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Is cosmetic science important enough for scientists?

This video is funny…and a little sad.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOYCkHFMnVc’]

Thankfully, this isn’t how it really is for cosmetic chemists but there is certainly a tinge of truth here.

Early years

In my younger years I often fretted about taking a job as a cosmetic chemist. One recurring thought was that it wasn’t “important” enough. In fact, I remember driving home after my interview at the shampoo factory thinking that there is no way that I would want this job.  I took it with the intention of making some money then quitting after a few years and going to get a PHD in something “important”.

After a few years, I found I really enjoyed my job. I liked the projects.  I liked the challenges.  I liked the people.  And overall, it was fun.  Being a cosmetic chemist is a great job.  If you have an interest in inventing things, learning about chemicals and human biology, being creative and seeing your work directly impact people’s lives, then you’ll love a career in cosmetic chemistry.

But is it important enough?

Is cosmetic science important?

You really have to decide for yourself if cosmetic science is important enough.  Consider the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Your work leads directly to products that people use
  • Your products make people happy
  • There is a lot to learn & the subject is interesting
  • It’s economically important
  • It is a low stress job, good salary
  • It can pose challenging problems
Cons
  • You’re not curing cancer or saving lives
  • There is very little “new” science
  • You’re not solving Big world problems
  • You’re not going to change the world
  • You could have made more money in banking or sales

These are just off the top of my head but I’m sure there are other things that cosmetic chemists would add to the list.  (feel free to do so in the comments)

Since I’ve spent nearly 20 years in the industry it seems that my answer to the question is…

Yes, cosmetic science is important enough.

When I thought about it I decided that no one is really curing cancer because cancer is still around.  And people may be making progress on Big Problems but there are still plenty of Big Problems that are unsolved.  And they’ll remained unsolved whether I work on them or not.

The other thing is that as a scientist you are free to keep tabs on other areas of research.  If you ever have an idea that you think will cure cancer or Alzheimer’s disease or solve some other world problem, go work on it.  But if you don’t have any ideas about those subjects, a cosmetic science career is a great place to keep your brain fresh and work on interesting problems (that can be solved).

Epilogue

Incidentally, I did go back to school and pursue a Masters degree in biochemistry but I never left the cosmetic industry. Biochemistry just didn’t seem like it would be an interesting job.  For me being interesting is more important than being “important”.

 

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Eliza 01/12/2012, 5:20 am

    LOL Hilarious vid! And indeed a bit sad. Just like for you, Perry the creativity of the work makes it very interesting and challenging for me and especially do-able (I’m a practical one, you see ;)).

  • Amanda Foxon-Hill 01/11/2012, 2:33 pm

    Had to laugh as I joke about my little lab calling it Laboratoire Garnier! For anyone in the beauty industry who has ever thought of themselves as not providing anything of real worth to the world I’d say read Kabul Beauty School and see what a difference hairdressing skills made there. Also Paula is right, self-esteem and confidence are the tools that keep the spring in our step and the passion for a new challenge in our eyes. While looking after your appearance isn’t the only way to achieve this confidence it’s a fun and useful place to start. I am proud of being a cosmetic scientist.

  • Paula 01/11/2012, 12:18 pm

    Well said, Perry. I would like to add to the “pros” of cosmetic science. Cosmetics, especially color cosmetics, directly and significantly impact the way people perceive themselves. Because of this, cosmetics play an vital role in building self-esteem. Confidence and pride are underpinned by the appearance. Many professionals from a variety of “important” fields recognize the importance of the appearance to self-esteem. Therefore, I agree that beauty is more than skin deep and that cosmetic science is important enough.

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