A Career in Cosmetic Science
What is involved?
As a cosmetic scientist you would be involved in the research and development of cosmetics, hair care, perfume and toiletry products, ensuring not only that they do what they are intended to but above all that they are safe to use for the consumer.
During the development process a product goes through many different stages requiring a range of skills. Depending on the size of the project and the company, you may only work at one of these stages or you may see a product through from concept to the production line and post launch.
Although science-based, this job requires a lot of creativity, an eye for colour and a nose for smell. You will often work at a fast-moving pace to ensure deadlines are met and products are launched on time. You may liaise with the marketing department to interpret new trends and you may be required to answer questions and trouble-shoot problems relating to the formulation once it reaches the production line.
Opportunities for training
In order to be a cosmetic scientist you normally need to study a science subject at university. However, some companies will employ A-level school leavers at technician level and provide suitable in-house or external industry training.
Suitable University courses are chemistry, chemical engineering, biology and pharmacy. You could then follow your chosen degree by taking a Diploma in Cosmetic Science, which will give you an integrated knowledge of the fundamentals of cosmetic science and the industry.
Three UK Universities offer opportunities to specialise in Cosmetic Science at degree or post graduate level
LCF offers B.Sc. & M.Sc. Cosmetic Science; www.arts.ac.uk/fashion
Sunderland B.Sc. Cosmetic Science www.sunderland.ac.uk/courses/appliedsciences/undergraduate/cosmetic-science
De Montfort B.Sc in Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Science; www.dmu.ac.uk/
Each university sets its own entry requirements, and some might ask for higher grades than others, so make sure you look around.
Requirements for entry
Most universities will want you to have at least two A-levels (or three Higher grades if you’re in Scotland), and five GCSEs (grades A-C). You will probably need to do double-science GCSE, in order to take a science subject at A-level.
Kind of person
A cosmetic scientist must be multi-disciplinarian, creative and with excellent attention to detail and good sensory perception. Students need excellent laboratory skills, good time management and team-working skills, good written and oral communication skills and an inquiring mind.
Despite some of the larger companies moving their manufacturing overseas the UK cosmetics industry is thriving.
As consumers live longer and take more interest in their appearance the market for cosmetic products is continuing to grow and the demand for innovation within the industry is great. This growth creates opportunities for cosmetic scientists to work on projects involving not just performance actives but also to work in growing niche markets such as organic and fair trade products.
You might also consider: Perfumer, Fragrance Evaluator, Pharmacologist
A perfumer is an expert in creating perfume compositions. They are often regarded as artists who are experts at conveying a mood or a feeling through scent. They will have an incredibly keen sense of smell and will have extensive knowledge of a large variety of ingredients, their smells and chemical compositions. Training is usually by an in-house apprenticeship with a fragrance house such as International Flavours & Fragrances (IFF) or Givaudan but there are courses offered by Plymouth University which offers a BA in Business & Perfumery.
A fragrance evaluator is the link between the client, typically a large corporation and the perfumer. The evaluator is in charge of translating the often intangible descriptions that clients submit as a brief for a new product. They work closely with the perfumer to interpret this brief and to bring the clients imagination to life in a fragrance. Training is usually by in-house apprenticeships with many evaluators starting out as laboratory technicians, helping perfumers with the preparation of their compositions, although Plymouth University offers a BA in Business & Perfumery.
Impact on lifestyle
In most parts of the industry you would work a fairly typical 9am to 5pm day from Monday to Friday. In production or quality control you may need to work on a rota basis as the production line is likely to be in 24-hour operation. You would need to wear protective clothing when dealing with some hazardous substances and at other times you may be required to wear anti-contamination clothing in a scrupulously clean environment.
Newly qualified cosmetic scientists can earn around £20,000 and as they gain in experience they can get paid over £50,000 a year. There are also opportunities to move into management positions or change directions to work in sales or marketing.
SCS – Society of Cosmetic Scientists www.scs.org.uk
DLC – Distance Learning Course (www.cosmeticlearning.com)
CTPA – The Cosmetics, Toiletries and Perfumery Association (www.ctpa.org.uk)