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Career in Cosmetic Science

There are more opportunities today than ever before within the Cosmetic Industry, covering a wide range of disciplines.

As the industry becomes more technologically advanced and focused, and the demand grows for products that confer real benefits, rather than just aesthetic appeal, there is an increasing need for scientists to work in both mainstream and specialised areas.

Product Development

There are many companies and specialist consultancies developing ideas for innovative products, as well as the routine products we all use every day such as shampoo, toothpaste, moisturiser, deodorant, etc

As well as developing an attractive-looking product, Cosmetic Chemists have to make sure that it is:

  •  Stable to light and extremes of temperature and resistant to deterioration with age (Physical and Analytical Chemistry, Rheology, Quality Control)
  • Resistant to microbial contamination (Microbiology)
  • Safe (Toxicology, Dermatology, Environmental Safety)
  • Compatible with its packaging (Packaging Technology)
  • Capable of performing as claimed (Product Evaluation and Consumer Testing)
  • Compliant with current legislative constraints (Regulatory Affairs)

Packaging Development

Besides having instant eye appeal, packaging must be compatible with the product and function safely and effectively in delivering it at the correct rate and in the right amount. Use of the most appropriate material can be critical and all the component parts of the overall pack must fit together and work as a unit. Filling trials need to be carried out to ensure that the pack is practical when subjected to a high speed filling line.

Thorough testing with the product is essential so that the consumer can have every confidence that product and pack will endure together for the entire shelf-life of the product.

Product Safety and Evaluation

Current EU legislation demands that:

*Cosmetic products are safe for consumers to use under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use

*Advertising claims relating to product performance are supported by valid test data

Safety Testing of raw materials may be conducted in vitro, using cell or tissue culture techniques, ex vivo using excised tissue or in vivo, using laboratory animals or (finally) human volunteers. There is a continuing trend for in vitro and human volunteer testing protocols to replace animal tests where possible.

Safety testing of formulated products may not always be necessary and can normally be done by patch testing or home use testing in human volunteers. It is, however, necessary to have a safety assessment performed by a Competent Scientist on each new product before placing it on the market.

Failure to ensure the safety of manufacturing staff and consumers can result in costly and damaging litigation.

Performance Testing in support of product claims may involve instrumental measurements of properties such as hair strength, elasticity and ease of combing, or skin moisture content and softness. In addition, claims may be supported by subjective evaluation, using sight, touch and other sensory perceptions to identify cosmetic benefits under conditions of normal use.

Larger companies may have their own safety and evaluation facilities but it is more common to use specialised Contract Research Organisations (CRO), working to international guidelines (GLP- Good Laboratory Practice or GCP- Good Clinical Practice) and providing an independent assessment of safety or performance.

Scientific Research

Research is generally carried out within the larger cosmetic or raw material companies, academic institutions or specialised organisations. There is a growing demand for Pure Research into the properties, behaviour and reaction of skin, hair, teeth and nails at both the macroscopic (Physiological) and microscopic (Biochemical) levels.

Cosmetic manufacturers and raw material suppliers are always looking for the magic ingredient, or combination of ingredients, that will keep us young and beautiful, but it may take years of intensive screening (Applied Research) to achieve a single result that can be positively validated and this is a costly business. For this reason, some of the actives recently used in cosmetics have been the result of Pharmacological research into topical drugs.


It is important that microbiologists are involved in the development of a product at an early stage. It needs to be shown that products can withstand reasonable microbial contamination and that the consumer will not be faced with a frightening growth of fungus or bacteria on opening their new product for the first time or after a sustained period of use.

Continual monitoring of machinery, equipment and the manufacturing environment is necessary to ensure good hygiene. Equally important is the testing of new materials and finished products to ensure anti-microbial efficacy. These procedures form part of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP).

Educating factory staff, setting and improving hygiene standards and troubleshooting contamination problems are other important aspects of the Microbiologist’s work.


In these times of global markets it is increasingly important to have access to an expert on international legislation. Keeping up to date with changing legislation in multiple markets is a full time occupation for Regulatory Affairs staff within larger companies or specialised consultants.

Process Development and Manufacturing

It is no use being able to make wonderful products in the laboratory if they cannot be made practically and consistently in the manufacturing plant. This requires close liaison between Production and Development Scientists to anticipate potential problems. Scale-up does not necessarily produce the same product as was made by hand in the laboratory so the skill of the chemist is required to counteract any differences and create a manufacturing process that is both reliable and economical.

Quality Control procedures are also essential during manufacture to ensure that each new batch is consistent with the agreed standard, within allowable limits of tolerance.

Sales & Marketing

Further opportunities for scientists arise away from the research and development or production environments. Previous scientific experience can be invaluable when put to use in other disciplines, for example, in Sales and Marketing of raw materials or finished products.

A background in science is a huge advantage when trying to sell a new raw material to a development chemist, or in communicating a new product brief to a development team. Science also brings reality to the marketing table and helps to temper some of the wilder “artistic” claims in favour of those that can be validated.

The Society of Cosmetic Chemists South Africa (Coschem)

Coschem is the professional society for scientists in the Cosmetic Industry in South Africa. It offers a wealth of benefits to members, including lectures, symposia and educational events.

 Contact the Coshem offices for any further information.

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