What Is a Cosmetic Chemist?

Research what it takes to become a cosmetic chemist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, salary, and job outlook to find out if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Cosmetic Chemist?

Cosmetic chemists are chemistry professionals who focus their research and development on creating new cosmetics, such as make-up, lotions or shampoos. Using knowledge gleaned from their study of molecular interactions of specific substances, they conduct research and experiment with the creation and improvement of cosmetic products. A cosmetic chemist must first and foremost ensure the safety of products that will be applied directly to a consumer's hair or skin. They also consider how to produce fragrance and maintain shelf life. Chemists must design functional products, utilizing combinations of compounds that will interact with hair or skin and produce an expected result. Employment opportunities exist in independent research labs as well as in the research and development departments of personal care product companies.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; master's degree may be preferred
Education Field of Study Chemistry, cosmetic or pharmaceutical science, microbiology
Key Responsibilities Develop and test new skin care products, write technical reports, prepare solutions used in laboratory procedures
Job Growth (2014-24) 3% for all chemists*
Median Salary (2015) $71,260 for all chemists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Training Do I Need As a Cosmetic Chemist?

To become a cosmetic chemist, you must earn a baccalaureate degree in chemistry, chemical engineering, cosmetic science, pharmaceutical science, biology or microbiology. Some larger employers prefer that you complete graduate studies in cosmetic science. A master's degree program in cosmetic science includes courses in applied chemistry, dermal pharmacology, cosmetic formulations, instrumentation and colloid, and surface chemistry. Occasionally, you may start as a lab technician under the direction of a senior scientist and work your way up into positions with more responsibility.

What Are My Job Duties?

As a cosmetic chemist, you develop and test new skin care products, fragrances and dyes. You are responsible for the creation of a wide number of items, including shampoos and conditioners, lotions, body wash, gel, sunscreen, lip balm and lipstick, toothpaste, deodorant, hair dye and powder makeup. It's also important that you understand the process of scaling up a product in order to manufacture and package it successfully.

There are various roles that fall under the umbrella of cosmetic chemistry. You may work as a cosmetic formulator if you are interested in creating new products. This allows you to use your knowledge of chemicals and how they interact to create a new product. As a quality control chemist, you ensure products meet set standards and they are safe, effective and stable. Common tasks might include testing products for stability. Regulatory scientists ensure government regulations are met in new cosmetic products. Finally, production managers often oversee a staff of chemists and are responsible for planning, production, inventory control and quality assurance.

How Can I Advance My Career?

The Society of Chemical Chemists offers membership opportunities, a quarterly journal and numerous continuing education events. There are regional chapters as well that provide you with the opportunity to network with other professionals and attend educational events.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A bachelor's degree in agricultural science or a related area, such as chemistry, botany, plant science or biology can qualify you to become an agricultural or food scientist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many people who earn a bachelor's degree may work as farmers, ranchers, agricultural inspectors or in the manufacture of farm products. Individuals who go on to complete graduate and postgraduate degrees are more concerned with research into the efficiency, longevity and productivity of crops and animals.

Environmental scientists and specialists concentrate on the protection and preservation of human health and environment. Holding at least a bachelor's degree in natural science, these individuals collect data on the environment through research, surveys and other investigations. With their findings, they formulate opinions and present reports to the public and to government agencies regarding the status of the environment. They make recommendations and provide guidance about how to eliminate and/or prevent conditions that can prove hazardous to the environment and therefore, to life.

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