Mary Kay is NOT cruelty-free.
This means that this brand either tests on animals, pays for animal testing, or sells in mainland China. Some brands that fall under this category test on animals where required by law, which means they're not cruelty-free.
At a Glance
|Finished products tested on animals||Yes, where required by law|
|Ingredients tested on animals||Uncertain|
|Suppliers test on animals||Uncertain|
|Third party animal testing||Yes, where required by law|
|Sold in mainland China||Yes|
Mary Kay's Official Animal Testing Policy
“Mary Kay does not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients. Nevertheless, there are still some governments that conduct animal testing before they will allow certain products to be sold in their country. Mary Kay is committed to the elimination of animal testing and is a strong advocate of utilizing alternative methods to substantiate the safety of our ingredients and products. For almost three decades, we have been a global leader in helping to develop alternative testing methods to ensure product safety, and we will not rest until we convince all governments that alternative methods are a better way to ensure cosmetic product safety. Our commitment continues in partnership with global regulatory agencies that manage cosmetic safety, with animal advocacy groups and with leading animal alternative researchers.”
Here’s their older policy to compare:
“Mary Kay does not support animal testing. Mary Kay is committed to the elimination of animal testing and is a strong advocate of utilizing alternative methods to substantiate the safety of our ingredients and products. We do not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to do so on our behalf, except when absolutely required by law. For more than two decades, we have been a global leader in helping to develop alternative testing methods for product safety. This commitment continues today, in partnership with global regulatory agencies that manage cosmetic safety, with animal advocacy groups and with leading animal alternative researchers.”
What This Means
This statement confirms that Mary Kay pays for their products to be tested on animals in China. Although they claim that this only happens when “absolutely” requires by law, the brand willingly entered the Chinese market, and knowingly funded animal testing in the country.
Even though Mary Kay claims not to test on animals, and not to “ask others” to test on animals on their behalf, they’re not providing any information about their suppliers. When brands claim not to “ask others” to test on animals on their behalf, this is a meaningless statement. Mary Kay may not have “asked” the Chinese authorities to test their products on animals, but they allowed this to happen nonetheless.
Mary Kay: A Cruelty-Free Pioneer?
When researching this brand, you’ll notice that Mary Kay is very vocal about “not testing on animals”, and so are their fans. In the beginning, this used to be true: Mary Kay was considered a cruelty-free company, and was even approved by PETA.
From Wikipedia, we learn that Mary Kay was among the first beauty brands to drop animal testing:
“In 1989 the company announced a moratorium on animal testing of its products, after pressure from animal rights groups. They were among the first in their industry to do so and to sign the PETA pledge.”
This might explain why being cruelty-free is a part of the company’s ethos and culture, but the sad fact is that Mary Kay went back to animal testing in 2012 when they joined the Chinese market.
Taking A Step Backwards
Because animal testing is required by law for foreign cosmetics selling in China, they forfeited their cruelty-free status in 2012. They’ve also been removed from PETA’s cruelty-free list. Mary Kay can no longer claim to be cruelty-free, and in this regard, they took a huge step backwards when they decided to have their products tested on animals in China.
Presence In China
On their official site, we can find a link titled “Mary Kay Around The World” in the menu at the top. This shows us a list of all the countries where Mary Kay is sold, which includes China.
Their animal testing policy can also be found on their website.
Why We Classify Brands Like Mary Kay As “Not Cruelty-Free”
The term “cruelty-free” is unregulated. This means any brand can claim to be cruelty-free without breaking the law, even if they test on animals.
Because of this, we communicate with brands directly to gather information about their full animal testing policy.
Brands who are classified as “not cruelty-free” break one or more of the Cruelty-Free 5:
- Their company engages in animal testing
- Their suppliers engage in animal testing
- They allow third-parties to test on animals on their behalf
- They test on animals where required by law
- They knowingly sell cosmetics in stores in mainland China, where animal testing could be performed
A supplier is any company that sells the brand raw materials, ingredients, or finished products. A third-party is an outside company or entity, whether or not it’s hired by the brand.
What’s The Deal With China?
Many beauty brands choose to sell their products in China. It’s important to note that these companies can not be considered cruelty-free.
As of 2020, China still requires most cosmetics to be tested on animals in order to be sold in the country.
As for products which can bypass these mandatory tests, the Chinese authorities may still pull these products from the shelves and have them tested on animals. Although the chance is small, we believe that companies can not be considered “cruelty-free” while taking this risk.