8 Career Paths a Cosmetic Chemist Can Branch From

When students set out the goal of becoming a cosmetic chemist, they often only see one destination in mind: the laboratory.

career paths cosmetic chemist

While it's a good idea (scratch that, highly recommended) to start off formulating at the bench before advancing to anything else using your cosmetic chemistry smarts, the laboratory doesn't have to be your endgame.

Here are eight other career paths you can take once you feel ready to move on from working on the lab bench:

1. Process engineer

Process engineers are responsible for scaling-up the formula from bench to tank. This means that they must be able to replicate how a product was made in the lab to a much larger scale. As a cosmetic chemist, you'll often work with process engineers at the plant to help monitor the pilot batch of your formulas. (Pilot batches are the first time a formula is made at a larger scale to see what challenges there are bringing it from the bench to production size—think large tanks. These batches are not sent to the retailer.) Formulators may also have to help monitor the first production batch.

The transition from a formulator to an engineer can be a smooth transition if you entered the field with a chemical engineering degree. If you would like a new challenge and like solving problems, becoming a process engineer could be very rewarding. Having prior experience as a formulator is important since you’ll be able to already understand the little tricks and techniques of different phases of your product to successfully handle it at production scale.

2. Brands (Product Development)

You can work for cosmetic brands as a chemist by being involved in product development. While you won't be at the lab bench anymore, your technical knowledge is crucial for the success of translating marketing's desires to scientific language a chemist can understand when making the products for your marketing team.

If testing prototypes (aka playing with makeup all day long) sounds more enticing than making the prototypes on the bench, product development may be more of your calling. I’ve observed that people who enjoy doing more creative work and engaging in frequent social interaction tend to enjoy product development more than being on the bench.

Check out this in-depth post on what it’s like to be a product developer versus a product formulator!

3. Technical Sales

In technical sales, you will work for a raw material supplier traveling to your different accounts and pitching the latest innovations your company has to offer. When you're not travelling, you are typically working on the bench to make products integrating the new ingredients your company is trying to sell. This job can be very rewarding for those who want some right-brain work outside of product development. Similar to product development, it requires a lot of socialization since you will be interfacing with your clients one-on-one.

While your main job is to pitch sales, you also will be the point of contact for your accounts if they need extra documentation or need assistance in formulation. It’s important that you understand the chemistry of your company’s ingredients inside and out to be able to service your clients well.

The main clients you will be working with are formulators since product developers don’t have laboratories to try out your new products. You may still have meetings with brands in order to inspire them about new technologies. It may also inspire them to reach out to the different labs they are working with to try to incorporate your ingredients.

4. Freelancing/Consulting

On the side or as a full-time gig, you can act as a consultant to those wanting to start their own lines. Depending on how you want to run your business, you can formulate and make products in your own space or rented space. Alternatively, you can be a consulting product developer. Formulating cosmetics in your own space requires a lot of start-up money for cost of equipment and materials. Working as a freelance product developer has the lowest start-up cost since you do not require lab materials or equipment. On the flip-side, it can be expensive if you have to travel to your client or to the subcontract manufacturer your client is working with.

Before picking which type of consultation you want to do, I would research these start-up costs.

5. Starting Your Own Cosmetic Line

Instead of making someone else's line, why not ignite that entrepreneurial spirit of yours and start a cosmetic line of your own? You can achieve this by doing the good ol' fashioned "I started in my garage," route, or by working out a contract with a subcontract manufacturer where you rent lab space.

If you want to start from your garage or kitchen, keep in mind you will need to send this formula to a subcontract manufacturer to be sure it’s made with good manufacturing practices. (Or just go straight to Etsy, some consumers don’t care…your call. I personally would recommend doing it the proper way if you can afford it.)

6. Educator

Do you find yourself mentoring a lot of students interested in the cosmetic chemistry field? Do you often give people advice on their products and what's in them? Why not start an e-course or become an educator?

Another way you can become an educator is by pursuing a Masters or PhD in cosmetic science and teaching at a university. Check out this post for a list of schools where you can find an advanced degree in cosmetic science.

7. Researcher

There aren’t many universities which specialize in cosmetic science, but then again I haven’t met many people who have their PhD’s related to this field! If you think you’d enjoy being a part of research faculty, I’d definitely learn more about the University of Cincinnati’s Masters program in pharmaceutical chemistry with an emphasis on cosmetic science. There are opportunities to continue your Masters degree by pursuing a PhD. (If anyone else is aware of other PhD related programs, leave a comment below!)

8. Blogger

Love writing about cosmetic chemistry? Why not blog about it? Since our industry is so niche, I personally believe there's plenty of opportunity to start your own cosmetic chemistry blog and make some moo-lah off of it like any other blogger. You can also contact websites and other publications about doing guest posts.

Many bloggers also are part-time consultants and educators, so the world of blogging doesn’t have to stay within the realm of creating content for a website! As a cosmetic chemistry blogger myself, I will address what the blogosphere is like for this field in a separate post.


As you can see, you don’t have to pigeon-hole yourself into just becoming a formulator staying on the bench. Often times, I find that students who want to become cosmetic chemists only think about being a formulator.

Were you aware of these other career paths you can take? Do any of these paths seem interesting to you? Have you heard of another one? Let me know in the comments section below! 
As always, one of my goals for G+M+W is to increase the awareness of cosmetic chemistry! Be sure to share this post on Facebook or Twitter to get the conversation going!