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What Does Cruelty-Free Mean? (Watch Out For Common Misconceptions)

by Suzana Rose

Aug 22, 2020

The definition of "cruelty-free" might seem like it's subjective, but it's actually cut and dry when it comes to cosmetics. Simply put, it refers to the lack of animal testing. Cruelty-free differs from vegan, which means that no animal-derived products are used in the formulations.

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What "Cruelty-Free" Means

When it comes to beauty and personal care, a "cruelty-free" brand is a brand that does not test its products on animals. A brand that is truly cruelty-free does not perform any animal testing on products or ingredients at any point during the making of their products. They also ensure that their suppliers don't test on animals, and no third-parties test on animals on their behalf. The brand also may not test on animals where required by law, and as such, cannot be sold in stores in mainland China.

Cruelty-Free vs. Vegan

A cruelty-free brand is not necessarily vegan. Similarly, a vegan brand or product is not necessarily cruelty-free. For more information, please read my post specifically on this topic.

How To Ensure Brands Are Truly Cruelty-Free

Since the term "cruelty-free" is unregulated, this means any brand is allowed to label themselves as cruelty-free without any legal repercussions. Some brands sport the cruelty-free label, even though they make no real effort to ensure that their suppliers or third-parties don't test on animals on their behalf.

Because of this, we've directly corresponded with the brands listed in our cruelty-free directory. These brands have confirmed each point listed above, meaning:

  • They themselves do not test on animals for finished products or ingredients
  • Their suppliers don't test on animals
  • No third-parties test on animals on their behalf
  • They don't test on animals where required by law
  • Their products are not sold in stores in mainland China

To find more information about which questions to ask brands in order to find out if they're cruelty-free, please see my post about the Cruelty-Free 5.

Cruelty-Free Brands vs. Products

"Cruelty-free" is attributed at brand level. This means that if a brand is cruelty-free, all their products are cruelty-free. A brand cannot have both cruelty-free and non-cruelty-free products. If only some products from a brand are tested on animals, for example by being sold in stores in mainland China, then the brand itself cannot be considered cruelty-free.

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

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