20 years of cosmetic chemistry experience but no experience????


I am a little frustrated and have to get this off of my chest. I have been scouring this blog as well as many other blogs in search of questions regarding cosmetic chemistry for African people. The problem I have is that I keep seeing all of this "experience" in cosmetic chemistry, in this and that, however when questions arise concerning any thing other than people of European descent the room gets quiet and the question gets pawned off to another person who has not idea either.  As a black business owner, this becomes extremely frustrating and annoying. So my question is why are there such limited resources for people of other descent? Why aren't you chemists taught about other races. It is quite obvious that there are differences in our skin, and hair types and textures. I have serious questions but keep hitting roadblocks. But if I inquire about "fine,frizzy,or curly hair the answers are infinite.

I apologize if this seems like a rant, but i'm just frustrated. Any comments are appreciated.


  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist

    You're frustrations are understandable. I can only give you my experience.  I worked at Alberto Culver and during my time our company produced the TCB line and the Motions line. In the 17 years that I worked there I was never assigned a project to work on these particular product lines. We had 4 chemists who worked on those projects and really, there was 1 chemist (who was excellent) who did more than half the projects.  In the entire company we had probably 70 formulating chemists.  So you can see only 4/70 were focused on ethnic hair care.

    The answer to your question is that the reason you don't get answers in this area is because the vast majority of formulating chemists do not focus on ethnic hair care.  This is because it is a sub-segment of the overall hair care market.  I'm guessing but the sales of ethnic hair care products probably represents about 20% of the entire hair care market.  Companies who do not have brands specializing in these markets do not dedicate any resources to them and even companies that do have a presence in the market (like my former company) they dedicate very few resources to the brands.

    Having said that, there certainly are experts in the ethnic hair care area, it's just that it is a specialty and those experts don't seem to participate on Internet forums as much.
  • swabuswabu Member

    Thank you for your response. Those are very sad statistics especially when, after researching I know that Black women spend a great deal of money on hair care. i have attached a link to some interesting facts about the spending power of black women.

  • BobzchemistBobzchemist Member, PCF student
    edited March 2016
    What @Perry said. But, it's actually worse than that - because hair care is a sub-specialty of cosmetic chemistry that not all that many cosmetic chemists get involved in. I feel your frustration, but you have to consider something - of the 8,000 or so cosmetic chemists working in the US, only about 30 or 40 of them are involved in any type of online forum. The odds of one of them having been involved in ethnic hair care are really small.

    I really do have experience working on products for Africans and other ethnicities - but not in hair care. I'm primarily focused on products for the skin, and a lot of my experience is specialized in color cosmetics.

    These online blogs and forums are a relatively new idea, also. 5 or 10 years ago, you'd have no choice other than paying a consultants fee if you wanted to talk to a professional cosmetic chemist at all. So the fact that you can get any sort of advice for free about cosmetics from a working professional is really a radical concept - and a number of us have already gotten flack from consultants about it.

    I don't want to sound like I'm angry about this, but really, it's like we're standing here giving away free ice cream, and you're complaining because we only have vanilla. There are plenty of resources available to you - but you're going to have to pay for them.
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • swabuswabu Member
    Bob, thank you for your comment. I absolutely appreciate all the information out here for anyone to use. I also understand that you all do this just because you have a love for the science an am grateful. 

    With that being said just because you're giving away free "vanilla" ice cream doesn't mean that those who like "chocolate" should just sit down and shut up. That's actually a very entitled and privileged way of thinking. Sort of like..." Sure women don't get paid as much as men, but at least they're getting paid!" It's kind of off putting. However- I understand what you were trying to say. I understand life isn't fair, but there are countless free resources for those with an interest in European products, but anything other than that you'll have to pay for? hmmm, that kinda sucks. But again I understand what you are saying. I will continue to do my research as you suggested. I will not host a pity party over things either. I do believe I have the right to express my feelings about something that seems to be so lop-sided. Perry was kind enough to direct me to someone who might be able to assist me.  You guys are great and I admire you all. I wish I was as smart about science as you are! 
  • @swabu: You appear to be sure there is a market, but you say there is a lack of expertise.
    Then my answer to you, is: If your premise is true, then you should develop the expertise yourself, because when you have it, people will flock to your door. There is quite a lot of information there - a good starting point is the differences between hair types - but you will need to do the work yourself.
    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist

    "Why aren't you chemists taught about other races?" ... Are you serious?  Chemists are taught about chemistry.  If you want to blame someone, I suggest you look within and ask the proper question:  Why are there not numerous African descent cosmetic chemists, who would have an innate understanding of African skin and hair care issues, developing products for that particular niche market?

    It sounds like you're looking for someone to bear the brunt of your frustration, yet you're missing a market opportunity while you're busy complaining that someone else isn't doing it.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    As to the link you posted, it's interesting but it demonstrates the problem

    "Black women, in particular, spend an estimated $7.5 billion annually on beauty products,"

    This sounds like a big number, but if you look at the overall market size, the market is estimated to be >$83 billion.  http://www.statista.com/statistics/254608/global-hair-care-market-size/

    This represents less than 10% of the market, so the way business people think we should expect they would dedicate 10% of their resources to developing these kinds of products.

    I'm not saying this is right or wrong, it's just an explanation about why there are so few experts in this particular market segment.  The good news is that it represents a market opportunity for a motivated entrepreneur. 
  • swabuswabu Member

    I appreciate all of your responses. Mr. Belassi- chemistry is not my thing! I was horrible at in high school. However, I think that, unfortunately my race has been only conditioned to follow certain career paths and this is why there is a lack of these professionals.  I will be honest and say until I started my own business I never-ever knew that cosmetic chemistry even existed! Now I am a woman who has her Master's in Mass Communication and have worked in corporate America for decades. I also use hair care products and spend major money on not only my hair, but my skin as well. Not once did I ever even stop to think about the potential in revenue from this industry until recently.  I do know that since the shift of our hair preference has been made to natural from relaxed you are starting to see more and more African American's creating products for our hair and skin. This is a shift that is exciting for me as a Black woman and has inspired me to understand and even create products for my "people" as well. 

    To Mark, 
    Your response seemed to be completely fueled by anger, so I won't respond to your thoughts. However, I appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to address my concern.

    Mr. Perry, 

    You speak very eloquently and I appreciate you and your opinion.

    I will continue to do as you all have implied and "spend money" on what I am looking for since it is not available to me for free. I will also continue to use this site as a point of reference to my standard questions about chemicals,processes and procedures.

    I hope you all have a great night, and thank you again for taking the time to answer my question.

  • PharmaSpainPharmaSpain Member, PCF student
    edited March 2016
    @swabu My suggestion would be:

    1- to try to inspire yourself from brands having their expertise in black people. 
    Doing this for example you can see the ingredients list. They are ordered int terms of percentage (keep in mind the 1% line). Maybe it is just marketing and the product are almos the same, but it is an starting point. If you see most if this companies use an specific product or this product is use in a different % you already have another key point....

    2- You could also read some cosmetics books. The have specific chapters dedicate to ethnic skin differences. For example: handbook of cosmetic science and technology talk in chapter 2 & 3 about that. I can imagine that Harry´s cosmeticology should (last version is huge and I suppose it talks about it, but you should confirm)

    3- Even if black skin is different, this is not a huge difference. They are, but not so much. If not, do you think topical medicament would be the same? The most different thing is marketing.

    Do not forget to come here again if you become an expert in this segment. People that are in the same position that you are now could benefit from your knowledge ;)

  • I would recommend joining the SCC. It's a fantastic network and there are tons of really great people to meet. There are tons of events, namely the IFSCC planned for this fall in Orlando. That would be a fantastic opportunity to meet these people. As Bob mentioned there are only about 40-50 active participants here. I have worked for two pretty large companies but unfortunately my experiences are limited to Caucasian and Asian body wash, shampoo, and skin care products. At the Expo you'll likely have access to hundreds of folks and increase your chances greatly on making a connection. I know that I am really only interested in the science aspect and deal with the marketing because it's necessary, Perhaps you could put together a pitch with your expertise and find somebody there with the chemical expertise that's willing to invest. That would be a great partnership. Good luck!
  • DavidWDavidW Member, PCF student
    There are companies who specialize in ethnic hair and skin products and they employ chemists or contract manufacturers who developed products for them.  It's just that none of them are on this forum.  Many, many years ago I used to work for a contract manufacturer that made LeKair brand products such as Super Gro, Cholesterole Cream etc....  IF you find a company or chemist who knows about hair care or skin care and you educate them as to what your needs are for ethnic skin or haor particulars, then you can come up with formulations together. 
  • chemicalmattchemicalmatt Member, Professional Chemist
    Swabu, "expertise" will generally be defined by the market requirements within which a professional works. Bob Z. has made a good reference to this. My career path here in Chicago has been nearly an immersion in African-American (and African, for that matter) and multi-cultural (read: Hispanic, Asian) product formulation. My running joke for over 25 years in this biz has been: I know more about black hair and skin care than a guy with blonde hair and blue eyes has a right to know. So there you have it. Now, as for color cosmetics: I don't hardly know where to start there, yet some guy in southern California or France likely does.  See what I mean.
  • Within the white race are many people with different hair and skin types just as there are in the black community so to lump everyone into one market seems a bit unfair and unrealistic.  If you are looking to serve a particular segment of "African people" then you are leaving out the rest who don't have those particular hair and skin characteristics.  You are also limiting your product to one market thereby potentially loosing customers.  I vaguely remember 35-40 years ago talking with a man who happened to be white but had very curly hair and had great difficulty caring for it so I suggested that he try a particular brand of an African American hair product.  He thanked me later as he did what I had suggested and it worked quite well for him!

    There are many talented men and women who come here and answer questions and whose knowledge could assist anyone no matter what their race, gender, ethnic background or even sexual preference.  It's all about cosmetic chemistry here and what is needed to give a certain characteristic to a product.  They have the knowledge and background and we are grateful that they come here to help do this!  But is it all down to one thing and that is the ingredients!
    Cosmetic chemicals can be formulated to work for everyone no matter what their race, gender, ethnic background or even sexual preference might be!
  • PharmaSpainPharmaSpain Member, PCF student
    @David08848 I am not very agree with you. Black, white, asian... in general they have quite differents needs (even not taking in mind cultural aspects...)
    Have you seen a lot of white or asian people with so curly hair as black people has? It is normal to want to respond to that needs and to do marketing efforts to an specific target. it does not means to say not to other clients. In general doing that only has marketing advantages.
  • Yes, I have seen white people with kinky curly hair including the gentleman I mentioned.  If I were going after that market, I would include anyone of any nationality and race with that kind of hair so that I didn't limit my customer base.  My point was that everyone who comes here with a cosmetic chemistry background has the knowledge and experience to formulate a product for the finest silky hair to the thickest kinky hair and anywhere in between.  Rather than go after an "ethnic" approach which assumes that everyone of that ethnicity has the same hair or skin characteristics one could approach it with the characteristics themselves regardless of ethnicity.  Once you state what kind of hair or skin requirements you are formulating for it then becomes much easier for the chemist to create their formula and to assist you in creating yours!
  • swabuswabu Member
    @David08848, while I appreciate your comment, I can assure the "curliest" hair on a Causcasion person's head will never be as kinky as someone of African descent. And yes! I don't want to create a product for everyone. I specifically want to create a product for African American hair with type 4c hair(The kinkest and driest of them all.)
  • I would have to agree @David08848 from a purely genetics standpoint it's certainly possible, when looking at things that are linked to heritage usually that means the genes are simply closer together on the chromosome therefore they are more likely to be linked and less likely to mutate exclusively it's certainly possible and over tens of thousands of years of evolution it's highly likely that it would occur once in a while. Enough to market a product towards? Probably not but nonetheless it's within the realm of possibility.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    Fundamentally ... Hair is hair ... The difference between straight hair and curly, kinky hair is that curly, kinky hair has numerous disulfide bonds that create the curls.  As your hair is part of nature's air conditioning system for your body, humans living in hot, humid climates tend to have kinkier, curlier hair.  The curlier the hair, the closer it stays to the scalp, the more cooling you get from the evaporation of sweat.  The only way to break the disulfide bonds is through relatively harsh chemical and heat treatment.

    As we are all genetic "mutts" anyone who has these genes in their lineage can have curly, kinky hair regardless of our perception of their "ethnicity"
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • PharmaSpainPharmaSpain Member, PCF student
    I think here the point is not if a white person can have or not so curly hair, but how frequently and the impact in marketing. 
    David I have not seen in my entere live a white person with a so curly hair as black people have. There are people....sure. Will you see them? Few in your life (I could describe that as nano niche) I think swabu is talking from a cosmetics and not pharma-biology point of view (but reading science comments is great!!). 
    Cosmetics is marketing and later the science. Focusing in black people hair market give so HUGE advantage comparing to products "for people with very very curly hair". Why? because 99,5% of the target is black peolpe and they will prefer a brand orientated exclusively for them (even is science behind is the same). You will loose 0,5% of your clients, maybe. It worth it? absolutely. Ask to marketing people who are the experts in selling.
  • swabuswabu Member
    thank you @pharmaspain
  • Swabu,  if you were to describe the characteristics of a product which you believe has market potential and be specific about the objectives, including the problems experienced with current products on the market, then I think you will get some responses.

    I developed, in a long time past, what was generally categorized as an "ethnic hair" product. It was for men with characteristic "African" hair seeking a gel type material that would enable hair to be combed, but not be "greasy" or shiny.  But, I did that in response to some rather specific requirements and with a ready group of individuals to test samples and give feedback.  The completed product was a market success because it was unique from other products in the category.  However, that work was (and remains) confidential, and I won't be able to divulge that formulation, but I only mentioned it here to illustrate that an anglo-saxon chemist such as myself can work in the ethnic market successfully. 

    I think that if you were to describe your needs specifically that you will get more of the response you are seeking.  There are those here who do an amazing job of answering chemical compounding questions which are phrased to provoke answers to address specific product needs and meet well defined performance objectives.

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