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Cruelty-Free Makeup: All Your Questions Answered


Many of us think about the ethics of the products we buy. For example, you might spring for organic produce, fair trade coffee, or free-range chicken when you’re at the grocery store. But how often do you think about the ethics of the cosmetics brands you support? You might be surprised how many popular makeup brands test products on animals before sending them out to the market. The next time you shop for a new foundation or eye shadow, you might want to consider looking into cruelty-free products.

In this post, we’ll explore the ins and outs of cosmetic animal testing and answer common questions about cruelty-free makeup brands. However, before you read on, please be aware that some of the information about animal testing might upset you.

What Is Makeup Testing on Animals?

Although it’s not required by law, many cosmetic companies test new products on mice, rats, rabbits, and guinea pigs. According to the Humane Society of the United States, cosmetic testing on animals can include tests for:

  • Skin and eye irritation. In these tests chemicals are rubbed onto shaved skin or dripped into the eye without any pain relief.
  • General illness. In these force-feeding tests, animals are forced to eat and then they are monitored for signs of illness or specific health problems, such as cancer or birth defects.
  • Lethal dose amounts. Researchers give animals large amounts of chemicals to determine the dose that causes death.

Many times the animals used for testing suffer from painful irritation in the eyes or skin, illness, or even death from harmful ingredients before the testing is complete. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about animal testing is that the animals are killed – without any pain relief – at the end of the testing.

What Does Cruelty-Free Mean?

If learning more about cosmetic testing on animals makes you want to buy ethically-created makeup, it’s important to understand what the cruelty-free label means. Just like the word natural, this term gets thrown around a lot. However, because the government doesn’t regulate this terminology, there’s no clear definition around cruelty-free cosmetics.

According to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, if a label says cruelty-free, it could have a few possible meanings, such as:

  • The product and its ingredients may not have been tested on animals.
  • Some ingredients may have been tested on animals, but the product has not.
  • The manufacturer didn’t perform testing on animals, but they used a supplier that did test products or ingredients on animals.
  • Testing was conducted in a foreign country where there are fewer or weaker laws to protect animals.
  • The ingredients or the product have not been tested on animals in the last five, 10 or 20 years. However, at some point before going to market, they were tested on animals.

While a cruelty-free label might be a good start, it can also be helpful to look for products that specifically state that they aren’t tested on animals. If a label says not tested on animals, the product probably did not use animal testing. Just keep in mind that the ingredients used in it may have been tested on animals at some point.

The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics’ (CCIC) Leaping Bunny Program maintains a single standard for cruelty-free labeling. If you spot the Leaping Bunny logo on a makeup product, you can be sure that it doesn’t use any ingredients that have been tested on animals. Plus, Leaping Bunny-certified products can’t use third-party suppliers that conduct animal testing, or conduct testing in a foreign country.

How to Buy Cruelty-Free Makeup

If you’re just getting started with cruelty-free makeup and skincare products, it can be daunting – and expensive – to switch all of your products to ethical brands. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Take it one product at a time. Instead of overhauling your entire makeup bag, consider replacing one thing at a time. When your foundation runs out, look for a brand that doesn’t test on animals. If you need new eyeshadow, that’s a great opportunity to try a cruelty-free cosmetic company.
  2. Value quality over quantity. Buying ethical products can be a little more expensive at times–so choose wisely. Instead of trying four moisturizers and three shades of blush, just find a one or two things you love and invest in them.
  3. Get to know the brands you love. Do your research and find a few cruelty-free brands that you trust. That will make it easier to find new products when you need to.

Looking for cruelty-free makeup now? At Natural Healthy Concepts, we support ethical cosmetic brands, such as Jane Iredale and Lavera. We carry a variety of products, from primer to foundation, to makeup removers. Let us know which cruelty-free brands you support!