Episode 37: Do you need to be a Cosmetic Chemist to Formulate Skincare?

Cosmetic chemist vs skincare formulator

At Formula Botanica, we receive a good many queries from prospective students wanting to know if they need to be a qualified cosmetic chemist to formulate skincare products.  The cosmetic chemist vs skincare formulator conundrum has gone higher up the agenda in recent years as we’ve seen ever more non chemists as formulators and founders of indie beauty businesses.

At Formula Botanica, we teach diplomas and certificates in cosmetic product formulating. An increasing number of our graduates go on to formulate beautiful, high-performance products as well as run successful indie beauty businesses having been inspired and empowered by the courses they took with us.

This is possible because in nearly all parts of the world, irrespective of whether the formulator is a cosmetic chemist or skincare formulator, the cosmetic products themselves must meet strict compliance regulations to be sold legally.

What we teach at Formula Botanica are the key concepts of chemistry, a competent cosmetic product formulator would need to know to create products that are safe, stable and meet – and often exceed – consumer expectations. Some core components of cosmetic chemistry that we include in our Diplomas are pH measurement and monitoring, emulsification, methods of natural cosmetics’ preservation, and the use of solubilisers and surfactants.

Some Differences between a cosmetic chemist vs skincare formulator

There are of course some fundamental differences between a cosmetic chemist and skincare formulator. A cosmetic chemist would be steeped in the science of how cosmetic ingredients work together and would know the likely outcome of any formula even without a practical lab trial. A cosmetic chemist would need formal, recognised, usually graduate-level qualifications in chemistry along with a specialist training (a post-graduate qualification) in cosmetic science. They may well end up working in the R&D lab of a large cosmetics’ firm.

A cosmetic product formulator would not necessarily know the in-depth science of how ingredients work but could, through applied study and practical application of their formulating skills coupled with detailed observation, build up a considerable knowledge bank about their ingredients and formulation outcomes.

A cosmetic chemist working in a large lab might not be the one who dreams up the lovely new formulas as they might be more restricted in how much of the route from first creative idea to marketable product they get their hands on. However, they may be at the forefront of R&D bringing innovative cosmetic ingredients to market.

It is inevitable that there is some overlap in roles and also a lot of grey areas and misconceptions about what both careers involve. In this podcast, Formula Botanica School Director, Lorraine Dallmeier and podcast host and school business relations manager Gemma discuss the two roles and career paths along with their respective pros and cons. This podcast is a must-listen for anyone wondering about the training and career options in formulating cosmetics’ products especially if looking to focus on natural, organic formulation.

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You don't need to be a qualified cosmetic chemist to formulate skincare to sell. #greenbeautyconversations podcast @formulabotanica discusses careers in cosmetic science to explain why. #cosmeticscience #careersinbeauty Click To Tweet

In this episode tackling the roles of a cosmetic chemist vs skincare formulator, you’ll hear about:

  • Why your decision to choose one training route over the other may be more down to personal circumstances such as lifestyle, finances, commitments and time, and your desired career in the cosmetics’ industry;
  • How a cosmetic chemist has the chance to work in world-leading beauty brand labs but conversely how a product formulator may enjoy more freedom and creativity in formulating products and in career options;
  • Why a cosmetic product placed for sale in most parts of the world, whether it is formulated by a chemist or product formulator, will have had to undergone the safety, stability and microbial testing to be placed legally on the market for sale;
  • Why it is imperative that any cosmetics’ business founder is transparent about their own personal or their employees’ cosmetic formulating qualifications and must be confident in explaining how and why their qualifications  – whichever route they choose – enable them to do their job professionally;
  • Why building a successful cosmetics’ brand requires a swathe of skills that are not inherent in either product formulation nor chemistry backgrounds and would require extra skill sets;
  • Why the lack of formal, tertiary-level cosmetic chemistry courses worldwide and the costs entailed in continuing in higher education might make a shorter-term, distance-learning formulation course a more accessible option for some.

Key take-outs include the three main steps to becoming a competent, natural cosmetics’ skincare formulator:

  • Step one: First, get to know your ingredients thoroughly and learn how to research their properties. This will give you a sound basis on which to build your formulating skills.
  • Step two: Practice formulating and never stop testing out new combinations and ratios of ingredients. Only through practice can you create more advanced formulas that consumers demand.
  • Step three: Learn how to test your formulations professionally (safety, stability and microbial tests are mandatory). Develop the patience to test and make understanding testing one of your most important learning goals as a cosmetics’ formulator.

If you enjoy this podcast, you may also like our podcast on How to Comply with Cosmetics’ Regulations and our post Why I love natural, by a Cosmetic Chemist.

Listen, Download and Subscribe to Green Beauty Conversations

Thank you for joining us for this episode of the Formula Botanica: Green Beauty Conversations podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please share, subscribe and review on iTunes or Stitcher so that more people can enjoy the show. Don’t forget to follow and connect with us on: Facebook. Twitter; and on Instagram.


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