How Ginger King Became the Queen of Cosmetic Chemistry
Fragrance is the first impression you quietly convey, used to express your ever-changing moods, contrasting personas, and cherished memories. Does the invigorating burst of punchy citrus instantly revive your soul? Or do the depths of damp woods and zingy spices awaken your senses? Welcome to ELLE Noteworthies, a definitive guide to the finest fragrances we’ve encountered this year, poised to accompany you as you create new scent memories.
Ginger King started making fragrances in her dorm room. Today—she’s a well-respected cosmetic chemist responsible for creating multi-million dollar beauty products that large companies have replicated. With a Master’s Degree in Natural Product Chemistry from San Jose State University and an MBA in Marketing from Long Island University, King understands the business of developing beauty products. At ELLE Beauty, we felt her expertise, leadership in the industry, and overall experience was the perfect match to be one of our “Noses” and serve as an expert for The 2023 Noteworthies—ELLE’s Editor’s Picks on the best fragrances you need now.
Initially, King wanted to be a makeup artist; however, within her Asian household, culturally, the expectation was for her to get an advanced degree. “I used to blend essential oils and alcohol in my college dorm room and sell them to students. My college essay was about making jasmine fragrance using organic chemistry,” King reflects. When she graduated with her master’s, no cosmetic chemist jobs were available in Northern California, which led her to take a position with Dole Foods analyzing Vitamin C content. She moonlighted at Macy’s, working for the Estee Lauder counter to fulfill her desire to work in beauty and become a makeup artist. Moving to Southern California, King’s determination to be a cosmetic chemist led her to go door to door asking all cosmetic labs to hire her, which led to her first job in the industry at Levlad (now Arbonne). In hindsight, King is pleased with her career path, “I am happy about my decision as now I am a creator of beauty rather than an applicator of beauty.”
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An avid fragrance lover, one of her favorite scent memories was wearing Estee Lauder’s Cinnabar (now discontinued). “People said, ‘You smell so sexy!’ Duh, I have never been called sexy,” she laughs. Her favorite expensive perfume is Chanel Eau Tendre for the day and Versace Yellow Diamond for the night. “I have sold Chanel Eau Tendre to people just because they love how it smells on me,” King shares. She’s passed down this fragrance fascination to her son. King says, “I trained my son on fragrance notes when he was four. Bath & Body Works was his toy store!”
King, an Asian-American, notes that the career as a perfumer is still primarily a white, male-dominated industry. To be considered “legit,” many perfumers are trained at the Grasse Institute in France—think of it as the Harvard of fragrance schools, where individuals study fragrance creation and sensory evaluation. “You don’t really need to go to Grasse to be a perfumer, but it is nice to have,” King admits. However, she shares other ways to get the education you desire: “There are many fragrance companies in New York which have application labs. They offer perfumery training from time to time.” If you want to become a perfumer, King advises: “Train your nose to identify the fragrance family.” She also adds to take fragrance classes and subscribe to Perfume & Flavorist to “learn what’s trending” and get involved with the Fragrance Foundation.
Kings’ deep industry knowledge and determination to hone her skills in a way to advance the beauty industry are key reasons why ELLE selected her to be one of our ‘Noses.’ King continues to use her love of organic chemistry to push the industry forward. Today, through her company, Grace Kingdon Beauty, she is a consultant, helping new and existing brands with concept development, formula creation, copywriting, and more. Leading with the core values of accountability, integrity, transparency, and innovation—to ELLE, this is why Ginger King is the Queen of cosmetic chemistry.
Danielle James is the Digital Beauty Director of ELLE.com. Previously, she was the Fashion and Beauty Director of HelloBeautiful.com and MadameNoire.com. She’s bylined for The Cut, InStyle, Allure, Business of Fashion, Nylon, Essence, Good Housekeeping, The Grio, and Huffington Post. Danielle enjoys sailing, thrifting, Japanese whiskey, Naomi Campbell’s runway walk, and Rihanna in the comment section.