Are Cruelty-Free brands Actually Cruelty-Free?

Today, there are a lot of misconceptions about which makeup brands are actually animal-cruelty free. Due to the increase of awareness and concern about animal welfare issues in recent years, makeup and skincare companies have had to adjust their product testing methods to appease consumers’ demands for animal-cruelty free products.

Cruelty-free cosmetics has become steadily mainstream within the past decade. A national telephone survey conducted in 2011 by The Physicians Committee, a committee of over 12,000 physicians and 175,000 members globally, concluded that 72 percent of Americans opposed testing cosmetics on animals, believing the practice to be unethical.

The major shift away from cosmetic animal testing in the U.S. came in 2013 after the E.U officially banned the practice. After the ban was instituted, the U.S went from being self-policing with their cosmetic testing to being policed by the E.U. In other words, if American makeup/ skincare companies wanted to sell their products abroad in any of the countries in the E.U., it could not be tested on animals in advance.

Even with this progressive policy in place, there is one reason why there are such blurred lines and skepticism related to it: China.

In China, regulatory agencies require animal testing of all imported and domestically manufactured cosmetics (with a few exceptions). The rationale behind not updating this archaic regulatory requirement is that the responsibility for the safety of products sold to Chinese consumers lies with the Chinese government, rather than individual manufacturers.

Therefore, if Maybelline wants to sell their Instant Age Rewind Liquid Foundation in Paris, the product cannot be tested on animals, but if they want to sell that same product in Hong Kong, it must be tested on animals.

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In order to satisfy the requirements of both international markets, companies have come up with policy loopholes to help them steer clear of any legal complications.  According to the a cruelty-free and vegan blog, these are a few of the loophole claims to look out for :

“We do not test on animals”

What companies are really saying here is that they themselves do not test their products on animals. Instead, they hire a third party to test on animals on their behalf.

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An unofficial bunny logo

Unofficial bunny logos do not hold any legal credibility or validity. In order for a company to be certified cruelty-free, they must meet a set of criteria and commit to a strict no animal testing policy by signing a pledge and showing documentation to prove their legitimacy.

“This product was not tested on animals”  

The meaning here is that the final product that you are currently holding was not tested on animals. However, some of the raw ingredients that the item contains were tested on animals. This technically isn’t a lie, but the company is deliberately withholding information from consumers.

With all these loopholes, how can socially responsible consumers find cosmetic brands that they can really trust? There is no denying that separating certified cruelty-free brands from non-certified brands is challenging. These are some popular makeup brands that are still implementing an animal-testing policy, and some socially responsible alternatives that can also be found on

NARS was known as a cruelty brand for many years. In 2013, they revoked their animal-testing policy, however they have reinstated it this year to reflect the Chinese market.

Some great alternative brands are: Stila, Kat Von D, Jouer, Marc Jacobs Beauty, Smashbox, and Sonia Kashuk Lip Crayons, which are great alternative to NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil.

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L’OREAL is notorious for misleading animal testing FAQs. They claim that they no longer test their products on animals anywhere in the world, but they still sell in the Chinese Market. The actual loophole in the policy states, “an exception could be made if authorities required it for human safety/ regulatory purposes.”

While Urban Decay and NYX are owned by the same parent company as L’OREAL they remain animal-cruelty free, making them excellent alternatives. Another alternative drugstore brand is e.l.f.

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MAC is by far one of the most successful cosmetic brands in the world. They were a cruelty-free brand, but like NARS, changed their policy due to the Chinese regulations. This can lead to a lot of confusion about their policy as it was just changed recently.

An excellent alternative to MAC is Makeup Geek. Their eyeshadows are on point and high quality. A great lipstick substitute would be NYX Wet N Wild. They have amazing shade dupes and are much more affordable.

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