We, at Cosmetic Test Labs, encourage our clients to question every part of the testing process and to shop through other labs to find the one most suitable to their company's individual needs. Many cosmetic companies have no knowledge of the testing process or the role of a testing facility. This can make it very difficult to locate the reputable labs. Below, we've provided ten basic, yet helpful guidelines to help cosmetic manufacturers and formulators find the best labs for their purposes.
1. Turnaround Time – Time is of the essence for cosmetic companies when they are ready to market and sell their products and are waiting for test results from their testing laboratory. Many testing labs require a 2-4 week waiting period prior to test initiation due to limited space, resources, or staff. When choosing a testing lab, turnaround time should always be considered. Look for testing labs with little to no waiting period, thus expediting the time the product spends in the lab prior to marketing. Choosing a cosmetic test lab that is willing to offer preliminary or interim results throughout the testing process can also assist you when time is of concern.
2. Organizational Focus – A testing lab can also expedite the process simply by being organized. Testing conducted in a haphazard way risks product mix-ups, contamination, and invalid test data. It's important that a testing lab is well-organized and prepared prior to testing. The labs focus while testing should always be on the test currently being conducted to provide the most concise results for the cosmetic company.
3. Understanding of Microbiology – Though it seems silly to necessitate that a cosmetic testing facility understands microbiology, it's a genuine concern. Many labs train their technicians to be able to conduct the tests, but may not encourage them to actively research their own field or keep up to date on the latest information and methods. When looking for a lab that understands microbiology, it's also important to find one in which the staff is interested and engaged in the subject. This lab will be more likely to aid a company in deciding on the best test for its product and more easily find any areas of concern for that product.
4. Understanding of Chemistry – Another skill that could be helpful to a company in regards to a lab setting is the requirement that the members of a lab have a basic understanding of chemistry. This understanding could be vital in finding the problem areas of a cosmetic formulation. Laboratory staff that has an understanding of basic chemistry could inform a customer how the preservatives used in a formula may affect the overall formulation of a product and give suggestions to improve the stability of the product as well. A lab that requests cosmetics to be sent in finished form for stability and preservative challenge testing is a great indicator that they understand the chemistry of the cosmetic, as they will know that the ingredients may react differently together than they might individually.
5. Understanding of the Industry – A good cosmetic testing lab will know the industry it serves and be able to recommend the most appropriate tests based on industry standards. While understanding the lab's own field is vital, also important is the lab's understanding of the rest of the industry. A lab that understands more than its own role in the cosmetic industry can better help their clients by informing them of the impact of their decisions based on their test results and their plans for new products or where their product may be heading. A lab should have an invested interest in the future of the cosmetic companies it tests for.
6. Understanding of FDA Regulations – While the role of a testing lab is to test a company's products, the lab will be useless to a cosmetic company if it doesn't understand important FDA regulations such as the levels of microbes that are considered acceptable in a product or policies regarding shelf-life and stability. It's fine for a cosmetic testing lab to only be aware of the regulations directly associated with its role in the manufacturing process, but it's better to find a lab that's read all the rules of cosmetics manufacturing to better aid a company in creating its product safely and without the danger of crossing lines set by the FDA. Many testing labs that only specialize in cosmetics, for example, may be unaware of FDA regulations concerning cosmeceuticals(cosmetics with drug claims).
7. Attentiveness – Another purpose of a cosmetic testing lab is to make sure that the cosmetics are safe for use. The intention and understanding between the companies is that they will be working closely together and both sides will communicate issues or concerns in a timely manner. The safety of a product is a very large concern for its cosmetic company and as such, the company needs a lab that's just as concerned and invested in the safety and stability of an individual product as the manufacturer rather than treating it as another anonymous unit with no bearing on the future of the company or the lab. Every cosmetic company wants a lab with attentive, friendly and qualified staff that takes a personal interest in their company and products.
8. Document Quality – The tests that a lab conducts can be flawless, but it will mean nothing to the cosmetic company if the documents associated with the test make no sense or are noticeably missing vital pieces. The documents in the long run are more important than the actual tests because those could be the key in protecting a company from issues with the FDA or simply aid the company in making an informed decision on their product based on information organized in a way that can be easily understood. Finding a lab that will provide necessary and complete documentation regarding the testing conducted is vital.
9. Innovation – The majority of cosmetic companies make basic formulations like lotions, shampoos, creams, and the like. However, many of these companies may also create things that are rare, new, and possibly, completely in the gray area with regards to testing regulations. When looking for a testing lab, an innovative company will benefit from a lab that can come alongside them in their innovative process and has the expertise to modify current methods and create scientifically sound custom methods of testing for the products while still staying within industry guidelines.
10. Credibility – When looking for a cosmetic testing lab, it's wise for a company to ask as many questions as possible and research the answers it receives. It's acceptable and encouraged to be skeptic and discerning of a testing lab to make sure that the members of the lab are informed and invested in every company that they test for. A good lab performs quick tests and clear results, but it also informs a company when a product doesn't perform as it should without hesitation due to a fear of being dropped by the company for producing negative results. A company tests its products to exhume issues before they become a devastating problem in the future.
Hopefully these ten distinguishable elements were informative and helpful for those cosmetic companies that previously weren't sure how to find a reputable testing lab for theirskincare and beauty products. After comparing companies and finding a few that have answered all the questions and proved to be good labs, the last step of course is to find the most cost-effective of the companies and reap the benefits of days of research and scrutiny.