as open and honest as possible so that when things like this happen you both are working on the same team.

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