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Targeted Beauty Testing

By: Abby Penning
Posted: April 28, 2014, from the May 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

Testing certainly isn’t the flashiest part of beauty product development, but it just might be one of the most important. “From both a consumer’s and a manufacturer’s point of view, testing is necessary to ensure the safety, quality and efficacy of the products before they enter the marketplace,” explains Howard Kaminsky, director of advertising and marketing, AMA Laboratories, Inc. “Almost every cosmetic product intended for human use needs to be tested. The Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Trade Commission, the cosmetic industry and more, they all have certain standards that have to be maintained and regulations that have to be adhered to.”

Craig R. Weiss, president of Consumer Product Testing Company, also notes, “Without testing it would be impossible to establish product safety. Secondarily, since efficacy claims are a large part of the marketing of cosmetic products and all performance-based claims need to validated, efficacy testing is absolutely necessary.”

Confirming this, Alisa Marie Beyer, founder of The Beauty Company and GCI editorial advisory board member, offers, “Based on The Beauty Company’s nine years of research and experience, we found that consumer claims, driven from consumer testing studies, are crucial in the eyes of the consumer; 93% of women look for efficacy claims before purchasing a beauty product. Beauty product testing (BPT) is so important because it validates the product’s benefits and provides consumers and retailers alike a reason to believe.”

Test Choices and Options

In regard to safety testing for beauty and cosmetic products, according to Bioscreen Testing Services, the most common single tests include RIPT, the repeated insult patch test, which uses subject panelists to find data related to contact irritation and sensitization from a product; AET, the antimicrobial efficacy test, which is a must for any product containing water as it needs preservative effectiveness testing; and stability testing, which tests the shelf life of a product, needed by nearly all products in some form.

Kaminsky also adds another important potential beauty product test. “Sun protection factor—if you’re going to put a numerical value on a sunscreen product, the procedure is dictated by the Food and Drug Administration, because technically, sunscreens are over-the-counter drugs,” he explains.

Test offerings and options for beauty products can seem almost endless—“We offer hundreds of different testing, and maintain specialty panels for geriatric, pediatric, diabetic and sensitive skin, just for a few examples,” says Weiss, noting it’s best to work with your testing company to figure out what you really need. Weiss also comments, “The most popular single test is a safety test, the human repeated insult patch test (HRIPT)—the basic safety test for much of this industry.”

In efficacy testing, the options also are numerous, but there are areas of popularity. “In the marketplace now, the largest group of efficacy tests is aimed at reducing the appearance the signs of aging, wrinkle reduction, elasticity, age spots and more,” Weiss says, and Beyer agrees, saying, “Anti-aging skin care is the category leader in testing.”

Beyer’s company, The Beauty Company, offers consumer panel tests, helping to discover and evaluate product claims beyond safety and straightforward efficacy. “A market-ready BPT is the most popular type of test that we run with our clients,” she explains. “This trial tests a product that is conditionally approved for in-market commercialization and has undergone appropriate safety and stability testing to a defined panel of target consumers. In short, this product is ready to be put into the hands of consumers. Claims generated through this type of trial can be used on primary and secondary packaging, promotional materials and other marketing elements such as websites, press kits and social media.”

Additionally, Beyer notes, “We also run pre-market prototype testing, which is where panelists test the initial offering in its non-finalized stage. By taking a deep-dive into the consumer’s reactions and interactions with the product—including application, ease of use and effectiveness—we can point out red flags and in-market inhibitors and provide optimization opportunities.” This kind of testing represents an excellent opportunity for beauty brands to discover new claims and substantiations for their products.

Testing companies/providers, as a whole, also continues to innovate their own tests to help beauty brands with new ideas and offerings. “We’ve developed a number of novel tests and ways to substantiate efficacy,” says Kaminsky. “We have an analytical system that we’ve developed—an efficacy analytical system—called PhotoGrammetrix. We’re also working on 3D modeling, which is going to be a big thing in the future.”

Of course, testing can also mean quality control testing, and that’s where companies such as Brookfield Engineering can come in. Brookfield offers a machine called a texture analyzer, which can help beauty brands test lipsticks, eye pencils, creams and lotions, powder compacts and more from a quality control standpoint.

“A texture analyzer is nothing more than an instrument that can compress something or pull it apart,” explains Bob McGregor, general manager, global marketing, Brookfield Engineering. “In the cosmetics world, [it can be used] to simulate what customers do with lipsticks. With lipstick, you press it on your lips and you draw it across your lips, which is a shearing action. So you’d like to make sure the lipstick has enough integrity that it’s not going to snap on you, or that it doesn’t flake or smear. We make very simple devices that can physically hold a lipstick in place and run a bending test—meaning, poke on the part of the lipstick that’s extended from its cylinder and push down to see how much force it can withstand before it physically snaps off.”