How are In Vitro Testing Methods Used for Cosmetics?
With the growing distaste and outright bans of animal testing of cosmetic products, more and more cosmetics companies are turning to in vitro testing.
Since it’s performed on reconstructed tissues and isolated cells in a dish (not a living organism), innovative, versatile, and increasingly cost-effective, it’s the ideal alternative to animal testing.
Let’s take a closer look at the nature of in vitro testing and the opportunities it offers for cosmetics brands and manufacturers.
What is in vitro testing?
The term in vitro directly translates from Latin as “in glass” and means that experiments are being conducted on biological components under artificial conditions. An example of this is using a Petri dish of cells to generate 3D reconstructed models of human skin.
In addition to being used in the cosmetics field, in vitro testing is used by the pharmaceutical, medical, food, and many other sectors to test certain properties of chemicals or preparations.
In the past, the standard practice for assessing the safety of chemicals was animal testing. However, as animal welfare issues and sustainability have moved from the fringes to the mainstream, the opposition has grown both to animal testing and animal-derived components.
The EU was a true pioneer in banning animal testing of cosmetics, among other things. From the first steps in 1993, to the testing bans on finished cosmetic products (2004) and ingredients (2009), to the full-on 2013 ban on production and marketing of cosmetics and ingredients testing on animals, the EU Cosmetic Regulations have inspired other countries to follow suit.
These countries include New Zealand, South Korea, Turkey, India, Israel, Guatemala, and Taiwan. Many others (including the US, Australia, Canada, and Russia) are in the process of phasing out animal testing of cosmetics. Even China, where animal testing is still mandatory for imported cosmetics, is taking steps towards a cruelty-free future.
Given these developments, any cosmetic company that wanted to sell its products in the increasing number of cruelty-free countries had no choice but to look for non-animal tests.
This shift to cruelty-free testing has spurred a host of exciting technological advances for in vitro testing, making it cheaper and more versatile than ever.
The wide array of in vitro testing methods available to brands and manufacturers allows for safety and efficacy testing that is tailored to their specific products, ingredients, and properties. An example is using sebocyte cell line models to test products intended for oily skin.
Some of the in vitro testing methods used in the cosmetic industry include testing on 3D related models such as full-thickness skin models, skin explants models, dermal equivalent models, and more.
Importance of in vitro testing for cosmetics
Most people will agree that improvements in animal welfare and sustainability must not come at the expense of the safety of human consumers.
On the contrary, even as animal testing is becoming a less viable option, regulatory requirements on the safety of cosmetics continue tightening.
Meanwhile, consumers expect the product to have the promised effect, and to contain the exact ingredients listed on its label.
The good news is, in vitro testing is very effective for verifying the safety and efficacy of cosmetic products, checking for toxic substances, and confirming ingredient claims.
Cosmetics are typically prepared using a multitude of ingredients. Some of these ingredients may produce allergic reactions in people affected by allergic contact dermatitis.
How many people are affected? An estimated 15 to 20% of the general population!
In addition, almost 4,000 chemicals have been identified as skin sensitizers to date. It is not surprising that reducing exposure to skin sensitizers is among the main goals of product safety regulations in the cosmetics industry.
Today, the cosmetic industry has several fully validated in vitro testing methods that meet the regulatory requirements for sensitization assessment.
Certain chemicals, if present in cosmetics products, even in very small doses, can cause temporary or permanent damage to human skin, eyes, and DNA.
An array of in vitro testing methods can be used to verify that cosmetic products and ingredients are free from components that are cytotoxic, mutagenic, or capable of causing skin and eye irritation (temporary damage) or corrosion (permanent damage).
Efficacy and ingredient claims
When buying a product, consumers are within their rights to expect the statements on its label to be true — from the desired effect (e.g., skin hydration) to the list of ingredients.
in vitro tests can be used to confirm whether the ingredients listed on the label are truly present in the cosmetic product, and to check whether the product lives up to its efficacy claims.
Different in vitro testing methods in the cosmetics industry
With all the recent technological advances in the field of in vitro testing, the cosmetics industry has a truly impressive selection at its disposal.
Here are just some of the in vitro testing models available for cosmetics today (the list is far from exhaustive):
- Normal human epidermal keratinocytes
- Reconstructed human epidermis
- Sebocytes, sebocyte cell lines, 3D sebocyte line models
- Full thickness reconstructed skin
- Dermal equivalent
- Human epidermal keratinocytes
- Normal human dermal fibroblasts
- Reconstructed human corneal epithelium (eye irritation and corrosion testing)
The above models methods can be used to test the safety and efficacy of cosmetics products, in such areas as:
- Toxicity (cytotoxicity, mutagenicity, phototoxicity, irritation, corrosion)
- Sensitization / allergic contact dermatitis
- Substantiation of claims on:
- Anti-aging properties
- Skin hydration and protection
- Oily skin management
- Hair growth, hair loss prevention
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?