How To Get a Job in The Beauty Industry

Saturday, 2 October 2010

This is a special post to answer an email of one of my readers , she says-
My name is Lily, and I'm a high school student. I will be going to college in the next year or two, and I love makeup, and everything beauty related! So I figured I would either be doing something in the beauty industry or be an interior designer.
However, I don't want to be a makeup artist and I have no idea what careers there are in the corporate beauty industry, so I decided to do a little research. I did some research, and stumble upon your blog.
Now I think your blog is actually really wonderful, but I don't completly understand why you hate it so much. Can you please tell me why I should or shouldn't go towards a career in the beauty industry? Thanks!- Lily

As I can only speak for myself- on how i got my job, this post is going to talk more of my experience.

But first- gaaaah! I didn't realize I seem to HATE the beauty industry.
Well, for the record, I don't -
at least not in all caps, and i would replace "a" with "<3".
So that means- I just h<3te it.  That is almost like love if you think about it.
Anyway, seriously-  I do love the fact that the beauty industry gives us not only cosmetics, but dreams and the desire to be better.

BUT, what I hate is that most brands do not have the balls to stand for what they really believe in but would research what you want to hear and then contort themselves (read: lie) to be that so that you buy them.

I want beauty with balls, gadammit! 

Let me see, perhaps, it helps to point out the upside and downside of this job- then you decide if you want in-
PRO: Free makeup and you even get paid to try it.
CON : Allergies and irritations can be a frequent occupational hazard.  
A colleague of mine started to get too many allergies from the makeup she was trying. As the allergies are too much that it affected her work- she had to be fired.

PRO: You get to be in a glamorous industry.
CON: You go to work without make-up. 
If not, you have to remove it to try more makeup at work. And you wear different eyeshadows per eye and fifty swads of lipstick per arm. Ironic innit?

What is worst is when you have to try long lasting lipstick and waterproof mascara. Go figure. At least you know they are not tested on rabbits. Though in the depths of despair over your falling lashes, you get to question the wisdom of  "No Animal Testing.

PRO: You accumulate loads of frequent flyer miles that can get you free vacations.
CON: You have no time for vacation. 
You travel while normal people would still be sleeping, you go to meetings when others would be working. You work when others would already be relaxing. Basically, you give up life for miles.

PRO: You get to buy Hello on company budget.
CON: You will look incompetent if you do not know who was the worst dressed in the Academy red carpet.  But then, in real life, you would like to know who was worst dressed.
I miss my free "Hello"!

PRO: You get to see makeup innovations two years ahead of everyone.
CON: A trip to the cosmetic counter which used to be exciting- becomes dead boring- like- "oh, that is so 2 years ago!"
PRO : You get to attend photoshoots and criticize models and stuff.
CON: If you screw up the shoot- your ass is fired.
A minor average photoshoot costs at least 10k€ a day. If you want named models and photographers - that's easily 30k€ upwards.

You see- photographers, models and make up artists are more expensive in this industry and for a reason. As far as photographers go, beauty photographers tend to be more expensive than fashion ones- the lighting is more demanding (light is controlled)- at least that's the BS that my photographers tell me. Models also charge higher for beauty brands and make up artists have to be top.

Beauty shoots are an art and a science. You cannot just go with the flow and be impromptu as you perhaps would in a fashion shoot. Too darn expensive!
PRO: You get to create fabulous concepts, products and images.
CON: The make-up artist gets all the public credit. And they will be paid more than you.
I do not mind them taking the credit- it is the paid more than me I have trouble dealing with.

PRO: Other women will envy you for your job.
CON: And so will your ambitious backstabbing female colleagues. Office life is hell.
Put several ambitious women in one room and you will wish to slash your wrist with a stabilo boss. For me, this was the biggest turn off.

But it can also depend on the situation. My position was extra sensitive as I replaced someone who had been fired because the lipstick she launched didn't have a good "clicking" sound. No kidding. In fact, the whole team was fired before me. And before you pooh-pooh this- realize that a mold for a lipstick case can cost easily 1.5million euros. Not to mention the loss of gajillion of sales you will have from a bad launch.

Seriously, I think "The Devil Wears Prada" is work bliss compared to the Beauty Biz.
PRO: It is the only place where it is considered professional to apply nail polish while working.
CON:You have to apply a different color per fingernail.  Haha!
PRO: You get to save money.
CON: Because you do not have a life to spend it on.  
So, if after reading the PROs and CONs, you are still up for it- then read on for more tips.  Otherwise, you may stop right here else you will end up a bitter blogging biatch like me.


I started my marketing career with Unilever.  And, back then - they preferred people with interesting backgrounds.  And interesting could be anything  - except marketing.  (Mine is mechanical engineering).

The reason could be something best explained by a blog of Seth Godin here.

So study arts, styling, architecture, fashion design, fisheries, psychology, mathematics, languages, tourism, engineering, medicine, rocket science, accounting - but not marketing.

Unilever, for example, trains you what you need to know about their way of marketing.

If you want to be in the creation process, it will be an advantage to have a background in fashion, arts or design but as well be knowledgeable of your excel worksheet.

And if you want to be promoted to the highest level- study finance.
Because that is really the heart of cosmetics- money.  (But then again, if you cannot grow an adam's apple, do not count so much on reaching the top).


The toughest barrier that I had in entering the biz was not competition, not education - but visa.

You see, if you want to work in the global central, most of these are located in France, US, Japan, UK.  Some are in Germany, Italy, South Korea, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden.

I sent about 70+ CVs in Paris when I arrived there but soon as they learned I was not European, they told me to talk to the hand.

And French companies are reputed to favor applicants that come from their own business school.  No wonder French brands are galactically boring - they do not cross-pollinate.

Language is another barrier.  Just speaking French is not enough.  You have to be damn fluent.  Though now, the French realize how less and less important their language is in the global scale of things, they still could afford to be arrogant in the beauty biz.

But as a tourist, you can basically get by with "Un verre de vin rouge s'il vous plait".  (A glass of red wine please.)   Alas, the french have to learn english if they want to do business with the rest of the world now.

Haha!  C'est la vie!


If you are eyeing to work for certain brands (in Lily's case Bobbi Brown), it will be good to research which gargantuan company is behind the brand.  You can start your research here.

If you follow the link, you will realize why the top 6 companies account for 50% of all the make up sold ever.

You see, each company will have a portfolio of brands- from the most environmentally correct to the high tech to glamorous to luxury to mass.  So whatever you believe in or whatever you want your company to stand for- they have no problem being it.  Your cash does not have to go another way.

Heck -  Body Shop is under L'Oreal for the endangered komodo dragon's sake!
Not even if you are willing to cut off your left arm to be ambidextrous- you couldn't get more ironic than that!


When I interview applicants for a brand manager's job, I try to see how she lives her life.  What her influences are, what books and magazines she reads, what her hobbies are.

The more she has an interesting life, the more well-rounded she is - the better a marketeer she will be- as the thinking goes, marketing is all about life. (Whatever).

She will need to analyze sales data and do graphs (endless reporting to the Council) and assemble moodboards from trends (this can be learned if you are artistically inclined).  

Eventually, she will have to do presentations of her concepts, analysis of research.


Want to research more?

Try attending professional cosmetic trade shows and get to know the suppliers as well as the brands.

In the US, you have HBA in New York in September
or Cosmoprof in Las Vegas in July
In Europe, you have Cosmeeting in Paris in September
and the biggest one, Cosmoprof in Bologna Italy in April
In Asia, you have Cosmoprof in Hong Kong in November

HBA will be more about the brands, Cosmoprof will be a mix of brands and suppliers while Cosmeeting is more of suppliers and trends.

Cosmoprof is normally open to the public on the last day.  That is also when you can buy samples.

Well, that is all the tip I can think of for now.  If you have more questions, shoot and I will try my best to answer.

And may I ask a tiny favor please- if you liked this post, help spread it around, tweet, stumble, digg or FB will make my day!  And thank you in advance!