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The truth about animal testing and cosmetics

Sandy asks…Can you please elaborate more about how no ethical companies would sell a product without testing on animals? How, then, can some companies label themselves as animal-testing-free? Wouldn’t these same animal-testing-free companies then be unethical or even illegal to misrepresent their position?

And the Left Brain chimes in…

Ah Sandy, you pose some excellent questions! Let’s see if we can adequately respond.

Animal Testing Cosmetics

First to clarify, we didn’t say no ethical company would sell a product without testing on animals. We said there are no ethical companies that can sell products that haven’t been tested!

The reason is because cosmetic companies are legally required through trade and consumer protection laws to prove their products are not toxic or dangerous. Specific rules vary from country to country, but in places like the U.S., Japan, and most of the EU, safety standards often require animal testing to prove a product is safe. As alternatives to animal testing like computer modeling, or cell cultures are developed, the laws are being changed, but this is a slow process. In most cases these alternatives are not accepted as adequate proof so there is no legally acceptable form of safety testing except on animals.

Animal Testing or Not?

Companies can say they haven’t tested their products on animals because they probably haven’t. Unscrupulous companies will contract out the work so they don’t actually test anything themselves. They use the data of the testing house & claim that they don’t test on animals. Those that really don’t test on animals can say so by using the following strategies.

Cosmetic Animal Testing Workarounds

1. They only use ingredients that have already been tested on animals. In the cosmetic business, if all the component ingredients are safe, you generally don’t have to test the mixtures. They rely on their suppliers to do the dirty work and then they can say they don’t test on animals.

2. They don’t use combinations of chemicals that haven’t been animal tested.

3. They do patch testing on human volunteers to make sure the formulas are safe.

But the bottom line is, the ingredients have been tested on animals even if the particular cosmetic haven’t. The companies that tout animal testing free positions exist off the backs of companies who’ve done all the testing before them.

Look at a company who is one of the most vocal advocates against animal testing, The Body Shop (at least they were until L’Oreal bought them out). Here is an ingredient list from one of their high quality shampoo formulas.

Water, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Stearic Acid, Honey, Coconut Acid, Glycerin, Acrylates/Palmeth-25 Acrylate Copoymer, Bertholletia Excelsa (Brazil) Nut Oil, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Isothionate, Olea Europea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Phenethyl Dimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Cetearyl Alcohol, Benzyl Alcohol, Fragrance, Lanolin, Polyquaternium-10, Methylparaben, Aminomethyl Propanol, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Hydrolysed Wheat Protein, PG-Propyl Silanetriol, Polyquaternium-7, Propylparaben, Bertothelia Excelsa (Brazil) Nut Amino Acids, Wheat Amino Acids, Disodium EDTA, Tocopherol, Potassium Sorbate, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Titanium Dioxide

You can bet that nearly every one of these ingredients has at one time been tested on an animal. But it’s also probably true that THEY didn’t test THIS FORMULA on any animals so they aren’t breaking any advertising laws when they say their products aren’t tested on animals..

Ethical? Not any more or less than any other cosmetic company. Illegal? Not technically. Disingenuous? You decide that for yourself. But remember, this is the beauty business. You can’t believe everything you read on the bottle.

Beauty Brains bottom line

Finally, animal testing is not a thing that cosmetic companies want to do. It is expensive, morally contentious, and terrible for a company’s public image. The incidence of testing is certainly much less than in the past.

For more information, check out this entry from the Wikipedia.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jenna May 5, 2015, 8:39 am

    What a load of BS.

    “Not any more or less than any other cosmetic company”? YES, more. The point isn’t that these ingredients were tested sometime in the past, the point is if the companies are currently testing them on nonhuman animals. If they outsource nonhuman animal testing or buy from suppliers who do them or insist that they do, THEN it’s no more ethical than other companies. However, there are a lot of companies that only buy the ingredients that we know are already safe or ones that are tested on tissue cultures cells only. Those companies ARE being ethical.

    • qwan January 16, 2017, 11:49 am

      Its not Bullshit. Its true. The problem does not end with one time testing. Its the culture of using chemicals.
      Forget that the animal testing conducted in the past was fraud and these chemicals do have side effects. What happens everytime they get complaints about side effects? More animal testing done fraudulent testing again. To prove that chemicals safe.
      But most chemicals reach a point where they cant be defended anymore.
      So they just make a version 2 of that chemical again falsely claiming it to be safe.
      Right they are testing 25000+ chemicals to replace these old ones. That is why if we boycott chemicals this animal testing will stop
      Also its just hogwash these companies are not saints.
      Animals testing cost a lot. So these chemical company do the testing (most of them fake) for these cosmetic companies. That is why they buy these chemicals.
      So they don’t have to spend money on animal testing.
      Its all about the money. All these chemicals don’t do anything to your skin, they are in there to save the brands money. That is all.

  • Michelle July 25, 2020, 6:17 pm

    It sounds crazy but so many of our products come from animal testing like major advancements in medicine that save millions of lives. But that’s ok because were saving lives right. Well, changing the quality of life for millions of people around the world is equally important. Who are we, were no different that any other animal out there. If you go blindly running around the African planes you gonna get eaten by a pack of hungry Hyenas. Hey it’s just evolution plain and simple. You can’t just accept nice parts of evolution and reject the ugly you have to embrace them all. So to that end I say don’t let your emotions get in the way of millions of years of progress.