Start with simple cosmetic formulas

On the forum there was a question about a shampoo formula and how to make it more conditioning.  The question is a good one because it helps illustrate a point that many formulators miss. When you are creating a formula, start with a simple system. shampoo formulation

The formula listed in the discussion was a reasonable one and contained all the proper ingredients you need for a good conditioning shampoo including

  • Detergent system
  • Conditioning ingredients
  • Adjustment ingredients
  • Pearling agents
  • Preservatives
  • Fragrance
  • Solvent

The formula also contained 14 ingredients (with no claims ingredients) which makes it rather complicated.  Stripped down to bare essentials you should be able to make a conditioning shampoo with 8 or 9 ingredients.  And this is where you should start.

Create a base formula

When creating a shampoo, body wash or any other cleansing formula you should begin with a simple formula. In this particular case you can create a formula using the solvent, detergent system, adjustment ingredients, preservative and fragrance.  You shouldn’t include any conditioning ingredients when trying to create a conditioning shampoo.

Add new ingredients one at a time

This will give you a base formula to which you can add conditioning ingredients to determine if your formula is being made more conditioning.  The base formula gives you the baseline of everything. Then when you  want to add a feature (say conditioning) you can add one conditioning ingredient to see if it has any effect versus the base formula.  You can do a triangle test to determine if there is a noticeable difference.  If there is, great!  That is your new baseline.  If there isn’t, that’s great too. You know you haven’t used enough of the ingredient or that it doesn’t do anything.

Once you get your new baseline you can add the next conditioning ingredient. And every time you add a new ingredient you should do a triangle test to see if you can tell a difference. If adding a new conditioner makes no noticeable difference, don’t use it.

Formulating does not have to be complicated. By using a system of adding a few ingredients and testing their effect you can more quickly come to an optimized, effective formula.

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How to Become a Cosmetic Chemist

The job of a cosmetic chemist, or as they call it in the UK a cosmetic scientist, requires you to do a wide variety of things both in and out of the lab. Your main responsibility will be that of a formulator. This means you mix raw materials together to create cosmetic products like lipstick, nail polish, skin lotions, shampoos, toothpaste and any other type of personal care product.

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