7 Essential formulation chemist skills

While there are a variety of cosmetic chemist jobs, the formulation chemist is the most interesting if you want to be an inventor and create products.

Come up with new product ideas

This is one of the most interesting parts of being a cosmetic chemist. You actually think of things that do not yet exist and imagine ways that you can make them happen. While it is interesting, it’s also one of the hardest parts of the job. How do you imagine that which hasn’t been created yet? It’s tough. But there are things you can do. First, look for the things that bother you most in your grooming habits. Then ask your friends and family. Next, go to the internet and check out beauty product discussion forums. Get engaged in the conversation and see what people really want to know. The other angle is to look at your suppliers and see if they have some interesting new technology that could be turned into a clever product. These types of ideas are the most likely ones to be turned into patents so spend a lot of time coming up with new ones.

Invent products that fit marketing concepts

While your own ideas might be your favorite, the ones that marketing gives you will be the ones that you’ll be required to spend the most time developing. In some ways this is easier because you have a target product and you just need to adapt technology to fit the claims. Try to inject something new in the formulas and resist the temptation to take existing formulas, change claims ingredients, and pass it off as a new product.

Improve existing products

New products are not always required. Sometimes you’ll be required to take existing products and make them better. The key to making a formula better is to have a good set of tests for which you have specific scores that you need to beat. For example, the foam of a cleansing product should be tested and given a score. Then your task will be to try to exceed that score. For skin products, the test might be moisturization of a feel test. Without a set score on specific tests, you’ll have a difficult time improving an existing product.

Find cost savings

Making things better is great but during tough economic times, your company is going to look to save money. This means you have to find a way to make your current cosmetic formula perform just as well at a much lower cost. Try doing knockout experiments to find cost savings. It’s also possible that you can just water down your formula by a little bit and consumers will not notice.

Solve production problems

One of the only times a cosmetic chemist gets called in the middle of the night is when the production department has a problem with a batch. Usually, the viscosity or pH are out of spec on a formulation. You’ll look at the batch sheet and everything will be added properly and at exactly the right levels. As a formulation chemist, you’ll need to give them ideas on how they might fix the batch. Production never wants to throw out a screwed up batch if they don’t have to.

Make products easier to produce on a large scale

The other way that you will interact with Production is that they’ll want you to come up with (or approve) methods that help speed up the production process. The first conditioner that I developed took over 6 hours to make in production. With some process and formulation modifications we were able to get that production time down to 2 hours.

Create tests to prove claims

The other essential skill will be to come up with impressive claims and tests that help prove them. Typically, your marketing people will point to claims that competitors are making about their cosmetics and ask you to beat them. For example, if a competitor says their shampoo makes hair 3 times stronger, they’ll want you to make hair 6 times stronger. But the real creativity in this area comes when you have to take your existing formula and figure out some test that proves it is superior to other products in some way. This often takes the same amount of cleverness as developing a completely new product.

What skills do you think are essential for cosmetic chemists? Leave a comment below

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