Chemists study the composition and properties of matter. They are keepers of the science of matter---measuring proportions, noting reaction rates, combining substances in search of new information or answers to old problems. They specialise and are found in myriad industries---theoretical chemistry, organic chemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry---each working with a particular facet of matter. Cosmetic chemists work with the exterior of the body developing lotions, make-up, shampoos and other consumer products. What does it take to become a cosmetic chemist and find a job in the industry?
Cosmetic chemists are scientists. The first job requirement of a cosmetic chemist is an undergraduate degree in science. This degree can be in chemistry, biology, microbiology or chemical engineering, but for the truly dedicated a science degree in polymer science or physics could work too. There are a few schools that offer advanced degrees in cosmetic science. The University of Cincinnati offers a master's degree in pharmaceutical science and the University of Rhode Island offers a program in biomedical and pharmaceutical science.
Many entering the cosmetics chemistry industry desire a position in the research and development of end products. Job descriptions for this type of position typically require previous experience creating product concepts and product formulations. Understanding how to scale up a formula, manufacture it and package the product within FDA cosmetics regulations is also necessary. Research and development is not only about formulating cosmetics but also about reformulating and improving existing products.
Types of Jobs
Cosmetic chemistry is a job area that is used to describe myriad jobs. Cosmetic chemists or scientists can be found in cosmetic development, formulation, product and ingredient testing, quality control, analytical chemistry, process engineering, and working as synthesis chemists. Backgrounds in cosmetic chemistry can also be used by regulatory scientists and even in the sales and marketing of cosmetics products. Some cosmetic chemists work with the raw materials of skincare products and others work with creating the finished goods.
Laboratory skills are a must for most cosmetic chemist positions. Designing and producing a product cannot accurately occur without a laboratory. Following an order or request from a customer or department within the company is where a development or formulation chemist begins their work. Figuring out how to reproduce a product recipe on a very large scale (scaling up) and supervising its production along with defining the specifications within regulatory requirements are also tasks occurring in a cosmetic chemist's day.
Knowledge of available raw materials, pigments, emulsions, powders and the suppliers producing them are at the core of beginning a formulation. In addition, creating innovative products means staying in touch with public trends and marketing influences. The ability to research and report technical findings to colleagues and the ability to sell ideas to superiors is a necessity.
Without a science degree, entry-level jobs in cosmetic chemistry are available. Scientific placement agencies are great places to find these types of job descriptions. Kelly Scientific, SciTech Recruiters and On Assignment Inc. fill temporary and temp-to-hire lab positions. Basic laboratory experience and clinical research positions can be a step into the cosmetic chemistry industry without a science education or past experience.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chemists can be divided into three categories---scientists, engineers and technicians. The cosmetics industry falls under the bureau's segment called "cleaning preparations," which includes soaps, detergents, cosmetics, toiletries, toothpaste and lotions. Chemists, under the BLS descriptions, fall into the £18- to £18-an-hour category. This puts the average salary at £36,400 to £37,700. Searches for jobs in the cosmetics industry indicate entry-level jobs in the £19,500 range with advanced research and senior chemist positions in the £39,000 to £58,500 range and up.