Number of experimental batches — Cosmetic Science Talk

Number of experimental batches

I've noticed something recently. Those of us who got the majority of our training where raw materials are essentially free - schools, commercial labs - have a much different concept about making   dozens of batches to solve even a single problem than the folks who trained where they have to pay for every gram. Has anyone else noticed this?
Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."

Comments

  • I can't speak to to the "pay for every gram" folks but working in commercial labs for the past 17 years, I have never batted an eye to doing raw material tests, knock out batches, or anything of the like.
  • I pay for all my materials and making many tests is just part of the job as far as I am concerned. It doesn't bother me except for samples; with them, I worry that I'm not going to achieve the result I want before I run out of material. For instance Showa Denko kindly sent me 20g of Apprecier. This might not seem a lot until you discover its price. When I'm dealing with such expensive substances I try to think everything through in great detail before beginning formulation.
    Design of anti-aging creams, gels, and serums; shampoos; and therapeutic cosmetics. In-house label and box design capability.
  • Bob, You are not alone!  In reading online posts at sites like this, I have encountered many cosmetic chemists who seem to fairly free in their thinking about making sample batches with lots of comments about making as many batches as you need to get the result you are seeking.  In my circumstances, I have to be careful about acquiring samples from companies who are willing to work with small businesses or seeking a source who is an online reseller to be able to purchase something in small enough a quantity that it makes it worth my while to pursue the project I am working on!  Online resellers are not the cheapest source but sometimes that is what I need to do to get the ingredient I want for my project and hopefully the formulation for the project will succeed and hopefully the customers will buy it!

    I'm considering another project at the moment and will come to ask whether the combination of ingredients I am thinking of using will work together and whether it is worth me pursuing it!  Some guys will just suggest that you try it but that is not all that is involved and cost and procurement is also a factor that I (and others) should consider in this position!  Thanks for bringing this up and although it might not be exactly what you were talking about in your post it does apply to me and small businesses like mine as we have to pay (usually) for our small quantity of raw materials to prefect our products and sometimes it can be an issue!
  • in my case it's not so much the physical cost of the materials that puts me off making dozens of batches, as the limited time and manpower we have available in the lab; I work for a small company with a large throughput, and our entire R&D team consists of two people, myself included

    if you sit down at first and think about the problem logically before you start making batches, and go after the most likely materials first, it (usually!) cuts out a lot of time that could be put to better use, particularly if the product itself takes a long time to manufacture

    plus, it helps bridge your practical and theoretical knowledge, which in my book is never a bad thing
    UK based formulation chemist. Strongest subjects: hair styling, hair bleaches, hair dyes (oxidative and non-oxidative) I know some stuff about: EU regulations, emulsions (O/W and W/O), toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoos, other toiletries
  • @Bill_Toge:

    Agree completely with your approach.  I probably spend more time researching and thinking through the formulation than I do actually making the first prototype.  It's not an issue of purchasing materials as much as it is a time management issue.  When I get down to making that first prototype, I expect the first attempt to fail, particularly if I am using new ingredients.  Then I spend some more time evaluating what may have caused the failure and make the necessary corrections.  I find this to be a much more efficient, and productive approach than making batch after batch after batch.

    On a similar note, I had lunch today with a supplier/distributor who was lamenting the large number of samples they process, free of charge.  I mentioned to him that oftentimes, a large enough sample is not provided to complete the development work and that I was more than happy to pay for additional samples.  Then I mentioned to him that they should make their "samples" available through re-packers such as ingredientstodiefor.com and that they could turn their sample department into a profit center or at least cover the cost of sending out samples.  He nearly peed on himself thinking about it.

    When it comes to very expensive ingredients, I usually make prototypes including everything but that expensive ingredient and when I am confident the base formulation works, then I start prototyping including the expensive ingredient.

    Remember, although the ingredients may be "free", your time is a more valuable asset than burning through a few hundred grams of ingredients.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    Provides Formulation Development and Lab-Scale Contract Manufacturing Services.  See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com

  • I find it really difficult to deal with small sample sizes because then, some of the ingredients need to be weighed on a jeweller's scale with an accuracy of 0.01g, and later, I expect production of a larger quantity to be inaccurate because of earlier measurement errors.
    Design of anti-aging creams, gels, and serums; shampoos; and therapeutic cosmetics. In-house label and box design capability.
  • I recently received a sample from a supplier that was all of 10 grams.  Just barely enough to make one prototype.  Luckily, I was able to "recreate" the ingredient by just purchasing the components separately and creating my own "dupe" ... saved my client a lot of money going that route, but it is a rare instance where you can do this.

    I've even offered to purchase samples from a supplier who would not charge me for them even though they complained about the volume of samples I requested.  Strange approach in my opinion, but sometimes smaller quantities are just not available for purchase.  No problem ... on to the next substitute ingredient.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    Provides Formulation Development and Lab-Scale Contract Manufacturing Services.  See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com

  • I take a similar approach to Bill_Toge and Mark Broussard with lots of research and thinking and less time doing but if I need to make a dozen samples then that is also fine.

    I have definitely noticed the trend that most people who have to buy their own raw materials will definitely be resistant to doing more trials.

    The availability and size of samples depends on the supplier. I have had some suppliers give me an entire range of samples that might be useful that I didn't request and then some suppliers will give you 50 grams of a sample you need to use at 5-10% in your formula.

    I did have one raw material that we got a sample of and tested. When we were ready to buy it the supplier had discontinued the 20kg pack size and we could only buy it in 200 kg drums. As the product it was going into was a one time product we didn't have need for that much, we eventually convinced the supplier to just send us 40 x 500 gram samples which they did.
  • edited May 2016
    Interesting experiences. In my personal case (europe), it was the opposite: university teach us not to waste material, and private companies told me the opposite.
    So I would add to all that you already said, that a decisive factor is the size of the company. Not because of worker salary or raw material (that´s also important as you said) but just for time/cost relation. Very often large companies loose more money waiting to repeat a single batch because it went wrong than doing 10 times more batches and choosing only one of them. Of course this is not valid for very special (an expensive) raw materials but it is for common materials.
  • I studied via correspondence and agree that I approach making samples more cautiously then people with unlimited supply of raw materials. I recieved a bunch of materials through my course  which i appreciate, but I purchase the rest of my materials having no relationships with any suppliers to recieve free samples yet.
    I would love to make samples all day every day. I would gladly dedicate my time to that but for now i work on products for my own use and also product development for small businesses in my local area. If Im making my own products and my first initial sample doesnt fall within enough parameters I record everything but dont continue with it. If its the clients products then i continue till it meets all parameters and Im happy with it but yea... For myself, yes your observation is correct. I approach making samples (not even batches) but small lab samples with caution in comparrison
  • My experience of obtaining samples has been different to most of the respondents here. It's possibly because I am (was) known to most of the industry in the UK and that I have worked for some very large (ergo very influential) companies including Unilever.

    A notable exception was when I tried to obtain a sample of zinc pyrithione (Zinc Omadine as it was then) from Olin Mathieson when the first P&G Head & Shoulders patent on the material expired. Even though I was with Unilever at the time, Olin M. were reluctant to the point of refusal to even speak to me as the company I represented was "too small for their consideration". Hmmmmm! It wasn't that Unilever were setting up in competition with P&G, all they were wanting to do was produce sample shampoos for perfume testing at the behest of P&G.


  • Zinc pyrithione, very expensive: http://www.sciencelab.com/page/S/PVAR/SLZ1207
    Design of anti-aging creams, gels, and serums; shampoos; and therapeutic cosmetics. In-house label and box design capability.
  • Anything bought as a laboratory reagent will be expensive.
    You can be certain that P&G or other commercial users of the material don't pay even one tenth of that price - even for the ScienceLab so-called bulk quantity.

    But, Belassi, you seem to have missed the main point of my post which is the ease (or not) of availability of samples.
  • Agree with John here as in my case when I contact suppliers they are more than willing to cooperate without restricting number of sample requests. 
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