Is cosmetic science important enough for scientists?

This video is funny…and a little sad.

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Thankfully, this isn’t how it really is for cosmetic chemists but there is certainly a tinge of truth here.

Early years

In my younger years I often fretted about taking a job as a cosmetic chemist. One recurring thought was that it wasn’t “important” enough. In fact, I remember driving home after my interview at the shampoo factory thinking that there is no way that I would want this job.  I took it with the intention of making some money then quitting after a few years and going to get a PHD in something “important”.

After a few years, I found I really enjoyed my job. I liked the projects.  I liked the challenges.  I liked the people.  And overall, it was fun.  Being a cosmetic chemist is a great job.  If you have an interest in inventing things, learning about chemicals and human biology, being creative and seeing your work directly impact people’s lives, then you’ll love a career in cosmetic chemistry.

But is it important enough?

Is cosmetic science important?

You really have to decide for yourself if cosmetic science is important enough.  Consider the pros and cons.


  • Your work leads directly to products that people use
  • Your products make people happy
  • There is a lot to learn & the subject is interesting
  • It’s economically important
  • It is a low stress job, good salary
  • It can pose challenging problems
  • You’re not curing cancer or saving lives
  • There is very little “new” science
  • You’re not solving Big world problems
  • You’re not going to change the world
  • You could have made more money in banking or sales

These are just off the top of my head but I’m sure there are other things that cosmetic chemists would add to the list.  (feel free to do so in the comments)

Since I’ve spent nearly 20 years in the industry it seems that my answer to the question is…

Yes, cosmetic science is important enough.

When I thought about it I decided that no one is really curing cancer because cancer is still around.  And people may be making progress on Big Problems but there are still plenty of Big Problems that are unsolved.  And they’ll remained unsolved whether I work on them or not.

The other thing is that as a scientist you are free to keep tabs on other areas of research.  If you ever have an idea that you think will cure cancer or Alzheimer’s disease or solve some other world problem, go work on it.  But if you don’t have any ideas about those subjects, a cosmetic science career is a great place to keep your brain fresh and work on interesting problems (that can be solved).


Incidentally, I did go back to school and pursue a Masters degree in biochemistry but I never left the cosmetic industry. Biochemistry just didn’t seem like it would be an interesting job.  For me being interesting is more important than being “important”.


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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.

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