Article by: Perry Romanowski
When you are hired on as a cosmetic chemist out of college you typically will start in a lab that is already equipped with all the things you’ll need to make cosmetic products. This is one of the big advantages of working for a sizable company right out of college.
But if you’re hired on with a startup, small company, or consultant service you might not be as well-equipped as some other places. This is also true if you want to start your own cosmetic line. So, you may need to purchase equipment to get your lab set up to do the work of a cosmetic formulator. Here is the basic equipment you’ll need.
Over this series of blog posts, we’ll go through each of these in detail. In this post, we’ll focus on containers.
Containers are used to hold your raw materials and formulations. There are three primary types of containers that every cosmetic lab needs. These include
- Raw material containers
- Prototype making containers
- Product storage containers
Raw material containers
The type of container you use for storing your raw materials depends on the nature of the cosmetic raw material you’re storing. The most versatile container is a glass jar. These are useful for storing both solids and liquids, plus they can hold pretty much any kind of chemical without worry of chemical interaction. The specific glass jar you use depends on how many batches you make and how much of an ingredient you use. The more of an ingredient you use, the larger a container you’ll want. In the lab that I worked, we made batches daily. We found that clear, one quart jars were most useful. For ingredients we used a lot of, like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, we stored it in a large gallon jar or even a 5 gallon plastic pail.
Labs at smaller companies can get away with using smaller glass containers to hold their raw materials. Useful sizes include 4oz, 8oz and 16oz jars. You can get appropriate glass storage jars here.
While clear glass jars work well for many applications, there are some ingredients that can break down when exposed to light. For these you’ll want to use brown colored glass jars which prevent light from reaching the raw material. Ingredients like fragrances, essential oils, and other oils should be stored in these types of bottles.
Most raw material samples will be sent to you in plastic containers and it is ok to store ingredients in those containers as well. However, there is a chance that the plastic can interact over time with the ingredient so this is not ideal. Glass storage of ingredients is best.
You’ll need containers for making your batches and the most common ones of these are glass beakers. For a cosmetic lab the sizes that are most useful include 100mL, 500mL, 800mL, 1000mL, 2000mL. I personally, found the 500mL most useful because it fit the mixer blade perfect for a 400g batch. Beakers with a pour spout are particularly useful because they make transferring your products to other containers easier.
The beakers you use should be made of a treated glass like Pyrex that can withstand the temperatures needed when making batches. Most cosmetic formulas are made at temperatures below the boiling point of water but if your container is put directly on the hot plate, the temperature at that juncture can get much higher.
You should get a case of beakers of assorted sizes since they can break easily, especially the smaller ones.
Other containers you might use for making formulations are plastic buckets (the 5-gallon pail works well) and stainless steel pots. Many of the containers that are used in cooking would also work for making cosmetic products on a larger scale. But for small scale work, you should use beakers.
Another type of container you’ll need is a storage container for your finished products and prototypes. Again, the exact type of container you use will depend on the type of product you’re storing and how much. I’ve found that the same type of containers you use to store raw materials can be used to store cosmetic prototypes. These include glass jars and 1-gallon or 5-gallon buckets.
For doing cosmetic stability tests 4 ounce jars are great although some thicker products will require 8 ounce jars. This makes taking readings for viscosity and pH much easier.
You’ll also want to get finished packaging for storing your prototypes. For most types of products these are PVC, PET or HDPE plastic bottles. The exact container again depends on the type of formula / product you are making.
Other storage considerations
When setting up your lab, you’re going to have a lot of containers and you’ll have need for storing unused containers. So, be sure to have an area set aside for storing fresh new containers and packaging, an area for storing your raw materials and another area for storing your finished prototypes. Finally, you’ll need one more storage area for your beakers and other lab supplies. While it doesn’t really require a lot of space to make cosmetic product batches, you will need a lot of room for storing all the containers and raw materials needed for making them. Just be sure you consider this during your lab setup design.
In the next post in this series, we’ll cover the topic of cosmetic lab weighing equipment.