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.

50 comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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

        Hi
        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. http://chemistscorner.com/cosmeticsciencetalk

  4. 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.

  5. Jee Park

    Hello

    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 Cosmetictestlabs.com

  6. 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

  7. 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.
    thanks
    Boyce

    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 http://cosmetictestlabs.com for a good option.

  8. 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.

  9. Vasu Vora

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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 🙂

    Jenna

    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.

  13. 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. ^__^

  14. 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.
    thanks,

    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.

  15. 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

  16. 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.

    Thanks,
    Jane

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Yes, it is possible.

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  19. 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.

  20. 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 🙂

  21. Gian

    Hi Perry

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

    Thanks
    Gian

    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?

  22. 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?
    thanks.

    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.
      hth

  23. 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

  24. 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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