I’ve recently received a question about L’Oreal’s cruelty-free status. A reader told me they heard that L’Oreal no longer tests on animals. Is there any truth to this?

Let me start with a quote from L’Oreal newly-created animal testing FAQ:

“L’Oréal no longer tests any of its products or any of its ingredients on animals, anywhere in the world. Nor does L’Oréal delegate this task to others.”

No wonder misleading rumors about L’Oreal being cruelty-free are spreading. The above statement would imply that L’Oreal doesn’t test finished products or ingredients on animals at any stage of production, that their suppliers don’t test raw materials on animals, and that they have pulled out of China.

False! Read the following sentence:

“An exception could be made if authorities required it for human safety or regulatory purposes.” In order words, they do fund animal testing of their finished products in China, where the practice is required by law.

But wait! There’s more deception!

The whole change in L’Oreal’s animal testing policy took place with March 2013 as a cut-off date. The company now claims not to test its finished products or raw materials on animals after this date. They claim:

“When a supplier proposes us an ingredient, we ask to examine its safety dossier. If the dossier contains data generated by means of animal testing before March 2013, L’Oréal can retain the ingredient. If the data was generated after March 2013 and was for a cosmetics application, L’Oréal cannot retain the ingredient. If the data was generated after March 2013 but was for a usage other than cosmetics, then L’Oréal can retain the ingredient.”

Basically, L’Oreal claims not to use any ingredients that have tested on animals IF those ingredients have been tested on animals after March 2013 AND IF they have been tested for cosmetic reasons only. Dear readers, THIS IS THEIR LOOPHOLE.

This is what allows L’Oreal to use animal-tested ingredients in their formulations for new products. These new products consist of anti-wrinkle products, acne treatments, sunscreens, and other skin-correcting or skin-protecting “miracle” products; L’Oreal surely knows what strings to pull to have these products fall under the “medicated ingredients” list.

L’Oreal actually has a history of disguising its cosmetics as drugs, and has been sued by the FDA over misleading ads regarding this. The FDA claimed that L’Oreal products “were intended to affect the structure or any function of the human body, rendering them drugs under the Act (Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act).” This is proof that some of L’Oreal’s products were indeed marketed as drugs.

Whether or not there’s a link, one thing’s for sure: the company clearly states to be using ingredients that have been tested on animals for medical reasons, even after their cut-off date of March 2013.

There’s also this statement: ” Also, in response to questions raised by the scientific community and by civil society, local authorities could choose to reexamine the safety data of a known family of ingredients, and could require new safety data.” This is meant to cover their asses, but it also means: If an ingredient that has a proven safety records needs to be re-tested, they will gladly comply by testing it on animals, which is unacceptable for a truly cruelty-free company.

All in all, L’Oreal is not and has never been cruelty-free. L’Oreal doesn’t claim not to test new ingredients on animals. L’Oreal still sells in China. L’Oreal still kills and tortures animals every day by funding animal testing, be it in China or, presumably, for new ingredients. This is one of the the biggest lies relating to animal testing that I’ve seen.

Out of all the companies that have masqueraded as being cruelty-free — and the list is long — L’Oreal wins the grand prize.

Image via Pierre Metivier.