As we colour our eyelids, massage in moisturiser, ruby up our lips and even wash our hair, some of us are completely oblivious to the manufacturing process of our cosmetic products. There is a dark side to our daily routines; many companies choose to test their products on animals. By using them we are, however unwittingly, contributing to the continuation of this practice. Knowledge is power when it comes to the inner workings of what your favourite companies aren’t telling you. Whatever stance you take on animal testing, as consumers, we should not tolerate being in the dark to exactly what goes into stocking our bathroom cabinets.
Animal testing has been a part of the beauty industry since the 1940s but it seems backward in a society that is increasingly environmentally conscious. These days the makeup industry is one of the biggest moneymakers, we are absolutely spoiled for choice. With the introduction of cosmetic retail giant Sephora into Australia in December 2014, suddenly Australians have a much bigger pool of cosmetics readily available to them. So does this increased amount of product bring with it an increased moral responsibility? With so many brands to choose from, is it really acceptable to continue to support those who still test on animals?
Let’s start with the basics, what does animal testing actually involve? Skin and eye irritation tests, involving dripping chemicals in the animal’s eyes and rubbing them on its shaved skin are common. Other tests involve the force-feeding of a chemical over a period of time to asses its health risks, for example illness, organ damage or even cancer. You do not have to imagine too hard to realise the pain these procedures must cause the animals they are used on; bleeding, swelling, blindness, and internal complications are some of the fates that await these poor creatures.
These days, thankfully, there are thousands of ‘cruelty-free’ personal care brands that do not test on animals. But it can be very hard to navigate the broad definitions of these claims, as not all agree on what constitutes ‘cruelty-free’.
Some companies that claim to be cruelty-free are technically not completely in the clear from animal testing. While a particular brand may not test on animals, its parent company might. For example, Dove has a cruelty free motto but is owned by Unilever, a company that very much tests on animals. Too Faced, a brand well known for being cruelty-free can also be put in this category, as the company was bought by cosmetic behemoth Estee Lauder a little under three years ago.
Some brands also still allow third-party animal testing of their products. The main reason for this is so companies are still able to sell their product in mainland China, where animal testing is mandatory by law. L’Oreal, for example, boasts no animal testing since 1989, but readily puts itself into the Chinese market, claiming no responsibility for what happens after export. Covergirl, on the other hand, has become certified cruelty-free after backing out completely from the Chinese market (although Coty, its parent company, still does). In this way, it can be really tricky to decide which claims to believe. A good start is to see if the brand’s website or packaging says “Not tested on animals except where required to by law”. The real answer is right there in the details.
For some, these technicalities will not matter. If effort is made to reduce the amount of animal testing it can never be a bad thing. For others, a less forgiving approach will be the one they are most comfortable with. Regardless, there are plenty of alternatives to your favourite brands that happen to test on animals.
Some examples of brands that currently test on animals include:
- Rimmel London, and
- Max Factor
Some cruelty-free brands to consider include:
- BH Cosmetics
- Nude By Nature
- The Body Shop
- Illamasqua, and
- e.l.f Cosmetics
So, if you want to change your buying tactics to reflect a more humane philosophy, where do you start? All this information might be daunting, but choosing cruelty-free options doesn’t have to involve staying up all night scouring every brand’s mission statements.
The easiest way is to look for a specific bunny symbol on the packaging of your product. This method is as simple as doing a quick comparison on the back of items as you walk down the supermarket aisles.
There are three completely reputable companies that provide their logo to brands they have confirmed are honestly not testing on animals. These logos will guarantee your product is not tested on animals due to the companies’ strict requirements for brands to become certified.
The Leaping Bunny and Choose Cruelty-Free are the first two logos signifying no animal testing. PETA is the third company with a reliable cruelty-free logo: ‘Beauty without Bunnies.’
However, it does not close the parent company and third-party testing loopholes. So if you are wanting to take a more hardcore approach, you may have to do your own extra research when it comes to PETA’s brand endorsement. The Leaping Bunny, Choose Cruelty Free and Beauty Without Bunnies all have a complete list of companies they support on their websites and printed material, they each even have their own apps. The knowledge can be right there in your pocket.
By now you may be asking: well isn’t animal testing actually necessary to find out if a cosmetic is safe? It’s a fair question, and the answer is: No. There are plenty of ways for cosmetics to be tested for safety without involving animals at all. Companies can choose to use chemicals and formulas that are already tested to be safe and have been used in the industry for a long time. This is the most logical alternative. If new testing must be done, science has fortunately progressed to the point where human cells (eg. skin cells) can be grown and tested on. This method is called ‘In Vitro’ testing. It sounds complicated, but In Vitro testing is actually much cheaper and faster to do than animal testing – multiple trials can be done by simply moving down the row of test tubes.
In 2019 there is really no excuse for us to torture then dispose of living creatures in the name of vanity. Going cruelty-free is not difficult and putting your money where your mouth is, is sending big messages to brands. Making the change might mean you have to give up on your favourite lipstick shade and find one from another brand that is similar- this price is laughable compared to the ones paid by creatures in testing labs.
Choose Cruety Free: list of approved companies and appRead more of Erin’s work on her site.