The $18 Billon Skincare Industry Is Sparking New Enthusiasm for Science

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Young people are gaining interest in chemistry, thanks to intellectual curiosity about what’s going onto their skin.

An insightful article by science writer Angela Chen in The Verge details how the trend of people taking a deeper interest in what they are putting on their skin is inspiring more young people to want to learn more about science. Furthermore, according to A+E Networks® Intelligence, women “are more likely to buy natural products out of concern for their own/family’s health and broader impact to the environment” and “women are 22% more likely than the average adult to use natural/organic beauty products.”

Chen begins by detailing how then 13-year-old girl Nicole Jackson suffered a chemical burn on her eyelids as she used lemon juice to try to help alleviate her acne. Jackson often experimented on her skin; for her 16th birthday, she asked her mother for some ingredients in order to make her own products. She studied international business in college, but when she graduated, she couldn’t articulate her job goal: “a cosmetic chemist, a scientist who works on manufacturing skincare and beauty products.” Jackson only knew that she “didn’t want to do dermatology or diagnose diseases.”

The trend of people taking a deeper interest in what they are putting on their skin is inspiring more young people to want to learn more about science.

She had no idea that there was the huge business of skincare, valued at more than $18 billion in 2017, according to market research provider Euromonitor International. With a basis in science, skincare treats skin, which is “one of the body’s organs,” says Ronni Weinkauf, who holds a has a PhD in medicinal chemistry and serves as the vice president of applied research at L’Oréal USA.

There are more women coming to L’Oréal who have a specific interest in skincare, says Weinkauf, who helps with recruiting. She feels that people can see their own results from experimenting with skincare, giving them a chance to become more informed about the area. Science-focused beauty blogs are also an on-ramp for people to gain interest. She points to Michelle Wong, a high school science teacher with a PhD in medicinal chemistry, whose skincare-focused blog, Lab Muffin, has sparked others’ intellectual curiosity. Wong started the blog because she was “frustrated at the lack of science-based beauty reviews.” What she found online that was relevant was written in a manner that talked down to women or was overly complicated.

Another blogger, Jude Chao of Fifty Shades of Snail, wanted to learn how to make her own skin better. Chao encourages others not to get put off by the science but just approach it in a way to think about one’s own skin goals and “start with ingredients that are supposed to help that.” From there, one will want to learn more.

The article wraps by letting the reader know where Nicole Jackson, the once 13-year-old experimenting to get rid of her acne with lemon juice, is now: in the skincare division of Boston-based Silk Therapeutics. “Jackson spends her days mixing chemicals for products, following the formulations that Silk’s research and development team have created.” She now sees her path and wants to become a cosmetic chemist.

Wong started the blog [Lab Muffin] because she was “frustrated at the lack of science-based beauty reviews.”

“I still wish I had known about this earlier,” Jackson says. “It’s something you don’t come across unless you do more digging. I know more people would be interested if they knew this existed.”