A Cosmetic Industry Overview for Cosmetic Chemists

In college, science majors spend their time learning complicated subjects like Calculus, Physics and Chemistry. Figuring out stuff like differential equations and bond angles of electron orbitals there isn’t much time or brain power left to learn the more mundane things taught in business classes.cosmetics industry

But when you get out of school, business subjects are important and you’ve got to take time to learn them. To be the most well-rounded and effective cosmetic chemist, you need to know about the markets for which you’ll be creating products. In this post, we’ll review the overall cosmetic industry to give you a basic understanding of where the money is and what products make the most.

Worldwide Cosmetic Market

If you look at the entire worldwide cosmetic industry, sales reach about $170 Billion dollars a year. It’s distributed pretty uniformly around the world with ~$40 billion in the Americas, ~$60 billion in Europe, ~$60 billion in Australia & Asia, and another $10 billion in Africa. The Western world spends a bit more per person but India and Asia are quickly catching up.

5 Primary Cosmetic Segments

So now that you know where all the money is spent, it’s helpful to know what people are spending their money on. The cosmetic industry (aka beauty industry or personal care industry) can be broken down into 5 segments. Sales are distributed roughly by the %’s given.

1. Hair Care - 20%
2. Skin Care - 27%
3. Fragrance - 10%
4. Make-up - 20%
5. Other - 23%

Market researchers like to break these up into even more segments but these 5 cover everything.

Hair Care Market

About 20% of all cosmetic products sold are for the hair. Shampoos make up the vast majority of this market since almost everyone uses shampoo. Other significant market segments include conditioners, styling products, hair color, and relaxers. Currently, the biggest players in this category are Procter & Gamble (Pantene) and L’Oreal.

Skin Care Market

The range of products that are offered for the skin care market are much more diverse than the hair care market. Skin care makes up about 27% of the total cosmetic industry and includes skin moisturizers, cleansers, facial products, anti-acne, and anti-aging products. Of all the cosmetics, skin care products can be some of the most expensive with 2 ounces of product routinely selling for >$200. Women do not mind spending big bucks to keep their skin looking young.

The biggest companies in this market include Procter & Gamble (Olay) and Unilever (Vaseline).

Make-up Market

The color cosmetic market represents about 15% of the cosmetic industry and includes anything from lipstick to nail polish. Included are things like blush, eyeshadow, foundation, etc. The array of products is vast and the number of color variations are practically infinite. You can spend a lot of time as a cosmetic chemist working on new shades of familiar products. The market is highly segmented so there isn’t really one dominant player. Maybelline an Clinique are just a couple of significant brands.

Fine Fragrance

This market segment has really taken a hit in the last few years but it still makes up about 10% of the cosmetic industry so some companies are still making money. This is the highest profit segment of the cosmetic industry but consumers are fickle. Only a few brands (like Chanel #5) can last for a long time. Fine fragrances come and go like fashion and companies have to continue to reformulate just to compete.


The “other” category represents 23% of the cosmetic industry and is made up of things like toothpaste, deodorants, sunscreens, depilatories, and other personal care products not yet mentioned. Actually, many of these products could fall under one of the categories already mentioned but the industry likes to keep them separated whenever they do stories on the various markets. The dominant companies are many of the same already mentioned, P&G, L’Oreal, and Unilever.

While the cosmetic industry is considered a “mature” industry (that means business people don’t expect much significant growth) it is a pretty reliable industry. No matter what, people want to smell and look good so even when the economy hits a recession people will still buy soap. The recent economic conditions demonstrate, they do buy less, but they do keep buying.

Related Articles

Cosmetic Science Programs Around the World

A list of cosmetic science schools and other programs that teach you how to create your own cosmetic formulas and beauty products. If you are truly interested in making products like it is done in the cosmetic industry or in getting a job as a cosmetic chemist, the following courses are legitimate programs recognized by people and companies in the cosmetic industry.

How to Become a Cosmetic Chemist

The job of a cosmetic chemist, or as they call it in the UK a cosmetic scientist, requires you to do a wide variety of things both in and out of the lab. Your main responsibility will be that of a formulator. This means you mix raw materials together to create cosmetic products like lipstick, nail polish, skin lotions, shampoos, toothpaste and any other type of personal care product.

Free Report

Sign up now to get a free report "How to Duplicate any cosmetic formula". Plus a 4-part introduction to cosmetic science mini-course.

We respect your email privacy