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Everything about Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

everything about cruelty free cosmetics

I'm going to do my best to answer all the questions you might have about cruelty-free cosmetics. There seems to be some confusion around the topic and a lot of companies trying to get away with calling themselves cruelty-free when by most definitions, they are not. Let's start with the basics.

What does Cruelty-Free mean?

Cruelty-Free is a label applied to cosmetics that are not tested on animals.

Are Cruelty-Free products vegan?

Generally being cruelty-free does not mean vegan. A product being vegan means that they are free from any animal by-products. A brand saying they are vegan also does not mean it's cruelty-free, though many advocates and organizations would not consider a product to be vegan if it's not cruelty-free.

How do I know a brand is Cruelty-Free?

Most brands will state on their website if they are cruelty-free. This information can often be found either on the frontpage of their website, the FAQ page or their about page. But this really only tells you if a brand claims to be cruelty-free and might not really be the whole truth.

How do I know a brand is ACTUALLY Cruelty-Free?

Since cruelty-free is not a legally regulated term brands can legally say that they are cruelty-free without any proof. So the first thing we can look to is certifications, but not all certifications are made equal and do not all have the same standards. So let's talk about cruelty-free certifications.

What Cruelty-Free certifications are there?

The four most known cruelty free certifications are:

These are the logo's each use; you have probably seen them before. A lot of brands will not have the logo on their website or products but state that they are certified by either certification. The reason some brands might not have the logo is that each certification charges a licensing fee to use their logo on a website or packaging. Each of the certifications have lists of all the certified brands that you can use to verify that a brand is certified by them. You will also see a lot of brands use their own bunny logo; these basically do not really mean anything.

What's the difference between different Cruelty-Free certifications?

Let's take a look at what is required for each of the certifications and see if we can get some clarity here.

comparing cruelty free certifications

When does animal testing for cosmetics happen?

Animal testing can happen at a lot of different points of the value chain and I think we miss the full picture if we only look at the brands on their own. To be certified cruelty free by PETA you can still sell your products in mainland China where animal testing is required by law. There was an exception put in place earlier this year where you can submit your own testing to China to be able to sell there but products might still be randomly selected from the retail shelf and be tested on animals as a control anyway. So it's not really a clear solution to the problem. Also consider that just because this option exist doesn't mean everyone is taking it.

minimum requirements for cruelty free certifications comparison

Why does it matter is a brands parent company is Cruelty-Free?

When you are supporting a brand owned by a parent company that tests on animals, you are supporting that parent company. When a brand makes money their parent company makes money.

Where is Animal Testing for Cosmetics banned?

Animal testing for cosmetics have been banned in the EU since 2013 and many other countries are following suit. Some American states like California, Illinois and Nevada have banned animal testing for cosmetics. The big holdout is China, who requires animal testing for some cosmetics.

map of countries that have banned animal testing for cosmetics

So how can I know a brand is cruelty free?

So let me try to make it as easy as I can. Small brands are generally cruelty-free, testing on animals is not the cheaper option overall and small newer brands are unlikely to be testing on animals if they say they are not. If a brand does not have a parent company and are certified by cruelty free international or leaping bunny certified that's a green light. Chose Cruelty-Free is always a safe sign. You can also check out Ethical Elephant, Cruelty-Free Kitty and Cruelty Free UK. They check out the things I mentioned above and if the information is unclear, they will directly contact the brands for answers. The easiest way to check is googling the name of a brand and "cruelty-free" and results from one of these sources will often show up. If you are looking for new brands to support these websites also list cruelty-free brands that you can check out!

Why I'm personally invested in ending animal testing.

I currently own a hamster, a mouse and four degus. They are the joy of my life. From interacting with these precious beings, its apparently clear how intelligent and emotionally complex they are. There really is no reason to test cosmetics on animals, there are other better and cheaper options. If brands refuse to sell in China unless they change their policy on animal testing; the policy will be changed.


Find Cruelty-Free Brands

Learn more about certifications Cruelty Free International

Learn more about animal free testing

Thank you for reading! Share with a friend.

//Jennifer Carlsson


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Jennifer Carlsson
The Beauty Brand Expert

I'm Jennifer Carlsson, a 32 year old strategy consultant, competitive market researcher, data analyst and designer from Stockholm, Sweden. I know more about more beauty brands than anyone else and I'm an expert in what it takes for beauty brands to succeed.
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