Article by: Perry Romanowski

In the comment section of a past blog post someone asked me why more cosmetic chemists don’t have their own line.   This is a pretty good question.  After all cosmetic chemists are the ones who best know how to make the products.  Shouldn’t they be the ones who launch them? start-a-cosmetic-line

Perhaps, but here are 9 reasons I could think of why a cosmetic chemist wouldn’t start a cosmetic line.  Many of these are the same reason that other people with business ideas never get started.

They like being in the lab

Most everyone who becomes a cosmetic chemist got some kind of science degree.  It is an over-generalization, but it’s also true that a large percentage of people who get science degrees are  introverts who prefer to be away from people.  They like to work on their own or in a small group and the thought of leaving the lab is unappealing.  To start your own cosmetic line you need to interact with a lot of people and be willing to get out of the lab.

They like formulating

One of the greatest things about being a cosmetic chemist is that you get to mix chemicals together in various proportions to create formulations that you like to use.  You get to weigh out the raw materials, adjust your mixer, control the heat and see all the cool things that go on in a batch while you’re making it.  It can be incredibly fun.  But when you start your own line very little of your time will be spent on formulation.  Much more of your time will be spent outside the lab selling your product, writing concepts or advertising copy, or just running the business.  When you have your own product line these activities occupy much more of your time than formulating.

They are comfortable in their job

Most cosmetic chemists have jobs which may not make them rich, but does allow them to live a rather comfortable, low-stress life.  It is hard for most people to give up a job with benefits and a guaranteed salary to pursue their dream of launching a cosmetic line.  I know many cosmetic chemists who have great ideas but don’t want to jeopardize their secure jobs.  If you are going to start your own line you are going to have to accept a certain degree of uncertainty.

They are afraid to take the risk

This applies to most people as well as to cosmetic chemists.  Starting your own cosmetic line is a risk both financially and emotionally.  Their is a very real chance you might fail.  This is reason enough for many cosmetic chemists to keep their day job and not start that cosmetic line they have in their head.  Fear of failure is a big deterrent.  It’s also one you need to overcome if you want to start your own cosmetic line.  One way to overcome this fear is to just imagine the worse thing that could happen; then imagine how you would deal with that situation.  You’ll often find even the worst scenarios can be dealt with.

They don’t have starting capital

An unfortunate fact of life is that young people most frequently have passion for their great business or product line ideas but they don’t have any money.  As they get older and accumulate enough money, they lose the passion for the idea.  Many cosmetic chemists do not have the $15,000 or so of capital that you need to start your own line.  This is something you have to consider if you have such ambitions.

They don’t know how run a business

Being a great scientists does not automatically mean you will be a great business person.  In fact, science majors rarely get any business training at all in school so they are ill-equipped to start their own.  When you start your own cosmetic line, you are essentially starting a business.  You will spend most of your time on the business and very little of it in the lab.  This is why non-scientists frequently start product lines while scientists don’t.

They don’t like selling

There is no doubt about it.  Having your own cosmetic line means you have to sell to people.  Scientists are not given any sales training and many of them don’t like it.  Selling can be hard.  It can be demoralizing.  It can be incredibly humbling.  Selling is not for people who are overly sensitive or will easily give up.  For this reason many scientists avoid it and thus avoid starting their own cosmetic line.

They lack creative ideas

Although it is relatively easy to learn how to formulate products (by taking this course for example) it is not so easy to come up with unique ideas that will appeal to a large enough consumer group.  While formulations are important the story of the cosmetic brand, the packaging, and the overall product presentation is much more important for creating a successful line.  Many cosmetic chemists can make great formulations but that is not enough to start a cosmetic line.  You need to have a point of differentiation.  You need to have a story for why people should buy your cosmetic instead of one of your competitors.  Many people lack these creative ideas.

They know too much

One final reason that prevents chemists from starting their own lines is that they know too much.  They know how similar products are and how difficult it is to stand out.  They know how saturated the market is.  They know all the product ideas that were previously tried and were unsuccessful.  They suffer from what’s known as the “curse of knowledge”.  When you are starting a new cosmetic product line it is often better to be willfully ignorant of what has come before.  That way you will try things that an industry expert would have never tried.  Usually the crazy idea will be a failure and the expert will wag their finger as if to say “I told you so”.  However, sometimes those crazy ideas work.  If you want to start your own cosmetic line, engage in a little bit of willful ignorance.  Don’t be completely ignorant as that can lead to a lot of wasted time and money.  But sometimes, the less you know the more free you are to create.



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    I’m not looking to form a new product for sale. I’m just desperate to have or make something for myself to use. I am very allergic to iron oxides and a few dyes. Can you point me in the direction of someone who might make facial cosmetics specifically for me without the ingredients I can’t tolerate?

    Very grateful for any guidance and getting older!


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    EMIL R

    I greatly appreciate your posts,Perry,as they not only inform and encourage but challenge us readers to get out of our shell and explore possibilities. Indeed,if there is necessity,there is opportunity. Thank you very much and God bless!

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    Hi Perry,
    I love your article and it does describe me to perfection.

    What I have done and still working to do, is team up with entrepreneurial marketing people who can see my idea and want to take this further. So far, my approach is beginning to work – I have a chap marketing my ideas (and me) in South East Asia in the dietary supplement field. I am now trying to find others who can market me and my products into other areas: FMCG, Foods, Cosmetics and so on.

    I guess we all have our niche and if we understand our strengths and weaknesses and find complementary people to work with, we can both grow.

    Keep up the good work.

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    Kim Vassar

    This website us fabulous and informative. I too, want to fotmulate and sell my own cosmetic line. Keep up the good work Perry!

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      Perry Romanowski

      Hopefully, we can help make that happen. Good luck!

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    Hi Perry,
    Interesting post. Well being a physicist and biochemist as well as development expert myself I do agree that scientist are more interested in doing a good product then how to sell it but not all of them want to be in a lab. I have much more pleasure listening to my individual customer needs and advising them on what would benefit them the best. However, the world would have many more good products if the base of their success was a good formulation, unfortunately it is not. Scientists would also like people to understand a bit more on what they buy so that they can see the difference between a good product and the multiple products in the market that are all the same with just a little play on artificial smells…and the truth is that one needs to find the right words to communicate this, which is not an easy task.
    I fully agree that one needs a story as well. Formulating truly becomes an art when there is a motivation behind that brings the formulator to offer a service to the community through his or her product. In my case suffering from exzema and allergies and the exposure to the traditional uses of native plants in Africa and other continents were some of the factors that made the creation of a natural cosmetic brand an evidence to me.
    Your blog is full of down to earth advice while pushing people to realize their potential, so keep on you do great.

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      Perry Romanowski

      Thanks so much for the kind words. You’re right there are a lot of scientists who creating great products but don’t love being in the lab. It ultimately is the story that sells (at least the first time).

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    “the curse of knowledge”, Love it!!!! It is so true. This all makes sense. I find that the majority of people who have so much zeal… you know the fake it till you make it people… have a quality that we all can learn from and that is to be fearless. I mean what is the worst that can happen??? You learn what works or doesn’t work. I can deal with that. Your posts are always great! Right on the Money.

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      Perry Romanowski

      I love that philosophy…”What is the worst that can happen?” When you think it through, it’s usually not that bad.

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        Yes, Yes and Yes. I would love to work with a chemist for my cosmetic line. I have so much experience in the world of Beauty. Your story = Sales LOL

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    Moyra Mulholland

    They could team up with that other person….the one who has the ideas, has a bit of a name etc. etc.

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      Perry Romanowski

      Yes! A partnership is an excellent idea for some.

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    I am an upcoming high school senior and I actually want to be a formulator and a businesswoman at the same time. There’s definitely joy in being an introvert and having equations and formulas as my best friends but I love being social as well and I want to sell my own products. This website is amazing and really helpful for confused people like me who are looking for his / her path in the cosmetic world! (I am 99% sure formulating & business is mine).

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      Perry Romanowski

      Thanks Lena! Good luck in your future formulating endeavors. It’s never too early to start developing your business ideas.

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    Thank you! I would’ve never come up with as many reasons. You’re the best Perry.

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      Perry Romanowski

      Thanks Sherry! While there are lots of reasons cosmetic chemists haven’t come up with their own lines, I really hope more of them do. The industry would benefit from more scientists making important product decisions.

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