Article by: Perry Romanowski
Here’s the next article in our series about starting a cosmetic lab. Here is the basic equipment you’ll need.
See the link above for more information about starting a cosmetic lab. In this post we will cover the topic of lab supplies.
What lab supplies you need
Once you have your containers, mixers, weighing stuff, and temperature control equipment, there are still a few more things to get for completing your cosmetic lab setup. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here are some things that I’ve found helpful.
- Raw materials / water
- Paper towels
- Aluminum foil / plastic wrap
- Electronics – calculator / computer
- Lab notebook
- Lab wear
Let’s look at these a little more in-depth.
Obviously, you can’t have a cosmetic lab without having the right raw materials on hand to make your prototypes. The exact type of raw materials you’ll need will depend on the type of products that you will primarily be making. If you make hair care products you’ll need surfactants suitable for making cleansing products. If you make skin care products you’ll need emulsifiers and moisturizing ingredients. See the post we’ve previously written about cosmetic raw materials for more details.
No matter what type of products you’ll be primarily making there are some raw materials that make sense for everyone to have on hand. These include…
- Water – There are a few different types of water used in cosmetics. Be sure to stock your lab with deionized or distilled water. You should also have access to tap water for cleaning your lab equipment.
- Colors – Most cosmetics are colored so having a supply of FD&C dyes makes sense. These are expensive but you don’t use them in large quantities for most products (except color cosmetics). See this post about colors in cosmetics. I’ve found creating dye solutions to be a great way to measure colors into batches at the right levels.
- Surfactants – SLS or SLES are useful. If you formulate more “naturally” then you’ll want to have Alkylpolygulcosides on hand.
- Humectants – Propylene glycol and glycerin are widely used
- Oils – Mineral oil is useful but so are oils like Coconut oil, soybean oil, or olive oil.
- Adjustment agents – These are used to adjust the batches you are making. So, you’ll need things like acids (citric acid, lactic acid, hydrocholoric acid), bases (sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, TEA), sodium chloride, and chelating agents (Sodium EDTA).
- Preservatives – You’ll need these for almost every product you make
- Fragrances – It’s good to have different options on hand
- Thickeners – It’s useful to have a way to thicken any prototype you are making
As I said, the exact type and amount of raw materials you have on hand will depend on the type of prototypes you’re making. But most cosmetic labs will need a stock of each of the type of ingredients listed above.
When you are making batches you often have to wipe off excess raw materials or clean up spills. For this the standard lab supply is Kimwipes. There are different sizes available both the large wipes for cleaning surfaces and smaller wipes which work better for wiping off spatulas & weighing equipment. It’s also helpful to have paper towels for when you are washing your hands.
Aluminum foil / plastic wrap
These are useful for making batches to keep dirt, dust and other debris from falling into your batches. It’s also helpful for storing your product after you’ve finished making it.
Since you’ll be working with chemicals (and you want to look the part) it’s nice to have a few labcoats to protect your regular clothes and skin. Corporations typically hire companies to supplier their lab coats. If you are setting up your own lab you can do this too or you can just buy a couple lab coats that will suit you. Most people have white lab coats but you can pick any kind you like. There are a wide variety of options of lab coats.
Other lab wear that is useful includes protective eyewear. Whenever you are working in the lab you need to wear some form of protective eyewear. This is a law in the United States and likely in other labs around the world. It just makes sense.
You may also find it useful to have rubber or latex gloves. Since you will be working with chemicals it is often the case that you do not want the ingredients to touch your skin. While you mostly work with perfectly safe chemicals, undiluted versions of things can often irritate or burn skin. Using gloves, especially if you have sensitive skin, is a good idea.
As a formulator and scientist it is important you keep good records and a lab notebook is the way most cosmetic chemists do it. We’ve written on the subject of how you write a good lab notebook. There was a movement towards electronic notebooks and maybe that will take off in the future, but at the moment the vast majority of cosmetic chemists use paper notebooks. This is the kind of lab notebook that I use.
Electronics – calculator / computer
Finally, no lab would be complete without access to some type of computer. I’ve found a laptop the most useful since it has a full keyboard and is portable. Tablet computers might work better because you can more easily take them into the lab but there is a risk of them getting damaged. And of course you can do a lot of things just using a smart phone. Some of the things you can do with these electronic gadgets include
- Recording data / observations
- Taking pictures
- Recording video of experiments
- Quickly accessing online research
- Accessing your own previous work
As you work in your lab you might find other types of lab supplies that are helpful. Feel free to add these and get rid of things that you no longer use. A tidy lab is a happier, more productive lab. In the final article in this series we will cover the types of testing equipment that you need for most cosmetic labs.