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I'm going to tell you why animal testing exists and why it's a relic of the past. I'll also tell you everything you need to know about the cruelty-free world, all in one place, and show you how to make smarter, more informed choices as a consumer.
Warning: This post is pretty long. I've separated it into 3 big parts.
In Part 1, you'll learn about the origins of animal testing, what animals are used in the tests, and realize why the practice can't be justified.
In Part 2, we'll take a look at what "cruelty-free" means, what it takes for a brand to be cruelty-free, and I'll also share the best resources for finding cruelty-free brands.
In Part 3, you'll learn how to smoothly transition to cruelty-free cosmetics. You'll also see how else you can get involved and help the cause through petition, campaigns, and by spreading the word.
Animal testing has been a practice in the United States since the early 1920s. 1938 marks the year that the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act passed in the United States, mandating animal testing to establish the safety of any new drug. It's the marketing of a poisonous drug -- Elixir Sulfanoamide, causing over 100 deaths -- that led to this act.
Since then, animals have been subjected to tests for the development of all kinds of new drugs, but also for cosmetics, household cleaning products, food additives, and pesticides.
Which animals are used in tests?
- For cosmetics tests, most animals used are bunnies, guinea pigs, mice, and rats. They often die from the experiments.
- Dogs are often used in medical research. They're subjected to particularily invasive tests for cardiology, endocrinology, and bone studies. In 2013, 67,772 dogs were used in research in the United States.
- Cats are often used in neurological studies. Half of the tests cats are subjected to can "cause pain or distress". In 2013, 24,221 cats were used in research in the United States.
- Non-human primates, especially macaques but also monkeys, baboons, and chimpanzees, are used in a multitude of experiments. They take part in toxicology, AIDS, hepatitis, reproduction, and xenotransplantation tests among others. Over 70,000 non-human primates are subjected to tests every year in the United States and European Union.
Animal testing for drugs and cosmetics exists because governments needed to establish whether or not a product or ingredient is safe for public health before allowing it on the market.
For decades, this practice has been prevalent all over the world, and has been the accepted method of testing ingredients for "safety". Not only for drugs, but also for cosmetics. Even though animal testing for cosmetics isn't required by law in the United States, torturing animals is still widely used to determine safety.
As the cosmetics industry continued to evolve, new ingredients were constantly being discovered and used in beauty products. This means that a huge number of cosmetic ingredients used in makeup and skincare have been, at some point, tested on animals.
Animal testing has a long and dark history, but it doesn't have to be this way anymore. Together, we can transition towards a cruelty-free world, which is what I call the Cruelty-Free Revolution. This revolution marks the end of a cruel and barbaric age, and the beginning of a new, more humane era.
There's nothing that justifies animal testing in the 21st century. It's a cruel and outdated practice that's not only unethical but also unnecessary.
Arguments Against Animal Testing
- There are over 7,000 safe ingredients that cosmetic companies can choose from to formulate their products. These ingredients don't need to be tested on animals, because they've already been proven to be safe.
- There are several alternative methods available today, and they make animal testing completely obsolete. Technology is awesome and allows us to use in-vitro testing, computer models or even to replicate real human organs on microchips. Let's spare the millions of animals and use this new technology.
- Animal toxicity tests are not scientifically meaningful. The surprising reality is that, for medical research as well as cosmetic ingredients, the results aren't accurate. This is because humans and animals are genetically different.
- Animal abuse laws don't apply to laboratory animals. This double standard has no real basis. Animal abuse is animal abuse, and all animals can experience pain and suffering.
- Governments all over the world have already banned animal testing for cosmetics. This has been the case in the European Union, Norway, Isreal, and India -- and many other countries are considering a ban.
This is all to say that being against animal testing is not only a moral position, but it also makes sense. It's the humane and rational position to have. My position is simple:
This is why it's so important for today's consumers to pay closer attention to which products they're purchasing, and therefore which companies they're supporting. By choosing cruelty-free brands, you're (very politely) giving the finger to the animal testing industry, and informing the beauty world that animal testing will no longer be tolerated.
How do you know you're really making a difference by supporting cruelty-free brands? Because customers dictate the market.
If enough of us purchase from cruelty-free brands and boycott those that test on animals, it means things are going to change. If L'Oreal did their market research today and 98% of those interviewed claimed that they would never buy a product that was tested on animals, L'Oreal would reconsider their position. Hard. Because they want to sell their products. That's all that matters to a big business!
So trust me, your choices are making a difference. We all are, together. Tell your friends about animal testing, make your position known!
In this part, you're going to learn everything about what cruelty-free means and entails. You're also going to learn how to find truly cruelty-free brands.
Since the '90s onward, animal rights movements have started to gain traction. Popular mentalities started to evolve, and organizations that aim to protect animal welfare became better known. The term "cruelty-free" began making an appearance on cosmetics labels.
What does "cruelty-free" mean?
There are a few misconceptions about the word, so let's all get on the same page!
A "cruelty-free" company is a company that doesn't test its products on animals. Cruelty-free only refers to the animal testing aspect of animal cruelty.
That's the standard definition. Cruelty-free means "not tested on animals". When refering to a meal without animal products, we use the term "vegan". When refering to a faux fur coat, we also use the term vegan. Vegan defines something that doesn't contain any animal-derived products.
Cruelty-free cosmetics differ from vegan cosmetics. Vegan cosmetics don't contain anything that comes from an animal or is produced by an animal, but it doesn't mean that they're automatically cruelty-free.
Even though the definition of "cruelty-free" is universal and simple, it's tricky to determine which brands are truly cruelty-free. This is partly because terms like "cruelty-free" and "not tested on animals" are not regulated. This means that literally any product can read "cruelty-free" yet be tested on animals!
Then how can we determine if a company truly is cruelty-free?
Through independent research and organizations. This is where blogs such as this one come in handy. There are several criteria to consider if you want to know if a company is 100% cruelty-free.
Many companies nowadays do not test their finished products on animals (unless foreign markets require it -- more in this below). Be weary of statements like "finished product not tested on animals" or simply "not tested on animals" on cosmetics packaging. Most likely, those terms mean that the ingredients were tested on animals.
This is where things get complicated. Cosmetics companies work in collaboration with suppliers, which supply them with ingredients or "raw materials". Sometimes, these suppliers perform tests on animals to establish the safety of their ingredients. Other times, the ingredients are tested by a third-party or even the company itself. If a cosmetics company buys ingredients from a supplier that tests on animals, the company is not cruelty-free. Same if the ingredients are tested on animals by the company itself, or any third party. Read more here.
In recent years, several companies have decided to enter the Chinese cosmetics market, which is booming to an insane degree. But there's a problem: Animal testing is required in China by law for foreign cosmetics companies, where an estimated 300,000 animals die in labs every year. This means: If a brand is sold in mainland China, it's not cruelty-free. Read my in-depth post about animal testing in China here.
One more thing you should keep in mind is the parent company of the brand in question. Some brands are completely cruelty-free, while also being owned by a brand that tests on animals. While this doesn't mean that the company is question has lost its cruelty-free status, you should still bear it in mind. I personally prefer supporting independent companies if given the choice, but I still view ALL cruelty-free brands as cruelty-free. Read more about this here and share your thoughts.
The Resources You Can (And Can't) Trust
When you're shopping in stores, look for the 3 logos below -- and only these. You can find more information about cruelty-free logos in this post: How To Spot a Fake Cruelty-Free Logo. There's more to cruelty-free cosmetics than this, but this is a good guideline.
If you're not familiar with these organizations, please read this post first. I have addressed the somewhat controversial topic of which organization to trust between the Leaping Bunny and PETA in this post as well as this one.
PETA is one of the most well-known animal rights organizations. Based on all the reading I've done on PETA, I can't say that I support them. In fact, it doesn't look like PETA cares about animals that much, but I digress. To keep things objective: their Caring Consumer cruelty-free list is an okay place for any beginner to start as long as you can supplement it with additional research or sources. PETA is also fine as a source of information.
Then there's the Leaping Bunny program, which can be trusted more than PETA. Except there's also a "but". The Leaping Bunny only certifies cosmetics as being cruelty-free. What this means is that a company that makes both cosmetics and drugs and test its drugs on animals can still be certified as cruelty-free by the Leaping Bunny.
Nevertheless, their Shopping Guide consists of hundreds of small to medium brands, and a few bigger ones. It's therefore a good source to consider for smaller brands, as long as you keep in mind the above fact. For information on animal welfare, there are a few sites I like to visit frequently -- I've listed them all below as well.
My Curated Lists
The cruelty-free list I'm curating contains brands that can be found on PETA's list, on Leaping Bunny's list, or nowhere else -- because I do my own research. The companies you can find on it are mostly well-known, but I also include emerging small companies and indie brands. My aim is to be transparent so that you can use it as your own tool. This is why I include correspondence with companies, which you can see by clicking the little envelope icon next to the brands that have one.
I also have a list of drugstore brands, where I include every single brand sold in drugstores and share its cruelty-free status as well as correspondence whenever possible. If you're into mid-range and high-end brands, check out my list of cruelty-free brands sold at Sephora. Here are links to all these lists:
So you want to take the next step and join the cruelty-free revolution?
First, make a change in the products you buy. Encouraging cruelty-free brands is crucial in working toward making a change. Second, do all you can to help change the animal testing laws. I very strongly believe that governments are largely responsible for the animal testing going on, and that animal testing bans must be issued.
Private companies are driven by profit. By showing them that "cruelty-free" is essential when selling their products, they'll start considering it. But if a ban on animal testing is issued, they'll have no choice but to ditch it.
First of all, assess your stash. Look at all your makeup, skincare, shower essentials, toothpaste, deodorant -- and don't forget your cleaning supplies, which are often subjected to cruel animal tests.
Are most of the brands you use found on the cruelty-free lists mentioned above? If not, don't throw anything away. That's wasteful and silly. Simply use up your products and make more conscious decisions on future purchases.
If you have a favorite product you just can't live without from a brand that tests on animals, do some research to find a cruelty-free alternative. I also wrote a little walkthrough for beginners with my suggestions for skincare, body care, personal care, makeup, and everything else you might need.
You can make the decision of going cruelty-free right here, right now. All you have to do is make better choices on future purchases and stop repurchasing products that are tested on animals. It might not be easy, but it's well worth it.
- The first petition I would urge everyone to sign is the Petition to Pass the Humane Cosmetics Act. This means that a ban could be issued on animal testing for cosmetics in the United States. Whether or not you live in the U.S., please sign this petition. Passing this bill would be a huge victory!
- For Canadians, you can sign this petition started by Cruelty Free International to End Cosmetics Animal Testing in Canada by December 2015.
- I also urge you to sign this petition, geared towards L'Oreal to Stop Animal Testing. It's getting good traction. Keep in mind that although L'Oreal reduced its animal testing in recent years, the company still refuses to go 100% cruelty-free.
- The Dodo is an awesome news site dedicated to animal rights and animal welfare. It's also filled with informative posts.
- One Green Planet is exactly what the name implies: everything good for the planet and eco-friendly, and this includes animal welfare. This is one of my favorite sites.
- Humane Society International is an amazing organization working toward the end of animal testing worldwide. I have tremendous respect for this organization and they're achieving a ton of great things! Please support them!
- Be Cruelty-Free is Humane Society International's campaign to end animal testing. You can sign the pledge and participate in their projects.
- Cruelty-Free International is a worldwide organization working against animal testing. You can help them out in a number of ways -- all listed on their site!
Spread The Word
One of the best ways to get involved is to spread the word about animal testing and shopping cruelty-free. Let your friends and family know how bad it really is. The more people become educated, the closer we'll get to an animal testing ban.
Feel free to share this post on Facebook to spread the word!
That's it for this post, guys! I hope it's helped clear up some things about animal testing. Follow me on Twitter, like my Facebook page, or follow me on Instagram to keep in touch! I appreciate all the support and I wish you the best of luck on your cruelty-free journey!
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animal testing is a nightmare that must end, i cant even imagine for a second what goes on in there, my god it’s awful!
just stupid, there’s no need for it, we’re in the year 2021 for crying out loud, come on companies, end this shit1
Will you be updating the list to reflect on the past year? I would love to see if there has been a change that occurred in the past year.
Would it also help to have everyone email companies asking questions so they know how many people care about change. I would love to know what questions you ask!
Heyyy! I’m doing a white paper to help the animals. Could you please answer this survey? It will help a lot and if you have any ideas towards stoping testing cosmetics on animals please share. Thank you for your time.
Hi Suzie,my name is Sara,i’m from Colombia,i would like to ask you if you can translate your articles in spanish so i can post them to my friends.If you can’t or don’t know of someone who can i can help you.
Just joined this movement and I am only buying cruelty free products for the entire home, including all of my make-up and toiletries. Thank you for all this great information!!
Thank you for your hard work! I saw a cosmetics brand that is 100% vegan but didn’t see it on the list. It’s name is Eleve’ owned by Gertie Wilson. https://elevecosmetics.com/
Hello! Do you know if Eufora products are cruelty free? They say they are but I can’t really find any information in them. Thank you 🙂
Hi there! The petition aimed at L’Oreal’s testing is unfortunately closed. Thank you for this great resource
question: I totally agree with everything you are saying, but I am just wondering how you think the pharma industry will be able to heal sick people or sick animals without having safe medical drugs when they haven’t been tested on animals ? I hope you understand my point or what I am trying to ask you. 🙂
There are alternatives to animal testing. Additionally, most drugs are still tested on humans through medical trials.
Wow, I had no idea. This is great information. Bookmarked! I was under the impression that vegan and cruelty-free were one in the same! yikes.
Just found your blog! THANK you for all that you are doing! I am making the switch to use all cruelty free products!
I am so glad I came across your blog! I also do not see the point of animal testing when you have technology. I am a beginner and I am proud of my decision. I no longer buy skincare and cosmetic products that don’t fall under this category. I continue to look for cruelty-free products that are available in the Philippines. Cosrx, a Korean brand that works for my skin, is on your pending list. So I messaged them on Facebook re their stance on animal testing. If they sell in China or allow their products to be tested on animals I’ll be heartbroken. I also used to incorporate sheet masks to my routine but most sheet masks are from Korea and it seems that most Korean brands are not cruelty-free. My next goal is to become vegan.
I recently saw a video on animal testing and it absolutely broke my heart. Now I am starting to make a conscious effort to look into the products that I am using and be mindful to buy the cruelty free ones. Thank you for this article!
Thanks so much for your comment Kara! And congrats on shopping cruelty-free!
This was such a great post, thank you so much for putting all this information in one place, I know how much work it is to do this. Also, I feel you on the PETA thing, they seem not to care about animals at all.
Wondering if you can shed some light on the paraben situation? I’m confused as to how a product can be classed as cruelty free when it contains methylparaben, butylparaben or propylparaben. These parabens have all been previously tested on rats and hamsters to see the effects caused?
Thanks for your help!
The unfortunate reality is that most ingredients for cosmetics were tested on animals at some point, which is why there’s now a huge number of ingredients that were proven safe and companies can use without having to test them on animals. Cruelty-free companies use these ingredients only and don’t contribute to any more animal testing in any form.
Thank you so much for this informative post!! I’ve been switching over for a little under a year and I’m finally finding all products that work for me and also my fiance.
Hi Kasey, Thanks so much for your kind words! And congrats on switching over to cruelty-free! 🙂
Thanks a lot for this informative post!With big love from Russia)
Hi Suzi, I was wondering what your sources were for this post? Like where did you get these numbers? I’m writing a paper on animal cruelty and I need some sources to back up the information.
almost took a job with Nu Skin. The woman i spoke to informed me that they do not test on animals. I did my research and found they sell to China…hm.
I’m 16 years old, and I’m wondering what I can do to help out at my age? The cruelty-free revolution is something I’m passionate about, and I was just wondering how I can get involved. Of course I can always vote with my dollar, but I feel like I should be doing more.
Thank you Vy, I appreciate it! 🙂
you’ve inspired me to write a blogpost on my blog. I’ve mentioned how lovely and clever you are. this is so informative and just utterly brilliant!
Molly, thank you so much! I’d love to see your post when it’s done!
Excellent article! In the last couple of weeks I’ve been looking up your site to check up on brands I’ve been using, as I want to move away from them to cruelty-free. Thanks again for curating those awesome lists, they are tremendously helpful!
Hi Suzi, this is an excellent guide for not only learning some basic facts about the scale of animal testing, but also as an introduction to what each of us can do to stop this testing BS. Also, you’re right, it’s prudent to do your own research. It’s always best to get your own answers to your own questions (sometimes, how they answer, or if they don’t answer, can be just as important). It’s just too bad that getting an on-site visit to audit facilities is a long shot, but regardless, a lot can be learned by simply calling or emailing a company and seeing what they have to say. For example, I called BC Footwear to see if the products in their vegan line contain any animal-derived materials at all, only to have a rep tell me they use animal products in their adhesives for their vegan line…wow…not vegan at all. I called them out on Twitter for it, and got a reply contradicting what the rep told me over the phone. Truth? Positive spin? Inter-staff miscommunication? Who knows, but red flags were raised at full-mast and even waved around a little bit. At the very least, you’ll learn which companies you like dealing with and supporting, because at the end of the day, more and more cruelty-free and vegan companies are coming into the fold.
First af all, I’m sorry for such a long comment. Didn’t realize I had so much to say. Thank you for your patience! :))
Thank you for this blog, you provide valuable information about cruelty free products and what we should avoid when it comes to the cosmetics we use and beyond. So, thank you!
I stumbled upon this site searching information about Bare Minerals and ended up spending more than 2 hours reading though your posts. 🙂
I recently started a vegetarian, mostly vegan (trying to get there) lifestyle and after doing just a bit of research I was all about advocating animal rights. Because It’s ironic how we consider cats and dogs to be our pets and our friends but we consume other animals like they are inferior to other species. So, if thinking about my cat or my dog as food turned my stomach upside down and my brain went foggy, I asked myself what is the difference between them and other animals? There isn’t one when it comes to their right to live.
When it comes to cosmetics it’s hard to find good ones that are also affodable and I was annoyed to find out most of my make-up is not cruelty free. 🙁 I’ve been using Mabelline and Bourjois (I expected at least this one would be cruelty free, shocked to find out the oposite) because they are very affordable and do their job well, but I already knew they use pretty strong chemicals in their products so I was already thinking about an upgrade to a more natural brand, like Bare Minerals but when I saw they sell make up tools made of natural hair I wanted to make sure that I don’t give my money on the same kind of products as before. I don’t use that much make up and my beauty bag is pretty small but I still don’t think I shoud throw anything away for now as that seems just as cruel to the animals that suffered for those product to get in my beauty bag. I do want to make better choices in future, but without going broke after I purchase something new.
I found two new brands that claim they are cruelty free and I was wondering if you know anything about them. They are Helen E Cosmetics (UK brand) and Honeypie Minerals. They both claim on their websites to not do animal testing and be cruelty free. But that’s very easy to say, it’s just words. I’m almost certain Honeypie is 100% cruelty free and vegan, though.
Thank you for spending the time and read this looong post! 😀
Oh, and you’ve beed bookmarked! 😀
Thank you so, so much for your kindness and support, Ella! Rock on! xx
You’re welcome Suzi!
Please let me know if you find anything out about those 2 brands I’ve mentioned, they have really good prices and I was thinking about giving them a try. But I want to make sure first. Thank you! Xx
What a brilliant article, education is the first step to making a change and I think you have created a great resource for people learning about this disgusting practice. So inspiring to see someone with your passion dedicating time and effort for the sake of others!
We’re 100% behind you!
Why dont you ever talk about using animal arising products, so manh companies kill whales to use their oils for their cosmetic brands. If you know anything about that subject please include it in your next post. Thanks. Love your work.
I’m on your web site since at least 2 hours and all the posts are amazing. I shared this one on my facebook page hoping that more people will do the switch to cruelty free products. Thank you so much for all your work. You’re awesome!
Thank you for sharing and for your kind words! 🙂
Thank you for the diligent research! great resource! Needs to be used as a reference source around the world!
Thank you so much, Paola!
I’ve just discovered your site after doing some research into the cosmetics I’m currently using. I’m going to make it my mission to start researching properly before I buy. I can’t justify poor little fluffy animals suffering anymore just for my vanity. Thanks for creating such a great resource for those of us just starting out.
Emma xx anodetonoone.wordpress.com
Thank you Emma! So glad to hear that! 🙂
So happy I came across this site! I’ve learned so much already and am hungry to learn more! I switched to cruelty free awhile back and am always looking for new products to try! Thanks for all the wonderful information! Keep it coming!!
Thank you Leah! 🙂
So happy to find this in depth source of information. Marvelling at
your patience and research … thank you 🙂
Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words! 🙂
Livia, thanks so much for your kind words! I really appreciate it.
Can I say THANK YOU for being a cruelty-free blog that is dubious/anti-PETA? I am trying to go cruelty-free but find it very difficult to do so when so many blogs uncritically think PETA does good work. I love animals but it’s been compromising to listen to their list/people who support then when I know PETA actively kills animals & works against both responsible breeders and rescues (people I love who genuinely do good work for animal welfare today & for the future). So yay!
Yes! I’m glad you mentioned responsible breeders because unlike what the popular opinion would like us to believe, there IS such a thing!
The Humane Cosmetics Act died in Congress in early 2014. Should we still sign it to show that there is popular support for such a law?
I would say so! If only to show opposition to the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act.
Thanks SO much for pointing that out! Fixed it.
I am so excited I came across your site. I’ve recently discovered the realities of animal testing and immediately started spreading the word. I’ve had 6 people vow to make the change with me and I’m thrilled! I’m sharing your site with all of them and can’t wait to read more and get more involved. Thank you for what you do!!
Awesome, thanks Adrian! 🙂
This was a great post! Thanks for sharing all of this information 🙂
Thanks for reading!:)