How To Get a Job in The Beauty Industry

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".

But 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 shades 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 criticise 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!


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 interesting her 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.


  1. Do you have any tips for the chemistry / development side of the products? The ones that GIVE you the makeup to test? LOL



  2. Hi Janna-
    If you want to be the one that develops the innovation, it is better you work for a supplier because they are the ones who innovate.

    The brands just see their offerings and choose which one they like.

    In the US, there are at least 2 big suppliers. To know more about them, try attending a cosmetic fair. There is a big one called HBA in New York every in September

  3. Thank you so much! I go to school not far from there =]

  4. that was a brilliant post!!!

  5. Wow, very informative and interesting post, thank you!

  6. Thanks Janna, Vonzi, Mementori!

    As you might not know, I have this insanely bad habit of editing my posts online up to 24 hours after it is published- and I have just inserted some important blurbs here. (You will not miss it- it is in all caps haha!)

  7. I think that any job, in nearly any big industry is going to be basically cut throat and backstabbing as far up as you were. The more money involved, the uglier it gets. I think we tend to be dazzled by the supposed glamour of the fashion/beauty (or cars, pro sports, whatever) and miss the fact that the big dogs (or Council) are strictly there for the money. So what it really boils down to is which lies you're willing to live with. Toyota execs can live with the fact that they deliberately hide safety issues that kill people. Beauty insiders deal with false claims and knowing about waterproof mascara. I think beauty is less ugly (no pun intended) but that's just me. I certainly wouldn't want to work in that industry.

    I know I'm glad I'm not young enough to have to worry about it, lol. Age has it's good points.

  8. Hey Sandi-

    Age DOES have its benefits! I love being older!

    Politics is prevalent everywhere and most will just gobble it down. But with the help of technology where better transparency can now be attained, the muffled truth need not be muffled.

    Someone once told me, repeat a lie so many times, buy all airtime you can get, produce an expensive commercial and it becomes the truth.
    Now- it doesn't have to be this way.

    But yes, most can live with the beautiful lie than the ugly truth.
    Do not take the purple pill! Very Matrix- don't you thinks?
    Hey,ugly truth is not everyone's bag! I sometimes kick myself for not just grinning and bearing it.

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  10. amazing post and extremely helpful. Thanks a lot x

  11. Thank you Aisha! And thanks for the link!

  12. Love this post! I up and moved to NYC to increase my chances of gaining an insider beauty job but no dice yet. Did you have an internship w/Unilever or did you straight apply through their site?

    Also, I am planning on attending The Makeup Show NYC coming up in the next 2 weeks--what's the diff between that and HBA?

  13. Hi Weak2chic!
    Thank you! I joined Unilever straight from college. They have this bad habit of screening all the new graduates, subjecting them to a terrible interview process and getting those who are left alive.
    Must admit thati dunno make up show- it is more for consumer/make up artists perhaps as it is not in the professional radar

  14. Hi Rowena,

    This'll sound redundant but I adore this blog. Since discovering it I've devoured every article, haha.

    I'm in the process of applying to some of these firms for graduate schemes, would you still recommend starting a career with them?

    Also, if the beauty industry seems so focused on selling us things we would not otherwise want, how do you feel about other FMCGs, such as petcare, in comparison? It seems quite interesting as there appear to be two consumers - the owner and the dog, and you need to satisfy both.

    I'd be really interested in hearing your opinion as I'm contemplating working for a similar company within this particular business unit.

    Thanks and keep up the excellent work! :)


  15. Hi Lisa-

    Oh please- redundant away! It makes me happy:-)

    Well- you see, all the world is fueled by bullshit (quote borrowed from shitmydadsays) so long as you need to earn money, hard to avoid all bullshit. I believe you will have to draw your line of BS comfort. Heck I wallowed in BS for so many years!

    I think the greedier the company, the more BS it is apt to do.

    On dog and owner, i would liken it to male fragrance. Husband might wear it but wife buys and approves. Wo do you think has more power? the way i attack it is that so long as i don't have a pin packaging, all other things i do has to please the wife.


  16. Hi Rowenna,

    Thanks so much for your reply, I really appreciate your insight.

    Will definitely keep watch on my BS-ometer during my career, haha.


  17. Even female beauty industries are sexist.

    Crap, I want to kill'em all...

  18. Any resume/cover letter/interview tips?

    I recently graduated with my MBA, studied international business in Paris for a semester, have 4 years of retail sales experience with a well-known global brand, and am still having a hard time getting interviews..


    1. Uf, i find that for every country is a different resumé, cover letter style. I suggest linking up with a local headhunter and ask for a meeting where they are allowed to tear down your current CV with criticism. Prepare to harden your heart and godspeed!

  19. Interesting article even if I come from a different industry. But then its all about luxury brand management. Office politics is a bitch.

  20. I'm considering attempting to break into the beauty industry, and this post was extremely helpful! Thank you!

  21. There are a lot of companies hiring right now in the beauty industry. Decide what area you want to be in/ strengths you have etc. For sales, you should be high energy, excited to share new information and have an open schedule for those long nights and weekends!

    1. Thank you for the additional tip Cassandra!

  22. Other than dealing with unemployment and relying much on an income protection cover to protect your income, being able to find a job in the beauty industry is better.

    1. You are hereby arrested by the spam police!

  23. Love this OMGOSH im 11, and i was really looking for the truth of what i wanted to be when i grow up so thanks

    1. You are only 11? Oh, that touches me! My piece of additional advice (which is something i stole from Buddha) - doubt everything you hear, including this one.

  24. What's with the anti French BS?
    Are people actually surprised that you have to speak French to work in a French company in France? For real?
    That would be akin to complaining about the Japanese speaking their own damn language in Japan.
    In any case, since French brands are so boring, I'm surprised anyone would want to work there.

    1. Ahaha! is it that obvious? I couldn't speak for Japan though.

  25. Thank You! What Lily was curious about is exactly what I'm curious about! <3

  26. For the last 7 years I have worked in digital advertising for an agency. I am looking to make a move to the brand side and work in house for a company. I would love to break into the beauty industry.. any tips or suggestions?

  27. This is really nice. Your information about beauty tips is really interesting. Thanks for sharing this article
    Beautician in Chennai


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