Margaret Gorz was two years into an undergraduate degree at a college in northern Michigan with a tentative plan to go on to medical school, but she was far from certain she was on the right path.
“I enjoy science, but I felt like something was missing because I can also be a creative person and an artsy person,” Gorz said.That nagging feeling there was something better suited to her interests led to a series of Google searches. Who develops cosmetics? How do you get a job designing makeup? Where can you learn how to make personal care and beauty products?
Gorz quickly zeroed in on the Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program in The University of Toledo College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences — the only such undergraduate program in the country.
“What really drew me in was that I could mix two of my passions into one career,” she said. “I knew going into the program that this was probably my best shot at becoming a cosmetic scientist.”
Three months after earning her bachelor of science degree in 2018, Gorz landed a job in New York as an associate scientist for the Estée Lauder Companies.
Established in 2013, the Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program teaches students how to design, produce, test and market cosmetics and personal care products.
In addition to basic sciences, the program teaches pharmaceutical formulation and manufacturing, the mechanisms behind how cosmetics and pharmaceuticals work, and outlines the raw materials that go into cosmetic and personal care products.“It’s a mixture of science, art and business. We really train our students with a focus on the industry,” said Dr. Gabriella Baki, assistant professor of pharmaceutics and director of the Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program. “I continuously look at job advertisements, and I look at what skills they usually require to ensure we hit those target skills and knowledge set.”
While there are a handful of master’s programs that offer cosmetic science, the cosmetics industry traditionally looked to individuals with an undergraduate education in chemical engineering, biology, chemistry or biochemistry to fill formulation jobs.
But Baki said employers are taking note of UToledo’s program, which includes a unique combination of classroom work and laboratory experience. During their studies, students in the Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program will create about 60 different cosmetic and personal care products in the lab.
“Employers love that our students have these hands-on skills. They can formulate right away,” Baki said. “That’s something that chemists or chemical engineers are not trained to do, and we are competing against those graduates.”
Working for one of the world’s largest cosmetic companies was where Gorz envisioned herself eventually ending up — not starting out just a few months after graduation.
Now she’s formulating color cosmetics such as lipstick and foundation for brands including Smashbox, Becca, Origins and Aveda.
“This job was basically my dream job,” Gorz said. “Our program really gives us a competitive advantage that makes us stand out. We already have some of that super-specific knowledge in things like the raw materials that go into the products.”
Other graduates of the program have gone on to careers in a variety of formulation, marketing, quality control, and clinical testing roles at companies including Amway, Henkel Beauty Care, Nu Skin, Wacker, Fareva, Active Concepts and KDC/One.
As for Gorz, her success stands as a testament to the impact and support of the Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program — and as an example of where UToledo grads can go.
“That was something very special,” Baki said. “What she’s doing is something that a lot of other students now see as possible, and they’d like to follow in her footsteps.”