The cosmetics industry offers a wide variety of research opportunities ranging from toxicology to R&D. While all of our panelists held undergraduate and/or graduate degrees in chemistry, a background in any scientific discipline is valued. In my own career, my PhD in pharmacology gave me the expertise to learn about toxicology profiles when reviewing ingredients for product safety as a Senior Scientist at L’Oreal.
Attending the event were over 65 enthusiastic scientists, ranging from PhD students to post-doctoral fellows and industry professionals. We were thrilled to have a variety of scientific experts with very diverse backgrounds as our panel guests. Dulce Almario, who holds a Masters degree in Professional Studies, Cosmetics, and Fragrance Marketing and Management, started her career at L’Oreal as an R&D chemist, then worked at Firmenich, and is now the Associate Vice President of Product & Fragrance Innovation at Victoria Secret Beauty. Amber Evans, who has a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences with an emphasis on Cosmetic Science and has had internships with Procter and Gamble, is now a product development scientist in BASF’s Care Chemicals division. Marianne-Mota Paulino, who holds an M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, was also an intern at Procter and Gamble before starting her career with L’Oreal as a formulation chemist and has now transitioned to the role of Senior Process Engineer. Finally, Alisa Vasilenko, PhD, also began her career at L’Oreal as a formulation chemist, and has transitioned to Manager of Luxury Development at L’Oreal.
According to Dulce Almario, Victoria Secret beauty launches about 600 products each year, requiring a lot of work to bring them to our shelves. Marianne-Mota Paulino explained that the life cycle of a product, from conception to completion, can take several years. And all components of this life cycle offer a wide range of career opportunities, in marketing, operations, packaging, manufacturing, patent law, legal issues, regulatory compliance, and toxicology, to name a few. The panelists agreed that there is great career satisfaction in seeing their work come to life on the shelf.
While three out of the four panel guests have had experience at the cosmetics giant L’Oreal, there are several companies that offer opportunities in the cosmetics industry, both in the U.S. and globally, and they are all structured a little differently. Not surprisingly, when the panelists were asked how they climbed the ladders of success in the industry, the answer was “networking, networking, networking.” As important as a solid scientific background is, and as helpful as internships are in gaining experience in the cosmetics industry, it is crucial to network through avenues such as Linkedin, networking specific events in the industry, and keeping an open mind and open ears. Alisa Vasilenko explained how her career trajectory was purely serendipitous, beginning as a result of her walking into an event at her university and meeting the people who would go on to help her land her job at L’Oreal.
A vital component of the cosmetics industry is the power of marketing. This makes the industry extremely fast paced, constantly changing, and ultimately being driven by consumer demands. This can be a challenge for us scientists, who are generally driven by factual data, anticipation of questions, and logic. It is critical to be able to balance our scientific training and background with the value of people skills, flexibility and patience, all critical for success in the corporate culture of the industry. Amber Evans discussed the importance of being able to make things happen to be successful in your career. The skills that enable a person to obtain an advance science degree are applicable to many areas of life. Avoid letting academic achievements overshadow other valuable experiences.
Our featured guest was David Smith, the Executive Director of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC). He made valuable remarks about the SCC’s mission, available opportunities and ways to get involved (for more information, visit scconline.org). He also discussed a major challenge in the cosmetics industry today, with the launch of the new European Union regulations prohibiting any animal testing on both finished products and all ingredients or combinations of ingredients used in cosmetics.
The panel discussion was followed by a vibrant networking session where the speakers were able to personally interact with attendees. It was extremely rewarding to see so much enthusiasm and interest in this remarkable industry.