Glossary 101: Formula Development - Beauty Industry Insights | CTKCLIP

Glossary 101: Formula Development


Glossary 101: Formula Development

Crash Course at the Lab.

Chapter 2: Formula Development

 Into our next chapter- Formula Development. 

Now here is where it gets a lot more technical. So, buckle up.


Actives ingredients are ingredients intentionally added to the formulation to address or treat a specific problem by providing a certain set of benefits. Some of the most common actives include Ceramides (hydrating properties) and Niacinamide (brightening properties). 

Efficacy Level

Actives added at efficacy level are added to a cosmetic product for their proven benefits to the skin. They are added in higher concentrations and are formulated to penetrate the skin and provide specific benefits, such as anti-aging, moisturizing, or acne-fighting properties. They are supported by scientific research and are typically listed as active ingredients on the product label.

Marketing Level

Actives added at marketing level are typically added to a cosmetic product to enhance its visual and marketing appeal. These actives are added in lower concentrations and are not necessarily intended to provide any significant benefits to the skin. They are added to make the product more attractive to consumers and may be used to differentiate the product from competitors. 


Tests & More Tests

All beauty products manufactured are subjected to rigorous testing before, during and after production. We live by our motto of it is always better to be safe than to be sorry. While there are a lot of grey areas in this industry, lab testing is not one of them. Testing is strict in this industry and for all the right reasons, and with this we welcome you to the world of cosmetics testing.

General Tests


Stability Testing (ST)

Stability Testing (ST) is an essential part of the cosmetics industry to ensure that the products remain safe, effective, and stable throughout their shelf life. ST involves exposing the product to various environmental conditions, including temperature, humidity, and light, to evaluate its shelf life and ensure that the product does not undergo any significant physical, chemical, or microbial changes during storage. ST is typically conducted on finished cosmetic products and it is important to test each product under different conditions and storage temperatures as the results of ST are used to establish product’s expiration date, storage conditions and shelf life. Testing requirements and durations may vary slightly across countries and brands but generally conducted over a span of 3 – 6 months.

Compatibility Tesitng (CT)

Compatibility testing is another important aspect of product testing in the cosmetics industry. It involves evaluating the compatibility of the final formulation with final packaging to ensure that they do not react negatively when combined, and that the product remains stable over time. The purpose of compatibility testing is to identify any potential interactions of formulation with final packaging that could result in a product's instability, discoloration, or loss of efficacy. The results of compatibility testing can also be used to determine the best packaging and storage conditions for the product to maintain its stability over time. Testing requirements and durations may vary slightly across countries and brands but generally conducted over a span of 1-3 months.

Preservation Tests

Cell Counting 

Cell counting test refers to a laboratory technique used to determine the number of germs present in a sample. It can be used to assess the health and stability of formulation as well as to track changes in germs populations over time. The results of a cell counting test can be used to determine whether a cosmetic product or ingredient is likely to cause damage or irritation to skin cells. If a product is found to be cytotoxic or irritating, it may need to be reformulated or withdrawn from the market. Testing fees are usually included in product development.

Challenge Test

In cosmetics, a challenge test is a type of microbiological test that is conducted to assess the efficacy of a preservative system in a cosmetic product. The purpose of a challenge test is to determine whether a cosmetic product can resist microbial contamination during use, storage, and distribution. During a challenge test, a cosmetic product is inoculated with a mixture of different microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, which are known to cause spoilage and deterioration of cosmetic products. The product is then incubated under controlled conditions, and samples are taken at different time points to assess the growth of microorganisms. The results of the challenge test can be used to determine whether the preservative system in the cosmetic product is effective in preventing microbial growth and ensuring the product remains safe for use. If the product fails the challenge test, it may need to be reformulated with a more effective preservative system or withdrawn from the market. Challenge tests are an important part of the safety and quality assurance process for cosmetic products, as they help to ensure that products remain safe and effective throughout their shelf life. Testing fees are not inclusive and will incur extra costs due to the complexity of introducing germs and microbial to formulation at regular intervals as well as over a span of 28 days.

Safety & Efficacy Tests

Clinical Trial 

You may have encountered beauty products boasting about their ability to reduce pigmentation by a specific percentage or offering a certain duration of wear-time. However, these claims are not mere exaggerations. They are supported by data obtained through rigorous clinical trials. Clinical trials are conducted with the purpose of studying the effectiveness and safety of new products or formulations that target specific conditions. These trials encompass a wide range of categories, such as hyperpigmentation testing, UV protection assessment, wear time evaluation, moisture level analysis, wrinkle reduction examination, acne relief investigation, and more. In essence, clinical trials validate the efficacy of products through human application tests, providing substantial evidence to support their claims.


In-vivo is Latin for ‘within the living’. It refers to tests, experiments, and procedures that researchers perform in or on a whole living organism, such as a person, animal, or plant.


On the other hand, In-vitro is Latin for ‘in glass’. It describes medical procedures, tests, and experiments that researchers perform outside of a living organism. Usually occurs in a controlled environment, such as a test tube or petri dish.

Patch Test

A patch test, on the other hand, is a diagnostic test that is used to identify allergic reactions to specific substances. A small amount of the substance is applied to the skin, typically on the back, and left in place for a period. The skin is then observed for any signs of redness, swelling, or itching, which would indicate an allergic reaction. While they are both in-vivo tests, they serve very different purposes. Clinical trials are used to evaluate the safety and efficacy of medical treatments or interventions, while patch tests are used to identify specific allergens that may cause skin reactions.

With this, we wrap up our chapter on formula development. We will be moving into packaging development lingo in our next chapter. We will see you in the next chapter where we touch on 

Packaging Development

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