As a new formulator, buying ingredients is probably the most exciting type of shopping (there are so many new and promising ingredients!)—but don’t overlook your equipment shopping list! After all, you’ll need some tools to turn your new ingredients into all kinds of wonderful formulations 😄 Today I’m sharing part one of a two-part list: Ten pieces of equipment for new formulators. These are the ten things you’ll need to get started, including tips on how much to spend and where to shop. I’ve also included some honourable mentions that may or may not apply to you, depending on what you’re looking to make.

Ten pieces of equipment for new formulators: Part 1

Want to watch this project instead of reading it?

Watch Now

If you already have a well-stocked kitchen you may find that you’ve already got a lot of what you need, and items like dish towels and hot pads will work in your kitchen and your studio.

Wondering which ingredients you’ll need?

Also! There is an Equipment section in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia! Check it out to learn more 🙂

Basic starter equipment principles

Shop used where possible. You won’t be able to thrift everything, but definitely pop your head into the kitchenwares section of your local thrift shop whenever you’re in the area and see if they have some useful items.

If something is expensive, start with a cheaper version and upgrade if/when it breaks. This is especially true for things with on/off switches. I’ve upgraded from cheap scales to more expensive ones because the cheap scales kept breaking, but I’m still using the $8 thrifted immersion blender I bought in 2010 because it still works for my needs.

Scale

What it’s for

Everything! You need a scale to make absolutely everything and anything.

What to consider

Precisely what you’ll need in a scale will depend on what you plan on making, but you will definitely want a digital scale rather than an analog one.

When purchasing a scale there are two main considerations: the maximum weight the scale can accommodate, and the precision with which it will measure that weight. The more precise the scale + the higher the maximum weight, the more expensive the scale tends to be.

As a new formulator, precision is more important than a very high maximum weight. This is because the more precise your scale is, the smaller your formulation batches can be—and as a new formulator, you’ll want to make lots of small batches of your formulations so you can test and learn with relatively little waste.

If you have a formulation that calls for an ingredient at 0.5%, but your scale can only measure in 1g increments, you would have to make a 200g batch of the formulation as at 200g, 0.5% = 1g, and you can weigh that out. However, if your scale can weigh in 0.1g increments then you could make just a 20g batch of that formulation if you wanted to, as 0.5% of 20g = 0.1g. If you’ve made something and don’t like it, it’s far better to throw out 20g than 200!

I have also found that more expensive scales—especially ones that plug into the wall (versus battery-powered)—last longer than cheaper scales. It makes sense to start out with a cheaper scale to make sure you like formulating, but once it breaks I recommend spending a bit more for a scale that won’t die on you in under a year. I think I went through a $20–$30 scale every 1.5–2 years before finally purchasing an $80 scale that has been going strong since 2017.

Learn more: What should I consider when purchasing a scale?

What I recommend

I’d start with a scale precise to at least 0.1g (though 0.01g is better). At 0.1g you will likely be able to get a maximum weight of 1000g or more for a reasonable price; at 0.01g you’ll probably be looking at the 100–500g range.

I recommend starting with something like this:

If you’re looking to upgrade/invest in something that will last, these scales have served me very well:

  • 0.1g x 700g: My Weigh iBALANCE 700 (USA / Canada)
  • 0.01g x 200g: Jennings JSR-200 (USA / Canada)
  • 0.01g x 500g: Jennings TB 500 (USA / Canada) (I use this scale for 95% of my formulating)
  • 0.001g x 60g: My Weigh GemPro 300 (Canada)

Stirring tools

What it’s for

Stirring, of course! Also—blending, mixing, mashing, smashing, squishing, etc. 😄

Some options:

  • Spatulas
  • Whisks
  • Spoons
  • Glass rods
  • Fun lab spoons and spatulas

I originally had each of these implements as their own item, but in a list that is only 10 items long that seemed a bit much, so I decided to group them together.

What to look for

Spatulas

I love NorPro’s jar spatulas and use them for probably 85% of my stirring needs. They are flexible and have a super fine edge—brilliant for scraping out every last bit of body butter and lotion.

Whisks

I recommend picking up a multi-pack of wee wire whisks. They’re very useful for making tiny batches of things—I mostly use them for whisking the cool down phase into emulsions + combining surfactant products (gently!).

Spoons

I keep a hodge-podge collection of thrifted spoons in my studio, mostly for scooping out ingredients for weighing. Since they don’t match my eating cutlery they’re easy to separate back out post-dishwashing.

Glass rods

These aren’t required, but they are rather fun and lend a lovely lab-y feel to your workflow. You can also get plastic stirring rods, which are cheaper but can melt (I learned this the hands-on way).

Fun lab spoons and spatulas

More fun, lab-y feeling tools. Long handled-spoons with square ends, pointy ends, needly ends, rounded flat ends—there are a lot of options here.

What I recommend

I’d start with a few of my beloved jar spatulas, a handful of second-hand spoons, and some wire whisks. The lab-specific stuff is fun, but not required to get started.

Want to watch this project instead of reading it?

Watch Now

Heat-shock resistant glassware

What it’s for

All kinds of melting and mixing—this is what you’ll make your formulations in.

What to look for

Heat-resistant glass measuring cups (Pyrex and Anchor Hocking are two common brands in North America) are often the easiest to find. I have purchased most of mine second-hand.

I also love beakers—their biggest advantages over Pyrex measuring cups are the wider size availability and lower weight (very useful if your scale doesn’t have a very high maximum weight).

What I recommend

I’d start with at least three one and two-cup (250 & 500mL) glass Pyrex measuring cups—four cups (1L) is too big to be useful for most new formulators. You can definitely buy beakers as well, but they tend to be more expensive than measuring cups.

Notebook

What it’s for

Your notes: formulations, observations, ideas, processes—everything! If you didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen.

What to look for

Anything that you want to write in will work!

What I recommend

I use spiral-bound lined notebooks—the same ones I used to use when I was in school. I like the spiral binding so I can wrap the book back on itself, and the lines make it easy to line up formulas

A water bath

What it’s for

Gently heating your formulations. I prefer water baths over the microwave as they move more slowly and I can keep an eye on things as they heat.

What to consider

You really just need a pan that’s big enough to hold your measuring cups. You likely already have one—just use that!

What I recommend

Use something you already have. If you really need to pick up something new, head to the thrift store and look for a wide, flat-bottomed sauté pan.

Honourable mentions

Prep cups / Weigh boats

If you’ve watched my videos you’ll notice that I weigh out individual ingredients into little glass bowls before combining everything—this isn’t completely necessary, but it is a really good idea, especially if you’re not yet a pro scale user.  You can usually pick up a set of ten or so prep cups at kitchen shops for s very reasonable price. These wee cups are also great for making tiny batches of formulations. If you’re at a thrift shop, keep an eye out for glass custard cups—those work beautifully, too.

You can also look for weigh boats, though they are typically disposable (unlike glass bowls) and I prefer to avoid disposable plastics wherever I can.

Funnel and/or syringes

These are very useful for filling sorts of packaging with narrow necks, like pump-top bottles and squeeze tubes. You don’t need them unless you want to make formulations that go in those sorts of packaging.

Dust mask

A dust mask is a must if you want to make powdery formulations—makeup, powdered facial cleansers, powdered face masks, etc. Get a good one that fits tightly and is comfortable.

How to Make Chocolate Rhassoul Shampoo Bars

Want to watch this project instead of reading it?

Watch Now

 

Gifting Disclosure


Nothing in this post was gifted. Amazon links are affiliate links.

 

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This