Article by: Perry Romanowski
When you are first getting out of college and looking to start your career in the cosmetic industry, it is helpful to know what type of companies for which you might be able to work. To best understand this you need to know how the cosmetic industry is set up. We’ll start with the consumer and work backwards.
Finished Goods Distributors
Consumers are the ones who will ultimately buy cosmetics so they need some way to get them. Most mass-market cosmetics get to consumers through drug stores, department stores, mass market stores, supermarkets, specialty shops, or even online retailers like Drugstore.com or Amazon.com. While these companies do not usually hire cosmetic chemists, they may hire someone who knows the regulatory environment or a cosmetic chemist consultant who can educate them about their products. The Finished Goods Distributors typically have the most power of any company in the industry because they deal directly with the consumer. In the US, Walmart is the biggest of the big and they can frequently make or break a cosmetic product.
Finished Goods Manufacturers
These are the companies that create the products that are sold by the Finished Goods Distributors. They can be giant companies like P&G, Unilever, or L’Oreal, or they can be smaller companies like Carmex or Bonne Bell. These companies are also the ones that are most likely to have an R&D department who hires cosmetic chemists for formulators, QA/QC scientists, process engineering, claims scientists and more. While the Finished Goods Manufacturers frequently give in to the demands of the Finished Goods Distributors, they are clearly the second most power companies in the cosmetic industry. Every other company services the Finished Goods Manufacturer in some way.
These companies are a lot like the finished goods manufacturers but rather than marketing the finished cosmetic product, they simply make the products for other people to market. They hire the same types of scientists as the Finished Goods Manufacturers, just fewer of them. If you work for one of these companies you tend to work on a wide variety of formulations so you have to be a well-rounded formulator. You also will tend to have a lot of projects to work on at once. Since you get to make purchasing decisions people who work for these companies tend to have more sway in the industry than most. You also tend to work more. And if you are looking to start your own cosmetic line, these are the companies that are best to work with.
Suppliers are the companies that provide the manufacturers with all the things they need to make the products. Of most prominence are the raw material suppliers. They hire sales people who visit with cosmetic chemists, show off the latest raw materials, and man booths at trade shows. Raw material suppliers also hire technical service chemists who figure out how the company’s raw materials can be best incorporated into formulations. They really are a great technical resource for the industry. Scientists who work for suppliers are also the ones most likely to give presentations at industry events and publish in industry journals. If you wish to do that working for a supplier makes it much easier.
In addition to raw material suppliers there are also suppliers for lab equipment, packaging, manufacturing equipment, office supplies, computer equipment, and everything else needed to create the cosmetic product. All of these companies represent possible entries into the cosmetic industry.
Raw Material Distributors
Many of the raw material companies are corporations that are just as large or larger than the biggest finished goods manufacturers. For these companies, it doesn’t always make financial sense to call on small companies who will only make small purchases. For this reason there are Raw Material Distributors. These are companies that distribute compounds from raw material manufacturers to smaller manufacturers throughout the industry. They often represent multiple chemical companies from within the country and even around the world. If you are in the US and need a raw material from someone in Italy, you typically need to get it through a distributor. Distributors hire people with cosmetic chemistry backgrounds to be tech service workers and sales people.
Product Testing Houses
One of the requirements for selling cosmetics is that you have to test your products to ensure they are safe. And this typically requires having it tested by an independent testing company. So a whole industry of product testing houses has cropped up to satisfy this industry need. There are companies that will do microbial testing, stability testing, and safety testing. There are also companies who can help do claims support testing. In this area, demand still exceeds supply so if you are an enterprising sort who wants to quickly build a business within the cosmetic industry, starting a product testing house would be a great way to go.
While you can usually find a company who will do any aspect of the work for you, it is often best to hire one of the many cosmetic industry consultants. Consultants can help in a number of areas of product development such as ideation, formulation, scale-up, production, regulations, and any other problem you can think up. Consultants can also serve as expert witnesses if you get bound up in some litigation. Consultancy represents another great area for someone who wants to start their own business. But be aware that to be a successful cosmetic industry consultant you are going to have to be excellent at marketing yourself.
There are a few other organizations that make a mark in the cosmetic industry. Often when a company is looking for new ideas and research they will work with Universities and Colleges. They will sponsor independent research that is too long-term for their in-house research people to handle. And there are a number of publishing companies that service the cosmetic industry providing news and training information through magazines and websites. I suppose Chemists Corner would fall under that category.
So there you have it. All the companies that make the cosmetic industry tick. If you are attempting to get started in a career in this industry, any one of these types of companies are worth exploring.