formulating love

Article by: Perry Romanowski

Over time, the job of a cosmetic chemist can occasionally get boring. With the endless stability test measurements and prototypes that fall apart, you can just get plain worn out. You don’t want to quit formulating but you do want to recapture some of the magic of the old days. Here are a few tips for reviving those early days of wonder.

1. Learn something new.

A simple thing to do is to start reading up on some cosmetic subject that you don’t know a lot about. If you’re a skin product formulator, learn something about hair products and hair biology. If you formulate hair products, look into skin or color cosmetics. There is so much to learn that we tend to specialize in a particular area. To shake off the formulating doldrums, learn something new.

2. Make something new.

While learning something new is helpful, it’s even better if you can apply your new knowledge to a tangible thing. So go ahead and make a formula that you’ve never made before. Try making a lipstick or shampoo or skin lotion or styling product. There are so many different formulas possible that there will always be something you haven’t made. And here’s a handy link for starting cosmetic formulas.

3. Mentor someone.

There is nothing like teaching people things you know to help reinvigorate your interest in a subject. Find someone new at your company or take advantage of online resources like the cosmetic science forum to help a fellow chemist out. Another great way to do this is to offer to give a presentation at an upcoming Society of Cosmetic Chemists meeting.

4. Connect with some other formulators.

You can learn a lot from other cosmetic chemists and doing so can help revive your interest in the work that you are doing or in the subject of cosmetic science. Finding out the different types of things that others are working inspires your own work. It also makes you feel more connected to people in the industry which will make you feel better about being part of it. A great way to connect is online using LinkedIn or the SCC Facebook page.

5. Pick up cooking.

Alright, if formulating is getting you down why not take the skills you’ve learned at work and apply them to a useful hobby like cooking? You have to eat, so you might as well try getting good at making food. Who knows you might learn some useful techniques that you could apply to your cosmetic formulating efforts.

6. Write your formulating manifesto.

One of the things that leads to boredom in a career is not being able to stand out. Figure out how you stand out. Figure out what makes you different and what you stand for. Come up with 10 or so core values that define you and your career as a formulator. Avoid useless platitudes like “excellent quality”. Make them specific values that define you as a formulator. Are you dedicated to only using sustainable ingredients? Are you focused on creating the best performing formulas or the least expensive? Write your formulating manifesto that defines the kind of formulator that you are or that you want to be.

Next figure out how you are going to show the world what you stand for. Do things to demonstrate how you are different.

7. Schedule time away from formulating.

And if you’re cosmetic science career gets too dull, it’s always a good idea to take a break. Go on a vacation. When you’re gone, stop thinking about your work. Focus on where you are and what you are doing. When you come back you’ll be recharged and may fall in love with formulating all over again.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

7 comments

  1. mrugesh

    Hey perry,
    I have been in color cosmetic industry for almost 3 years. My
    Main focus was on shade matching all different products.
    But now I am really bored of shade matching. I want to take
    My carrer in different direction. Probably as a foe formulator.
    Can you please give me some ideas about what do I need
    To do?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Hello – I’d suggest you practice formulating different things on your own since you have access to a lab and raw materials. This will get you some training you’ll need in the future. Then attend SCC meetings and meet with other cosmetic chemists. You might learn of some other opportunity.

  2. Cindy

    This was an excellent article that came at a perfect time… my failed formulations were starting to get to me…but now, I’m just more motivated to try a different approach. Thanks Perry!

    1. Perry

      Thanks! Hope your future formulations remain fun.

  3. Rob

    I’ve never fell out of love with formulating. I just keep adding new skills to my repertoire and I find it keeps me interested in what I am doing – and add to the complexity of my formulations.

    I look for niche products – but I find I keep getting new projects given to me that stretch me in every direction.

    Currently I am working on infant formulae projects, aloe drinks, sauces for pets (yes, really), personal lubes (an odd request I think), the usual pharmaceutical formulations (that is something I have done for the last 6 years), food products.

    Formulating is fun – and now I am adding cosmetic formulations to my skills.

    1. Perry

      It sounds like you have lots of opportunities to diversify your skills. That’s excellent.

      When I worked in corporate America the formulators were pigeon-holed to only work on specific product types like shampoo, hairspray or skin lotions. There wasn’t much official opportunity to create different types of formulas.

      1. Rob

        I worked for a Chinese owned company in NZ, where one person was expected to do about a dozen jobs. I guess I was lucky in that respect because I did everything from formulation devt to sales to regulatory affairs to sales and marketing to ordering raw materials.
        I know if I had worked for a corporate company a couple of miles away, I would have been pigeon-holed.
        I now work for a flavour house doing sales and food product development, studying cosmetic formulations and still doing contract formulation work for my old customers (and even for my old employers).

        I love your site – I am learning so much more that I could alone. It is like working in a virtual cosmetic laboratory and I look forward to increasing my skills further. When I can afford your book, I will buy it 🙂

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