Spelman College Hosts Inaugural Beauty STEMinist Lab Intensive In Collaboration With The Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation

Spelman College is hosting the first-ever Black Beauty STEMinist Lab Intensive. The esteemed institution partnered with The Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation to bring this program to life. 

This pioneering program aims to inspire and equip Black women with the skills and knowledge to pursue careers in the beauty and personal care sector, spotlighting the intersection of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with beauty.

The Black Beauty STEMinist Lab Intensive is a one-week program designed to immerse students in the practical and theoretical aspects of cosmetic science. Throughout the week, up to 34 students from 14 colleges and universities will engage in hands-on formulation of products such as candles, serums, clarifying shampoos, beauty products, and fragrances. 

These activities will take place in Spelman’s state-of-the-art laboratories, providing students with a unique opportunity to apply their scientific knowledge to real-world applications.

Dr. Leyte L. Winfield, a professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Spelman and the director of the new Cosmetic Science Program, leads the intensive. She highlights the transformative impact of the program: “To see how much people are getting from it, how excited they are about it, and how energized the students have been is truly rewarding. They are diving in, asking great questions, and making plans for their future.”

In addition to product formulation, students will characterize their formulations and assess product stability. The intensive also features a product development workshop that guides students from concept to market, emphasizing the entrepreneurial aspects of the industry. This holistic approach ensures that participants not only gain technical skills but also understand the business dynamics of the beauty sector.

“As underrepresented as we are in the basic sciences, we’re even more underrepresented in beauty. It’s crucial for students to see themselves in these roles and understand that these opportunities are for them, Dr. Winfield said. 

She added: “Our sponsor for this event is The Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation. On Sunday, they did a kind of wide sweep of not only underrepresentation in STEM, but also in the industry and how important it is for them to kind of showcase Black women in this space.” 

Furthermore, this intensive is part of a broader initiative at Spelman to enhance STEM education and create pathways into the beauty industry. In March, Spelman announced the expansion of its STEM programming to include a concentration in cosmetic chemistry for chemistry majors and a minor in cosmetic science for other majors. Scheduled to launch in the fall, this program is the first of its kind at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).

“Most of the distinguished professionals here have shared that when they were younger, they didn’t know how to enter the industry or what career path to take. This program aims to provide a clear path, combining education, experience, and networking to help students succeed in cosmetic science,” Dr. Winfield said. 

The partnership with The Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation underscores the importance of industry support in fostering diversity and innovation. Carrissa Dowdy, a product formulation manager at Mary Kay Cosmetics and an instructor for the intensive, highlights the significance of mentorship and representation: “It is paramount that little Black girls see us in the leadership roles in the cosmetic space and also paramount for us to make sure that we reach back.”

Dowdy, who will teach students about color cosmetics, underscores the comprehensive nature of the program: “We’ll cover everything from selecting raw materials to understanding lab processes, scaling up for manufacturing, and quality control.”

Additionally, Dowdy says at Mary Kay Cosmetics, “We partner with pharmacy schools. Most people don’t know that technically, cosmetic chemistry is typically facilitated through pharmacy schools. So we have six week rotations with pharmacy students to come in and teach them about cosmetic science with the hopes of sometimes switching them away from traditional pharmacy.”

Spelman College’s Beauty STEMinist Intensive represents a groundbreaking step towards diversifying the beauty and personal care industry, offering Black women the tools and mentorship needed to excel. 

The program not only addresses industry disparities but also empowers a new generation of innovators to lead with confidence and expertise.

As Dr. Winfield aptly puts it, “The sky’s the limit. This program is about showing our students that they can marry their multiple passions and make a significant impact in the beauty industry.”

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