How To Test a Cosmetic Product At Home

8 Feb

“This is about testing formulations. I’m thinking about working with a small(one person) manufacturer on a skincare line. I have gotten some samples of existing products they have made but I’m planning on changing the recipes. My question is, how does someone properly test a product out? I can test it out on ourselves, but is there a way to know how it will perform over time? My worry is that I start selling the product and 3 months down the road I get a call saying that the product has separated or has starting to glow green, or something like that. Is there a way around this, or do I just have to wait it out and see how it will perform over time.

Love your blog and insights on the industry.”

I received the above question from Ellie regarding testing your product efficacy and learning about the claims cosmetic companies make on their packaging and thought this was such a significant issue to everyone (not just formulators or business owners, but consumers out there) that I decided to make a whole post out of it. Thank you Ellie for bringing this up! Here goes :

You should carry out an efficacy test on your products before you make any claim, no matter how small. Obviously claims that define a cosmetic product so that it now legally becomes a “drug” (such as any SPF claims, or if you say your product treats a skin/hair disorder, or aromatherapy claims such as the product will help the consumer sleep, etc…) need to be put through their paces, receive pre-market approval by the FDA and carry a different set of labelling requirements. Read the FDA’s guidelines on what constitutes a Cosmetic and a Drug.

There are many laboratories out there who will be able to carry out Efficacy Tests on your products so that you’re able to legally make a claim (eg : percentage increase in skin moisture, wrinkle reduction, hours of wear, etc…). However, this really is an investment as it can range from $2000 -$20,000+! And for small startups it really isn’t feasible sometimes.

If you’re not making any drug claims (again, I urge everyone to visit FDA’s website so you know exactly what the difference is between a drug and a cosmetic), a great way to ensure you’re putting well-formulated, safe products out there is to bring together a group of 50 volunteers over a course of time. Engage family, friends and their friends & family to help you do this (but no pregnant women please if you’re testing anything with essential oils!). After all, this not only enables you to document the performance of your product as well as gives you the confidence that it’s not going to irritate or sensitize skins and that you’re most likely not going to be landed with a huge litigation suit down the line, it’s also a great opportunity to let everyone know you’re starting something amazing.

Note down their age range, sex & race (as different skin tones / general genetic makeup need to be taken into consideration). Ask them to bathe as usual before they come to you. Do a test patch on them by applying the cream on one side of a sterilized medical gauze and adhere it with medical tape (not too tightly, allow for airflow) onto the part of the body that your product is meant for. Ask them not to wet or expose the part to direct sunlight. After 24 hours, remove the patch.

Ensure this is repeated every alternate day until you get a series of 9 or 10 readings. In the event of any severe adverse reaction (say, a weeping rash or red skin bump develops), ensure that your “test subjects” notify you immediately and record the severity of the reaction with area measurements and photos. You then know you either need to reformulate or re-test in a proper lab.

Otherwise, record your findings for each of your 50 “test subjects” by scoring them :

0 for no reaction (i.e. completely safe),

0.5 for a barely perceptible/light pink spotty inflammation,

1 for a mild inflammation covering most of the contact site,

2 for moderate inflammation visibly uniform in the entire contact area,

3 for marked, bright red inflammation with itching

Take photos of all results wherever possible. This now becomes your test result and you can then decide whether to put it to market or not. Remember to keep all original samples, raw data and any notes safely for future referencing. Remember also to keep batch samples of all your products for 2-3 years so that you can compare and determine shelf life stability for your own peace of mind.

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3 Responses to “How To Test a Cosmetic Product At Home”

  1. Melanie April 16, 2013 at 2:04 am #

    Hi- I am new to this. I am desperately looking for a cosmetic chemist to help me formulate a product very specific to the eyes. I have googled and read so many different blogs, emailed those they have recommended yet I haven’t heard back from any chemist. I even emailed Larisa Rossi, but have not heard from her.
    I also need a factory that can produce the utility product I have created and fill it with the formula I would like to create. I need a factory to be able to store mass quantities as well as package them and ship them for me, if and when necessary. I am starting my own line specifically catering to the eye makeup. Any help on this is greatly appreciated.
    I’ve just been searching for so long looking for someone reputable and trustworthy to work with.
    Quick question: If I work with a chemist to create this very specific formula, can I patent it under my name or does this solely belong to the chemist, even though I hired the chemist to create this for me? How does this process work?

    Many thanks and sincerely hope to hear from you soon.

  2. jennysmith1 February 19, 2014 at 8:11 am #

    Awesome word…Love this post! Very insightful, I look forward to more on these topics.I hope all enjoyed here like me.Keep it up.

  3. claudia cesar March 17, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

    Hi im thinking about starting my own make up line,im still at the research fase,i’ve been reading alot and came across your blog,loved everything that you post.its very much informative, thank you so much please keep up the excellent work!!!what does one has to do to have you as a mentor?? I would love to be mentored by someone like you!! love from Angola Africa

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