Cosmetics and Scales: Why Precision Matters

Assorted Jars and Bottle

Consumers of beauty products seek greener, healthier products with transparency about the ingredients. Creating homemade cosmetics such as makeup or skin care is more accessible than ever. Many people even make and sell their own brand. But whether you dream of starting your own line of lip balms or want healthier shampoo, precision is important. We'll help you understand the benefits of using scales to create an extensive range of cosmetics.

Why use a scale for cosmetics?

There are a wide variety of cosmetics and as many ways to apply them. From body butters to liquid foundation, the ingredients come in many shapes and forms. For example, essential oils don't all have the same density. In addition to density, temperature often affects the volume of ingredients. That means volume may be unreliable depending on circumstances. Solid ingredients sometimes need to be cut or broken into pieces that don't always easily fit containers. If you use ingredients such as herbs, zest or powder, a measurement by volume could be very different from a measure by weight.

Try it at home! Measure the same object by weight and volume and see the difference for yourself. Depending on the ingredient, it could be quite drastic. Scales and balances can also help you reduce waste by providing acute precision for ingredient measurements.

Many cosmetics, like soaps, use ratios to calculate the amount of essential ingredients such as water and lye. These ratios must be carefully followed, or the soap will have the wrong texture, melting point or the ingredients will not mix properly. Using weight rather than volume makes calculating and scaling ratios easier. When scaling recipes from small batches to mass production, be sure to use the same ratio or you will not get the same results.

Creating cosmetics is chemistry. It's essential to properly measure and mix ingredients to prevent damage. Some ingredients can be toxic or harsh on skin in the wrong quantities. Essential oils can cause rashes, hives or even burns if they're made incorrectly or used in high quantities. Using a scale can help ensure your cosmetics are safe every time.

Almond Cream

Another reason to use scales? You can use the same unit of measurement for both solids and liquids. Making a unit your standard allows for consistent results and makes reading and scaling recipes much easier. In addition, it may require additional containers to measure everything separately. With a scale, you can dispense everything in a single mixing container by taring each ingredient added to your mixture. That saves time on cleaning and can help prevent cross contamination.

Last but not least, some ingredients can be quite expensive, especially when sourced ethically and sustainable. Using a scale allows to accurately account for each ingredient, which can help maintain a steady inventory and prevent waste.

If you're selling cosmetics that are either solid or a mixture of solids and liquids, it is mandatory in many regions (including Europe and the USA) to have the quantity of each ingredient by weight. Starting with a unit like grams is much easier than using volume and converting it for the package information, and more precise. Another issue with measuring liquid substances by volume is that organizations like the FDA dictate that the volume must be measured when the substance is at a specific temperature. It’s not impossible, but why make things harder and more time consuming when you don't have to?

Is one scale going to be enough?

That depends on the size of your operation. If you're just making small batches of serums, you don't need a high capacity, but if you're selling them or making bigger batches of soaps or shampoo, you could need an additional scale for bulk orders or shipping and receiving.

Sometimes, it can also be cheaper to use a compact balance and something like a bench scale for shipping rather than a high-capacity precision balance.

Assorted Makeup

What type of scale or balance is best for cosmetics?

Most hobbyists like to use jeweler's scales, usually precision balances. They feature trade approval, a generous capacity, fine readability and are packed with useful features. Since many ingredients must be diluted or used very sparingly to avoid adverse reactions (like essential oils), it's important to get a balance that can measure small quantities. Your balance should have a readability of 0.01g at the very least. Keep in mind some ingredients are used in very low concentrations, even in bigger batches. Because some ingredients can be potent or expensive, you should make sure to get a high-quality balance to minimize errors and discrepancy.

While you might be used to imperial units like pounds and ounces, it's better to use grams. The metric system is easier to scale, and if you're selling products or sharing the recipe, the weight is often required to be in grams due to commercial regulations.

Do I need a trade approved scale?

You only need a trade approved scale if you are selling your cosmetics. If you're making them for personal use or to give to friends and family, you do not need one. But if you sell them or plan on making a business, you must adhere to local laws and regulations. Luckily, trade approved scales are usually labeled clearly, with a black "M" and the approval type will be listed in the features (such as EC-Type, NTEP or OIML). It is mandatory for cosmetic producers to clearly show the weight of each ingredient on the product's packaging and using a trade-approved scale is a way to ensure the results are trustworthy.

A balance's best features for making cosmetics

Percentage weighing can be very useful for formulation and to scale ratios. Advanced balances include formulation features and can even store formulas and recipes, which can be handy for bestselling products. Percentages are necessary for aromatherapy and items designed for personal care, particularly when you use ingredients which can be harmful in high concentrations. Even if you don't use these types of ingredients, percentage weighing can be the difference between a pleasant balm and a smell so strong it offends the user.

Oil Vial Surrounded By Rose Petals

Some scales feature density calculating functions, or can be used with density kits and below-balance weighing for specific gravity calculations. Density calculations can be useful for volumetric conversions, and to properly formulate recipes. A lip gloss and a lip balm, for example, are applied differently. Even if they use the same or similar ingredients, the formulation is different to make sure the mixture is homogeneous. It can also be helpful when packaging cosmetics, since you want to make sure customers can easily apply the product while minimizing spills (imagine opening a $70 serum and spilling it everywhere because the jar didn’t take how liquid the serum into account). You could do the math manually, but a balance with a density function can save you a lot of time and effort. It can also help reduce the chance of errors.

If you're selling your products, consider a balance with data communication capabilities. Most Adam scales include an RS-232 interface, but a USB interface might be better if you have simple equipment for a home-based business. In addition to managing inventory and recording formulas, good data management can help you ensure traceability and conform to GMP and other guidelines. This transparency is very important since it’s often the reason people purchase small brands over bigger established companies.

Make sure your balance is equipped with a stainless steel pan that will not corrode. There are a lot of different chemicals that go into making cosmetics, and while they're safe when mixed together, some acids or oils could damage plastic or aluminum pans. A more resistant material is also easier to clean, which helps maintain safety and hygienic guidelines to avoid contamination. You can also buy sample pans if you’re concerned about putting ingredients directly on an expensive scale.

The tare feature is a must. Not only can you use it to measure ingredients without the container’s weight, but you can also keep adding ingredients, tare the mixture and get the weight of the next ingredient.

Yellow Serum

Do you have questions about approved scales? Do you need help finding a scale to make cosmetics? We're happy to help. Feel free to call or email us. Already using a scale to make cosmetics? Get featured in one of our case studies.

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