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Episode 2: Required safety tests for cosmetics sold in Europe

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

Welcome to Behind the Hive: a short series of blog posts giving you a sneak peek into what goes on behind the scenes when running a small business!

Today, we want to share with you our experience regarding the tests that each cosmetic product needs to pass if you want to sell it on the European market.

Some of you may not know this, but by law, all cosmetics products need to pass at tests to ensure that the product is safe for use. Some additional tests might be required if your product has a specific purpose such as sun protection. In addition to these tests, every product also needs to be registered in the Cosmetic Product Notification Portal (CPNP) which is essentially a huge database registering all cosmetic products sold in the EU.

Testing on animals for cosmetic products is forbidden in Europe since 2013. However, it remains compulsory in some countries such as China, so if you want to avoid buying products from companies who test on animals, make sure they don't sell in these countries (but this is another topic, back to our initial discussion).

These are the various tests that have to be performed on every new cosmetic formula:

Compatibility testing

The aim of this test is to ensure that your product does not negatively interact with your packaging. For instance, if your packaging is made of transparent glass or plastic, you will want to look out for any interactions with the sunlight and your product. Hence, it is important that you put a lot of thoughts in your packaging before hand as it can not easily be changed afterwards.

Stability testing

The aim of this test is to ensure that your product remains stable under the various conditions it may be subject to during its lifetime. Your product will be placed in a sort of oven, that will be 45C warm for a duration of 3 months. This exercise is supposed to represent how your product will behave over a period of 3 years in your cupboard. It will assess the aging process to ensure that your product keeps the same chemical, microbiological, physical, functional, safety properties and aesthetics throughout time. An unstable formula will for instance change colour, odour, etc. This test is also used to determine the storage conditions and shelf life of your product. If your product passes these tests, your product does not need a specific expiry date, but a 'Period After Opening' indication which is represented by this logo:

How long does it take: 3 months.

Patch testing

The aim of this test is to ensure that the product does not trigger any allergic reactions when in contact with skin or the specific area for which the product is supposed to be used. After passing this test, you will be able to label your product as 'dermatologically tested'.

Challenge testing

This test is only required for products containing water. It's purpose is to ensure the microbial stability of your formula and its preservation during it's intended shelf-life. During the test, samples of your product are infected with various bacteria and the number of microbes having developed is measures at multiple intervals during the test period.

How long does it take: 28 days.

The cost of these tests will vary depending on the lab which performs them, but you should expect a budget between 1,500€-2,500€ per formula for the tests outlined above.

Two more things that we learned: if you want to create different variations of the same product (different smell, colour, etc.), change its packaging or change the way it is being manufactured, the formula needs to be tested again. If your product has a specific usage (such as an SPF cover) or you want to claim a certain effect (such as anti-aging, cleansing, etc.), additional specific tests have to be performed to back those claims.

That's it! We hope you found this helpful and that it gave you a sneak peek into the regulatory tests which all cosmetic product sold on the EU market need to pass.

MADU is a natural self-care brand based on honey and beeswax from our family's hives. Discover our 100% natural hair oil today and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more behind the scenes content.

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