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Career profile: Cosmetic scientist

Career profile: Cosmetic scientistWant to know how your favourite moisturiser is made? Or what they put in your perfume to make it smell so nice? Read on to find out about the chemists behind the cosmetics.

A what?

Cosmetic scientists are responsible for making safe and attractive make-up, perfume, hair products and toiletries.

On the job

There are lots of different stages in creating a cosmetic product, so a scientist’s job depends on which bit they work on. At each point in the development, the scientist has two main concerns; that the product will do what it’s supposed to and that it won’t harm the person using it.

Researching how the different ingredients of a product reacts with a person’s skin, hair, nails or teeth (whatever part it’s aimed at) is an important first step. The next stage is developing the product, which involves tests to make sure it is attractive and that it will continue working. So if it’s lipstick, they will find ways to make it the right consistency (not too gloopy or too thin), and to make it last (so it doesn’t fall off two minutes after you’ve put it on).

A large part of the development and quality control testing is making sure that the cosmetic won’t ‘go off’. Lots of people keep the same bottle of perfume or make-up for months, or even years, so preserving the consistency and scent is very important.

At each stage the new product will be tested for safety using cell tissues, human volunteers, computer modelling and sometimes animals.

Cosmetic scientists spend the majority of their time working in a laboratory.

How do I get there?

In order to be a cosmetic scientist you normally need to study a science subject at university. Courses that can get you there are chemistry, chemical engineering, biology and pharmacy. Most universities will want you to have at least two A-levels (or three Higher grades if you’re in Scotland), and five GCSEs (grades A-C). You will probably need to do double-science GCSE, in order to take a science subject at A-level.

Three universities also offer cosmetic science as a degree course – De Montfort University (in Leicester), the University of Arts London and London Metropolitan University.

Lots of universities and colleges also offer foundation degrees and HNDs (Higher National Diplomas) in science subjects.

Remember that every university sets their own entry requirements, and some might ask for higher grades than others, so make sure you look around.

Future prospects

Newly qualified scientists can earn around £20,000 and as they gain in experience they can get paid over £50,000 a year. There are also opportunities to move into management positions or change directions to work in sales or marketing.

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