Spelman College Celebrates Expansion of Cosmetic Science Program

Gaby M. Rojas

Research shows that Black women spent more than $7.4 billion on cosmetics and personal care products in 2022. However, Black beauty brands comprise 2.5 percent of the market. Spelman College is working to change that trajectory by ensuring that beauty products are developed with people of color in mind.

The College recently announced the expansion of its STEM programming to include a concentration in cosmetic chemistry for those majoring in chemistry, and a minor in cosmetic science for those majoring in other areas. The program, scheduled to be offered in the fall, is the first of its kind at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).

“This expansion of our curriculum speaks to Spelman’s innovation and commitment to giving voice that empowers Black women,” said Spelman Provost Dr. Pamela Scott-Johnson. “The program will be far-reaching and will support our students and faculty in making a difference in a field that caters to Black women as consumers, fueled by the scientific expertise in this area. We are thrilled to continue this evolution of creating new academic offerings that address industry demands.”

The goal of the cosmetic science program is to promote careers in the beauty industry, enhance the technical knowledge of students seeking to work in the beauty industry or pursue advanced studies in cosmetics, and ensure a gendered and racial perspective in product formulation and development.

“I am excited that we now offer a course of study that connects students’ Spelman experience to the beauty and personal care industry. The new major concentration and minor will ensure our students’ competitiveness for advanced study and careers in the field,” said Dr. Leyte Winfield, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and division chair for the Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “I am equally excited that this endeavor positions us to offer a culturally relevant perspective that is needed in the conversation on black hair and skin care and the development of cosmetics.”

The cosmetic chemistry curriculum creates a signature program at Spelman that harnesses the College’s unique academic character. The program focuses on the molecular sciences related to product formulation and development, providing a fundamental understanding of the origin, structure and function of ingredients.

The cosmetic science curriculum was initially conceived as a certificate offering in the eSpelman online program and was launched in January 2023. Since its introduction, the program has grown from 150 to 750 applications for its fourth term, emphasizing student interest in the cosmetic sciences and a need for the expanded undergraduate program.

“We believe this exciting new venture will lead to many new research opportunities and collaborations with leaders in the beauty care field,” said Dr. Michelle Gaines, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Spelman. “My research is rooted in studying the surface chemical properties of curly hair. There are many students who are very interested in working on this project with me, and I’m looking forward to growing this research within the new program.”

To complement the program, Spelman will offer a one-week Cosmetic Science Summer Lab Intensive that will focus on fundamental cosmetic formulations. This event, to be held June 2 – 8, 2024, will bring together Black female product developers, formulators and researchers to convene for informative seminars and panels. The intensive is available to eSpelman learners, Spelman students, and participants from other HBCUs based on availability.




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