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Turning Recipes into Formulas

  • October 20, 2018
Turning Recipes into Formulas

Introduction

The difference between a recipe and a formula is in the ability to get consistent results in a manufacturing setting.  Read on to understand how we convert your recipe into a formula.

The Downside to a Recipe

A recipe of a personal care product will often take the form of a list of ingredients, each with a volume measurement, that equal some amount of product when combined. Examples of volumetric measurements include gallons, liters, quarts, tablespoons, or fluid ounces among some others.  Baking a cake is a perfect example of a listing of ingredients, with corresponding volumetric measurements, and a final result (1 cake).  Though recipes can help us bake a delicious cake, they prevent consistent and accurate manufacturing in a cosmetic manufacturing environment.  Volume measurements using large measuring cups would be laborious with over-pouring and cleanup, and inexact since we’d be eyeballing messy measurement lines.

The mixing tanks used by BPI Labs are also large, opaque, and do not contain measurement marks like a common measuring cup. The constant movement (agitation) in a tank makes it difficult to get an exact understanding of how much product has been added or is needed. Moreover, air is often added to a mixture while mixing, which increases the mixture’s volume.  Finally, volumes can be deceptive since ingredients can expand and contract in warm or cold temperatures.  A chemical that is stored at fifty degrees Fahrenheit in a warehouse can expand as it sits in a 70 degree Fahrenheit manufacturing area, and we’re typically heating or chilling your mixture in a mixing tank to create your personal care product.

 

The Upside to a Formula

A formula for a personal care product is made with mass measurements. The amount of each ingredient needed to make your product is determined by the weight of each ingredient in grams or pounds. The advantages to using a scale instead of volume measurements include getting more exact measurements (down to fractions of a gram), not worrying about expansion or contraction of an ingredient’s volume during production, and the ability to scale the size of a batch of product up or down quickly with precision.

Scaling a batch up and down in size is simple when using mass measurements and with formulations that call for percentages of each ingredient.  If 500 gallons of product is needed to fill 4000 bottles, then we can use something called the specific gravity equation to translate 500 gallons into pounds or grams of product needed.  Scaling a batch becomes as simple as looking at the percentage of an ingredient called for and multiplying it by the pounds of product needed, which we got from the specific gravity equation.  For example, if the formulation calls for 50% water (among other things), then we just need to multiply 50% by the total pounds of product we intend to manufacture.  Now we know how many pounds of water to use.  Maybe we’d like to make the bath 10 pounds larger; how much more water would we need?  We’ll just add another 5 pounds of water.

By the way, if you’re interested in learning about specific gravity then read our post here.

Translating Recipes into Formulas

Translation of a recipe into a formula is one of the first steps we take to begin a manufacturing relationship with someone who developed their own formula (recipe).  In our laboratory we’ll do our best to follow the recipe’s instructions and create a sample.  Next, we’ll record the weight of each ingredient we used, weigh the final amount produced, and then measure the specific gravity.  We’ll send the sample to our customer for their approval.   Assuming the sample is approved, we’ll turn our notes on the weights of each ingredient into a percentage of the total amount produced and record this into a formula with the specific gravity.  Now we have the ability to create any amount of product requested and use the right amount of ingredient down to fractions of a gram.

Conclusion

There is significantly more to a formulation than a listing of ingredients, percentages called for, and the specific gravity.  You can look at our post on the six things every formulation needs here.  Otherwise, you can trust BPI Labs to help you purchase a formulation or transition a recipe you own into a production-ready formulation your customers will be happy with every time.


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