The science behind cosmetics

The science behind cosmetics

Science behind products


What's in my cosmetics

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The science behind cosmetics


While cosmetics can be fun to use, the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating them involves serious, highly advanced science. To put just one new product on the shelves can take up to five years, with a dozen senior scientists working on it, each supported by their own team of scientists.

To create a sunscreen with a new 'active' in it can take more than 5 years and a team of 12 or more senior scientists, all supported by their own scientific teams. Some will work on synthesising the active molecule, some on the formulation of the products and others on safety and efficacy assessments.

As well as creating innovative new products, the cosmetic industry also uses science to tackle wider issues, such as the environmental impact of producing products.

The very finest rose oil requires 4 tonnes of petals, picked by hand at dawn and processed the same day to produce a single kilogram of oil. It is a rare commodity. The development of synthetic rose oil has allowed rose-scented products to be developed to an extent that could not be matched by natural production; there simply is not sufficient suitable growing space.

Frontier science is helping industry to respond to consumer concerns, such as reducing the environmental impact of producing cosmetics. For example. because of science, we have broad spectrum sun protection covering both UVB and UVA rays.

Brands are working hard to understand what consumers want and are using science to meet this, moving away from a 'tell' model of product development to an 'ask' one. Science makes this personalisation possible. Science provides opportunities for products that help us to express ourselves. It has enabled us to create more fun, innovative products.

Cosmetic science and education


CATIE Faces of Science
Key Stage 4 Science and PSHE resource

Part of the CATIE online resources, Faces of Science was developed as an educational resource for Key Stage 4 Science students. It contains educational information, animations and interactive activities, as well as interviews with scientific experts who work in the cosmetic, toiletry and perfumery industry. Parts of this resource are also suitable for Key Stage 3 students.

Faces of Science teaches science that is needed for GCSE and gives the opportunity to meet the people who use this science for their jobs in the cosmetics industry.


'Scrub Up On Science' - Online Educational Resource

The SCS has launched a new educational website, 'Scrub Up On Science', for 11-16 year olds. The aim is to provide free practical Chemistry resources to UK secondary schools with work plans, activity sheets and presentations for lessons ranging from learning how to describe the properties of cosmetic products to extracting natural fragrances.

Courses for Cosmetic Scientists


London College of Fashion - MSc Cosmetic Science Course

From the 2012-13 academic year the London College of Fashion commenced an integrated MSc Cosmetic Science Course which replaced their original BSc (Hons) Cosmetic Science Course, which ran successfully for over 10 years, this new course Msc in Cosmetic Science has now been running for 7 years.

For more information about the course, and to discuss placement opportunities for students, please contact:
Dr Danka Tamburic
London College of Fashion
20 John Prince's Street
Tel: 0207 514 7722


Society of Cosmetic Scientists

The Society of Cosmetic Scientists (SCS) runs a Distance Learning Course leading to a Cert HE and the Society's own Diploma. It also runs a week-long Residential Course every two years.


Distance Learning Course - SCS Diploma/Certificate in Higher Education (Cosmetic Science)

The course consists of 29 modules some of which utilise Practical Activity Kits (PAKs), and these together with CD ROMs are provided in three separate mailings - corresponding in one per term.


Principles and Practice in Cosmetic Science - Residential Course

The course has been structured to provide information regarding the principles & practice of Cosmetic Science to scientists who have been working in the Industry for a few years and are looking to move in to more managerial or supervisory roles, primarily, but not exclusively, in the scientific functions.

The course is based around a compelling & challenging Product Development exercise, which was developed by Tony Dweck, an Industry expert & a very active member of the Society. The lectures have been organised in such a way as to provide the delegates with the most up to date information on the principle & practise of cosmetic science, in the context of this unique development exercise, maximising their learning experience.