Getting Real With Cruelty-Free Beauty

Elizabeth Marglin

by | Updated: December 3rd, 2016 | Read time: 2 minutes

You want to do the right thing vis-a-vis our furry friends—but sometimes it’s just not so straightforward. There’s a plethora of designations that suggest  “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals” but many are misleading. The problem is that while cruelty-free labeled beauty products abound in the personal care aisles, anyone can use those terms (same as the word natural)—there’s no regulation and no supporting evidence required.

The Truth About Cruelty Free

Here’s the rub: Designation as “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals,” or even the image of a bunny on a label may only refer to the finished product. In most cases, however, animal testing occurs at the ingredient level.

Rub #2: A company can certainly claim, “We do not test on animals.” The company gets around this by contracting with other companies to do the testing.

Sure to be sure

Turns out the only way to be absolutely sure a company is cruelty-free are to buy products from companies that have been certified by the Leaping Bunny Program. Products sporting the Leaping Bunny icon require the company, its laboratories, or ingredient suppliers use no new animal testing in any phase of product development.

Two steps back

China has thrown a wrench into many of the companies who have been Leaping Bunny certified by requiring certain types of personal care products they import be tested on animals (oy!). Many international companies, such as Avon, Mary Kay, and Estee Lauder (and thus Aveda) have started testing on animals again.

One step forward

On the other hand, the European Union implemented a complete ban on animal-tested products as of March 2013. This does not guarantee a product has not been tested on animals in the past, but it does safeguard that new tests will not be run on animals in order to create beauty products in the future. As of now, no matter where the products are produced, if its ingredients or end product have been used on animals, it may not be sold within the European nations. The only loophole is that some brands may choose to still sell to countries that require animal testing (currently mainland China is the big one).

If you are inspired to buy cruelty-free cosmetics—congratulations. Non-animal tests are widely available, and it seems terribly unnecessary to inflict such wanton pain on innocent creatures.

Here is a savvy tip for ascertaining what brands are definitely cruelty-free. PETA and Leaping Bunny both have extensive cruelty-free databases to find which companies do and that do not test their products on animals.

Even handier is Vitacost’s dropdown menu of cruelty-free brands. Vitacost carries over a hundred certified cruelty-free personal care brands, including my personal favorites such as Andalou Naturals, Dr. Bronner’s, and Yes To Inc. Don’t forget to make sure your household cleaning products are also cruelty-free—Vitacost makes it easy to make good choices in that department as well.