Do You Need to Be a Cosmetic Chemist to Formulate Skincare?

8 Min Read |

Beauty is one of the fastest-growing categories in the consumer goods industry. With an annual growth of eight percent in recent years, it offers some lucrative business opportunities. But can just anyone with a good idea develop and launch skincare products, or do you need to be a qualified cosmetic chemist?

In this article, we’ll give you a definitive answer regarding whether or not cosmetic chemists are the only ones who can formulate skincare. But first, we’ll describe the main aspects of this profession to help you understand it a bit better.

What Is a Cosmetic Chemist?

A cosmetic chemist also goes by the name of makeup chemist or cosmetic scientist. Their role is to develop and formulate personal care, skincare, and color cosmetics for various producers.

Depending on the area of expertise, and their employer’s requirements, a cosmetic chemist has a variety of assignments:

  • Working with the product development team
  • Experimenting with pigments to develop new colors and cosmetic shades
  • Using existing research to create skincare products
  • Verify products’ safety
  • Oversee lab assistants
  • Work on ensuring sanitary production conditions

What Do I Need to Do to Qualify as a Cosmetic Chemist?

Job opportunities within the field of cosmetic chemistry are as diverse as the range of products they develop and test. If this is your chosen career path, you need to consider multiple job-specific details that will improve your chances of success in the cosmetic industry. Here’s how your career path should go:

Get a Degree in Chemistry

Most cosmetic companies hire people with a bachelor’s degree. The most well-established career route for cosmetic chemists includes getting a degree in chemistry and then specializing in cosmetic chemistry. This is because traditional chemistry courses don’t have many relevant topics, such as natural and organic-based products, which specialized studies deal with. Therefore, consider following the same path if you want to maximize your chances of success.

However, specializing in cosmetic chemistry can be difficult, mainly because there aren’t many colleges that teach this particular branch of science. So, you’ll have to dig deep to find the right college that provides you with all the resources you need to become a cosmetic chemist.

Other than chemistry, you might also obtain a degree from the following fields:

  • Biology
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Microbiology

In most cases, the school you study at isn’t as important as the degree you obtain. Nonetheless, US companies tend to hire graduates who studied on the East Coast.

Several undergraduate degrees in cosmetic science may provide you with good career options in this field. The most notable include the University of Cincinnati and the University of Toledo.

Consider Obtaining an Advanced Degree

To further improve the odds of being hired by a reputable cosmetic company, you should consider getting an advanced degree. In the US, multiple colleges offer a chance to obtain an advanced degree in cosmetic science:

  • The University of Southern California
  • Rutgers University
  • St John’s University
  • The University of Cincinnati

The greatest value of obtaining an advanced degree is the training you would receive at these institutes. Additionally, large companies, such as L’Oréal or P&G, are more likely to hire you if your resume contains an advanced degree.

Research the Industry

While you’re receiving your education, you should also start researching the cosmetic industry network. This will help you familiarize yourself with the people and companies working in this field. This way, you might get a job much faster once you’ve graduated.

A good way to start is to join a society. Some of the most favorable options include the Society of Cosmetic Chemists and the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists (IFSCC). If you become a member, you may meet people who can refer you to excellent job opportunities.

Moreover, create a LinkedIn profile to broaden your network of people from the cosmetic industry. As a result, you’ll make even more acquaintances and improve your odds when looking for a job.

Choose Your Job Position

Your education is likely to direct you toward working as a professor. While this is a great option, it’s not meant for everyone. Luckily, there’s a wide range of jobs a cosmetic chemist can choose from:

  • Cosmetic formulation – A cosmetic formulator combines chemicals to develop products. This job is right for you if you enjoy inventing and creating new products.
  • Quality control – This job requires you to determine whether finished products and raw materials adhere to functionality and safety standards. If you’re interested in working with mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, or gas chromatography, look for jobs in the quality control field.
  • Process engineering – A process engineer’s primary tasks are to help design production facilities, scale up quantities to production scale, and help the manufacturing process take place. This job is ideal for people who like to engineer, build things, and travel.
  • Analytical services – Cosmetic chemists in the analytical services area examine raw materials and develop raw materials comparison standards.
  • Regulatory science – Regulatory scientists go through various regulations for manufacturing cosmetic products and decide what can be used, the appropriate levels, and the labeling involved. This can be a great choice if you enjoy science but don’t want to spend your time in labs.
  • Synthesis chemistry – Synthesis chemists deal with synthesizing raw materials from a variety of feedstocks. These people often work for raw material suppliers.
  • Sales – If you have a scientific background, you might also consider working for a raw material company to sell their chemicals. This job position is quite lucrative, and you’ll like it if you’re good at negotiating with potential partners.

Find a Temporary Job

Landing a temporary job is an excellent way to gain some experience working as a cosmetic chemist. Your best option might be to work as a temporary lab technician.

To kick things off and receive your first assignments, you should send your resume to a temp agency. While you may not get a full-time job afterward, you’ll undoubtedly obtain invaluable training that future companies will value highly.

Interact with Other Cosmetic Chemists

To expand your network of cosmetic chemists, find events, meetings, or trade shows that they attend and start touching base with as many people in the industry as possible. When there, collect their business cards so that you can contact them later and check if they have any enticing job opportunities.

Don’t forget to bring your business card to distribute too. Ensure that it has all the necessary information, including your name, email address, and phone number. You should also include your social media information to potentially facilitate subsequent communication.

Some Differences Between a Cosmetic Chemist and a Skincare Formulator

There are some critical differences between skincare formulators and cosmetic chemists. The latter group is well-versed in how chemicals interact and know the outcome of all formulas without going through lab trials. To obtain this knowledge, cosmetic chemists usually need formal chemistry qualifications and a post-graduate qualification in cosmetic science.

Furthermore, cosmetic chemists might be a bit more restricted in that they may have little say in coming up with new formulas. Their main job is to execute the formulas properly, but they may also be a significant part of their company’s research and development when launching new ingredients.

On the other hand, a skincare formulator may not necessarily have covered the theoretical part of combining ingredients. Although skincare formulators take various courses, these typically only cover the basics, such as pH values, surfactants, emulsification, etc. However, their practical experience may amount to a high level of understanding of how chemicals work, even without a college or university degree.

But despite the practical experience, a skincare formulator may not have what it takes to resolve some difficulties in the lab. For instance, if a product is cloudy or not solubilizing, having extensive theoretical knowledge may help cosmetic chemists get to the bottom of the issue. They can investigate the problem and test their theories, allowing them to prevent similar situations down the line.

Do You Need to Be a Cosmetic Chemist to Formulate a Skincare Brand?

It might be that being a cosmetic chemist is one of the coolest jobs in the world. After all, they are behind some of the most successful and loved beauty products. However, you don’t have to be a cosmetic chemist to formulate your skincare brand. You also don’t need to obtain a degree in cosmetic science or fulfill any other formal requirements to develop your skincare formulas. It all comes down to your practical experience, inspiration, and how much time you are willing to invest in perfecting your product.

However, formulation isn’t the same as manufacturing. This is important to note because not every country will allow you to manufacture a skincare product unless it has been developed in a registered lab or by someone with a formal qualification. In the United States, it is only the state of Florida where additional qualifications are needed.

Even if you live in Florida or another country where additional qualifications are required, you can still launch your beauty brand and skincare line. If you get to the stage where you are ready to manufacture and sell, you can outsource this component to a qualified manufacturer.

Bottom Line

To sum up, you don’t need to be a cosmetic chemist to formulate skincare. The formulation is entirely unrestricted, meaning that you can start coming up with your distinct formulas if you have the proper knowledge. So, if you have an original idea and you’re ready to embark on your skincare journey, start your own formulation business without any hesitation.