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.

Kind of person

A cosmetic scientist must be a multidisciplinarian, 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.

Companies and roles

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.

The Cosmetics industry offers a wide range of opportunities for those interested in the application of science and technology, including:

Research & Development
Product, Process & Packaging Development
Quality Control & Assurance
Product Evaluation & Safety Testing
Sales & Marketing

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.

Earnings potential

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.

Related occupations

You might also consider: Perfumer, Fragrance Evaluator

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 also courses such as the ICATS/IFEAT Diploma or Certificate.

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 client’s 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.

Would you like to work in a creative, fast moving consumer goods orientated market?
Why not consider the cosmetic industry?


The EU Cosmetics Regulation ((EC) No. 1223/2009) defines a cosmetic product as:

“Any substance or mixture intended to be placed in contact with the external parts of the human body (epidermis, hair system, nails, lips and external genital organs) or with the teeth and the mucous membranes of the oral cavity with a view exclusively or mainly to cleaning them, perfuming them, changing their appearance, protecting them, keeping them in good condition or correcting body odours.”

Cosmetics have been important throughout the ages but the progression of cosmetics from art to science did not occur until the later 19th Century whilst the modern cosmetic industry, as we know it, has developed over the last century.

Currently the cosmetic industry constitutes a £4000 million turnover in the UK, with over 200 companies manufacturing or supplying ingredients for colour cosmetics, toiletries and perfumery products. The continued success of our industry relies heavily on research and development. Consequently careers in the cosmetic sciences present many exciting and challenging opportunities for people with diverse areas of interest and training to contribute to the quest of finding new products and processes and improving existing ones


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