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Why Microbiology Testing is needed for Home & Beauty Products

1. Overview of Microbiological testing 

The purpose of a microbiological testing laboratory is to detect, locate, identify, isolate and/or eradicate microorganisms in another substance. Any number of potentially harmful microorganisms can be found in human blood or tissue, in water, soil, in our foods, in cosmetics  or in household products. Microbiology testing services have the expertise to test these products for human use or consumption. 

Microbial testing of cosmetics, home & beauty products, foods and beverages is a safety management issue that is strictly regulated and controlled by states, by federal agencies and by international law for the protection of citizens.  There are both conventional and rapid procedures used in testing products for human use, the conventional methods are most common and always follow internationally accepted and recommended methods. These methods, though time consuming, have proven effective in maintaining the safety within the home products and cosmetic beauty industries.

2. What is the purpose of the Microbiology testing

While the majority of microbes are harmless to humans, there are many that can cause serious problems. These harmful microbes are what spoil our food, may cause illness, can be toxic and can lead to a variety of other problems. The purpose of microbiological testing is to quickly identify the presence of microbial contaminants and treat them before they threaten or damage human health.  This is done through microbiology testing services performed by certified labs with state of the art technological equipment to perform these tests precisely and accurately.  

3. Why Microbiology Testing is necessary for Home & Beauty Products

Cosmetics and personal care products are a wide ranging product group that includes lip balm, mascara, toothpaste, shower gel and lipstick. Many of these products are very complex compounds containing natural ingredients derived from botanicals and other sources. In fact, cosmetics are very strictly regulated. The US Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act defined cosmetics as: 

“articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body or any part thereof for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.” 

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requires that the microbial population in cosmetics be low and stable with an absence of all harmful organisms. These requirements are especially  intended for products made for application around the eyes, mouth and other sensitive areas and for products used by young children, the elderly and the immuno-compromised. Industry guidelines recommend a total viable count (TVC) of <100 CFU/g for higher risk products (eye and baby products etc.) and <1,000 CFU/g for all others. A few harmful microorganisms are of particular concern; Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans and E. coli., all should not be detectable. 

In order for cosmetics and personal care products manufacturers to meet these standards they must follow careful procedures of GMP. This involves the screening of raw materials for contamination (particularly the ones derived from natural sources), careful monitoring of the production process and environment, and very strict practices to maintain proper staff hygiene which in turn all lead to low contamination levels at manufacturing sites. 

With personal care products however, there can be a very high possibility for contamination from the environment and/or the user once the packaging has been removed. For this reason most cosmetics have been formulated to be used multiple times and to withstand a variety of storage conditions, including warm & humid bathrooms. Because many of these products contain sizable amounts of water, which potentially supports microbial growth, it is possible for these products to spoil or to be contaminated by pathogens. 

To prevent this from happening an effective preservative system is typically necessary. Any preservative must be safe for consumers, used at the lowest possible level, while also remaining effective at combating a variety of organisms and pathogens even through extended times of storage and usage. Conducting a microbial challenge test is the singular method for successfully assessing a preservative system. A growing challenge for manufacturers is an increasing demand from the consumer public for ‘preservative-free’ products. This new demand is requiring manufacturers to  reformulate their products, is shortening the shelf life of their products and leading to heightened  contamination risks. 

The many requirements for microbial testing of cosmetics are established based on the many concerns for safety and preservation, and the following list is a summary:

  • Screen raw materials and finished products for TVC and specific pathogens
  • Process water testing
  • Hygiene monitoring on the production line
  • Microbial challenge testing

The preferred methodology for determining the type of testing and the frequency of testing is the microbiological risk analysis approach. This approach considers the nature of the product, where and how it is applied, who is the user as well as other relevant factors. This approach is an International Standard (ISO 29621:2010) set for all cosmetics. Additionally, recent ISO standards have directed conventional methods for identifying bacterial counts, yeast and mould counts and detection of the four particularly concerning pathogens.  The FDA Bacteriological Analytical Manual also stipulates standard methods for microbial testing of cosmetics.

4. Key Takeaways for the Cosmetics industry

Based on trends in the industry here are a few key takeaways when it comes to microbial testing of cosmetics.

  • The standard methods of testing are culture-based, labour-intensive and microbiology testing service results may require up to five days.
  • At the same time current production management systems are undergoing change and are demanding faster results.
  • In addition, trending is towards ‘greener’ products which results in the creation of more microbiologically vulnerable products.
  • Although there are new rapid methods being developed, these microbiology testing services have only limited viability for the cosmetics and beauty industry. Yet, technologies such as ATP bioluminescence have shown good potential for reducing labour costs and reporting times.

Changes are coming in microbiology lab testing and it will be vital to remain on the cutting edge of these changes in order to get the best results, shorten result times, and keep costs affordable.


For the most reliable microbiology testing service look no further than Torrent Laboratory. Our microbiology testing lab provides total analysis of these microscopic culprits, testing with AOAC, FDA BAM, EPA and USDA-approved methods. We bring our years of experience in microbiology to offer a host of robust services and capabilities.

We provide analysis for:

  • Air, water and soil
  • Food processing
  • Environment
  • Garden products
  • Household materials
  • Animal and human food and beverage

We offer detection and enumeration of:

  • Bacteria and Fungi/Mold
  • Pathogens – Including Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria
  • Generic E. coli
  • Total and Fecal coliforms
  • Legionella
  • Staphylococcus aureus

Our microbiology testing capabilities include:

  • Yeast and Mold
  • Bioburden
  • Allergens

Trust Torrent as your premier environmental testing laboratory for California and Hawaii.