What makes a cosmetic chemist?

PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
Here's an interesting article about the founder of Sunday Riley skin care and how she pretends to be a cosmetic chemist but doesn't actually have a degree.  Interestingly, she says she's a member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. While the SCC does require general members to have science degrees, affiliate members do not have to have degrees. They just need years of experience in the field.  What do you think? What makes someone a cosmetic chemist? 

https://www.thisisinsider.com/sunday-riley-skin-care-brand-founder-scientific-background-2018-10

Comments

  •  "A lot of what I know about cosmetic formulation I actually learned on the job." She continued: "I learn a lot by trial and error. Take that as you will."

    As far as I know this is a normal way to learn formulation chemistry? My first gig was as a formulation chemist for color cosmetics when I had previously formulated/researched weird cement in grad school. There are very few degree programs (in the US, at least) about cosmetic formulation. I was able to learn as I went from suppliers, coworkers, whitepapers, even this very forum. In fact, one of the things I like about this job is that I am learning something new every day. I've been doing this for only two years and there is so much more to learn.

    I have a degree in chemistry and a masters in molecular science, neither of which directly taught me formulation, pertaining to cosmetics or otherwise... so I am unsure that it is such a bad thing if you don't have a degree and are selling your own cosmetic line (as long as you get all of your safety testing done, I mean :# ). I'm sure a degree in chemistry can help you parse information given to you by suppliers, and make scientifically minded decisions, and the like but I am unsure if it is 100% required.

    ...But representing yourself as having a degree when you do not, or representing yourself as the only formulator when in fact you have a team or used a contract manufacturer, isn't a great thing to do.

  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    I agree that most of formulating is learned on the job. I have a degree in chemistry and learned next to nothing about formulating cosmetics in college.

    Yeah, I think the objectionable thing is claiming an expertise / credit for something that wasn't earned. 

    I do wonder what the company did to annoy someone so much that they wrote a whole article about it. 
  • I took colloidal chemistry at high school and learned next to nothing. I understood some of it when started formulating and had to research it again. I am not claiming that I am anything  close to a professional but I noticed that sometimes I can give a reasonable advice to people with a degree in chemistry but who are new to cosmetic formulation. Simple because I did ‘that experiment’ many times and I know the ingredient. So I guess if someone is very passionate about the topic and invested their ‘10,000 hours’ they might have some knowledge without a degree (doesn’t justify fake claims about the certificate). Regarding this particular brand, I spend a lot of time analizing LOIs of popular product, and think that they are rather mainstream.
  • SibechSibech Member, Professional Chemist
    Formulating is, as I see it, more of an empirical than theoretical science (granted, a lot of theory makes formulating so much easier!) and calling yourself a formulator is completely fine by me. As on-the-job training, which one could likely achieve some success with by self-study I would classify anyone without a formal degree as a Cosmetic Formulator.

    I am of the conviction that Cosmetic Chemist implies an academic background in chemistry (or a related field) and thus an expectation of fundamental expertise and should only be used with the scientific background, simply to avoid confusion.

    Having read the article though, they seem to be imprecise and inconsistent at best, lying and deceitful at worst. 
    Dabbling Formulator — Qualified Cosmetic Safety Assessor — experienced in claim substantiation & EU regulatory affairs.
  • MicroformulationMicroformulation Member, Professional Chemist
    edited November 2018
    A good portion of Formulating is learned on the job. However, I submit that the Fundamentals are still needed. There are often times when troubleshooting a Formulation or an interaction between ingredients that the Fundamentals provide the guidance needed. Also, many concepts we use are taught in an ordered manner in the classroom through a syllabus not piecemeal as encountered. 

    I would submit that you can blur the lines and imply a separation of responsibility between a Chemist and a "Cosmetic Formulator." Just in my opinion, you could be misleading the client of your background. When speaking to a Client and discussing the project as a "Cosmetic Formulator", are you entirely transparent in your Education? In many cases would a client sign on for a project if they knew there was no University Education?

    I suppose under this definition, I had several Lab Techs who worked for me who were "Formulators" under this shadow definition, but they weren't Chemists. They never approved batch records and documents (COA's, MSDS's, stability Testing results) or performed QA.

    In summary, I guess it is all depending upon where you want to be in the Market. Some larger and emerging wholesalers (Detox Market for one) will ask for a minimal educational background at some point.

    Lastly, for some of these lines, I would like to cite a phrase from the FDA CGMP Guidelines;  https://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocuments/ucm2005190.htm Section 3, Subsection a. "The personnel supervising or performing the manufacture or control of cosmetics has the education, training and/or experience to perform the assigned functions." While uncommon (but not unheard of), the FDA can inspect, address and even cite a line if a requirement is not met. I had a small line contact me after getting dinged for exactly this.

    So, on the job helpful and great to an extent.

    Credentialed Training will become addressed as you grow by lines and Supervising bodies.
     

    markfuller@microformulation.com Microformulation.com Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications. BS.Pharm Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University.
  • @Microformulation, I do not argue that understanding chemistry is absolutely vital to be a good formulator. However, being devil's advocate, I am working for a professional consulting firm. I do not hold a degree in accounting, I am a mathematician. Funny enough, my supervisor holds a bachelor in chemistry.  And I don't recall a single case when any of my clients asked about my degree. All they care about is my work experience.

  • MicroformulationMicroformulation Member, Professional Chemist
    Apples and Oranges. Inevitably in larger markets, it will come up.
    markfuller@microformulation.com Microformulation.com Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications. BS.Pharm Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University.
  • ngarayeva001ngarayeva001 Member
    edited November 2018
    Self-study is often underestimated.
  • Self-study is often underestimated.


    I agree! But it is hard to convince people you're worth hiring without the 50,000 USD piece of cardstock to assure them.

    I guess for cosmetics formulating you can try to knock out some really nice "kitchen chemist" formulas using what's available on Making Cosmetics and Lotioncrafter, etc to give to potential employers. For fields like semiconductors, energy, etc. there really is no "proof of self study" equivalent, all you can really go by is their education, publication, and work history.

  • @gld010 If you read the LOI of the most popular cosmetic products on the market you will notice that 99% of the ingredients can be found on lotioncraftet or makingcosmetics. And I am not talking drug store. You can recreate $400 moisturizer using supplies from lotioncafter.
  • ^^^ Yes.
    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • DoreenDoreen Member
    edited November 2018
    To me a cosmetic chemist is someone who has graduated chemistry/physics on an academic level.

    I totally agree with @Sibech
    I am of the conviction that Cosmetic Chemist implies an academic background in chemistry (or a related field) and thus an expectation of fundamental expertise and should only be used with the scientific background, simply to avoid confusion.
  • @gld010 If you read the LOI of the most popular cosmetic products on the market you will notice that 99% of the ingredients can be found on lotioncraftet or makingcosmetics. And I am not talking drug store. You can recreate $400 moisturizer using supplies from lotioncafter.

    That doesn't surprise me but I never thought to check!
  • @gld010, I recreated chanel sublimage using supplies from the above mentioned sites (minus a couple of fancy extracts that don't do anything). Almost identical but the smell (I am sure they use some patented fragrance, so I didn't bother).
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    @ngarayeva001 - yes, most big brands have customized fragrances that no one else is able to buy.

  • Indeed 99% of my little knowlwdge was adquired making trial and error, i have a degree in "oil-chemical proccess", in fact in my country cosmetic-chemist degree doesnt exist and bassically there arenot cosmetic manufacturers, alll the products that are used here are imported, its a pain to find someone that barely understand cosmetic chemistry, our country its mainly oil/gas exporter, despite that i strongly belive that a chemestry background its a must.

    The same way a doctor can say thar all hes knowledge was adquiered over the years, i will no feel confidence if a lawyer is going to make a surgery althought he claims that he has done it for 10 years or so.
  • You don't need a degree to formulate, but without the basics the job becomes harder. I agree with @Microformulation, and it's not only the guidance, it's the reasoning through the scientific method, and that can't be self taught.
  • MicroformulationMicroformulation Member, Professional Chemist
    Also, here is my rhetorical outlook; if you advertise yourself as a "Cosmetic Formulator" or "Formulator" in your marketing, is it reasonable to assume that the retail customer, exposed to your marketing, could, in turn, assume that there was some Professional Education behind that title?

    markfuller@microformulation.com Microformulation.com Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications. BS.Pharm Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University.
  • Saying that someone is cosmetic chemist should be supported by degree, because chemistry is a science. But I don't think that title "formulator" should be supported by the degree.
  • MicroformulationMicroformulation Member, Professional Chemist
    But could a customer make that leap?
    markfuller@microformulation.com Microformulation.com Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications. BS.Pharm Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    That article sounds like a irrelevant hit job on Sunday Riley.  Rubbish!

    One does not need a degree to be a formulator/formulation chemist/cosmetic chemist.  Riley does have some scientific educational background.  And, let's face it ... all learning is self-learning.  While a degree can be valuable ... in reality most people learn their skills through job experience and/or trial and error.

    What makes a cosmetic chemist?  Someone who has learned, be it through self-study or formal education ... to make excellent cosmetic products.

    Bill Gates does not have a degree ... does that disqualify him from being a computer scientist or a business executive?
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • ozgirlozgirl Member, PCF student
    I finally had time to read the article and it definitely sounds like someone has an issue with Sunday Riley and I would too if she did lie about qualifications or who actually formulated the product but that's because I have an issue with lies.

    I agree with some of the others that while having a science degree certainly helps it is not essential to being a cosmetic chemist and formulator.
    :)
  • Chemist77Chemist77 Member, PCF student
    Know few formulators in my region who don't even know how many branches chemistry has. They are doing pretty good when it comes to making money but when they sit down for trainings/seminars, they are mostly clueless about what's being talked about in terms of chemistry. 
  • I think to call yourself a chemist you should definitely have formal qualifications..if not, call yourself a formulator. People who work in pharmacies don’t all call themselves pharmacists even though they might know how to hand out pills ????‍♀️
  • What do you need to join the Society of Cosmetic Chemists?
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    @Gunther - To join as a general member..."General Membership is available to persons engaged in scientific or technical work in the cosmetics and toiletries industry or in related governmental or academic areas, who have earned a Bachelor’s Degree in the chemical, physical, medical, pharmaceutical, biological or related sciences and technology. "

    But you can also join as an Affiliate member - "Available to persons interested in the objectives of the Society, but not qualified for General Membership. National Affiliates are entitled to all membership privileges, except that they may not vote or hold elected office within the Society or its Chapters. (Please note: after seven consecutive years in good standing, all National Affiliates are automatically upgraded to General Members.)"
  • Perry said:
    @Gunther - To join as a general member..."General Membership is available to persons engaged in scientific or technical work in the cosmetics and toiletries industry or in related governmental or academic areas, who have earned a Bachelor’s Degree in the chemical, physical, medical, pharmaceutical, biological or related sciences and technology. "

    But you can also join as an Affiliate member - "Available to persons interested in the objectives of the Society, but not qualified for General Membership. National Affiliates are entitled to all membership privileges, except that they may not vote or hold elected office within the Society or its Chapters. (Please note: after seven consecutive years in good standing, all National Affiliates are automatically upgraded to General Members.)"
    Do you know what do you have to do once enrolled as a SCC member?
    Do you answer other member questions like in chemistscorner ?
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    @Gunther - There are no specific requirements after you join the SCC. Ideally, you will attend meetings and network with other cosmetic chemists, but if you wanted to just pay your dues every year and read the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, you can do that too. 
  • Don't know exactly what makes a cosmetic chemist but here are 3 symptoms:  :D

    - Spending to long time in other peoples bathrooms checking ingredients on their cosmetic products

    - Gettting stuck in the cosmetics department in the supermarket forgetting what you actually came there to buy

    - Analysing the claims made on the latest cosmetic product TV commercial
  • First two were the reason why I started formulating ?
  • ozgirlozgirl Member, PCF student
    :D :D :D
    I have definitely exhibited all of those symptoms.
  • Bill_TogeBill_Toge Member, Professional Chemist
    a good cosmetic chemist is half scientist and half engineer, with a dash of creativity and imagination - besides technical skill, the key personal qualities required to achieve this are patience, hard work, deductive reasoning and attention to detail

    in the UK at least, the only practical skill a chemistry degree teaches you is how to get a chemistry degree, which is handy if you want to get a Ph.D or teach chemistry, but of limited use if you want to do anything else
    UK based formulation chemist. Strongest subjects: hair styling, hair bleaches, hair dyes (oxidative and non-oxidative) I know some stuff about: EU regulations, emulsions (O/W and W/O), toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoos, other toiletries
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