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What Role does Chemistry Play in Cosmetics?

As a chemical engineering major, I’ve had to write about where chemistry is found in the beauty industry and how chemists play a role behind these everyday products we use. If you’re like me, you probably love beauty and skincare and have been obsessed with looking at the ingredients and seeing what is actually in your “clean products.” I mean, what actually is in your products? Who knows if the product really works? What if you put two ingredients together and they react in the wrong way? Well, here is how science is behind your everyday products:

Who formulates?

Cosmetic chemists formulate skin care or beauty products such as lotion, body wash, makeup, conditioner, etc. They also prepare solutions in a lab, research chemicals or ingredients, and test products. To get into formulation, you should get a Bachelor’s Degree in either chemistry, chemical engineering, or a related STEM degree. An advanced degree is not necessary to start in the cosmetic industry, but getting a masters could be beneficial. If you love chemistry and math, this could be a possible career for you.

What’s the correct composition for each makeup product?

Ever wonder how you know to make lipstick oil based? Well, a chemist would know. They know what ingredients work well with one another, what compound will get rid of acne, and which chemical may exfoliate your skin. With research, they know how these chemicals will react and which ones won’t work well with certain types of skin. Cosmetic chemists are also aware of how dangerous and unhealthy some chemicals can be. A lot of companies are trying to label themselves as “clean,” which means they don’t include parabens, phthalates, BHT, artificial fragrances, and basically any chemical that will have harmful effects to your health.

Where is chemistry found?

Chemistry is found in every single product. There is not much thought from day to day about who creates the products we put on our faces. But if you even look around where you are sitting, it’s basically in the soda you’re drinking or in the food harvesting that it took to get the ingredients you are currently eating. So while you may not think of chemistry off the top of your head when looking at your face wash, it took some science to get that product currently in your hand.

What about hair care products?

Don’t forget about hair care products such as shampoo or conditioner. How do companies advertise their products as “color saving” or “guaranteed shimmer and shine” after one usage. Chemistry is behind all this as they find what chemicals or materials can give the desired results that the consumers want. For example, stemoxydine is a synthetic pyridine derivative, which is an ingredient that is supposed to target hair loss and increase volume of your hair. Studies are still showing it to be effective, but overall, discovering chemicals or formulas is what chemistry is all about.

Is it found in creating scents?

Chemistry is involved in scents: perfume, lotion, and sunscreen. But who makes your favorite perfume smell like vanilla? Or who makes that SPF 40 sunscreen smell like coconut? A chemist or fragrance chemist! One has to be able to formulate those scents and come up with a variety of combinations mixing various chemicals.

If you want to find out more or get connected with people of similar interests in the cosmetic chemist industry, click here to learn about the society of cosmetic chemists. There’s so much science behind different industries; think about the food you consume, the medicine or pills you take, and the gas you pump into your gas. Chemistry is behind the simplest things, even the nailpolish you’re wearing. Dive into the cosmetic and skin care industry, and see what it’s all about!

Sydney Fiorentino is a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering. She has a strong interest in journalism. She likes to sing, walk, and listen to music.
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