What does a cosmetic product developer do?

What Does a Cosmetic Product Developer do?

A customer walks into a shop, selects their favorite beauty product from their favorite cosmetics brand, pays, walks out, and adds the product to their collection. Simple.

But there’s much more to the beauty industry than initially meets the eye. There’s a significant amount of work that takes place behind the scenes when it comes to creating a new beauty product and bringing that product to market. And that’s where cosmetic product developers come in. Working closely alongside research and development experts who craft the new formulas, the cosmetic product developer oversees the ‘what?’, the ‘why?’, the ‘where?’, and the ‘who?’ of product creation.


Product Development vs. Product Formulation

What’s the difference? The two may sound like similar job functions, but they’re actually very different. Product formulation professionals are laboratory-based chemists who create and physically produce makeup, shampoos, lotions, creams, and so on. A product developer, on the other hand, considers what sort of products would perform well in the current market, thinks about why customers would want these products, and guides beauty brands and white label manufacturers towards success in the market.


A cosmetic product developer:

  • Listens to Ideas

The first step in any product development process is to listen to ideas generated by research and development specialists. The cosmetics industry is highly competitive and is vulnerable to rapidly evolving customer needs, preferences, and expectations, so beauty brands are driven by a constant need to be continually creating and innovating. Faced with a selection of potential future bestsellers, cosmetic product developers conduct feasibility studies to determine what sorts of products could theoretically be formulated in line with existing industry regulations, before delving deeper into selecting products that have the potential to meet customer requirements.


  • Conducts Competitor Analysis

With a number of potential products for consideration, a cosmetic product developer undertakes competitor analysis research and benchmarking activities to determine possible gaps within the market, opportunities for progression, and strategies for gaining or maintaining a competitive advantage. These analysis methods can highlight the most effective and efficient pathway to success, whether that’s through creating a truly pioneering product in a bid to transform or revolutionize the industry, or leveraging the power of existing trends by introducing cosmetics that are designed with current beauty and buying behaviors in mind. This works to narrow down the best choices.


  • Identifies New Opportunities

Whatever product is selected for formulation, a cosmetic product developer needs to ensure that this is something distinct, regardless of how similar it may be to other products already on the market, or already in development. This means working to identify new opportunities within the chosen niche that make this particular product stand out among the crowd. For example, if a natural beauty product is chosen - which is one of the biggest beauty trends of the 21st century - a product developer would need to look into various opportunities which would differentiate the product. This could be anything from innovative ingredients to standout packaging to attract customers.


  • Fine Tunes the Formulation

Once a product has been decided upon, the cosmetic product developer works closely with the R&D team and with the lab team to fine tune the formulation and figure out all the small print details. Many of the best product developers exhibit extensive aesthetic experience and knowledge of skin physiology, which enables them to comprehensively consider factors such as how a formula will feel upon application, whether or not it should have color, and if it will contain fragrances or not. Concentrations, allergens, chemical reactions, and costs are likely to be discussed and evaluated at this stage of the process to ensure compliance and product safety.


  • Brings Ideas from Concept to Reality

Ultimately, what a cosmetic product developer does is sees a new product right through from initial concept to sales. These individuals are niche industry consultants who work closely with both chemists and marketers to not just formulate a product but actually ensure that this product attracts and engages with target audiences by containing the right ingredients, being filled into the right packaging, and featuring the right artwork. Cosmetic product developers are responsible for ensuring complete legal compliance, weeding out the unfeasible and the potential under-performers, and helping beauty brands all around the world to introduce exciting new cosmetics.


What Qualities Make a Good Cosmetic Product Developer?

As already touched upon, aesthetic experience and knowledge of skin physiology are two vital criteria. But a good cosmetic product developer will also exhibit high levels of creativity and the confidence to communicate at all levels with raw ingredients suppliers, chemists, researchers, marketers, manufacturers, and brands themselves. While cosmetic product developers are not lab-based like product formulation experts, an in-depth understanding of formulation is essential, and many product developers enter the field from a technical and/or scientific background, transitioning into product development as part of strategic career progression within the cosmetics industry.