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Cruelty-Free 101: Testing Finished Products vs. Ingredients

by Suzana Rose

Nov 20, 2019

The world of cruelty-free cosmetics isn't as easy to navigate as it seems. One of the biggest tactics big brands use to mislead cruelty-free customers is claiming that their products aren't tested on animals, when their ingredients actually are.

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Beware of false claims

Claiming that a product has not been tested on animals is an incentive for the customer to buy said product. To some companies, it's nothing more than a marketing term; a ruse hiding a darker reality. That's why it's so important to be able to differentiate between what is and what isn't a truly cruelty-free product.

Cosmetics companies fall under 3 categories when it comes to animal testing:

  • The finished product is tested on animals. This could be done by the company itself, or the company may pay a third-party to test their product on animals. In China, it's finished products that are tested on animals.
  • Some of the ingredients are tested on animals. Again, this could be done by the company itself, by the supplier, or by a third-party.
  • Neither the finished product nor any of its ingredients are tested on animals. This means that the brand is cruelty-free.
  • If a brand claims that their products aren't tested on animals, this doesn't take into account:

    A) Any animal testing done where required by law, i.e. in mainland China.

    B) The ingredients that were used to formulate the finished product.

    For the most part, companies no longer use animal testing when it comes to the finish product, unless it's required by law. However, many big brands may use ingredients that were tested on animals.

    Bottom line: a cruelty-free company tests neither its finished products nor the ingredients used in its finished product on animals.

    Why test ingredients on animals?

    You might wonder why the ingredients used in cosmetics are still being tested on animals to this day. Haven't cosmetics products been widely used for decades, and hasn't their safety been proven by now?

    The answer lies in the marketing of beauty products: people want novelty, and what's "new" is marketed as being "better". Companies are constantly looking for ways to come up with new and "improved" products in order to keep the buyer interested.

    This is why so many companies still blind, poison, and kill animals every day to test new ingredients, instead of choosing from more than 5,000 ingredients used in cosmetics that have a proven safety.

    Furthermore, new and improved cosmetics can still be created without testing on animals.  Today, there are various alternatives to animal testing. For example, instead of testing on a live rabbit's eye, a replicated 3D tissue of a retina can be obtained from human cells. The scientific progress is such that animal testing could and should very well be obsolete.

    Bottom line: there is no reasoning that would justify animal testing; on one hand, there are plenty of safe ingredients, and on the other hand, alternatives to animal testing for new ingredients are already being used.

    From The Cruelty-Free 101 Series:

Which Brands Are Cruelty-Free?

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  • Carmen says:

    Hi Suzana,

    It’s so nice to have somewhere I can verify products as cruelty free. Thank you for providing that to us.

    I had a look at your cosmetic list, and there are brands listed that are cruelty free, whose parent company is not however. Wouldn’t you expect the parent company to also be cruelty free in order to promote any of their divisions. I’m very curious about this.

    Thanks so much,

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