best way to learn formulating?


although I carry some experience, whats the best way to learn other than through experience? 

anyone recommend any courses or books?

Thanks in advance 


  • My personal recommendation is looking at the INCI list of products you like and understanding what each ingredient is used for and why it is included in the product. You can then read and learn more about these different ingredients through sites like INCI Decoder and UL Prospector.
  • ngarayeva001ngarayeva001 Member
    edited February 2019
    @MaisR agree 100% I started from reverse engineering existing products and that helped me to learn what ingredients do and how to work with them. 
  • BelassiBelassi Member, PCF student
    I think it is important to gain confidence, so don't start out by formulating sulfate-free two-in-one shampoos. Start with simple scrubs, gels, and creams. I believe it is incredibly important to 'play' with the materials to get a sense of how they work, what they can / cannot bring to a product, and if they cause problems with other ingredients. At the same time I think a basic understanding of general chemistry is important: acids, bases, pH, salts, solutions, emulsions, stoichiometry. 
    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • MakingSkincareMakingSkincare Member, Professional formulator
    VitalikButerin@Perry, @SwiftCraftyMonkey and I are running a free online formulation course: which will teach you formulation basics. 
    Jane Barber (free online course)
    Formulation discussion forum (18,000 members):
  • VitalikButerin@Perry, @SwiftCraftyMonkey and I are running a free online formulation course: which will teach you formulation basics. 
    Thanks a lot 

    What about mixing? 

    - knowing at what speed I need to mix at? 
    - knowing the type of paddle or blade? 
    - knowing whether to cook under pressure or not? 
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist

    1.  What speed?  That depends on the formula
    2.  Paddle or blade? - That depends on the formula
    3.  Cook under pressure?  Pressure cookers are not used by professional formulators. 

  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    @MaisR - The INCI Decoder website looks interesting, but it is not put together by someone who is suitably skeptical or has much experience with the ingredients. The description of materials reads like something a marketing person put together and speaks way too glowingly about raw materials, especially so-called "active" ingredients.

    You might find some good marketing stories here, but new formulators could easily be mislead by the information presented. 

  • INCI decoder is a first step. It’s main purpose is to explain the function of the ingredient. It also helps to understand how the ingredient is used by ‘the industry’. For example if you google ceteareth-25 you will find out that it’s high hlb oil in water emulsifier. But if you search it through INCI decoder you will understand that it’s mostly used in hair products, not face creams.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    @ngarayeva001 - I agree that it has some helpful information. However, I have a problem with the ingredient cheerleading that goes on on that site.    

    Take this Vitis Seed Extract as an example.

    Someone who knows nothing about raw materials can be easily mislead by this description.  Instead of calling the ingredient a "goodie" and espousing all the benefits, a formulator or cosmetic scientist should first learn that the ingredient is a "claims only" or "marketing story" ingredient.  They should realize that the ingredient will most likely do nothing measurable in the formula.  It is not a suitable antioxidant. It will not protect you from UV and it certainly isn't an anti-cancer ingredient.  This is just marketing hyperbole.

    Cosmetic scientists should know that this is BS and are stories told primarily for marketing products. A website that doesn't make that clear is not helping formulators. Rather, it is misleading and misinforming them. This will lead to dubious formulas which new formulators think are helping people but in the best case scenario they're not and in the worst case scenario they are harmful.

    It's bad enough that consumers believe this stuff, it's much worse when formulators do.

    I'll also add that there is no reason Ceteareth-25 should be limited to hair products. It's perfectly fine to use in face creams & can be used whenever it makes sense for a formula.
  • I understand your point @Perry and agree that the classification they provide is often misleading. 

    The reason why I like this resource is that it helps to understand how the ingredient is used. 
    It all depends on the goal though. If someone is interested in creating a product that feels like "like big brands" (I often see such requests here, "how to make my formula feel like a commercial product") it's good to see what the industry uses.

    Beautipedia used to have the same function. You could search INCI name and it would show existing commercial products with that ingredient. It only had a search engine capacities and didn't provide assessment of an ingedient (as goodie or bad etc.) which was more fair I think. Unfortunatelly they removed that function in last August.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist used to have that feature too. It was really helpful.
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