If you want to be a cosmetic chemist here is what you do

Heather hopes the Brains can help: Hi, I’m currently looking in to Cosmetic Science as a career. I will be graduating from uni this year but have no previous experience in the area. I plan to do a diploma from the SCS in Cosmetic Science to start me off. If you have any advice or information I’d be very grateful. Thank you!

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The Beauty Brains respond:

Heather, how wonderful that you want to enter cosmetic science. This industry, and science based industries in general, need more women. I have always found it amusing/appalling to hear non-make-up wearing, bald men men in our industry blab on about exactly what women want. Ha!

We often get asked this and similar questions about becoming a cosmetic scientist on the Beauty Brains so we’ll provide a general answer here. Hopefully, some of this information helps you.

Key Moves to Become a Cosmetic Scientist

1. Get a science degree. Unless you have a relative who started the company, if you want to become a cosmetic chemist you will need a college degree in science since most cosmetic firms require it. Preferred ones include degrees in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering. However, plenty of scientists in our industry have Biology, Microbiology, and even Physics degrees. The specific college or Uni that you attend is less important than which degree you received.

2. Consider getting an advanced degree. True, a 4-year college degree is all you need, but you can improve your chances of breaking into cosmetics by getting an advanced degree. Your involvement with the SCS is a great start in the UK. In the United States, there are only a few advanced degrees offered. These include places like the University of Cincinnati, St. John’s University, Rutgers University, University of Southern California, etc. Check the college’s Pharmacy departments for more information. You can contact the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC) for a complete list. In addition to getting something good for putting on your resume, you’ll get invaluable experience making cosmetic products & meet some great people.

3. Find the companies where you’d like to work. This industry has thousands of companies that employ cosmetic chemists. Where do you find them? If you like, internet searches work, but you can also search trade magazines like Happi or GCI. In GCI, your search can be done by region of the US or world. Of course, you can also look at what company makes a product you like and Google their contact information to inquire about jobs.

4. Figure out what job you want. Speaking of jobs, many different different ones exist in the cosmetic industry for scientists. If you actually want to make formulas, you’ll want a formulating job. People who enjoyed experiments in Organic Chemistry might like these jobs. If you were more interested in Analytical Chemistry than you’ll want to find a job in an analytical lab. You can also find jobs in microbiology, perfumery, and quality control. For chemical engineers, your job search can lead you to process engineering which requires you to figure out how you might scale 1kg batches up to 10,000 kg tanks. Finally, if all else fails you can get a sales job. Raw material suppliers always look for people with technical backgrounds who can sell product. Personally, I think formulating jobs rule!

5. Find a temporary assignment. If it is too difficult to break directly into the industry, you might try finding a job through a temp agency. These companies can place you at big cosmetic companies like P&G or Unilever for a short or longer term assignment. Many people get hired on permanently at companies after starting as a temp.

6. Network with other cosmetic chemists. If you really want to step ahead of the other cosmetic science job seekers, strike up relationships with other scientists that already work on cosmetics. The most popular US association is the SCC and in the UK it is the SCS. For other countries you can contact the IFSCC to find out your local organization. The SCC has chapters throughout the US and you can often visit a monthly meeting for free. There you can meet the most famous cosmetic chemist. If you prefer computers, look on LinkedIn, Facebook or MySpace for chemists who list their affiliation. You can even join the Chemists Corner forum and get connected with other cosmetic chemists.

Cosmetic science is a rewarding career which enables you to create and use almost any cosmetic or personal care product you want. Better living through chemistry. I love it!

If you want to learn more about starting a career as a cosmetic chemist, be sure to sign up for this free 4-part course on cosmetic science.