Preparing to interview for a cosmetic chemist position? Unless you have experience in the industry, you may not be privy to some of the information you’ll need to know. Make a great impression on the hiring manager by familiarizing yourself with these 10 terms:

  1. Fatty Acid: This carboxylic acid has a long hydrocarbon “tail.” Fatty acids usually stem from biological sources and consequently have an even number of carbon atoms. In the cosmetic industry, the most important types are those that contain between eight to 22 carbons.
  2. Skin Biology: This is a huge topic to cover, but briefly speaking, skin is composed of the dermis inner layer and the epidermis outer layer. As the skin grows, cells in the epidermis die off and are pushed to the surface and eventually shed and flake off. The less moisture the outer layer has, the dryer the skin feels. Skin products are designed to hold moisture in the outer layer of the skin and improve its condition.
  3. Polymers: These macro molecules are composed of repeating monomer units. The molecule typically has a longchain backbone, complete with side groups that effectively alter its properties. Homopolymers are composed of a single type of monomer, while copolymers have at least two monomer starting units. Polymers can be created synthetically or obtained naturally.
  4. Surfactants: Surface active agents are molecules that contain the property of reducing surface tension, allowing oil and water to form stable (temporary) mixtures.
  5. Emulsions: A surfactant is generally used to create an emulsion, which is a fine dispersion of one insoluble liquid into another. The most common emulsions in the cosmetics industry are those where oil is dissolved in water.
  6. Microbiology: It’s important to know how to use preservatives to keep your cosmetic formulas free of microbes. The main preservatives in the industry are parabens and formaldehyde donors.
  7. Silicones: These compounds have a molecular backing of —[-Si-O-]x- bounded by hydrogens or methyl groups. They’re manufactured from silicon dioxide procured from sand or other minerals. Silicones are also known as polysiloxanes representative of their polymeric nature.
  8. Chemical Nomenclature: The cosmetic industry follows the naming conventions of INCI.
  9. Hair Biology: The most important things you need to know about hair is that it is made of keratin protein and has two layers — the cortex inner layer and the cuticle outer layer. The cuticle is responsible for the look and feel of hair and the cortex is tasked with its strength and flexibility.
  10. Stability Testing: These tests are conducted to determine what effect storage at different environmental conditions will have on the formula.

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