The Problem with “Cruelty-Free” Cosmetics

Christie Hendrickson, June 7, 2019

Your chapstick went through the wash in your jeans’ pocket (again). You need to replace it. You’re also almost out of body wash. And there’s a new mascara your friend suggested you try.

Shopping list in hand, you wander down the cosmetics aisle of the drugstore, picking up products and flipping them over to read the back. Is this product tested on animals? you wonder as you check for a bunny icon or some other “cruelty-free” designation.

Many products are stamped with a rabbit image or labeled “Not Tested on Animals.” You’ve heard of cruel animal experiments—like the Draize test, where chemicals are dropped into animals’ eyes to test corrosivity—so you feel better purchasing products that assure consumers no animals were harmed in production.

But here’s where you run into a couple problems:

  1. Many of these products are deceptively marketed as being cruelty-free. No law or official regulation exists to apply the term “cruelty-free” to personal care products. Any brand can slap on a “No Animal Testing” badge without ensuring they’re fully in compliance with that statement.

  2. Many companies produce cruelty-free products in the U.S. but invalidate their humane efforts by entering into foreign markets where animal testing is required for products to hit the shelves. China, a massive market which is appealing to many brands, is infamous for this unnecessary and sordid practice. While Chinese officials say they’re piloting programs to allow foreign products to be sold without the requirement of animal testing, this is neither the norm nor the law.

So, what can you do about these issues?

The Leaping Bunny logo denotes truly animal-friendly products.

To avoid supporting companies that are misleading you with false “cruelty-free” assurances, check your cosmetics and personal care products for the Leaping Bunny logo before buying. Leaping Bunny is the only international standard to guarantee products are completely free of animal testing.

Take one minute to help animals.

Push for an end to animal testing on products imported to China. Send a message to Terry Branstad, the U.S. Ambassador to China, urging him to prioritize revised regulations with the Chinese government.