Article by: Perry Romanowski

I just read an article which suggested that 2012 will be the year of the skin care formulator. They went on to list a number of different conferences around the world that are focused on formulating products for the skin. Indeed there is a lot of interesting work going on in skin care. But as far as the market goes, skin care products still only make up about 30% of the total market. If you have an interest in a career in cosmetic science, it’s helpful to know all the different types of areas you might focus.

Skin Care formulation

As a skin care formulator you will focus on creating products for the skin. These will include moisturizing lotions for the face, hands and body. Also, anti-aging products designed to get rid of wrinkles. Cleansing products such as facial washes and body washes are another group of products that skin care formulators create. Finally, sun screens are a category of product that skin care formulators work on.

To be a good skin care formulator you need to learn about the biology of skin and become well versed in techniques for creating emulsions since nearly all skin care formulations are emulsions. To become a great skin care formulator you’ll also need to learn a bit about skin biochemistry and all of the active ingredients that are supposed to improve skin condition by affecting chemical pathways in the skin’s natural growth system. It’s a challenging area of study.

Hair care formulations

As a hair care formulator you will focus on developing products that make hair look and feel great and make it easier to style. The majority of hair products sold are shampoos. But you will also need to formulate conditioners, putties, gels, and other hair styling products. Some hair chemists also work on hair colorants.

To be a good hair care formulator you’ll have to develop a good knowledge of hair biology and specifically the composition of the fibers. You’ll also need to learn about the variety of surfactants that work best for cleansing. Hair products do not rely on emulsions as much as skin products because oils are used much less. For hair products of the future you’ll want to keep posted on the developments of active ingredients that can restart hair color or hair growth.

Color cosmetics

Color cosmetics is a specialized area of cosmetic formulation and requires you to have a good appreciation for the properties of the skin surface. Also, you need to know about pigments and the way that they are incorporated into formulations. Color matching tends to be a frequent activity for color cosmetic chemists.

Aerosol formulators

While some cosmetic chemists focus on hair, skin, or color cosmetics, other chemists focus on a packaging type. Specifically, aerosol formulations. These include a variety of products such as hair sprays, sunscreens, antiperspirants, and other aerosol products. If you have an interest in physics this type of formulating might be a good one for you.

It’s difficult to know where the most exciting areas of cosmetic science will be in the coming years but there is still interesting science going on in all areas. To find out what to focus on, dabble in all the areas and find out what is most interesting to you.

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5 comments

  1. Elaine

    Hi Perry, if I have a degree in biochemistry would that work as well?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Yes. That is the degree I got.

  2. Eunice

    Hey Perry, can you reference the article that you read? Thanks

  3. Robert Zonis

    Hey! What about all of us who work with soaps! I’m starting to feel like Rodney Dangerfield here (“No respect, no respect at all… that’s the story of my life”) I admit, I have one of the most varied jobs in the industry (I’m responsible for formulating products that range from floor polish to toothpaste to sunscreens), but still, don’t you think you left a few people out in the cold?

    1. Perry

      Robert,

      So sorry, didn’t mean to leave anyone out. I see soap makers as skin care scientists but I can understand how you might see a difference

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