Our team (with advice from our formulators) are happy to help customers as much as possible with formulation questions. However, when questions arise, often what is missing is why they are being asked. In most cases, someone reaches out about an experiment or recipe gone bad; but sometimes the answer may be deeper than someone’s ability to recall their education or knowledge, or even their prior experience as formulators.
Science has come a long way (since its dawn I guess?), but all that history just can’t be forgotten. Most answers we have today are results of an absurd amount of failure. Often you can’t find the answer until you have failed, and in that failure lies the answer. Wait, what?… That’s right, I’m saying that the answer, in some cases, can only come through failure. For example, WD-40. The name itself represents failure, as its successful form came after its 40th attempt, hence 40 in the name. Now imagine if they had quit or given up at attempt 39–huge let down, but they didn’t. Instead they learned a 39th new thing, to apply to their 40th experiment, which led to success. They took the knowledge their failures gave them and turned them into 40 attempts to create exactly what they wanted.
There is one thing failure will ALWAYS tell you: what doesn’t work. I know failure is frustrating and it doesn’t feel good, but when you redirect that energy and experience to apply to another test, you get closer to achieving the goal. With each test comes the ability to use what you find (good or bad) to progress to the next test, even if it didn’t turn out to be what you wanted. As frustrating as it sounds, it really depends on the resources you have available to find the answer. If you are on the verge of making your dream formula, but have had continued problems with viscosity, preserving, or my personal favorite, creating just plain goo, it can be truly frustrating. In all the bad, light is shed on what doesn’t work–which is just as valuable as what does work.
Tracking It All
Keeping a tab on all the bad should make the target for nailing down what does work even smaller. However, that does require a lot of time, and power–so if your budget and patience allow, keep on testing, and watch the goo turn to gold. Our Chief Formulator always likes to say “you can’t rush science,” and yet I hear her cursing when a formula looks great on paper and then completely falls apart on the bench.
A useful tool our Lab Technicians use daily is their handy-dandy Lab Book. It’s simply a way for them to keep track of all the details. Those can include results, time periods, and even ingredients and their designated amounts. Keeping track of everything is just as valuable as completing the finished product. Finding correlations and noticing trends often times are the little details that can be easily missed. Keeping a detailed history of results can help make a murky situation (or formula) clearer. So stick to the basics, and here’s three easy things you can start tracking:
– Not just what you are using, but in specific amounts. These little details keep track of how easily results can change.
– This detail can range from temperatures, mixing times, in what order ingredients were added, and the reality is there are too many instances to list. The idea is to note what order things are happening.
– Details are key here, because these details are easy to forget. It’s common to remember what doesn’t work, but figuring out ‘why’ will come from the details jotted about the results.
(If you’d like a refresher on making cosmetics at home, check out this blog with guidance and a few recipes!)
Using Your Resources
Now, let’s circle back to using the formulators and experts here as a resource. They didn’t drink a magical potion that somehow granted them the ability to know all things formulation and chemistry. Our formulator’s knowledge was earned; they studied, tested, and overtime gained the experience necessary to figure out how to find the answer. Everybody starts somewhere, and if that means this blog pushes you to find your dream formula, so be it (you’re welcome). The reality is that being experimental is a demand of the industry, unless you somehow only make perfect things on the first try (yuck, just kidding–that’s impressive). For the rest of us, using the results of every case and every test will lead us down the path to exactly what we need. We investigate the problem, see what we can change about the process, and see how it comes out next.
As always, here at Essential Wholesale, we’re happy to help. One of the perks of creating a formula with us is having access to formulators to help guide you on any formulation journey. We are in a “fail first industry,” meaning it’s normal to fail. However, we never get discouraged, we push onward to find what works for us. So, if there is one thing to leave with, it’s knowing the answer might not be known now, but I can guarantee you, the answer can be found over time.