25 tips all cosmetic chemists should know

I saw an article on the FutureDerm blog about 25 things everyone should know about skin care. That inspired me to come up with this list of 25 things that every cosmetic formulator should know. For simplicity, I’ve organized them under the 5 key areas that are most important. In reality, we could do a list of 25 for each of these categories but we’ll start with this list.


Most cosmetic chemists strive to be formulators. It is the most fun job of all cosmetic science jobs, but of course I may be biased. Here are some tips that will make you a better cosmetic chemist.

  • 1. Try all your prototypes - A good formulator can’t be good without experiencing the product.
  • 2. Do a knockout experiment on all finished formulas - The best way to figure out how ingredients affect the formulation.
  • 3. Add colors at the beginning - If you get it wrong you won’t waste good raw materials
  • 4. Use preservatives - Preserved cosmetics are safe cosmetics.  Don’t fall for the “preservative-free” nonsense.
  • 5. Record time, temp & procedure - This will help immensely when scaling up a formula.

Raw materials

You’re going to need to learn a lot more than just these five things about raw materials but here are some tips that raw material suppliers won’t think to tell you.  They are helpful to know.

  • 6. Salt can thicken (or thin) surfactant solutions - Really.  Get familiar with the salt curve.
  • 7. Raw materials with the same name can behave differently - Suppliers and supplies matter.
  • 8. Anionic & cationic generally don’t mix - They make salts which are usually insoluble.
  • 9. Violet #2 can offset yellow colors - This is a handy formulation trick.
  • 10. Carbomer takes a long time to hydrate - So do other powders but this one is particularly long.


You will come across problems in your job and will frequently be asked to develop innovative new products.  These tips will help your innovation efforts.

  • 11. Generate lots of ideas - When it comes to ideas, generating more is better than generating the highest quality ideas.  You can filter the bad ones out later.
  • 12. Ideas aren’t worth anything - If you do nothing with an idea you might as well not even have it.  Tell everyone about it and don’t worry if someone will steal it.  They won’t.
  • 13. Personal brainstorming is better than group - Group brainstorming sessions are mostly a waste of time but individual brainstorms are incredibly useful and productive.
  • 14. Creativity can be learned - No one is born creative.  You can learn to be creative if you want to.
  • 15. Big companies have a hard time with true innovation - Truly innovative products rarely fit the corporate model for product development.  Be prepared to be ignored.  Starting your own company is usually required for true innovations.


Being a cosmetic chemist is a career and to be successful, you’ll need to follow some standard career advice.  And as a scientist in industry there are some special things you’ll have to realize.

  • 16. Spend time building your network - Build a network of people you know and like.  Figure out a way you can help people & when you need something, they’ll more likely respond.
  • 17. Intelligence is often a handicap in corporations - Most people in corporations aren’t smart & they don’t much like people that are.  Unless you’re the boss, realize that your intelligence can hamper your career growth.
  • 18. Money must be a minor motivation - A career in science is rarely the most financially lucrative that a smart person can choose.  If money is the most important thing to you, go into finance, banking, marketing or sales.  You’ll get paid more.  Of course, there is more stress & probably less happiness.
  • 19. Get along with your boss (or get another one) - Your boss controls your future. If they don’t like you, your career at that company is doomed.
  • 20. Don’t complain or criticize - It makes you less likable, less influential, and damages your career.


  • 21. You don’t need to patent your idea - No one is going to steal your idea so don’t let patent protection slow down your product launch.
  • 22. An online business is a great way to start - Starting a brand online is the easiest way to get started.  See our free report to start a cosmetic line.
  • 23. It’s ok if someone else is doing your idea - Being unique is a problem because it means your idea probably isn’t marketable.  If someone is doing your idea, just make sure you do it better.
  • 24. Focus on marketing - Formulations do not sell products, marketing does.  Certainly you should create great products.  But if you want to have a successful business, you’ll need great marketing.
  • 25. Don’t sell inexpensive products - A small company can’t compete on price.  Big companies will beat you every time.  So sell more expensive products that have a unique story.

Have any of your own tips to add?  Leave a comment below.

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