10 months ago

Lotion Making Equipment. The best tools to make awesome cosmetics.

“Which equipment do I really need if I want to set up a lab in my space to make lotions , gels or creams? “How much space do I need?” “How much money do I have to invest? “ These are the most common questions I receive from my clients. If you want to know the answers, keep reading. I know some of you are making lotions just for fun , while others intend to start a business based on that. To the purpose of this article, there’s no difference. Unlike what some bloggers are saying out there, you won’t get professional products by using the wrong equipment. If you want to do things properly, forget stick blenders and kitchen scales. From a business point of view, also consider working with a contract manufacturer if you need large amount of product to be made (more than 5 kg/11 lbs). When you are just starting out, the advantages of working with a contract manufacturing are numerous: 1) products manufactured by trained personnel, high reproducibility. 2) large scale production. 3) higher rate of production, including filling and packaging. It is a more expensive route, but definitely worth of consideration when the business is still in its embryonic phase. Making the product at your place it’s a good option if:

  1. Your priority is to save money and test the market (which I highly recommend).
  2.  You want to try different formulas and directly scale-up in a few days with no intermediates.
  3.  You are completely independent and want to proceed at your own pace.

The tools you decide to use to make your lotions will affect the overall quality and stability of your product.

Lotion Making-Kristy’s business story

For example, Kristy wanted to launch a skin care line of products. Her current job was to sell cosmetics to beauty salons and she forecasted it would have been much more profitable to sell her own skin care set. With so many other products on the market, she didn’t know whether salon owners would have bought her line or not. I remember talking to her during our first consultation; she was so worried about losing money and time pursuing an uncertain project! What I told her, is the same I am telling you now: START SMALL. Test the market first. Kristy, therefore, decided to set up a small lab area in the back of her showroom, and we worked together on her project. I provided her two lotion formulas, and I explained in details how to make them. She bought the tools specific for lotion making and started creating prototypes. Finally,she gave these prototypes to her customers for testing purposeses. Kristy choose to manufacture the formulation that received the most positive feedbacks. Togeher, we decided to start with 250 units that sold quickly. For the second round, she decided to work with a contract manufacturer for 2500 units. With the revenues from the sales, she moved to a bigger place and hired people to take care of the production. You can start by setting up a cosmetic lab in a room of your apartment, or you can reserve a dedicated section of your warehouse. All the stuff you buy for the lab must be properly maintained and checked periodically, including all the raw materials.

If you want to read more about how to launch your own cosmetic line, here‘s the link to another useful post.

 Lotion Making Equipment- what to buy

Here’s a list of the basics.

 Stainless steel desk

Very sturdy and easy to clean. To sanitize before using, I suggest using a solution of alcohol/water 60%. To clean, use any multi- purpose detergent. I ordered a set of these desks from Amazon, you’ll probably need just one. You can find it here.

Hot Plate

It allows to maintain a fixed temperature over time. As lotion making equipment it is used to melt the waxes and other solid ingredients. It replaces the “famous” double boiler mentioned in some mommy blogs. The hot plate comes in different materials; ceramic on top is my favourite is it’s easier to clean, but other materials are usually cheaper. When making lotions, it’s useful to have a magnetic stirrer as well. A magnetic stirrer is a device that employs a magnetic field to make a small bar spinning, thus stirring the liquid.

Watch the video

Hot plate and magnetic stirrer are usually coupled in the same instrument. When making lotions, it is always better to add some xanthan gum or carbomer in the water phase and the magnetic stirrer will guarantee you obtain a perfect dispersion. Corning makes real workhorses when it comes to lab instruments and they will last you a lifetime. This is the hot plate I use to make my formulations.   For a cheaper option (that still works great), consider this one.

Overhead Mixer

These mixers have an electric motor and the mixing tool is attached to a metal rod. The mixing speed is adjustable within certain ranges. This kind of mixer comes with different impellers. Each impeller has a different purpose. I’ve tried almost all impellers and for lotion-making purposes the best one being the one in this video.

Watch

The mechanism consists of turbines with a rotor and stator  (also great to disperse pigments in the case of makeup).I’ve been doing some digging on Ebay and Amazon and found this mixer to be very similar to the Silverson shown in the video. On Ebay.com you can find some deals for used instruments, if you’re on a budget or if you are in the learning process. Whatever you decide to buy, remember that the stability and quality of the final product depend on your decision. A good formula doesn’t guarantee a professional result.

Digital scale 

lab scale Buying a good scale is pivotal as often you’ll have to weight incredibly small amounts of material. Accuracy in science is everything. A good readability for cosmetics starts from 0.1g but if you are making makeup and working with pigments shades then you need something more, at least 0.01g. Spend some time becoming familiar with the metric system and measure by weight  rather than volume (volume = cups, tbsp etc). Simply put weight never changes, while volume depends on what you are considering. Measuring by weight guarantees reproducible measurements, and reproducibility is definitely something to look forward to when dealing with science. Ohaus NV 2101 is the scale I use for my formulations. It has a readability of 0.1 g and a capacity of 2.1 kg (74 oz). I’ve been using it for years and never had any problem. The box includes a calibrating weight, so you don’t have to purchase one (calibrate it once every few months). It comes with an AC adaptor but works with batteries,too. You can find it here.

Lotion making equipment- disposable materials

In this section, I am going to list some general laboratory tools. You are going to use these when making lotions , but also any other products.

Pipettes

Pipettes are meant to precisely handle liquids. Those made of glass are usually reusable, while plastic ones are disposable. Pipettes are excellent to avoid waste when picking up liquids from inside a bottle. Make sure to use a different one for each material. By doing this, you’ll avoid cross contamination. If you’re not discarding them after use, use a  solution of water and ethanol or rubbing alcohol to clean and sanitize.

pH strips

pH strips are used to indicate a pH. They provide a range rather than a single value. Therefore, they’re not very precise. Once you become more familiar with the process of lotion-making, switch to a portable pH meter which is way more reliable.

Set of beakers

Lab batches are always between 100 and 300 g. Don’t go below 100 g as some product’s features could be difficult to detect. Beakers are the scientific containers to hold what you make and come in different sizes. Whe you buy a set of 4 or 5, you’re sure you have everything covered. The following are the most common beakers sizes: 50ml, 250 ml, 100 ml and eventually 500 ml. Bigger sizes do exist and might be useful for some applications.

Spatulas

A spatula is meant to transfer small amounts of powders.

Weighing dishes

Weighing dishes are made of polystyrene. You can use them to weight powders but also liquids. Some scales have a limited capacity making impossible to weight substances directly in the beaker. These dishes are the solutions. You can even reuse them.

Cleaning tools

Cleaning up the mess is the less fun part of the job! Not everything can be washed off with water and soap. This is especially true for anhydrous products or lotions containing silicone. In these cases, for an effective cleaning use paper with alcohol or another liquid silicone. After all the biggest residues are gone, wash the beaker thoroughly with water and soap and finally wipe it with an alcohol pad. Isoparaffin works very well for anhydrous products, too.

Template for formulas

Okay, I admit it. I am not an Excel lover. Sometimes it gives me a headache. I still prefer to write down everything using a pen and a piece of paper, but I can’t do that when I must present data to a client. Having an Excel document allows you to retrieve all the info you need when you need them. I like to keep all my formulas for the same product grouped in one sheet only (different color background). This way, I have a clear vision of the path  I ‘ve made toward the final formulation and, if necessary, I can go back without starting over.

Equipment to perform some in-house basic stability tests.

Stability tests are of 2 different kinds: microbiological stability and physical/chemical stability. To test the microbiological quality of a product, including the presence of pathogens bacteria (for example Pseudomonas Aeruginosa), I recommend using a third part professional lab, unless you can handle cell cultures and have some kind ob biology lab experience. What you can test yourself is the physical stability through the accelerated stability tests. These allow you to estimate the shelf life of your lotion and give you results in approximately 3 months. Accelerated stability testing consists in keeping your laboratory batches or finished goods at a set temperature and humidity. An incubator creates this controlled environment. Best is to buy one that has a temperature range of at least -10C to 40C so you can test your sample at both temperatures with the same instrument. Chamber’s sizes vary, allowing to choose the most suitable one for your needs. Look for bargains on labx.com. A good brand of chambers is Sanyo. Changes in viscosity in lotion are one of the signs of instability.  A viscosimeter, therefore, can really help you out, but it is not necessary if you’re just starting out or if you have no intentions to sell your lotions. Viscosity must be recorded always at the same temperature. The most recognizable brand for viscosimeter is Brookfield and here’s the link to one of their valuable, yet affordable model. Another useful instrument to test the physical stability of lotions is a bench top centrifuge. The high-speed spinning uncovers any kind of latent separation issue. I guarantee that if you performed stability tests on lotions made with diy formulas and kitchen equipment , they’ll fail.

Lotion Making Equipment- Conclusions

If you’re serious about making cosmetics, you must invest in some basic laboratory equipment. The right tools will allow you to obtain professional products with a long shelf life and superior quality.   Which tools do you use to make your lotions? If there’s anything you’d like to add to this list, please post it in the comment section below. NOTE: all the links in this page are affiliate links. This means, if you purchase something using one of those, I get a small commission. I recommend only products that I have been personally tested and of excellent quality. I am very grateful for all of you buying through my affiliate links. Your support helps me improving my website.  

 

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