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Focus on alumni with Mary Magsombol

Mary Magsombol is a 2014 alumna from the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy’s graduate degree program in pharmaceutical sciences, with an emphasis in cosmetic science. We’re so proud of the paths she’s taken so far, to find her place in such an exciting field.


Tell us about your career progression.

I first started off as an intern lab tech at Allure Labs where I started to learn more about the industry and how to make skin care products and a few color cosmetics. After working on the bench as a lab tech, I slowly transitioned to doing more formulation work for mostly skin care at Allure Labs and then G.S. Cosmeceuticals. At G.S. Cosmeceuticals, I was able to refine my formulation knowledge by helping the senior chemists with improving the stability of formulas, matching benchmarks, improving compounding processes, and helping with scale-up. After a few years on the bench, I wanted to try my hand at product development for a big brand, so I worked for Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) as a technical product developer for Benefit Cosmetics and Nude Skincare. Prior to working at LVMH, my only experience was formulating products for multiple clients. I never got to see what happened after a formula was approved, scaled up, packaged, and sent off. That time around, I got to be involved in creating a product from ideation to the store shelves by interfacing with many departments within the company, from our scale-up engineers to ops to copy.

After being at LVMH for a few years, I realized that I wanted to be back at the bench more. My lab time was limited as the brands I worked for didn't have a lab in-house—I had to travel to different labs all over the world to work with the formulators there. I eventually transitioned to the pharmaceutical industry where I am back at the bench as a full-time formulator for topical Rx products. I've enjoyed the change in pace from cosmetics, and I'm happy to spend most of my time at the bench again!


How involved are you in product development?

I cannot say specific products, but I've had a role in developing a few skin care and color cosmetics during my time at Benefit Cosmetics. It's an accomplishing feeling to see consumers love a product I've worked so hard on. Over the years while working in the industry, I've also helped develop products sold at different retailers like Target, Sephora, and Whole Foods Market.


What is your educational background?

I got my bachelor's degrees at the University of California Davis (’12), where I double majored in pharmaceutical chemistry and Japanese. Afterward, I got my master's degree in pharmaceutical chemistry with an emphasis on cosmetic science at the University of Cincinnati (’14).


What led you to choose UC?

I loved the flexibility of being able to do my graduate coursework online while still working full-time in California as a formulation chemist and product developer. I also have read a lot of technical literature written by staff and alumni of the UC cosmetic science program, so that inspired me to want to be educated by the same institution that they came from since I found their resources so useful.


Advice you would give to someone considering cosmetic sciences as a career?

You need to be open-minded and prepared to learn a lot. Cosmetic science requires you to have a great understanding of chemistry, but it also makes you think outside of the box and trust your gut more than just the science sometimes. It's one of those great careers where you feel like you're constantly evolving and learning your trade. Practice and persistence are key to becoming great formulators. You will constantly be drawing upon your experiences, even from years prior, to solve problems and come up with new innovations and processes.