This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
You know those cheeky names that perfectly describe your new favorite polish? Or that perfect scent that captures just the right blend of alluring notes? Well, it’s someone’s actual job to come up with those. The beauty industry is rife with cool gigs in pretty much every sector, and we’ve been fascinated by these prettifying professionals for as long as we can remember, really.
With that in mind, we decided to investigate how some of our friends with the most covetable beauty jobs landed their plum positions. Whether you’re daydreaming about becoming a celeb manicurist (past the pages of Pinterest, of course) or long to burnish your own brand, let these satisfied pros give you an inside look at what exactly it is that they do all day.
We got the women behind seven of the coolest jobs in the industry to tell all about what those 9-to-5s actually entail, how they rose up the ranks, and how you can get on the fast-track to a gorgeous gig of your own.
The gal: Suzi Weiss-Fischmann
The gig: OPI Executive VP & Artistic Director (and the person responsible for those clever-as-hell polish names)
Beauty Backstory: “I’m one of the founders of OPI — it’s a family business. I’ve also designed every shade since 1989, and love what I do. I not only see color, I feel color. Nail color is very aspirational. What women doesn’t want to travel? We’ll take her places where she’s never been.”
The Daily Grind: “Most mornings start with taking my son to school, then arriving at work around 7:30 a.m. I also fit three cups of coffee into that time. Usually, I dedicate some time for working in the lab, where I mix and test new colors. It’s not unusual to see me wearing a different shade on each finger. I do seven collections a year for OPI. At the end of the day, I love to unwind by having a relaxed dinner with my family. For me, having a nice balance between my personal and professional lives is key.”
Secret to Success: “Find a niche. It’s not easy, but see where you can be different. It’s key to stand out. Make sure you have your story and your marketing story and the story behind your brand. A story is good, because it’s how you sell your product — just make sure that whatever you say is correct. With OPI, the consumer knows the quality is always there. That’s our message in the bottle.”
The guy: Simon Constantine
The gig: Head perfumer at Lush
Prep School: “I actually went to art college first and then joined Lush in the manufacturing department for fragrances. Once there, I followed a remote learning course in perfumery at Plymouth Business School [in the] U.K. That, combined with practical experience and travel to suppliers of essential oils, formed the best part of my education.”
Pretty Perks: “I work with our creative buying team learning about ethical ingredients, so I can see a direct impact of using certain materials in my creative work. I also enjoy when we get an emotional response to a fragrance, if it reminds a person of a lost parent or particular event. It’s quite common that people will cry when you show them a perfume; it’s a privilege to have that emotional connection.”
Secret to Success: “Don’t get put off by the need for complex qualifications — the industry needs more creative and avant-garde thinking. You will need time, patience, and a little bit of capital to get ahold of enough oils, aroma chemicals, and books [to learn how to make a fragrance], but I’d love to see more independent perfumers really pushing the boundaries and trying new things, so give it a go!”
The gal: Roseanna Roberts
The gig: Director of Color Trends at The Color Association of the United States
Prep School: “After I graduated from high school, I did a diploma in fashion merchandising. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do after I graduated from that program. I ended up traveling around the world with one of my best friends, who was an aesthetician at the time. We went to Turkey, India, Australia…too many countries to name.
After traveling, I was really inspired by all the colorful cultures we had seen. I found a program in Toronto where I studied Fashion Communications, and there was a professor there involved with color forecasting who was kind of legendary. From the time I heard about it, I made it my goal to get into that industry. Then, I did an internship with Global Color Research in London, as well as a couple of internships with ESP Trend Lab.”
The Nitty Gritty: “We forecast two years in advance. People always ask me how it’s possible to know what’s going to happen that far in advance. The answer is, we try to look at as many stable factors as we can. What does it look like in 2014? Is it an election year? An Olympic year? We often see what types of exhibitions are going on in the art world, and to movies as well. That’s a good indication of what the world will look like.
“For spring/summer ’12, I was a big advocate for bright, shocking pink — fuchsia. With fashion focusing heavily on neons and the Prada/Schiaperelli exhibit going on at the Met (Elsa Schiaperelli’s signature color was “Shocking Pink”) in New York City, this color seemed like the perfect fit —especially for the lip. One of my clients, Ilia Beauty, introduced Neon Angel [a fuchsia lipstick] for the season. It has done extremely well and has been featured in many beauty publications.”
Pretty Perks: “I like the diversity of the job. I like being able to get out and research trends and see what different people are doing. So, I’m starting to travel more. It’s interesting to go to different cities to visit trade shows and see what’s going on in the street and on the runway — what kind of exhibitions are going on. It’s important to know what’s happening with design in general.”
Secret to Success: “Keep your eyes wide open. Every environment you’re in is an opportunity to be inspired by color. I find a lot of color inspiration based on photographs I’ve taken. Also, having some sort of graphic background is nice, so you can lay out the photographs you’ve taken.”
The gal: Naomi Yasuda
The gig: Nail artist to the A-list
Prep School: “I got my foundation and basics at beauty school in Japan, but nail art and design is self-taught. The funny thing is, I’m so focused on my own work that I actually don’t know too much of what others are doing.”
Pretty Perks: “I love that I can collaborate with my clients on creativity. It’s one thing for me to put forth my art, but it’s even more special when I can understand and execute other people’s creativity as well.”
Secret to Success: “Practice makes perfect. Put in work and get your stuff out there. Do it for the love and passion of your art, and nothing else.”
The guy: Daniel Kaner
The gig: Co-president of Oribe Hair Care (and, unofficially, the dude in charge of product development…)
Beauty Backstory: “I’ve been in the beauty business for 20 years, but only started working on product development at Oribe. At Aveda, I focused on business development and marketing strategy and worked with stores and distribution channels. At Bumble and bumble, I was responsible for marketing, sales, and overall strategy for the brand. I worked on products from a concepting standpoint (i.e. what does the market want?).
My roles in the industry have consistently changed and evolved. When we started Oribe Hair Care, there were only a few of us and since I’d been working on the periphery of product development, and because I’m a very creative individual, it made sense for me to take the lead. Now that we’ve expanded and have an entire product development team, I’m there to guide the team and help them understand the nuances of the market and the points of difference between our products and those of other brands.”
The Nitty Gritty: “Oribe often comes up with what the product should feel like and how it should work, then I, along with my team, find the right chemists and labs to actually create the products. We give them to Oribe and a team of editorial and salon stylists, plus some lucky employees for testing and then take the feedback to the chemists for tweaking.”
Pretty Perks: “It’s amazing to see all the new technologies and ingredient innovations. It allows us to be creative, and to know that we’ll be able to find a way to make our vision a reality. It doesn’t stop at the formula – there’s more fun to be had working with the top fragrance houses in the world to perfect the scent, design the packaging with our design firm, coming up with names, and then marketing the product to our salons and consumers. It’s inspiring to see the product go from an idea to a concrete item on the shelves.”
Secret to Success: “Find excellent mentors and work with products as much as possible, whether at a fragrance house or at a small brand that really allows you to work with chemists and understand the process. It doesn’t hurt to have a degree in chemistry, if you have that love. Be a good consumer and understand products and how they look and differentiate themselves.”
The gal: Julie Sheldon Smith
The gig: Senior Technologist for Topshop Make Up
Prep School: “I have a degree in biomedical science and started work as a technician in the labs at Clairol. I then moved into R&D, focusing on color/shade development and also manufacturing and filling techniques. It was after working at Clairol that I realized the cosmetics industry was a fascinating place and there seemed to be lots of opportunities there. Moving into color cosmetics was the real turning point for me and it made me really want to stay in the industry. I have been lucky to work on all sides of the business and for some great brands such as Avon, The Body Shop, Rimmel and now, Topshop Make Up.”
Pretty Perks: “I love playing with makeup all day. For a girl who always loved makeup and fashion, working on Topshop’s Make Up range is a dream job. I love turning an idea into an actual product and seeing it on the shelves or, even better, seeing someone use it. It’s so rewarding reading our reviews online and realizing how much our customers love our products.”
Secret to Success: “Get as much experience as you can, accept starting at the bottom, and take every opportunity that is offered and learn from it. Also, make friends; it’s a small business.”
The gal: Vicky Tsai
The gig: Owner of Tatcha Beauty
Beauty Backstory: “My mom had this beauty store growing up that I worked in. We had the big beauty brands, but we didn’t use any of it. We made our own products. We always said, ‘if it’s good enough for geisha….’”
Aha Moment: “I got recruited to work for a startup called GoodGuide Inc. They were doing ratings on personal care. I had never seen beauty from a scientific side and it shed some light as to why I might have gone from having the tightest skin around to having contact dermititus [from testing different products].
For a period, I became one of those hardcore green consumers — there was nothing I could put on my face. I called up my mom to ask her about the products we used to make — it was kind of out necessity — and started traveling the world, looking for the origins of all these things, like blotting papers. I found myself face-to-face with a geisha and it went from there.
I finally found the [traditional geisha] papers, which are made by gold-leaf artisans. I fell so in love with the history — these are literally the original blotting papers. I told them I wanted to bring them to the Western world. I went all the way out there, pregnant, and they weren’t interested. I told them I would sell my engagement ring to buy enough papers, and they understood I was serious. We introduced the blotting papers the day I was in labor with my daughter.”
Philosophy: “I never think about whether I’m making money off of a customer today. All I think about is whether I’m making her happy. As long as she’s happy and you made her feel beautiful, she’ll come back and she’ll tell her friends.”
Pretty Perks: “Before, I had a normal business job, and I didn’t necessarily get to work with people who were that different. Now, I spend my time with scientists in Tokyo, geisha, and my customers, who are like my pen pals. It’s a lot more fun than Wall Street.”
Secret to success: “Entrepreneurship is definitely a game of stamina. I try to start my days with a good workout whenever I can, keep a clean(ish) diet, and get a full night’s sleep whenever possible. Loving my work and my team makes the hours fly by, too. We have a very fun-loving team that is young at heart, so being with them is very energizing.”
Illustrated by Naomi Abel
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