Making Cosmetics the scientific way

Making cosmetics can be done by almost anyone whether you have scientific training or not.  Certainly, it is easier for cosmetic chemists to create new formulas because they won’t need to take as much time figuring out the science behind everything, but making cosmetics is not brain surgery.  In fact, it is closer to cooking than anything else.  If you are able to follow recipes and have an interest in cooking, making cosmetics might be just the perfect hobby or business for you.  Here is a 10-step, science based method for making cosmetic products.

Step 1 – Learn about the existing products

when someone gets the notion to make their own cosmetic the first thing they usually do is to ask for a formula. But this is the wrong place to start. There are hundreds of different types of cosmetic products and they have lots of different names. So, first you want to learn what is a cosmetic. Next, you’ll want to learn what are the different types of cosmetic products. With this background you’ll be able to narrow down to the exact type of cosmetic that you want to make.

Step 2 – Get a formula

There are lots of sources for formulations that are freely available on the Internet. We have previously put together this list of free cosmetic formulas. Go there to find a starting formula.

Step 3 – Learn the rational behind the formula

Unfortunately, just getting a formula then making it right away will not do much to help develop your skills as a formulator. What you have to do is go through and look at all the chemicals used in the formula. Figure out why each raw material is used in the formula and why it is used at a particular level. This will take a little investigation but you can find it out. And if you can’t find the answer, you can always ask one of the experts in our cosmetic science forum. This article about the 8 essential ingredients in cosmetics might help too.

Step 4 – Get the needed equipment

Before you can begin making cosmetics, you’ll need to get the equipment to do it. It is unlikely you’ll have much of this stuff on hand but you can get the equipment via eBay, laboratory catalogs, or even at your local science shop. Here is a list of all the key cosmetic lab equipment you’ll need for making cosmetics.

Step 5 – Get the raw materials

One of the things that makes making cosmetics harder than cooking is that you can’t go to the local grocery store for raw materials. But there are sources for these things. Here is a list of where to find cosmetic raw materials.

Step 6 – Make your first batch

After you’ve got your equipment and raw materials, the fun begins. Find a lab bench, set up your equipment, weigh out your raw materials and begin mixing. Follow the instructions and be sure to write down in a lab notebook everything that you see. Note how much of an ingredient you put in, what the temperature is, how the batch changes, and anything else you can think of. These notes will be helpful for when you make the cosmetic in the future. And they will be extremely helpful if you are going to try to make even bigger batches. I would suggest you start small with your first attempt (maybe 500 – 600 grams). Also, be sure to use preservatives and make the product in as aseptic conditions as you can. You do not want to injure yourself with contaminated cosmetics.

Step 7 – Evaluate the finished product

When you are finished with your batch, evaluate whether it came out the way you expected. Typically, you will have a benchmark formula that you are trying to create products against. If you did, great. If not, try to figure out what went wrong.

Step 8 – Test the finished formula

The next step to making your cosmetics is to test them out. I recommend always trying your own formulas. If you aren’t going to try your own products, why would you think anyone else would want to use them? And if you have plans to sell your cosmetics be sure to do all the testing required to ensure you are producing a high quality, safe product. This article on cosmetic testing will be helpful.

Step 9 – Figure out how to make it better

It’s unlikely that you’ll make a perfect cosmetic right away. Figure out where your product doesn’t match up to expectations then adjust the formulation to compensate for the problems. If you are not getting enough foam, increase the surfactant. If it is too drying increase the moisturizing ingredients or decrease the ones that might be causing dryness. This is done through trial and error so it takes experience to get it right.

Step 10 – Repeat the process

Once you’ve figured out refinements to make, create another batch. See if it is better and keep repeating until you’ve made the best cosmetic you can make. After that, congratulations! You are a cosmetic chemist.

If you follow these 10 steps to making cosmetics you will be on your way to creating makeup formulas which you can proudly sell to the world.  Of course, if you’re working for a company it will be your company that makes them but if you ever want to start a makeup line, you’ll have some excellent formulations to start.


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