Cosmetic industry

The cosmetic industry is currently dominated by a small number of multinational corporations that originated in the early 20th century, but the distribution and sale of

cosmetics is spread among a wide range of different businesses. The world’s largest cosmetic companies are The L'Oréal Group, The Procter & Gamble Company, Unilever, Shiseido Company, Limited and Estée Lauder Companies, Inc.

The cosmetic industry worldwide seems to be continuously developing, now more than ever with the advent of the Internet companies. Many famous companies sell their cosmetic products online also in countries in which they do not have representatives.

Besides well-known international companies, there is a growing trend in the World, to produce almost hand-made cosmetics with limited production using natural or almost natural raw materials and cosmetics manufactured in a way that is environmental-friendly.  For consumers of this type of production it is important that they can buy good, unique and well-produced products, not available from mass market retailers. Each manufacturer brings their own design and creativity to their products. Sometimes, hand-made goods of a company become so popular that they outgrow from a small enterprise and become a well known brand.

One such example is the UK’s company “Lush”, which was established in 1994 by Mark and Mo Constantine[1]. There are now 830 stores in 51 countries. Lush produces and sells a variety of handmade products, including soaps, shower gels, shampoos and hair conditioners, bath bombs, bubble bars, hand and body lotions and face masks.

Lush products are made in factories around the world (including Poole, Dorset and Vancouver, Canada), and are made in small batches based on orders from individual stores to ensure the freshness of the product. Stores do not sell products older than four months and most products have a total shelf life of approximately 14 months.

Lush products are 100% vegetarian, 83% vegan, and 60% preservative-free and feature grapefruit juice, vanilla beans, avocado butter, rosemary oil, and fresh papaya and coconut, etc. Typically, these products are free from packaging. Lush does not buy from companies that carry out, fund, or commission any animal testing. Lush tests its products on human volunteers before they are sold. Their aim is to have 100% of their packaging easily recyclable, compostable or biodegradable. Although there exist many opponents because of their radical political actions related to animal rights, etc., their products are continually popular among consumers.

The other, Estonian success story about a small factory the hand-made products of which quickly became popular amongst consumers, is about JOIK. Their[2] story of success began in 2005, when company founder Eva-Maria Õunapuu was searching for high-quality scented candles that she could burn during dark and cold autumn and winter evenings. However, finding suitable candles turned out to be harder than expected.

She did not want to burn petroleum-based paraffin candles and was constantly disappointed in the aromas of scented candles. The solution was to get into the exciting world of scented candles herself and thereby learn to make high-quality, clean-burning candles that are true to the promised aroma.

She discovered that a suitable alternative to paraffin was natural soy wax. The next step then was to find the desired aromas. The process of getting the candles exactly right was long and full of nuances. However, it was worth the effort and eventually the candels turned out so good that other peole also developed an interst for them. Therefore, the idea to start selling candles was born.

Step by step the hobby turned into a business and a successful company grew out of it. Over the years natural cosmetics products were added to the line, starting with soaps, body oils and bodycreams, bath products. Later a hand and foot care as well as a facial range were added. The most important aspect of JOIK products has always been the high-

quality ingredients that are as natural as possible. A long process of research and testing precedes the launch of all new JOIK products – all for the satisfaction of their clients.

Thanks to hard work JOIK is now the most successful Estonian natural cosmetics brand. JOIK products are sold in stores all over the country, but also in Europe and in Asia.

Careers related to cosmetic industry

Different types of jobs in the cosmetics industry include production, research, testing, sales and application. Like any industry, there are also a number of management positions. Various career paths in the cosmetics industry more related to science, are introduced below.

Scientists in the cosmetic industry[3]

There are literally thousands of scientists working in the cosmetics industry and the number of jobs continues to grow. This is an industry that continues to sell products even in uncertain economic times. There are various types of companies that employ cosmetic scientists and chemists. These include manufacturers of finished goods, contract manufactures, raw material suppliers, and testing laboratories. The most common degree required of a cosmetic scientist is a bachelors’ degree in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Biology or Microbiology, and to a lesser extent a degree in Physics; bigger companies like Procter & Gamble or L’Oreal tend to favour students who have a Masters or a PhD degree in cosmetic science.

A person looking to work as a scientist in the cosmetic industry, has a wide range of jobs to choose from:

a. Cosmetic Formulator – If one likes inventing and creating (e.g. the newest lipstick formula, or a biodegradable nail polish), the position of a formulator is probably the best choice. Most of these jobs are with finished goods and contract manufacturers[4]. Some raw material suppliers employ formulators in their technical services departments.

b. Quality Control Chemist – This position is ideal for someone who likes gas chromatography, infra-red spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry. Every company in the industry hires this type of scientists.

c. Analytical Services – This area of work is closest in the industry to scientific research. Most raw material suppliers and finished goods manufacturers have analytical departments.

d. Process Engineering - This profession involves work very similar to building things and engineering. Almost any cosmetics company with manufacturing facilities will hire PE scientists.

e. Synthesis Chemist – For those who love organic chemistry, raw material synthesis is an appropriate career choice. Most of these jobs will be with raw material suppliers.

f. Regulatory Scientists – For people who like science but do not like to be in the lab, working as a  regulatory scientist is a suitable alternative. Nearly all companies hire regulatory scientists and even more jobs are being added, because more governmental regulations make it more complicated to create innovative cosmetics.

g. Marketing (sales) – A career in marketing is suitable for somebody who likes communicating  to peole and at the same time wants to work with cosmetics in the cosmetics industry. Professionals in cosmetics marketing manage research focus groups, promote the desired brand image, and provide other marketing services (sales forecasting, allocation to different retailers, etc.).


[2] A contract manufacturer is a type of manufacturing business that specializes in producing goods for a client, based on specific criteria that is provided by that client.

[3] The following text is adapted from

[4] The following text is adapted from


The main ingredients of cosmetic creams

As manufacturers have to present the ingredients of a cosmetic product according to the requirements of  INCI (International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients), the ingredients’ names below are given according to INCI (in latin). This will also be helpful in looking for information from the internet. The list of ingredients on the package of the product must be presented in the order of decreasing content percentage.

Most often used natural fats and oils in cosmetic products

 Cocoa butter – a liniment with a balmy chocolate smell, heals, moistens and softens (rough, dry) skin and is thus recommended to be used for smoothing scars, spots and other skin defects and treat sunburn. It has an anti-wrinkle effect and makes the skin more elastic. Cocoa butter is a natural cream thickner that stabilizes an emulsion. Creams usually contain 3-6% and balsams 6-60% of cocoa butter.

  • Greipfruit seed oil – it is known as a natural preservative and is sometimes added to the soap mixture in cold process soap making. Since it contains antioxidants, it is an antibacterial oil and is suitable for problematic and sensitive skin. Because it contains  a lot of vitamine C, it is good for making creams (inc. anti-acne), lotions and serums.
  • Coconut oil – coconut oil is one of the basic ingredients of soap and cream. It adds firmness (strenght) to soap and makes it foam nicely as well as softens and smoothens skin. It is used in making creams, emulsions, soaps and shampoos, and in ointments, baby care products, protection creams and bath oils.

Shea butter – shea butter is good for skincare; it is moisturizing, smoothening, anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory; it has a calming effect, treats microwounds; to some extentprotects against UV-radiation. It is added to emulsions, creams, sunscreens and

  • after-sun lotions, moisturizing creams, body liniments and to ointments in the range of 3 to 100%.
  • Sweet almond oil – it is one of the most popular oils for making cosmetics. It is squeezed from the fruit cores of the almond tree. It is suitable for dry and sensitive skin, has a wonderful skin moisturizing and smoothening effect, vitalizes and absorbs well into the skin, treats well chapped skin. It is added to creams, emulsions, ointments, bath oils and baby care products.
  • Rasberry seed oil – cold-pressed rasberry seed oil contains a lot of E- and A-vitamins that make the oil a wonderful skin care product. It protects the skin from free radicals and offers protection from sun radiation. Because of this, the oil is used in eye creams, lip balms and face creams.
  • Castor oil – castor oil has a diverse skin softening and smoothening effect. It is used in creams, emulisons, hair care products, bath oils, sunscreens, lip balms and lip balsams.
  • Avocado oil – this oil contains A, B1, B2, D ja E vitamins. It has a healing effect on skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema. It is a natural sunscreen and contains natural antioxidants. It is used in creams, emulsions, body liniments inc. lip liniments (lip balm), products usually contain 4-20% of avocado oil.
  • Olive oil – olive oil moisturizes the skin, increases its elasticity, reduces signs of aging and rejuvenates skin. It can be used by itself or in mixture with other luxury oils to make a perfect face serum.
  • Grape seed oil – this oil absorbs well and is slightly astringent; it is a non-greasy softener with a tonic effect. Because of these characteristics the oil works best for problematic and impure skin. It can be added in the amount of 1-100% to creams tonics, massage oils and bath oils.
  • Rose hip seed oil – it is a wonderful softener and moisturizer, helps treat surgical wounds, burns, eczema, reduces wrinkles and is ideal for stressed skin. In an undiluted form it is used as a massage oil. In creams, emulsions, bath oils, tanning and baby care products it is used in the range of 1-100%


(a) Water/in oil type of emulsifiers

    • Lecitine – it is added to the oil phase before mixing. Used in creams, ointments, body gels, shampoos, sunscreens, body liniments and decorative cosmetics.
  • Egg yolk
  • Sorbitan monostearate
  • Triglyceryl monooleate

(a)  Oil/ in water type of emulsifiers

  • Stearic acid – emulsifies and thickens, gives the skin a slightly waxy feel and a shiny and cooling effect. It is usually added in the range of 2-10%. Extensively used in soaps, creams, emulsions, in protection and shaving creams and other skincare products.
    • Polyethylene glycols (PEG) and polypropyleneglycols (PPG)

They can act both as emulsifiers and as fat-like substances. The number behind the abbreviation represents the number of elementary links in the molecule. For example, PEG-40.

  • Polysorbate
  • Cetearyl alcohol – contains molecules consisting of 8-22 carbon atoms. Makes up 1-5 % of the total mass of a cream. It is added to both w/o as well as to o/w type of emulsions


Waxes are complex mixtures of alcohols, fatty acids and esters2. They are harder, less greasy and highly resistant to humidity, oxidation and microbiotic degradation. Waxes are very useful ingredients in cosmetic products due to their protective, softening and thickening properties as well as for the fact that they form a film. They increase the persistence and viscosity of cosmetic products and make them more even.

  • Bee wax – non-congealing thickener, emulsifier, forms a film, slightly anti-bacterial, softens the skin. Melted by heating to a temperature of 61-68 oC. Products can contain 2-40% of bee wax. Used in creams, emulsions, pomades, liniments, lipsticks, mascaras, eye shadows, ointments, protective creams.
  • Carnauba wax
  • Candelilla wax etc.

Thickeners and constituents of the base

Fats and fat-like substances as well as emulsifiers already act as thickeners. Nevertheless, special thickeners can be added—usually polymers, eg. carbomers, corn starch, modified starch, xanthan gum, cellulose gum etc. Some salts such as calcium chloride, sodium chloride and magnesium sulphate also have a thickening effect.


UV- light is essential for humans since it creates vitamin D that helps develop bones. Melamine in the skin might not protect  the skin enough from harmful UV-radiation. Sunscreens either reflect or absorb UV-radiation. Substances that reflect radiation are for example (powdered):

  • TiO2 – titanium dioxide
  • ZnO – zinc oxide


Humectants are important ingredients of cosmetic products that help avoid and maintain the moisture loss of the skin. Strateum corneum can protect the skin efficiently only when it contains enough water. Skin becomes dry and develops cracks when the water level decreases. Microbes can enter via the cracks and the dryness of skin causes itching. The moisture content of skin can decrease when a person is smoking or due to dry air and of course when the skin ages. The natural humectants between two skin cells are amino acids and sugars. The main characteristic of a humectant is the ability to strongly bind water (via hydrogen bonds). Humectants are not only added to skin care products but also to hair care products, to add volume to hair. This group includes a number of proteins, acids, polysaccharides and some smaller molecules: polyhydroxyl alcohols such as glycerin, hexane-1,2,3,4,5,6-hexaol (sorbitol), propylene clycol, but also urea and amino acids such as aloe vera juice.


Cosmetics are a good surface for bacteria, viruses and fungi since the products contain water, oils, peptides and sugars. Because of this, various cosmetic products require preservatives or have a short life span.

  • Grapefruit seed oil – (look at previous pages). This can be added to warm or cold mixtures before adding the odour. Products usuallycontain 0.5-1% of the oil (2-3% in the case of more complex mixtures). It is not enough for long term preservation and is thus combined with different parabens.
  • Potassium sorbate, sodium sorbate
  • Sodium bensoate

Parabens – commonly found in cosmetic products from stores. They are absorbed easily and fast through the skin and get into the blood circulation within tens of minutes after use. Studies have shown that they mimic the body`s own hormones

  • and can thus interfere with the endocrine systems. The best known parabens are methylparaben and ethylparaben.


Antioxidants are active components of cosmetic products. Generally they help stop oxidation reactions and bind free radicals (eg. peroxides). Both of these processes ruin the functions and integrity of natural substances. Antioxidants are useful in two ways: they prevent the degradation of natural ingredients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats) in a cosmetic product; and at the same time they protect the skin cells and slow down aging-related processes. Antioxidants have become useful substances that help make the skin more shiny and decrease signs of aging.

  • Vitamin E (tocopherol) and its derivatives – besides having an antioxidant effect they also moisturize, are anti-aging, repair the skin relief, soften and are anti-inflammatory. They also stimulate the growth of skin cells and the activeness of enzymes. They are added in the range of 0.5-2.5% to have an effect on the skin and in the range of 0.1-0.5% to stabilize the fat- and oil-containing product. Used in various skin and hair care products. Added to the oil phase.
  • Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) and its derivatives – besides having an antioxidant effect it is also anti-aging: it repairs skin elasticity and stimulates the formation of collagen, avoids over-pigmentation, is anti-inflammatory. Added to the aquous phase, usual content of 0.2- 4%. Used in emulsions, creams, post-tanning products etc.
  • Vitamin A – promotes skin regeneration. Promotes epithelium and keratin formation, anti-wrinkle properties. It is useful to freeze it in order to preserve it. Should be put into a warm-water bath to melt and add to the product as the final ingredient. Average amount of 10 drops per 100g of cream. Used in all sorts of skin care products, especially in nutritive and sunburn creams.

Skin peeling agents

Skin peeling agents work in two ways: via mechanically and chemically removing dead skin cells. Various herbal flours, but also sugar and salt crystals are mechanical peelers. Weak acids such as lactic acid, citric acid and malic acid are chemical peelers and they dissolve the space between two cells—this causes the release of the cells on top. As a result of the peeling, the skin becomes more shiny and the effect of other cosmetic products increases as they can get deeper into the skin. The top layer of skin recovers very quickly.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s)

AHA’s most commonly used in cosmetic applications are typically derived from food products including glycolic acid (from sugar cane), lactic acid (from sour milk), malic acid (from apples), citric acid (from citrus fruits) and tartaric acid (from grape wine). For any topical compound to be effective, including AHA, it must penetrate into the skin where it can act on living cells. Bioavailability (influenced primarily by small molecular size) is an important factor in a compound's ability to penetrate the top layer of the skin. Glycolic acid, having the smallest molecular size, is the AHA with greatest bioavailability and penetrates the skin most easily; this largely accounts for the popularity of this product in cosmetic applications.They have a peeling effect, keratolytic effect, added in the range of 5-15% to the aqueous phase.


Nowadays most loitions contain odours. The purpose of those added odours is to make the product more attractive, while at the same time they might also be used to conceal the smell of the original components, which might not be so pleasant. Odours can be natural as well as  synthetic. The best known natural odours are essential oils, which constitute complex mixtures of compounds. The best known synthetic odours are geraniol, citronellol, citral and others, which simulate natural odours.

Other components

  • Citric acid – acidity regulator, gelatine formation, neutralizes certain minerals in order to increase the efficacy of antioxidants and preservatives, has buffer capacity (helps maintain a pH between 2.5 to 6.5), higher concentration has exfoliating properties (like with AHA acids), moisturizes, exfoliates, softens, has an anti-wrinkle effect. The safe use of citric acid should not exceed 10% and not be at a lower pH value than 3.5. Citric acid is added to creams, shampoos, shower gels, bath perls (along with sodium carbonate).
  • Salicylic acid – proven anti-acne effect due to its anti-septic properties, very effective keratolytic effect (exfoliating effect extends to the pores of the skin). Used in exfoliators, anti-dandruff products, anti-psoriasis products and in products meant for problematic skin: for acne – 0.5-3%; for dandruff – 1-3%, for warts – 5-25%. Products containing salicylic acid may smell on the skin. When salicylic acid is attempted to be used together with other exfoliators such as benzoyl peroxide, recorcinol or soaps and other cometics products that dry your skin one must be aware of an excessive exfoliating effect.
  • Aloe Vera juice (extract, gel) – moisturizes, rejuvenates, heels, penetrates easily through the skin while stimulating the blood circulation and the immune system, increases the elasticity of the skin and stimulates collagen synthesis, found in various products.
  • Allantoin – heels (sun) burns, abrasions, works well for chapped skin, leaves a soft and dry feeling (for example in the case of an incubated diaper), usually added to an aqueous base in the amount of 0.2 - 2%. Added to a great variety of products.


a comprohensive page where a lot of different information can be found: recipes, components, the content of the components, effect etc.

the effect of parabens

home-made creams

a lot of information about vitamins

here one can buy substances, but it also gives information about the ingredients and their effect

articles about cosmetics and a whole book about the ingredients of cosmetic products, the effect and how much and where to add something

ideas to experiment with different mixtures

a lot of information about emulsifiers

The list of labels that may or may not be taken into account  before buying a product or ingredients to make ones own  cosmetics

  • No animal ingredients (100% vegetarian ingredients or Vegan)
  • No animal testing (also known as Cruelty free products)
  • No artificial colors, sweeteners or flavours
  • Containers are recyclable
  • Fair trade
    Fair trade is an organised social movement that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. The movement known as fairtrade indicating the certification advocates the payment of a higher price to exporters as well as higher social and environmental standards.
  • Certified organic ingredients
    Organic certification is a certification process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products. In general, any business directly involved in food production can be certified, including seed suppliers, farmers, [food] processors, retailers and restaurants.

Requirements vary from country to country, and generally involve a set of production standards for growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping that include:

  • no human sewage sludge fertilizer used in cultivation of plants or feed of animals
  • avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc.), genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge;
  • use of farmland that has been free from prohibited synthetic chemicals for a number of years (often, three or more);
  • keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail);
  • maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products;
  • undergoing periodic on-site inspections.
  • Biodegradable
    Biodegradation or biotic degradation or biotic decomposition is the chemical dissolution of materials by bacteria or other biological means. Biodegradable simply means to be consumed by microorganisms and return to compounds found in nature. The term is often used in relation to ecology, waste management, biomedicine, and the natural environment (bioremediation) and is now commonly associated with environmentally friendly products that are capable of decomposing back into natural elements. Organic material can be degraded aerobically with oxygen, or anaerobically, without oxygen. Biosurfactant, an extracellular surfactant secreted by microorganisms, enhances the biodegradation process.Biodegradable matter is generally organic material such as plant and animal matter and other substances originating from living organisms, or artificial materials that are similar enough to plant and animal matter to be put to use by microorganisms. 
    Diaz, E. (editor). (2008). Microbial Biodegradation: Genomics and Molecular Biology (1st ed.). Caister Academic Press. ISBN 1-904455-17-4.
    Measuring Biodegradability"The University of Waikato, June 19, 2008
    Agamuthu, P. Biodegradability and Degradability of Plastic Waste, International Solid Waste Association, November 9, 2004.
  • Paraben free
    Parabens are a class of chemicals widely used as preservatives by cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Parabens are effective preservatives in many types of formulas. These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties. They can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution, makeup, and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives. They are becoming increasingly controversial, however, because they have been found in breast cancer tumors (an average of 20 nanograms/g of tissue).[3] Parabens have also displayed the ability to slightly mimic estrogen (a hormone known to play a role in the development of breast cancer). No effective direct links between parabens and cancer have been established, however. Another concern is that the estrogen-mimic aspect of parabens may be a factor in the increasing prevalence of early puberty in girls. Most known parabens are methylparaben and ethylparaben.
  • Mineral oil free (Petroleum free)
    A mineral oil is any of various colourless, odorless, light mixtures of alkanes in the C15 to C40 range from a non-vegetable (mineral) source, particularly a distillate of petroleum.The name mineral oil by itself is imprecise, having been used to label many specific oils over the past few centuries. Other names, similarly imprecise, include white oil, liquid paraffin, and liquid petroleum. Most often, mineral oil is a liquid by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline and other petroleum-based products from crude oil. A mineral oil in this sense is a transparent, colorless oil composed mainly of alkanes [2] and cyclic paraffins, related to petroleum jelly (also known as "white petrolatum").
    One of the common concerns regarding the use of mineral oil is its presence on several lists of comedogenic substances. These lists of comedogenic substances were developed many years ago and are frequently quoted in the dermatological literature. At the same time it is reported that highly refined and purified mineral oil found in cosmetic and skincare products is noncomedogenic (does not clog pores).
    DiNardo, J. C. (2005), Is mineral oil comedogenic? Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 4, 2–3.
  • Free of chemical preservatives
    The meaning of such a label is that the product is made without synthetic preservatives. Due to controversy surrounding the use of synthetic preservatives in food and cosmetics, some companies are turning to other options to help extend products’ shelf life.  Some are switching from synthetic to natural. Unfortunately all natural preservatives may not be as good as they sound, especially if taken in excess. But on a positive note they are not as toxic as synthetic preservatives. The best option would be no preservatives at all, but products would not be able to stay fresh for too long.
    The issue with manufacturing products entirely without the use of preservatives is that, besides taking a lot of time to be made, they are very expensive. Products manufactured without preservatives need to be fabricated in a sterilized environment using a flow hood similar to that found in hospitals and laboratories. They should also be refrigerated immediately after their first use. Because of this some companies are considering making products using natural preservatives.
    There are ways of reducing microbial activity (such as using essential oils) in a more natural way. Antioxidants can help in this task as well. They will protect the oils, which become rancid when hit by light or air, from spoiling and becoming susceptible to contaminants.  This is a process that cannot be stopped 100%, but antioxidants have the ability of slowing down this process.
    Antioxidants and essential oils are completely natural ingredients.  Antioxidants, as the word implies,  are substance such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C or beta carotene that protect cells from the damaging effects of oxidation. In the case of essential oils, these are powerful antiseptics that kill most of the harmful bacteria and fungi without causing any damaging effects to the human body. Essential oils are derived form plants, flowers, leaves and grasses. The discovery of the aniseptic properties of these oilswas made in France during the cholera epidemic when it was observed that workers in perfume factories seemed to be almost fully immune to the disease while the rest of the population perished.