If you want to create cosmetic products and experiment with different formulas, you’ll need suitable equipment which is a bit different than needed for a chemical synthesis lab. Here are the main things you need to set up a cosmetic lab.
In most chemistry labs the primary mixing device is a small magnetic stirrer that goes in the bottom of your beaker. But this type of mixer has little use in a cosmetic lab where the viscosity of formulas is much higher. Instead you need an overhead, center stir mixer that can power through high viscosity creams and gels.
The exact mixer you get will depend on the type of products you make most frequently. For example, when making creams, gels, or thicker liquids, a device with a range of 40 – 2000 RPM will probably be adequate. And if you make a lot of emulsions, you might also get a homogenizer.
You’ll need containers to hold your raw materials and formulations. There are three types of containers that every lab needs including raw material containers, prototype making containers, and product storage containers.
For most raw materials, glass jars work best. You can get them in sizes from 4oz up to a gallon, depending on how much of the ingredient you use.
For prototype making containers, you’ll need standard lab beakers ranging from sizes 100mL up to 2000mL. I always like the 500 mL beaker for making most of my new prototypes.
3. Weighing equipment
While graduated cylinders and pipets are mainstays for measuring quantities in an organic lab, cosmetic labs are more focused on mass measurements rather than volume. Therefore, when setting up a lab it is crucial that you have a scale to accurately measure your ingredients.
There are a wide variety of scales available and the cost can range from rather cheap to obscenely expensive. The exact scales you get depends mostly on the size of the batches you’ll be most often making. At minimum, you’ll want to have a scale that can measure up to 2000 grams with an accuracy of 0.01 g. If you’re doing smaller batches, a scale with a 0.001 g accuracy would be useful.
Additionally, you’ll also need disposable weighing accessories to measure out raw materials, such as:
- weigh boats
- weighing papers
- small cups
4. Heating and cooling equipment
In college chemistry labs, you might see a glowing blue flame of a Bunsen burner any time you needed to heat up a reaction. But these devices don’t find much use in a cosmetic lab where you rarely need to heat something above 100C. In a cosmetic lab you need a hot plate with a large enough surface to hold your beaker. You should get one that can reach temperatures high enough for any type of batch you will make which will typically be the boiling point of water. This isn’t a problem because most lab hot plates will go over 200°C.
For cooling batches, it’s useful to have a water bath which can simply be a stainless steel container that you fill up with ice and water. You can put your mixing beaker directly into the water bath and change the water to cool the batch rapidly.
5. Testing equipment
After you’ve finished a cosmetic formulation, you’ll need to test it to ensure that it meets specifications. Again, this will depend on the specific type of product you’re making but for most applications you’ll want to have pH meter and a viscometer (for measuring rheology).
Of course no cosmetic lab would be complete without a good stock of cosmetic raw materials. Which of these you keep on hand will depend on the type of formulas you make. And you can get samples of a wide variety of raw materials right here on ULProspector.com.
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10 Responses to “How to Set up a Cosmetic Lab”
Really helpful, thank you. I wish I’d had this information when I first started up.
Please may I add a question:
* how should I best measure liquid/emulsions when filling 50ml/125ml/200ml containers? It’s time-consuming the way I do it – pouring from one container to another; plus it’s a bit hit and miss, so I always add extra just in case. There must be a better way?
* BTW, I use a high-shear mixer, mixing 5L at a time, but for no really accurate length of time. Is there a way of calculating this?
Thank you again for the great article, Stacy
I guess that depends on how your filling and how many. When doing a few dozen samples, nothing is going to beat the ease of just pouring from a beaker into your container. But for more samples, you can get a hand filling machine or an automated filler. The hand filler will require you to weigh the amount you put in. The automated filler can be programmed to deliver a specific amount.
– No, there isn’t a calculation to tell you how long you should shear mix something. Mostly, you’ll want to mix it a little longer than it takes to incorporate the raw materials. It really is dependent on the formula & product.
If I may add look into a Filamatic Filler. An electrically operated motor driven syringe. I have used them to fill everything from perfume, creams and mlotions. You can invest in a used one for starters possibly on ebay or other used equipment brokers.
Yes, that would also be a useful tool in a cosmetic lab.
I would like to to know what viscosmeter for lab to find out the Rheology.
The typical viscometer used in the industry is a Brookfield Viscometer.
Thank you so much.
Do you generally sterilize beakers and tool? If so how ? Dishwasher? Also do you generally wash final bottles before filling ?
This is very helpfull, thank you! Are there specific hygiene regulations I would need to meet when starting a cosmetics lab? My cp soap will be assessed soon (I’m in the netherlands), but I also make bodylotion, day and night cream. Would the lab (I rented and am going to renovate) also suit for those products?
This is really useful and instructive, mostly for beginners like myself who are just about to start making body lotion and cream