Mary Kay is not cruelty-free. They may test on animals, either themselves, through their suppliers, or through a third party. Brands who fall under this category could also be selling products where animal testing is required by law.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mary Kay is not owned by a parent company that tests on animals.
In the beauty industry, it’s common for brands to be owned by a larger company. These are called parent companies, and they’re often global corporations such as L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, or Procter & Gamble.
Most of these parent companies are not cruelty-free, since they test on animals to some degree. They might also own several brands that are not cruelty-free.
However, some of the brands owned by these parent companies are cruelty-free and have strict policies against animal testing.
There are pros and cons to supporting cruelty-free brands owned by parent companies that aren’t.
You can either:
In the cruelty-free community, the majority of conscious consumers purchase from cruelty-free brands even if they’re owned by a parent company that tests on animals. This is our stance at Cruelty-Free Kitty as well. We believe that supporting all cruelty-free brands is the only path towards a cruelty-free and more ethical beauty industry.
It’s also worth noting that subsidiary brands of parent companies are unique corporations by themselves. They act as independent branches and operate independently from the parent company, and can also be sold to other companies including cruelty-free ones.
Another aspect to consider is that many parts of the world only have access to limited brands, so their only cruelty-free options are owned by large corporations. This is a concern we hear about constantly from our international readers. Given this complex landscape, we believe that supporting all cruelty-free brands is ethical as well as practical.
A minority of shoppers choose to boycott brands owned by a parent company that tests on animals.
At Cruelty-Free Kitty, we make it easy for all of our readers to know which brands are owned by a parent company that tests on animals. At the top of each brand page, you’ll see a “parent company” note if that’s the case.
You can also filter our list of cruelty-free brands to only show brands that are not owned by any company that tests on animals.
Finally, for a list of brands owned by a parent company that tests on animals, click here.
Yes, Mary Kay is available for sale in countries with mandatory animal testing. This means that their products were likely tested on animals.
You can trust Cruelty-Free Kitty to be on top of the most recent changes in China’s animal testing laws. As of 2023, the vast majority of beauty brands available in China have had their products tested on animals.
Mainland China still requires these mandatory animal tests for most companies. Is it possible for brands to bypass them? Yes, however it’s currently extremely rare as brands need to “jump through several hoops”.
One way to bypass these animal tests is to only have their products available only online, and not in physical stores. Another way is to manufacture the products in China while making sure to adhere to strict regulations.
In all other cases, beauty brands need to pay for cruel animal tests to be performed using their products. It’s estimated that close to 100,000 rabbits are used in animal testing for cosmetics each year in China alone.
Even though the company itself isn’t executing these animal experiments, they bear full responsibility. Not only does the company sign off on the experiments, but they’re also funding them.
No, Mary Kay is not certified by any organizations.
While companies can be fully cruelty-free without being certified, it’s still a good indicator of their ethical practices. Leaping Bunny and PETA are the two organizations giving out cruelty-free certification.
Mary Kay might offer some vegan products, however because this company is not cruelty-free, we recommend avoiding any products they offer even if they are vegan.
Brands can be cruelty-free without being vegan, and claim to be vegan without being cruelty-free. This is because “cruelty-free” refers to the animal testing aspect, while “vegan” refers to the ingredients.
A “vegan” product contains no animal-derived ingredients, such as Beeswax (made by bees), Carmine (a red pigment made from crushed beetles), or Collagen (from mammal or fish skin).
A company is “cruelty-free” at company level, meaning they can’t have cruelty-free products unless the whole company is cruelty-free. However, a company can offer vegan products even if not all of their products are vegan. If all of their products are vegan, then we refer to the brand as “100% vegan”.
We have a list of 100% vegan brands, and you can also filter our official list of cruelty-free brands and choose to show vegan brands only.
Looking for vegan products from cruelty-free brands? Visit our Product Database and make sure you use the vegan filter.
Most brands don't publicly display their full animal testing policies. We contact brands directly with our questions in order to get their complete policy. If any brand states that they, their suppliers, or any third party test on animals, the brand is listed as "not cruelty-free."
We ask all conscious consumers to be mindful of misleading statements from brands. Companies that test on animals try to minimize their involvement in animal testing, and understandably so—if a brand were to proudly claim to perform cruel tests on animals, their customers would surely reconsider being a loyal fan.
What they do instead is use clever language that shifts the blame away from themselves and makes the public believe that they’re not responsible for the animal testing, or that the animal testing performed on their products is “an exception”.
If a brand is listed as “not cruelty-free” in our database, you can rest assured that their products were tested on animals in recent years.
We monitor every change and constantly post updates. The changes in our database, list of cruelty-free, and brand pages are reflected in real time as soon as we become aware of new information.
Founded in 2014 by Suzana Rose, Cruelty-Free Kitty is the largest and most trusted cruelty-free shopping platform.
We vet every single brand added to our database by contacting them directly and ensuring they adhere to our strict criteria we call "The Cruelty-Free 5".
For a brand to be listed as cruelty-free, it must satisfy the following:
At Cruelty-Free Kitty, we have an unwavering commitment to accuracy. The landscape of cosmetics animal testing is constantly evolving globally. Our team is diligent about staying current on changing laws, brand acquisitions, and policy updates that impact cruelty-free status.
To date, we’ve vetted over 1200+ brands and helped millions of conscious shoppers choose products that aren’t tested on animals. Please feel free to contact us with any questions by using our contact form.
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