Inside the Beauty Industry’s Safety + Testing Practices
As makeup and skincare consumers, we don’t usually give much time or thought to the formulation process behind our favorite products. Yes, we’re starting to educate ourselves more and more around ingredients – ones to look for, ones to avoid – but really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We believe it’s important for everyone to have full transparency – not just around ingredients, but the testing and safety measurements brands are (or should be) taking. So, we asked our Head of Product Development, Allen Sha, to walk us through all the lesser-known details so you can make the best decisions possible for your skin.
Hi Allen! Let’s first talk about the safety testing required in the United States. How do these requirements differ from other parts of the world, like the European Union?
Brands bear their own legal responsibilities to ensure the safety of their products. Meaning, it’s entirely up to them. Neither the law nor the FDA require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. That said, the minimum industry standard is to perform a Repeat Insult Patch Test (or RIPT) on human subjects to confirm tolerability of products, if safety can’t be substantiated through existing data. The process is the same in the EU, with an important addition. There is always one last (regulated) safety assessment of the final product before it can enter commerce.
Do all beauty brands put their products through testing prior to launch? If not, how do I know if a product is safe for me to use?
In an ideal scenario, yes. In reality, no. Remember, there is no law or FDA regulation enforcing them to perform these tests. So, my recommendation is to always patch test a new product. Apply it to your arm or a small area of the face first to make sure there’s no irritation. If you want more specific information, I encourage you to reach out to the brand directly to understand the safety testing that has been performed and its results.
Can you give us an overview of all of the testing that can/should be done on beauty products?
There are four main types of tests beauty brands should be conducting on their products. These are:
Preservative Challenge Testing (PET)
This test is performed on any type of cosmetic products that have the potential to deteriorate or form a risk to consumers. This test ensures the microbial safety of the product can be maintained during shelf life. In other words, we want to make sure the product doesn’t spoil or grow mold once it’s opened.
Every product placed on the market should be tested for stability. This means ensuring the formula doesn’t fall apart while being stored. By exposing it to things like changing temperatures, humidity, and UV light, we can see if these conditions negatively impact quality and safety.
Packaging can affect the stability and safety of a product. This test ensures the formula can be stored as intended in its packaging, and we’re not running into any issues (such as packaging materials seeping into the product). Stability testing should therefore be performed on secondary and shipping packaging as well.
This test confirms that the products will not irritate the skin in any way. This is typically confirmed via the patch test (RIPT) I mentioned above.
Orcé’s products are all submitted to dermatologist-led testing. Which tests have been performed on Orcé’s products?
Preservative Efficacy Test (PET)
Repeat Insult Patch Test (RIPT), dermatologist-tested
Non-Comedogenicity Test (evaluating for comedogenic potential)
Let’s talk about animal testing. Why aren't all brands cruelty-free? Are there benefits to animal testing?
Ethicals aside, animal testing provides researchers and product developers the ability to more accurately predict the safety of ingredients. Specifically, drugs can carry significant dangers – animal testing allows researchers to initially gauge the safety of drugs prior to commencing trials on humans, allowing a reduced risk of human harm.
Prior to 2019, select countries such as China mandated animal testing before products could enter commerce. Cruelty-free brands were restricted to import goods as a direct result.
Orcé’s products are Leaping Bunny-Certified. What does that mean?
The Leaping Bunny seal certifies that no animal testing are associated with our product testing.
What is product development? What are the main roles and responsibilities of a Head of Product Development?
PD oversees the development life cycle of a product, from conception to shelf. A Head of PD partners with teams like marketing, operations, R&D, and regulatory to research and develop formulas and packaging – the end goal being to launch a product that is safe, effective, and compliant with regulatory requirements.
Orcé’s latest launch was our Perfecting Makeup Sponge. What was the product development lifecycle like?
This process took about 9 months, from concept to launch. It is a tool vs. a formula, so it forgoes the testing mentioned previously. We spent that time researching and evaluating materials and shapes to create the perfect sponge that best works with our liquid foundation and setting powder.
We’re always striving for full transparency with our Orcé community, and we hope you learned something new about our formulation process and can shop our products with confidence. As you consume other beauty products, make sure to do your research and ask questions, so you can make the best choices for your skin. Safety first, as they say!