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What does a cosmetic scientist do? Episode 50

There’s a lot more to making cosmetics than just mixing stuff up in a beaker. Listen to this week’s show to learn all about how cosmetic scientists create the products you use everyday. 

Show notes

Take the cosmetic expert quiz

Here’s a fun quiz posted to test your cosmetic knowledge.  Go to the FDA website to check your answers or read them at the bottom of this post.

TRUE OR FALSE:

  1. FDA must approve cosmetics before they go to market.
  2. Using mascara the wrong way can cause blindness.
  3. Tattoos used to be permanent but now lasers are an easy, reliable way to erase them.
  4. Cruelty free or not tested on animals means that no animal testing was done on the product and its ingredients.
  5. There are non-animal tests that can replace all animal testing of cosmetics.
  6. If a product is labeled as all natural or organic it is probably hypo allergenic
  7. Even if a product is labeled hypo allergenic it may contain substances that can cause allergic reactions for some people.
  8. Choosing products with the claim dermatologist tested is a way to avoid an allergic reaction or other skin irritation
  9. Lots of lipsticks on the market contain dangerous amounts of lead.
  10. About 60 to 70% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body.

Question of the week…What does a cosmetic scientist do? 

Mia asks…You talk about not only ingredients but also advertising and regulations so there must be more to your job than just chemistry. Can you explain more about what a cosmetic chemist does?

What is a cosmetic scientist?

It’s not surprising Mia has this question considering that cosmetic science seems to be some deep dark secret unless you’re in the industry. Even in college teaching courses in chemistry there is literally zero mention of the field of cosmetics. A cosmetic scientist may involve chemistry or some other scientific discipline. But it involves much more than just being a “cook” who mixes products together.  The term “Product Developer” is more accurate in some respects.

Where do you find cosmetic scientists?

You might logically assume that cosmetic scientists would work for cosmetic companies. And of course it’s true that cosmetic companies do hire these researchers but you might be surprised to find out where else cosmetics scientists work.

The cosmetics industry can be divided into five basic categories:

* Finished goods manufacturers
* Raw Material Suppliers
* Consultants and Testing
* Laboratories
* Government
* Academia

And even across these different parts of the industry there are many different sub types of cosmetic scientists.

Types of cosmetic science careers

* Product Development Chemist/ Cosmetic Chemist
* Analytical Chemistry for raw materials and production
* Cosmetology
* Manufacturing Engineer
* Safety Specialist evaluates raw materials and finished goods to establish their safety during use
* Regulatory Specialist ensures compliance with local and global regulations
* Toxicologist/Safety Specialist evaluates raw materials and finished goods to establish their safety during use
* Microbiologist
* Packaging Engineer
* Perfumer
* Claims development to support product performance
* Quality Assurance
* Technical Sales Representative assists customers (product developers) with formulation and technical support
* Marketing
* Science Public Relations
* Educator

What does a cosmetic scientist do?

Rather than try to explain all the functions of all these different careers we’ll do a little deep dive into the role of the product development chemist which, arguably , has the broadest exposure/responsibility across all these careers.

Creating an idea
Driven by a combination of new technology, consumer insight, and business needs.

  • Co-author concepts for testing
  • Inspire the marketing department with new product ideas
  • Developing the product

Making the product

Mixing products,  stability testing, cleaning glassware, chasing down raw materials. Work with fragrance houses to make products smell good. This includes writing briefs, testing samples, running consumer panels, etc. Working with Packaging, Micro, Regulatory, etc.

Researching consumer insights

Sitting behind the two-way mirror in a focus group.

Efficacy testing and claims substantiation

  • Test products to prove that they really work
  • Tress testing, instrumental tests, large consumer panels.
  • Evaluating products in the salon
  • Work with stylists to test on real people. An opportunity to see/feel how your products actually perform.
  • Developing advertising

Create compelling demonstrations which bring product benefits to life visually

Working with advertising agencies to develop supportable claims

Technical consulting for TV commercials
Here’s a commercial that I worked on:

Writing and reviewing label copy

  • Claims (as discussed above), LOIs, warning statements, net weight, etc.

Trouble shooting manufacturing issues

  • Work with Operations team on scale up
  • Troubleshoot manufacturing issues

Educating the sales team and retail customers

Explain product benefits, help the sales team do a better job of selling the product to Walmart, Target, etc.

Promoting the product through Public Relations

  • Staging “show and tell” events
  • Desk side interviews with beauty editors

Assisting with consumer complaints and litigation

  • Investigate cause of consumer complaints
  • Assist council with any resulting litigation

Working with attorneys on intellectual property issues

Applying for new patents and lawsuits related to existing patents
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Buy your copy of It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick to learn more about:

  • Clever lies that the beauty companies tell you.
  • The straight scoop of which beauty myths are true and which are just urban legends.
  • Which ingredients are really scary and which ones are just scaremongering by the media to incite an irrational fear of chemicals.
  • How to tell the difference between the products that are really green and the ones that are just trying to get more of your hard earned money by labeling them “natural” or “organic.

Click here for all the The Beauty Brains podcasts.

Quiz answers:

  1. FDA must approve cosmetics before they go to market. F
  2. Using mascara the wrong way can cause blindness. T
  3. Tattoos used to be permanent but now lasers are an easy, reliable way to erase them. F
  4. Cruelty free or not tested on animals means that no animal testing was done on the product and its ingredients. F
  5. There are non-animal tests that can replace all animal testing of cosmetics. F
  6. If a product is labeled as all natural or organic it is probably hypo allergenic. F
  7. Even if a product is labeled hypo allergenic it may contain substances that can cause allergic reactions for some people. T
  8. Choosing products with the claim dermatologist tested is a way to avoid an allergic reaction or other skin irritation. F
  9. Lots of lipsticks on the market contain dangerous amounts of lead. F
  10. About 60 to 70% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body. F

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Eileen September 30, 2014, 10:18 am

    What does a cosmetic chemist do? A better question is, What does a cosmetic chemist not do? 🙂 When you read about everything that is involved, it makes you roll your eyes when you think about all the self-proclaimed “gurus” and “cops” online who are out there spreading misinformation and personal bias with wild abandon!

    Your notes clearly establish where the expertise lies. Well done!

    • Randy Schueller September 30, 2014, 11:51 am

      Thanks Eileen! (Did I mention that I got to meet Willard Scott?)

  • Carol Quezada September 30, 2014, 2:50 pm

    you can also now add: Using mascara causes changes in your eyelashes. – True, according to a report I read today in the Journal of Cosmetic Science July/Auguat 2014.

    • Eileen September 30, 2014, 8:03 pm

      Heaven help us! LOL Now we’re going to have the alarmists telling us that using mascara will cause irreparable harm at the molecular level. Perhaps we’ll all be transformed into teenage mutant ninja turtles–with beautiful lashes 🙂

  • Chris October 4, 2014, 5:45 pm

    Is this sponser thing real?

    • admin October 5, 2014, 1:28 pm

      Do you think we’d kid around about something like that?

  • Lena October 5, 2014, 12:39 pm

    I need your help!
    I have been reading a lot lately on the potential dangerous of using BHAs in conjunction with retinol. Unfortunately I also found information which suggests that using those ingredients at the same time will improve their performance.
    Please let me know if it is safe to use BHA AND retinol in my evening skincare routine.

    Greetings from Germany

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