How Microbiology is used in Cosmetics

Microbiology refers to studying living organisms that are too tiny to be seen with a naked eye, and they include viruses, bacteria, fungi, algae, and protozoa. You will find these microbes in every living and non-living thing in small amounts, but when they are in plenty, they become a problem.

One of the areas where microbiology is fundamental is cosmetic manufacturing, which has seen a surge in microbiology jobs. 

The Role of Microbiology in Cosmetics

The role of microbiology in cosmetic production is vast. Some of the things it looks to achieve include;

  •   Making sure the ingredients or raw materials used are safe and free of harmful microbes
  •   Test the final products for toxins that may come from the raw materials or the production process
  •   Test the efficacy of the preservation methods and preservatives used
  •   Ensure that the packaging and shipping conditions are safe so the product won’t be exposed to microbes.

How Microbiology is applied

While the cosmetics that go on sale don’t need FDA approval, the law requires strict adherence to the good manufacturing practices code where cosmetics and food products are concerned. Every reputable company has systems in place that can test cosmetics for microorganisms and other substances that may be harmful to humans. Some of the tests conducted include;

  1.   Aerobic plate count (APC). A portion of the cosmetic product is diluted and place in an agar plate. You then add nutrients that favor the growth of bacteria and give it time to see how many bacteria are in that particular makeup.
  2.     Fungal/yeast test. This test is conducted the same way as the APC test, but you add nutrients that favor yeast growth and antibiotics that limit bacteria growth because bacteria tend to grow faster. The test takes seven days, and you can see how much fungi are in the product at the time of testing.
  3.   Preservative efficacy test. Also known as the challenge test, the idea is to test how well the preservatives you are using on your makeup actually work. You add a few microbes individually and see if they will be diminished significantly by the preservative.
  4.   Common usage test. After testing the product before it’s taken to the market, some manufacturers also conduct further tests for makeup that is already in use by consumers. The consumer abuses the product by dipping their fingers in the makeup, leaving it open and even sharing it with someone else. The product is then tested again to see if the preservatives are still working against new bacteria and other microbes.

The entire process of manufacturing cosmetics from the time you acquire raw materials to when you place them in shops for sale needs to follow strict safety guidelines. The FDA has recalled several cosmetics in the market because they contained significant amounts of microorganisms. Quality control testing is, therefore, essential every step of the way to ensure the end user is happy with the product.

The role of microbiology in cosmetics cannot be underestimated because it makes the difference between good and unsafe products. It has also been used to make cosmetics safe for human use by testing affordable products used by the majority of women. 

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Ava Moore
BA, MA Psychology (and Conflict Resolution), University of Cambridge (2007). With a decade of trial and error in psychology and 33 years of navigating my own complex (that's one word for it!) relationships with family, friends, co-workers and men, I hope I have some useful knowledge and skills to share with my readers about making sense of relationships and trying to become a better person every day.

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