According to global market research firm IBISWorld, cosmetics and personal care products represent a huge global industry, generating nearly $250 billion in annual retail sales worldwide and employing nearly half a million workers. Consumption of cosmetic products has historically been concentrated in North America, Europe and North Asia, which account for nearly 80 percent of projected 2013 revenue. While the annual global market growth of cosmetics has averaged about 3 percent during the period from 2008-2013, economic data indicates that new and emerging markets are growing more rapidly as consumers in these countries embrace the use of cosmetic products. 
Because applied cosmetic products come in direct contact with the human body, they are subject to a range of testing to protect users from microbiological and chemical contamination and from other possible toxic effects. Cosmetic products are also evaluated for their stability after manufacturing, including the effectiveness of preservative agents. In addition, cosmetic product testing procedures have undergone changes in recent years, as regulators in some jurisdictions now prohibit the use of animal testing to assess the safety of cosmetic products.
What constitutes a “cosmetic” product?
In everyday use, the term “cosmetics” usually applies to a wide variety of personal care products intended to beautify or cleanse the body or parts of the body. Specific types of cosmetic products include facial makeup and perfumes, nail polishes, and skin moisturizing products. Cosmetic products can also include hair shampoos and colouring agents, toothpastes and other dental care products, and body deodorants.
The variety and use of products classified as cosmetics are reflected in existing legal definitions. Under the U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, cosmetics are “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.”  The European Union (EU) defines a cosmetic product even more broadly as:
”any substance or mixture intended to be placed in contact with the extended parts of the human body (epidermis, hair system, nails, lips, external genital organs) or with the teeth and the mucous membranes of the oral cavity with a view exclusively or mainly to cleaning them, perfuming them, changing their appearance, protecting them, keeping them in good condition or correcting body odours.” 
However, these seemingly expansive definitions of what constitutes a cosmetic product are limited by the concept of a product’s intended use. Intended use can be established by adding specific types of ingredients to the product’s formula, for example, adding fluoride to toothpaste to help strengthen teeth. But, intended use can also be established through product labelling and packaging, and by statements of the benefits to be derived from the product’s use. Manufacturers must exercise particular care in the labelling of cosmetic products and in the promotion of possible benefits, particularly since potential health-related claims can result in regulatory authorities requiring additional product evaluation and testing.
Safety concerns with cosmetic products
There are more than 3000 known natural and synthetic ingredients currently used in cosmetic products.  While many of these ingredients have been found safe for use in cosmetics, there is no mandated testing for the safety of individual cosmetic ingredients themselves. In addition, because cosmetic products are sourced and/or produced throughout the world, small-scale producers may incorporate local ingredients into their products that are not widely used, complicating the task of ensuring product safety.
Even when the source of a cosmetic ingredient is known, safety concerns can persist. For example, some consumers assume that so-called organic cosmetic products provide an increased level of safety since they consist of agriculture ingredients that have been produced without pesticides or other harmful agents. However, the use of organic ingredients in cosmetic products is not by itself a guarantee of safety, since even organic substances can be toxic or produce an allergic reaction in humans.
As consumer use of cosmetic products increases, the risk of exposure to potentially harmful ingredients escalates. According to one estimate, consumers in the U.S. use about 10 cosmetic products every day, resulting in daily exposure to more than 125 different ingredients.  This frequency of exposure, combined with the number of cosmetic ingredients in use, dramatically increases the risk of an adverse reaction to a cosmetic product.
Most adverse effects from exposure to ingredients in cosmetic products are limited to skin or eye irritation or other types of allergic reactions. These effects usually disappear when use of the product containing the ingredient is discontinued. However, more severe and debilitating reactions can result from prolonged exposure. In addition, there are few studies on the impact of long-term exposure to cosmetic ingredients, meaning that more research is essential.
In some cases, adverse effects are related to the form in which the cosmetic ingredient is used. For example, titanium dioxide in powder form, which is found in makeup powers, has been linked to cancer when inhaled, but is considered safe when used in an emulsion, such as toothpaste or sunscreen. Other ingredients, such as phthalates, may be deemed safe for use in some cosmetic products in low concentrations, but banned in other products.
Primary cosmetic testing
While safety testing of individual cosmetic ingredients is generally not required, most finished cosmetic products are subject to five basic tests, as follows:
- Microbiological testing—Microbiological testing assesses the presence of potentially harmful microbial contaminants, including bacteria and fungi. Typically conducted on recently manufactured products, microbiological testing is intended to verify the quality of the ingredients used in production, as well as the sterility of the manufacturing process. Results of contaminant counts must meet the applicable regulatory requirements or the specifications defined by the manufacturer, whichever is more stringent.
- Chemical contaminant testing—Chemical contaminants in cosmetic products that are toxic to humans include mercury, lead, arsenic and dioxane. Like microbiological testing, chemical contaminant testing is typically conducted on finished goods prior to product packaging through the use of advanced chemical analysis techniques, including infrared (IR) spectrography and high-performance liquid chromatography. In cases where testing results identify chemical contamination, further testing of raw materials is recommended
- Preservative effectiveness testing—Preservatives are usually added to cosmetic preparations to prevent the growth of microbiological contaminants after production. In preservative effectiveness testing, samples of cosmetic products are injected with varieties of bacteria, such as staphylococcus aureus, escherichia coli, and fungi such as candida albicans, and regularly evaluated during the testing period for levels of contamination. Cosmetic products that exhibit the regrowth of microbiological contaminants as a result of this test are typically reformulated.
- Product stability testing—Product stability testing is used to assess any changes in key characteristics of a cosmetic product that can be expected to take place during the product’s shelf-life and that would adversely impact consumer use. Key product stability factors could include colour, texture and odour. Product stability testing can be conducted in real-time, which most closely mimics actual use but takes longer, or “accelerated” by exposing products to elevated temperatures for shorter periods of time.
- Product safety testing—Product safety testing is the last of the basic cosmetic product tests to be conducted. Ideally, product safety testing measures dermal irritancy (the tendency of a product to irritate the skin), ocular irritancy (the tendency of a product to irritate the eyes), and dermal sensitisation (the tendency of a product to produce skin rashes, swelling or other types of adverse reaction). Product safety testing directly addresses many of the safety concerns associated with the use of cosmetic products by humans.
Depending on specific type of product being produced, manufacturers may elect to conduct additional testing to ensure the safety and usefulness of their cosmetic products. Cosmetic manufacturers may also perform additional tests to meet specific quality or performance requirements of buyers and consumers.
The market for cosmetic products continues to grow, particularly in new emerging economies in Asia and the Pacific Region. Although most cosmetic products are safe when used as directed, rigorous material selection and testing is appropriate so that products perform as expected and consumers are protected. National cosmetic product regulatory schemes are generally moving away from mandatory pre-market approval to post-market surveillance and enforcement efforts. However, for cosmetic manufacturers seeking international distribution of their products; advanced planning is essential to ensure market access.