Replacing all animal testings with in vitro tests?

When NARS announced that they are going to be sold in China, meaning that they are going to do animal testings, that post on Facebook was on fire. There were angry people, and there were discussions about no cruelty makeup. These discussions often go off topic halfway as people always ALWAYS ... conclude that you do not care about animals welfare if you use ANY non-vegan makeup. I was upset about it when I saw someone (a science profession) was attacked by multiple others by saying "right now it is impossible to entirely get rid of animal testings in the market". These people attacked him by saying he is cold blooded, animal testings are not necessary and can be replaced by in vitro methods, and that animal technicians are evil. I am no doctor nor I work in a cosmetic company, but as a pharmacologist, at least right now in vitro testings on drugs can not yet replace animal testings entirely, especially when it comes to the long term systemic toxicity measurements. Everything is under development. However, again, I do not work in cosmetic industries, I do not know how differently cosmetic products are tested and if possible to replacing them all by in vitro tests. Seeing many cruelty free brands I would like to assume that it is indeed possible and is as efficient as in vivo tests and most importantly, the results can determine how safe the product is. But seeing Johnson & Johnson's recent court case I had to question. J&J's baby powder was labelled as vegan. Here is their official response when asked about animal testings:
JOHNSON'S® baby products sold in Australia/New Zealand are not tested on animals. We also follow the EU animal testing ban worldwide and do not test cosmetic ingredients on animals, except for cases where testing is required by law or government authorities.
They did not test on animals in the EU; talc is considered safe to use by the FDA and studies have shown that there is a weak association between talc and ovarian cancer when talc is used in genital area and no statistically significant connection between the correct use of talc on skin and ovarian cancer (simply type talc and ovarian cancer in Pubmed, there are 132 articles in the past 5 years directly and indirectly assessed how is talc being the risk factors of ovarian cancer). These studies gathered datas from women who used talc for different purposes and for a different period of times and involved thousands of women and none of these studies was conducted in vitro. Would it not be safe to say that the systemic toxicity in a long term cannot be tested or hypothesized by in vitro testings? If J&J was allowed to conduct a long term systemic toxicity test on animals, would they not have picked up this weak association (when not used correctly)? Is there actually a way to test it in vitro? How safe are vegan products nowadays, really? I totally support cruelty free products and love animals with all my heart, they certainly deserve better BUT I do hope that animal testings can be replaced WITHOUT ruining anybody's health. I'd appreciate some reality checks from actual cosmetic scientists or anyone actually experienced with cosmetic testings and not PETA so that I know what's the limit without biased opinions mixed within. Thank you very much


  • Very thoughtful question, thank you. We're not toxicologists but our understanding is that right now in vitro tests can not replace all animal testing of cosmetics. It seems likely that we'll get there are some point but the technology is not quite there yet.
  • question, then how can some brands be cruelty free? they have not tested if their products are safe to use? how do they know if they are safe?
  • I can't answer that for sure without knowing the specifics of the brand but they may be using ingredients that were tested on animals at one time in the past.
  • I have left a comment two days ago but made some editing right after and the comment was now awaiting the approval of the admin, which I don't know for how long so I am going to summarize what was in that comment. Basically as I am as concerned as el705 I did some more research on PETA, FDA and the ECVAM. 1. Cosmetics do not need approval from the FDA in order to be released onto the market, and FDA only recommend doing various testings including irritation tests, subchronic toxicity tests, acute toxicity tests, etc. according to the formula e.g. when a specific ingredient in it does not have enough data, to support the safety of the product. 2. As there is no legal definition of vegan, there is no way to know how these vegan brands define vegan themselves. FDA says
    Some companies may apply such claims solely to their finished cosmetic products. However, these companies may rely on raw material suppliers or contract laboratories to perform any animal testing necessary to substantiate product or ingredient safety. Other cosmetic companies may rely on combinations of scientific literature, non-animal testing, raw material safety testing, or controlled human-use testing to substantiate their product safety. Many raw materials, used in cosmetics, were tested on animals years ago when they were first introduced. A cosmetic manufacturer might only use those raw materials and base their "cruelty-free" claims on the fact that the materials or products are not "currently" tested on animals.
    3. Both PETA and ECVAM have said that there is no current way to replace certain toxicity tests, including acute systemic toxicity test. Here is the link. PETA said alternatives are still under development for acute toxicity test So in conclusion, if they are selling somewhere outside the EU where the EU ban doesn't exist, it probably means that they are not very vegan after all, e.g. NARS. Or they could be using ingredients that have been tested on animals in the past, which the results show that both the ingredients and the finishing products are safe, like Randy has said. Or they simply they did not test the finished product and only rely on the safety profile of each ingredients. I would hope these would determine all possible interactions between all ingredients in their new formula. However if they want both safety and vegan, they could repackage the same products that were tested on animals in the past, and label it as vegan now as it is not CURRENTLY tested on animals. Unless these vegan brands have somehow invented their own in vitro methods to assess systemic toxicity in their products without PETA and ECVAM knowing. That'd be revolutionary.
  • Thanks iawnahs. There are no comments waiting for admin approval so I'm not sure what happened with your previous edits. Hopefully all your comments show up properly now.
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