How is In Vitro Testing Done? Improve Quality & Safety of Cosmetics
In vitro testing is a versatile and cost-effective testing method–and an excellent alternative to animal testing. However, even though many cosmetics brands and manufacturers use in vitro models to ensure the safety and efficacy of their products, not everyone knows exactly how in vitro testing is done.
In this article, we will look at how in vitro testing applies to the cosmetics industry, and briefly examine the science behind the method.
How In Vitro Testing is Used in the Cosmetics Industry
Historically, the many tests required to bring cosmetic products to market have been performed on animals. However, animal testing for cosmetics is now banned in many countries, including all EU member states. Even in countries without such bans, the dislike of animal testing is growing every day.
In vitro testing has long existed as an alternative to animal testing, and recent technological advances have made sophisticated yet cost-effective in vitro models available to the cosmetics industry.
The existing in vitro models can be used for regulatory safety and toxicity testing of cosmetics and ingredients, as well as to test efficacy, support product claims, and confirm the listed ingredients. Such tests can include:
- Safety and toxicity testing:
- Cytotoxicity, including skin/eye irritation and corrosion
- Phototoxicity (chemically induced skin irritation)
- Mutagenicity (DNA damage)
- Efficacy testing:
- Anti-aging properties
- Oily skin management
- Skin pigmentation
- Anti-hair loss properties
How is In Vitro Testing Done?
“In vitro” translates from Latin as “in glass,” and means a test that is done outside of a living organism. In the cosmetics testing industry, in vitro testing usually involves cell lines and reconstructed models of the human epidermis (skin) and cornea (front of the eye).
For a hands-on example of in vitro testing done in the cosmetics industry, let’s look at one of the methods for assessing skin irritation using reconstructed human epidermis.
First, a note on how irritation works. Skin irritation occurs when chemicals penetrate the upper layers of the skin and damage cells underneath. In response, damaged cells produce an immune response, which can show as reddening and/or swelling. Since irritation is a local response (as opposed to a full-body response like an allergic reaction), it can be observed and measured in isolation: in this case, on the reconstructed skin model.
To assess skin irritation in vitro, researchers apply the test chemical to a 3D model of human epidermis, which closely mimics the biochemical and physiological properties of the upper parts of the human skin. A certain time after application, the cellular response is measured.
The exposure times for different chemicals, measurement criteria, and other test specifics are prescribed by the approved guidance document for the test. For example, one method used for assessing a cosmetics’ products irritation potential is In Vitro Skin Irritation: Reconstructed Human Epidermis Test Method. This is one of the many test methods provided by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) library.
The test above is validated: specifically, it is approved by the ECVAM (European Centre for the Validation of Alternatives Methods) and the COLIPA (European Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Industry Association). When selecting in vitro methods for your cosmetics testing, regulators in major markets strongly recommend choosing validated methods.
Find an In Vitro Testing Program to Suit Your Needs
At Bioalternatives, we are committed to developing effective in vitro alternative options to animal experimentation methods, by offering a full range of solutions for the development of active ingredients and cosmetic formulations.
We offer customized technical solutions to guide your product research and support the claims of your cosmetic products. Our selection of in vitro testing solutions can be used to characterize your cosmetic products’ active ingredients, demonstrate the efficacy of your formulations, and test the safety of your cosmetic products at an early stage (for R&D purposes only).
With extensive experience in cosmetic product testing and state-of-the-art facilities, we are pleased to offer you dedicated project management support and consulting for your R&D process.
Ready to discuss a testing and research program that will suit your business’s needs?