Why don’t more cosmetic chemists have their own cosmetic line?

In the comment section of a past blog post someone asked me why more cosmetic chemists don’t have their own line.   This is a pretty good question.  After all cosmetic chemists are the ones who best know how to make the products.  Shouldn’t they be the ones who launch them? start-a-cosmetic-line

Perhaps, but here are 9 reasons I could think of why a cosmetic chemist wouldn’t start a cosmetic line.  Many of these are the same reason that other people with business ideas never get started.

They like being in the lab

Most everyone who becomes a cosmetic chemist got some kind of science degree.  It is an over-generalization, but it’s also true that a large percentage of people who get science degrees are  introverts who prefer to be away from people.  They like to work on their own or in a small group and the thought of leaving the lab is unappealing.  To start your own cosmetic line you need to interact with a lot of people and be willing to get out of the lab.

They like formulating

One of the greatest things about being a cosmetic chemist is that you get to mix chemicals together in various proportions to create formulations that you like to use.  You get to weigh out the raw materials, adjust your mixer, control the heat and see all the cool things that go on in a batch while you’re making it.  It can be incredibly fun.  But when you start your own line very little of your time will be spent on formulation.  Much more of your time will be spent outside the lab selling your product, writing concepts or advertising copy, or just running the business.  When you have your own product line these activities occupy much more of your time than formulating.

They are comfortable in their job

Most cosmetic chemists have jobs which may not make them rich, but does allow them to live a rather comfortable, low-stress life.  It is hard for most people to give up a job with benefits and a guaranteed salary to pursue their dream of launching a cosmetic line.  I know many cosmetic chemists who have great ideas but don’t want to jeopardize their secure jobs.  If you are going to start your own line you are going to have to accept a certain degree of uncertainty.

They are afraid to take the risk

This applies to most people as well as to cosmetic chemists.  Starting your own cosmetic line is a risk both financially and emotionally.  Their is a very real chance you might fail.  This is reason enough for many cosmetic chemists to keep their day job and not start that cosmetic line they have in their head.  Fear of failure is a big deterrent.  It’s also one you need to overcome if you want to start your own cosmetic line.  One way to overcome this fear is to just imagine the worse thing that could happen; then imagine how you would deal with that situation.  You’ll often find even the worst scenarios can be dealt with.

They don’t have starting capital

An unfortunate fact of life is that young people most frequently have passion for their great business or product line ideas but they don’t have any money.  As they get older and accumulate enough money, they lose the passion for the idea.  Many cosmetic chemists do not have the $15,000 or so of capital that you need to start your own line.  This is something you have to consider if you have such ambitions.

They don’t know how run a business

Being a great scientists does not automatically mean you will be a great business person.  In fact, science majors rarely get any business training at all in school so they are ill-equipped to start their own.  When you start your own cosmetic line, you are essentially starting a business.  You will spend most of your time on the business and very little of it in the lab.  This is why non-scientists frequently start product lines while scientists don’t.

They don’t like selling

There is no doubt about it.  Having your own cosmetic line means you have to sell to people.  Scientists are not given any sales training and many of them don’t like it.  Selling can be hard.  It can be demoralizing.  It can be incredibly humbling.  Selling is not for people who are overly sensitive or will easily give up.  For this reason many scientists avoid it and thus avoid starting their own cosmetic line.

They lack creative ideas

Although it is relatively easy to learn how to formulate products (by taking this course for example) it is not so easy to come up with unique ideas that will appeal to a large enough consumer group.  While formulations are important the story of the cosmetic brand, the packaging, and the overall product presentation is much more important for creating a successful line.  Many cosmetic chemists can make great formulations but that is not enough to start a cosmetic line.  You need to have a point of differentiation.  You need to have a story for why people should buy your cosmetic instead of one of your competitors.  Many people lack these creative ideas.

They know too much

One final reason that prevents chemists from starting their own lines is that they know too much.  They know how similar products are and how difficult it is to stand out.  They know how saturated the market is.  They know all the product ideas that were previously tried and were unsuccessful.  They suffer from what’s known as the “curse of knowledge”.  When you are starting a new cosmetic product line it is often better to be willfully ignorant of what has come before.  That way you will try things that an industry expert would have never tried.  Usually the crazy idea will be a failure and the expert will wag their finger as if to say “I told you so”.  However, sometimes those crazy ideas work.  If you want to start your own cosmetic line, engage in a little bit of willful ignorance.  Don’t be completely ignorant as that can lead to a lot of wasted time and money.  But sometimes, the less you know the more free you are to create.

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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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