Screening and Testing: The First Step to Better Beauty Products

Health and beauty… these two words have been joined so frequently they’ve become a singular phrase. We shop the health and beauty section at the store, and we order health and beauty products online. Manufacturers love to play up this pairing with ambiguous marketing language intended to foster consumer confidence in the safety of their products. But, the truth is there isn’t sufficient research on the health impact of many regularly used ingredients in personal care products. That means manufacturers must make their own judgements about the safety of a product.

This is why we’ve developed our own screening and testing protocol to help us make safer products.

It’s important to note that there are differences between screening and testing. We screen every potential ingredient, utilizing the latest scientific research. We test raw materials and finished products on a case-by-case basis, prioritizing ingredients with insufficient data on potential health effects. We’re committed to bringing you better beauty products, and that starts with safer ingredients.

Ingredient Screening

We screen every potential ingredient, looking for scientific information on specific human health hazards. Additionally, we look for use restrictions that need to be considered with particular ingredients. (For example, preservatives that need to be used safely at a specific concentration.)

While our ingredient screening process does not include testing, we have a rigorous, five step selection process for all of the ingredients used in our formulations.

Step 1: Ban Intentionally

Step 2: Screen Rigorously

Step 3: Learn Constantly

Step 4: Source Responsibly

Step 5: Share Transparently

Ingredient Testing

Some ingredients that pass our stringent screening process require a deeper look because they are important to the function and safety of our formulation, but there are data gaps that exist for some biological effects, such as hormone disruption.

Preservatives, such as phenoxyethanol, are required for use in products that contain any amount of water in the formula to ensure that potentially hazardous microbes do not contaminate the product. We always use the smallest amount of preservative that gets the job done and scientific studies to-date have shown no evidence that phenoxyethanol may cause harm when used within the limits of Beautycounter’s formulations.

However, certain preservatives, like some parabens, have been linked to hormone disruption and we wanted to verify that phenoxyethanol was not a potential hormone disruptor as well. We commissioned a third-party lab to perform non-animal testing for possible estrogen or androgen activity, and the results clearly showed that phenoxyethanol does not show any estrogen or androgen-like activity in concentrations that we use in our formulations.

In August 2016, we began a research collaboration with Dr. Ana Soto, a pioneer in the field of endocrine (hormone) disruption and researcher at the prestigious Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, MA, to learn more about the safety of ingredients in our formulas. Her lab developed the first bioassays to rapidly and reliably determine a chemical’s hormone activity without the use of animal testing. Together, we are studying ingredients commonly used in the beauty industry for their potential to interfere with estrogen, androgen and/or thyroid hormone action.

Third Party Testing

In addition to our internal screening and testing procedures, we have a robust quality assurance program to test all finished products. We comply with industry standard testing and complete additional product-specific testing focused on a range of health and safety criteria.

First, we third party test all of our color cosmetics for heavy metal contamination during formulation, and again before a new batch comes to market. We strive for non-detectable levels of lead, cadmium, nickel, mercury, arsenic, and other toxic elements.

Second, we spot test raw ingredients and finished products, focusing on substances that are on The Never List™ and considered to be commonly found industry contaminants. We do so to help identify possible trace level contaminants, keeping in mind we never intentionally formulate with an ingredient from The Never List™. We also conduct testing of alternative raw ingredient suppliers for new formulations and choose the supplier that produces the best quality material.

We work hard to raise the bar in the beauty industry, and we are committed to rigorous ingredient screening. We are proud to work with academic and non-profit partners to perform industry-leading research on ingredient safety and work toward greater transparency by sharing our scientific findings. We hope our work encourages other companies to use safer ingredients, push for better laws, and further their own learnings about product safety. It’s time to set a safer beauty standard.