Faculty Spotlight: Dr. K.P. Ananth, Director of Cosmetic Science

Dr. Ananth Formulates Bright Futures for Cosmetic Science Professionals

Within just moments of speaking to Dr. K.P. Ananth, Ph.D., it’s clear to see cosmetic science is his calling. And his excitement and passion for the industry are infectious.

As Program Director for the University of Cincinnati (UC) Online Master of Science (MS) in Cosmetic Science program and the Cosmetic Science graduate certificate, Ananth thrives on mentoring other cosmetic chemists. His experience in both academia and industry makes him a sought-after advisor.

Dr. K.P. Ananth, Ph.D., is a UC Online Professor and the Director of Cosmetic Science Programs through the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy

After graduating from Columbia University in New York, Ananth taught for three years before joining Union Carbide, a chemical company that is part of  Dow Chemicals now. His early work on cosmetic products focused on personal care, particularly polymers and surfactants.

In 1990, Ananth joined Unilever’s Research & Development area as Senior Principal Scientist, where he specialized in skin, hair, and oral care. He says, “I would look at product interaction with the skin and scalp. The goal was to create milder and more attractive products from a consumer perspective.”

Ananth recalls how Unilever would encourage him to participate in scientific research and publish his findings. “I always had this university connection while working for Unilever — MIT, Harvard, Columbia University, and others,” he says.

A Big Move Into Academia Full-Time

Ananth felt drawn to academia throughout his life, so it was natural for him to transition to teaching at some point in his career. In 2016, he came across the opportunity to join UC’s Cosmetic Science area. Initially founded in 1973 and globally recognized as one of the country’s oldest cosmetic science graduate programs, Ananth was intrigued. “It sounded interesting, so, I decided to apply — and the next thing I know, I’m here in Cincinnati and am not dealing with three feet of snow in the NY area,” he says.

Ananth enjoys translating his years of practical industry research and experience into UC’s educational offerings for cosmetic science professionals. Sharing the university’s expertise externally is also part of his role here. “When I came on board, I introduced our program to various companies. I pointed out the benefits of encouraging their employees to take our course,” he says. Now, 70% of students from the program already work in the cosmetic science field, employed by companies that include Unilever, Estee Lauder, and L’Oréal.

Ananth says that, often, companies try to hire chemistry, chemical engineering, or biology students and spend two years training them internally. But they now see that sending their new hires directly to our program is a better option because, right away, they begin taking courses on skin science and hair science.

Likewise, if a company hires a UC Online MS in Cosmetic Science program graduate, the person can hit the ground running on day one at their new employer. And the value of UC’s program is immediately evident when these new employees demonstrate their expertise from what they learned in the master’s program.

We even have doctors in our online Cosmetic Science program. One is a practicing dermatologist looking to create a skincare line.

– Dr. Ananth, Program Director

Program Relies on Student Feedback and a Diverse Environment

Though UC’s cosmetic science program has been in existence for almost 50 years, student feedback plays a key role in its continued progression. Ananth relies on current students and graduates to shape the future experience of the next generation of cosmetic science professionals, saying:

Over the last six years of the online program’s existence, we actively listened to our graduates. We introduced new courses to fill some gaps and continue to refine the program by working with our students and renowned experts in the field. All faculty members have scientific backgrounds with significant industry and practical experience, making us unique among similar programs with their real-world expertise.

The online cosmetic science certificate and online master’s program welcome students from around the world. Ananth points out how the asynchronous nature of UC Online’s format, where students study whenever they want and course material is available 24/7, opens up this education to more cosmetic science professionals. He says it’s not uncommon to have students from Australia, China, India, the Middle East, and Europe take part in the program.

Students’ professions are varied, ranging from pharmacists, cosmetic formulators, and chemistry or engineering graduates to entrepreneurs starting or already running a business. A smaller number of students come from non-science majors, such as business and marketing; they’re interested in learning more about the science behind cosmetic products. “We even have doctors in our program,” Ananth says. “One is a practicing dermatologist looking to create a skincare line.”

Ananth believes learning in this diverse environment of people focused on cosmetic science creates a rich, exciting experience. He cites the student-led discussions in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Journal Club as one of the places where interactions are especially meaningful.

Multidisciplinary, Modern Cosmetic Science Program

UC Online’s master’s program prepares students to be well-versed in skin and hair. Courses are tailored for students interested in the science behind creating personal care and beauty products. Because cosmetic science is multidisciplinary, coursework includes a mix of bioscience, materials science, chemistry, chemical engineering, colloid and surface science, microbiology and toxicology, imaging, measurements, and modeling topics.

Materials science is a particularly interesting area as it deals with formulations, product testing, and sensory design (in layperson’s terms, how a product feels on the skin). “Safety and toxicology are integrated with all aspects of UC Online’s program,” Ananth says. “This type of training is unavailable anywhere and is what makes our program so unique.”

The cosmetic and personal care product market is expected to grow from a 500-billion-dollar industry to a trillion-dollar industry by 2030 — and this growth will likely mean more job opportunities for industry professionals.

The Beauty Business is Booming

The skin care industry has undergone a makeover from the basic-but-essential cleansing and moisturizing routines of the early 1900s. The last 30–35 years, in particular, have been a remarkable time in the field of skin science. According to Ananth, vital developments are happening almost daily, and scientific advancements are staggering. “We now know products can influence change by our ability to see deeper in the skin by in vivo imaging and microscopy. Every person has the potential for sun damage and knowing which skin structure is more susceptible to sun damage can be life-changing,” he says.

Additionally, genomics has changed scientists’ fundamental understanding of the skin. From anti-aging technologies that positively influence biology to sun protection, these and other cosmetic science advancements create actual changes to the skin. It looks better, is less damaged, and is protected from UV exposure, helping to reduce the possibility of skin cancer.

The cosmetic and personal care product market is expected to grow from a 500-billion-dollar industry to a trillion-dollar industry by 2030 — and this growth will likely mean more job opportunities for industry professionals. Cosmetic companies are evolving, too, with many moving away from complicated product formulas, meeting consumer preferences for sulfate-free and PABA-free products. Ananth says:

Today, we know even more about consumer trends and preferences. There’s a shift to more natural and clean beauty products. We’re moving away from preservatives, certain chemical profiles, and ingredient types — and these trends, along with color cosmetics and sustainable materials, are all being discussed and analyzed by our Cosmetic Science program students.

Online Master’s Degree or Grad Certificate Super-Charge Your Cosmetic Science Career

We hope you enjoyed getting to know Dr. Ananth and find his enthusiasm for the programs he oversees, the MS in Cosmetic Science degree, and the Cosmetic Science graduate certificate, inspiring. (Sidenote: If you’d like to hear Dr. Ananth, other staff members, and one program graduate discuss the programs, view this webinar replay.)

When you choose one of UC Online’s cosmetic science programs, you’ll embark on an exciting and rewarding journey into personal care science. Interacting with faculty with significant industry experience and fellow students who are equally enthusiastic about cosmetic science, you gain knowledge and industry connections that would otherwise take years to develop on your own.

UC Online’s cosmetic science programs are from the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy and are available 100% online. If you’re ready to take the next step and want to learn more about the program, please complete this online form, and an Enrollment Services Advisor will be in touch.

On behalf of Ananth and his fellow instructors and support staff, we invite you to take a deep dive into the science and business behind cosmetics!

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