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The Cruelty-Free 5: How To Know If Brands Are Truly Cruelty-Free

by Suzana Rose

Jan 14, 2021

The term "cruelty-free" is unregulated. This means that brands aren't breaking the law by calling themselves cruelty-free, even if they test on animals.

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Many beauty brands try to mislead us this way.

If a "cruelty-free" claim isn't enough, how can we find out if brands are truly cruelty-free? As caring beauty lovers, we've developed a solid system to find out the truth. We call it the Cruelty Free 5.

The Cruelty-Free 5 are the five stages at which animal testing can occur. If a brand can confirm that they pass these stages, we can consider them cruelty-free.

At Cruelty-Free Kitty, these are the questions we ask all brands:

  • Does your brand test on animals, for either finished products or ingredients?
  • Do your suppliers test on animals? How do you ensure this?
  • Do any third-parties test on animals on your behalf?
  • Do you test on animals where required by law?
  • In which countries are your products sold (excluding online sales)?

Brands must answer these questions with a resounding "no", as well as confirm that their products aren't sold in mainland China. This is because most cosmetics have to be tested on animals in order to be sold there, and they continue to be at risk of animal testing once they're on the shelves.

Let's take a closer look at the Cruelty-Free 5.

The brand itself does not engage in animals testing, either for finished products or ingredients.

Most brands no longer test on animals themselves, which is why it can be deceptive when brands claim to be "cruelty-free". It's important for brands to confirm that they themselves don't perform any animal testing, but we need to dig deeper.

Their suppliers don't engage in animals testing, either for finished products, raw materials, or ingredients.

Suppliers sell products or ingredients to the brand. Some suppliers do test on animals, so it's important to ask this question. Watch out for brands who claim that their ingredients aren't tested on animals, yet can't confirm if their suppliers test on animals. In order to be cruelty-free, a brand must confirm that their suppliers don't engage in animal testing.

No third-parties test on animals on their behalf.

A third-party is an outside company or entity, which can test their finished products or ingredients on their behalf. A third-party doesn't have to be hired by the brand. If they claim that third-parties may test their products on animals, for example in mainland China, the brand is not truly cruelty-free.

They don't test on animals when it's required by law.

Many brands claim not to test on animals at any point, "unless required by law". A brand that's truly cruelty-free doesn't test on animals at all. No exceptions. If a brand makes an exception where required by law, it most likely means that they had to pay for their products to be tested on animals in mainland China.

They don't sell cosmetics in stores in mainland China.

It's important to ask brands where their products are sold, since some might try to be sneaky. We ask them where their products are sold in stores, excluding online sales. If the company sells cosmetics in stores in mainland China, we can't consider it to be cruelty-free. This excludes Hong Kong, which is not part of mainland China.

To Sum It Up

Next time you're trying to find out if a brand is truly cruelty-free, simply ask them these 5 questions. Brands that are truly transparent and cruelty-free will respond with clear answers.

If they skip questions or follow up with a short animal testing policy, watch out. You might not be dealing with a cruelty-free company.

Which Brands Are Cruelty-Free?

Download our list of 600+ verified cruelty-free brands straight to your device. Bring it with you everywhere you go, and never worry about supporting animal testing again. Click here to download

+ Show Comments (8) - Hide Comments (8)
  • Andrea forshaw says:

    Hi, thank you so much for this post. I did not realise that they could lie legally. It makes me sick that they could do that.

  • Ixa Silva says:

    Hi!, my name is Ixamarys (Ixa for short) Silva and I’m a beauty enthusiast from Puerto Rico. A few years ago I decided to start my journey in the cruelty free/vegan beauty world and I found out not only that in my country this is a subject that has barely any importance but that there’s a huge ignorance about all that it represents. I decided to take upon me the journey of trying to make a difference so in this effort I try to educate, whilst sharing makeup looks, creating tattoos, etc (in spanish with a few translations)
    To make all of the above possible, I look up to you and your extensive research and would like to humbly ask for any guidance from your journey and also ask for permission to share your content as a resource.
    My web page is still under construction but my instagram pages are @bhl.veauty and @bhl.tattoo

    (also, sorry if I misspelled something)

    att:Ixa Silva

  • Thanks for all the helpful Info in this post!

  • Thank you so much, I learned so much about really truly cruelty free brands.
    Which is sooo important for me!

    • Jet Baucioma says:

      Hello, I’m just learning the reality and truth behind these testing and would like to switch my beauty products that definitely are against it as well. I am just wondering though how can you be certain that these companies aren’t lying since it’s not against the law for them to do so?
      Side Note: Thank you for making such a website, it is so much appreciated ✨

  • Tracy says:

    Hi, I’m trying to go Cruelty-Free and I bought some Suave Rosemary and Mint Shampoo and Conditioner. The bottles say they are “Peta Cruelty-Free” and has a drawing of a bunny next to this label. I can’t find this brand on your list. Does this mean it truly isn’t cruelty fee?

  • Elizabeth Verwoord says:

    I thank you for your work here in regard to animal testing. Amazing! ???? But I don’t understand how brands can claim they are cruelty free when they are still using palm oil? Palm oil reforestation is decimating entire species in different continents. That is way beyond cruelty to animals? The Amazon is going down quickly in Brazil.

    So why is that not one of the questions?

    Thx Liz

  • Delia says:

    Love your work! Keep it up! ????

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