Article by: Perry Romanowski

Many followers of this website have a desire to create and sell their own product. We continue to work on a training program that shows you just how to do that, but in the meantime it would be helpful if you knew exactly the type of testing you have to do prior to selling your product. Note this information applies to US cosmetic products. Other countries may follow slightly different rules.

There are four types of testing you must do before selling your own product. These include micro-testing, stability testing, safety testing and performance testing.

Microbial Testing

This could really be put under safety testing but it is so important that it deserves its own category. Whenever you create a new formula you need to ensure that the preservative system you are using is adequate for preventing dangerous microbial growth. There are two primary types of testing you need to do.

  • Micro Challenge Testing — This is a test in which you purposely introduce microbes into your batches, then watch the samples over time to see whether your preservative system is good enough to kill off the microbes. If it’s not, you need to improve your preservation system.
  • Contamination test — This is a test you need to do on every batch of product you sell! It is a simple matter of taking a sample and testing to see whether it is contaminated or not. If it’s not, then proceed with packaging & distribution. If it is, don’t sell it!

Stability Testing

Cosmetic stability testing is a study run to determine whether your product will last on store shelves and on your consumers bathroom counter. Stability testing is an important quality test that you need to run in order to sell your products in the US. It is also useful to ensure that when people do buy your product they won’t be dissatisfied with a foul odor, ugly color, or separated formula.

Safety Testing

You can’t sell a product that is not safe. If you do, you open yourself up to litigation which could pretty much ruin any fledgeling cosmetic manufacturer. Safety testing includes things like patch testing, eye irritation tests, and a host of other procedures that ensure consumers will not become serious ill after using your product. The amount of safety testing done depends on the type of product you are going to sell and how different the raw materials are. If you are making something that uses standard cosmetic raw materials, less testing would be needed than if you are using raw materials that are new to the cosmetic industry.

Performance testing

The type of performance testing or claims testing that you need to do depends on the specific advertising claims you’re going to be making for your product. In the US you are bound by the rules of the FTC which state that you cannot promote false advertising. This means if you say your product is going to clean hair, you have to demonstrate that it does. If you say your lotion will moisturize skin, you have to show it does that. There are some industry standard tests but in many cases as a cosmetic chemist, you’ll have to come up with your own reasonable test to demonstrate that what you say about a product is true.

It is not necessary to show the results of any of these tests to the government prior to launching your product. In the US, the industry is self-regulated. However, this does not mean you can skip testing because the FDA can inspect your facilities and levy huge fines on companies that do not have the proper paper work. Be sure to keep track of all your testing procedures and results of any product that you sell.

Testing can be an expensive obstacle to many small cosmetic company launches but it is a crucial step that you absolutely must do before launching any new product.


  1. Danita

    Hi Perry: I am wondering What testing is prudent for an herbal based all natural all organic sunscreen product I have been working on? I want to do the due diligence with testing for what is best in industry standards vs what I legally have to do and for my own knowledge in order to launch the product. What I can say currently in my own observations is I can keep product on the shelf for as long as three years and have not had any issue with contamination of any sort but I want to get the lab backing to show me these results. What tests should I perform bs what I legally have to have? Can you advise? Thank you.

  2. Alejandra

    Can these tests be made at home? I’m thinking about getting a mini incubator to test for bacteria, mold and fungus but per your great article I don’t think the other tests can be performed in an incubator. I am not selling any product (though I’d like to do so in a future) but I don’t want my kids to use any homemade products if I am not sure how safe the product is to be used. Please advise what tests can be made at home and what kind of equipment I need to perform those tests. Thanks!

    1. Perry Romanowski

      You can do the micro testing at home using micro kits. This wouldn’t be suitable for selling products but for at-home safety it can give you a good sense of whether your products are contaminated or not.

  3. San Geter

    Hello, do you know any chemists in GA or SC that can test out my products for safety reasons?

  4. Leanne Chan

    Hi Perry
    Thank you for providing those information for product test, do you know any lab in Toronto or in Canada

    1. Perry Romanowski

      No. I’d suggest you contact the Society of Cosmetic Chemists up in Toronto & see if they know of anyone.

  5. Gate Hogan

    We have a cosmetic glitter body gel that we are bring to market. Do we just need to get a ph test done on the product?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      No – you need to conduct all the tests written about in the blog post above. (stability testing, safety testing, etc).

  6. Dusan Durdovic

    Hello Perry,
    I am sure glad I happened upon your article and this interesting site. I am trying to launch an all natural bar soap. It seems I need to have 1) microbial testing, 2) stability testing, 3) safety testing, 4) claims testing. Is that all or am I missing something? Also, could you please recommend a not too expensive lab for all this testing? Thank you very much.

      1. Dusan Durdovic

        Thank you Perry.

    1. lisa

      You don’t need to test soap for anything other than proper pH. Soap doesn’t have anything in it that can grow bacteria or mold! Unsaponified excess oil can eventually go rancid but that’s about it.

  7. emilia

    Blending two essential oils for a face oil product , do i need to run all those tests? I have safety data sheet for both from supplier and will fill the dropper bottles at a gmp compliant centre.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      If someone used your product and sued you for harming them how would you prove that your products are safe? Showing data from the supplier is not adequate. Yes, if it were me I would run the tests. You are taking a risk if you don’t.

    2. lisa

      Again, if a product does not contain water, bacteria and mold cannot grow. With something like an oil, I would check arriving batches from manufacturers and use your own bacteria test kit. And potentially getting sued is why you have insurance.

  8. Robert

    Hi Perrie, I make homemade body scrubs. Salt scrub and sugar scrubs, my formulas do not contain water but I still use vitamin E as a preservative since it will be used in the shower. I also sanitize all of my jar with rubbing alcohol before filling and always wear gloves. Do I still need to have my products test before I can start selling them? Thank You

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Hello Robert – Vitamin E is not a microbial preservative. It is an antioxidant which may prevent some chemical breakdown of a formula but it will have no impact on microbial contamination. You should be using a proper cosmetic preservative. And yes if you are going to start selling your product you MUST conduct the tests I’ve listed above. It does not matter if your products have no water in them. You need to be able to prove that they are safe for consumers during use.

    2. lisa

      Because it’s a scrub used in the shower, water WILL get in it and a preservative should be used as a result.

  9. Sue

    Hi Perry,

    I have formulated a hair mist with distilled water, aelo vera, vegetable glycerine, vitamin e oil, lavender oil and rosemary oil. I added grape seed extract and citric acid to preserve. Do you think it would make the right combination? It works well for my hair.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      No, I doubt that will be preserved well enough. You should use a proper preservative. Grape seed extract is not a preservative.

  10. Mia So

    Perry, I developed an all natural “deodorant” and its effect can last as long as a week. Does it require all the testings that you mentioned in your post? Who do I hire to do these testings?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      If you are going to claim that the product lasts a week (or any amount of time) you need to demonstrate that what you are saying is true. You would find a claims testing company to do this for you. For example…

  11. Mike H.

    If you are manufacturing an anhydrous product you would not typically test for microbe activity. Microbes grow in water not oil. Oils go rancid so you will want to test the stability of the product as well as RIPT

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Even though microbes don’t typically grow in anhydrous products, these products are routinely tested to ensure that there is no contamination. For the safety of your products you should probably do a confirmatory preservative spot check.

  12. Shuqri

    Hi perry it was a pleasure for me to find chemist question is I make hair products that are oil base and waxes now Iam giving to the products my family and they give me great if I want to sell which realy wanna to do it. Do I need them to get tested .plz help me perry really don’t where to start .

    1. Perry Romanowski

      You need to run the tests that are listed in the blog post above. Most important is to conduct preservative tests to ensure the products are not contaminated & dangerous.

  13. Timothy

    Hi Perry, can I consult some of my product problems with you in email? Need your help for the micro and heavy metal COA test. Can you refer the place in USA to generate this COA (Certificate Of Analysis) if I have the end product already? I’ve wandering around but they told us they can generate only for the product we bought from them. But my product currently manufactured in different company. Thank you so much.

  14. Nelly


    I have just started to sell cosmetic natural product that works as facial scrub and mask….I would like to knowledge in regard of testing my product and accomplices i am required to make before. I started with giving out the samples and up to so far i am receiving positive results and out comes. Kindly help me. Desperate Entrepreneur!!!

    1. Perry Romanowski

      The tests you have to run are listed in the blog post above.

  15. jx

    thank you Perry this site has indeed been insightful.
    I am recently carrying out a stability test on water wipes(using grape seed extract, water and preservative) at 40°c how how many weeks should I carry out the test and how many years will the week be equivalent to.
    Also i found out that after 2weeks while carrying out physical analysis the wipes feels a bit dry when touch my question is will it be that the packaging is not suitable or is there any reaction of the grape seed extract and the preservative on the wipes. please need your prompt. response.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Typically, 45C for 8 weeks is predictive of 1 year. So 40C for 10 weeks might be predictive of a year.

      Yes, your packaging is probably not suitable for your product.

  16. ccb

    I appreciate the information. However, the FDA and Health Canada do not have any requirements on prescribed testing. As I understand all relevant toxicity testing is done by feedstock manufacturers. Therefore if I am starting a handcrafted cosmetics line using non prohibited ingredients in safe concentrations why is testing a “must”?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      You raise a good question. You’re right that if you are using chemicals that are standard ingredients for cosmetics you probably don’t personally have to conduct safety testing. You will need access to the relevant safety testing so that will require you to get it from your supplier. Even if you don’t do safety testing you’ll still have to do stability testing and claims testing. Stability testing is to ensure the safety of your particular formula and claims testing is done to demonstrate you are not making untruthful claims.

  17. Toni

    First off, thank you for the site. It has been a wealth of information!
    Do you have a ballpark range of how much each of these areas will cost to test? Are we talking hundreds (or more than!) per item, per test?
    Thanks, Toni

    1. Perry Romanowski

      All the testing could probably done for a little less than $5000. But it really depends on the specific product you want to launch.

      1. Toni

        I have three anhydrous products, face, body and lips and a dry bath soak (and a couple of cold process soaps, but they don’t need to be tested, right?). The face and body butter recipes, my family, friends and I have been using for the past year with no problems and the bath soak is just a mix of salts, clays and dried herbs. Now that I’ve set up a business to start selling, I’m just learning about how to make sure my products are safe before they go out to the public.
        Thanks again, Toni

        1. Perry Romanowski

          While the fact that your family has used them for a year with no problems is helpful it is not a substitute for independent safety testing.

          You need to be able to demonstrate that your products are safe (through testing) if you are going to sell them to the public.

          1. Toni

            Yes, I totally agree! Your site has helped me gain confidence for when I talk to different chem labs about what to test for. I hate sounding like a clueless idiot but I guess everyone has to start somewhere! I’ll also only be selling my products in small jars with a 3 month use by date to start with (with approx one month in each jar). Since I live in LA, I have a big enough market to deal with locally without having to sell to stores and have my products sit for months, at least initially if I’m successful! Thank you!

  18. Ray

    Does water free cosmetics such as massage oils or body oil have to be tested for micro before selling?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      To be safe you should have them tested. At the very least you should do a contamination test before selling.

      1. Robi

        I have a home made cream that looks like vase line this cream helped many of my family friends cure their skin conditions including severe eczema in my sons case literally overnight on some parts of his skin. He is now eczema free in just a few months.

        Unfortunately my grandmother has now past away and I am trying to find a company who can tell me exactly what was in that cream. Is there any1 who could help me with this I have 1 tub of it left and I do not want to use this as I am thinking of replicating the cream and maybe sell it.

        Please any1 out there to help me with this??

        1. Perry Romanowski

          This may not be enough information to find out what is exactly in the formula. It sounds like it is probably mostly vaseline. You can post your question in our forum and maybe someone there could help you.

  19. Mariam Ahmed

    Plz I made home made cream of 50%water using Bees wax and another formula using emulsifing wax of 60 %water what kind of preservative I should use and precantage of it thanks

    1. Perry Romanowski

      You should use methylparaben and DMDM hydantoin.

  20. Jee Park


    I work in a lab in a small cosmetic manufacturer. Our company send our products to a third-party test lab for microbiology and preservative challenge tests.
    Our research team is planning to take those tests in house and was wondering if you can provide us training/ consultation or if you know of anyone who offers consultation on those tests.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      I don’t do this type of training however, you might contact Ben at

  21. purnima

    Thank you very much Perry for all the info. I was actually at a loss when the testing lab asked me as to which tests I wanted to take for my products. I have started on a very small scale, making Natural Bath and Beauty products at the moment operating from home.
    very useful info

  22. Boyce

    Hi Perry,
    can you direct me to more information on micro challenge testing? Can this be done in house and if so, are there microbial mixtures available to add to a sample and then incubate? Where can I get these? If not, I assume there are labs that perform them.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      I wouldn’t recommend doing this in-house as you need an incubator and special equipment. It’s ultimately easier and less expensive to farm out the work. Contact for a good option.

  23. christian

    is this all the information we need to know or is there some more.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      There are more details needed but this is the complete overall picture.

  24. Vasu Vora

    Hi Perry like other inquirer I also will like to know if I may about stability testing of anhydrous product.

  25. Vasu Vora

    Dear Perry I have been reading your answers you have been giving.I am very impressed.Thank you so much for spending your time for that.I wonder if can kindly mention the tools one needs – carrying out stability testing of Natural Cosmetics.

  26. pera

    we are truing to improve to formulations first one hair gel ,,,,one problem it gets bad ones is inside the container but not outside the mixing container ,,what do you recommend ?
    second one on a bleach powder that is not to fast to bleach the hair how to improve the same one to work faster without high value peroxide ? thank you ahead

    1. Perry Romanowski

      This isn’t enough information to answer your questions. I suggest you post to our cosmetic science forum.

  27. Jenna

    Hey Perry:
    A great post just in time 🙂
    When using preservatives in a product that has some distilled water, what are your suggestions for more natural preservatives. There’s a few out there giving me some paralysis by analysis. Any input would be greatly appreciated 🙂


    1. Perry Romanowski

      Do a search on the site as we’ve done a preservative review before. But natural preservatives depends on what you consider natural. In general, I don’t like to encourage people to use less effective preservatives. Messing around with microbial contamination is not a thing you should do.

  28. Eni

    Hi Perry,

    I wanna have my own skin care product. I’m not very convinced with the chemist I appointed currently.
    How I wish you could do formulations for me. Is it possible? And I hope it’s not that expensive. ^__^

  29. ams

    Dear Perry,
    Your input on various questions are always very helpful and reflect your command on the subject. I have a small query that in hand wash liquid is there any possibility of discoloration because of fragrance. In one of the blue variant we have experience discoloration in storage [oven at 45 deg C]. The colour tend towards greenish in 3 weeks. Any clue; what needs to be done.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Yes. Fragrance yellowing is one of the most common stability problems there are. You can either change the fragrance or add an antioxidant to try and stop the reaction that is causing the yellowing. The other trick, if the yellowing isn’t bad, is to use some Violet #2 to offset the yellow.

  30. Vinay

    Hi Perry, Whatever u had written that is helpful for Formulation of any cosmetic product, Can you give me an advice what are the tests should be done before launching any cosmetic ingredient in a market.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      For ingredients, you have to do the same kinds of things but most importantly is to do safety testing. You have to prove that your ingredient is safe to be used on people. For most raw material suppliers this means animal testing.

      1. Vinay

        Thank you so much Perry….for the information

  31. Jane

    Hi Perry,
    I would like to know if it is necessary to perform preservative challenge testing in low water content cosmetic products such as massage oils and bar soaps.


    1. Perry Romanowski

      Yes, it is possible.

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  34. Louise

    If a cosmetic product – e.g. hair dye or shampoo – was launched in Spring 2012 (lets say March 2012) should the manufacturer have contemplated pregnant women who may use the product? Would the manufacturer have had to ensure that the product is ‘safe’ in relation to pregnant women / the developing unborn child?

    1. Perry

      Cosmetics have to be proven safe for all consumers which means they can not cause birth defects.

  35. Alize

    Hi Perry

    I would like to know that after tested of the makeup products such as eye makeup or powder (These products always get into my eyes due to I use it in daily life TT). It means the products will have no effect or harm to the eyes in both short term and long term right??

    Thank you 🙂

  36. Gian

    Hi Perry

    I wondered why you didn’t mention packaging compatibility test here.


    1. Perry

      Hello Gian – I guess I lumped that under Stability Testing but you are correct to point it out.

      1. Gian

        Hi Perry

        I have a puzzling question. If say, I would like to market a product with a limited shelf life, like it will have to be used in just 3 weeks so that consumer is still using a fresh product, can I do the test at just 2 weeks then, the targeted/marketed 3 weeks shelf life of the product? Is this still acceptable?

        Thank you.

        1. Perry

          Interesting question. For such a short amount of time you might as well do the stability test for the entire time (3 weeks). However, you have to realize that your product will be in the market longer than 3 weeks. You need to make sure that it lasts for that long after the consumer gets it. Or put an expiration date on the product. Since it will take a number of days or weeks to ship to your retailer, this could be a significant problem.

          1. Gian

            Thanks Perry. If that 3 weeks is being targeted as shelf life, would you recommend doing the test still at higher temperature and having a control at 5 deg C? Or would you just run it at RT for the whole 3 weeks?

  37. Shalini

    Hi Perry,

    how about P.A.O testing? is the test similar to stability testing? if no, would you know how to conduct such testing?

    1. Eliza

      Not Perry but I happen to have looked up this one 😉
      P.A.O. includes 2 kinds of challenge testing. 1 that proves that your product is free of bugs for longer than 30 months when unopened/sealed. Second one proves that when the product is opened and exposed to bugs your preservatives would hold for the given P.A.O. period.

  38. LaNita Darden

    I know these tests are important and thank you for bringing this up as a public conversation. Could you go into further detail as to how to do these tests including the tools needed? Thanks

  39. Eliza

    You are officially my hero, Perry! Thank you for saying this out loud/writing this publicly. Personally I didn’t know the difference between micro and contamination batch testing, I always called both micro, so thanks for pointing out the difference.
    As a beginning entrepreneur I would find it very helpful if you would be able to write a bit more in depth about testing of anhydrous products, testing of handmade soaps (not a cosmetic by FDA rules) and testing of products containing more than 35% ethanol. Microbiology & cosmetics are very fascinating, but also a tough subject!
    Thanks again!

    1. Perry

      Thanks Eliza! I’ll work on a more in-depth version.

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