Cruelty Free Makeup Brands May Not Actually Be Cruelty Free?

Animal testing on beauty products in china
Photo credit: Gombert/Westend 61/Corbis

When I look at purchasing a product and I see cruelty free advertised by the brand, I trust that not only is the product I’m buying cruelty free but also the company doesn’t support or invest in animal testing.  I think most consumers would interpret those words printed on a product or associated with a brand to mean that.   Unfortunately, that is not the case.  I recently discovered that PETA revealed our beloved cosmetic giants including MAC, Revlon, Benefit, Bobbi Brown, Estee Lauder, and L’Oreal may still support and engage in animal testing.  It’s incredibly disappointing when I think about this and how much I love MAC makeup.

This is not a comprehensive list of cruelty free makeup brands but some of the companies that are most shocking to see on the list.  Since animal testing is banned in so many countries, you are probably wondering how this is possible.  It’s possible because there are other countries, such as China, that require animal testing to be carried out by law before a product can be sold in the country.  Some companies claiming  to offer cruelty free makeup and cosmetic products choose to sell their products in China and agree, comply, and fund animal testing to the extent it is required by Chinese laws.

This was shocking news to me.  As a blogger, I constantly comb news sites, Yahoo Beauty, and other sources looking for relevant information, new products, and  trends to communicate.  As I was engaging in my morning reads recently, I came across this article from informing consumers about the loop holes in the animal testing laws and how companies can still state they are cruelty free but engage and fund the testing.  After the reading the article, I was left feeling somewhat betrayed and mislead that certain companies aren’t more direct about the practices they engage in and support.

What does this mean to me as a consumer?  I have to ask myself the question as to whether the cosmetics I am using must be cruelty free but am I also willing to accept a company who still supports and funding animal testing labs in countries where it is required by law?  A business decision must be made by companies to support animal testing in order to sell in China.  Obviously, it’s a huge market and since many companies will not sell their products in China, the companies that choose to have an even bigger cut of the market share.  However, there are other companies, such as Arbonne, Urban Decay, and Smashbox that aren’t interested in the lost revenue and stand behind the practice of not testing on animals anywhere. Period.

If this is an important topic to you, I would urge you to the read the article I recently read.  The link is here for you to review.   Do you accept your MAC product not being tested on animals but the company may only be doing so to appease the European, Canadian, or American consumers or comply with local laws?   It’s as if they are saying “We are cruelty free where we need to be” versus “We are cruelty free because we want to be”.   I’m not sure how I feel about this but my initial reaction is I would rather look to Urban Decay and other companies when I’m looking to buy new products.  I’m also more informed now and when I look at a company’s position on animal testing.  I know now to evaluate whether or not they still perform testing where required by law or have operations under a different name running in countries where animal testing is required.

I’m very interested in your reaction to this and if this is new information for you.

PETA cruelty free cosmetic campaign
Photo credit: PETA

20 thoughts on “Cruelty Free Makeup Brands May Not Actually Be Cruelty Free?

  1. It’s also surprising how few people understand that cruelty-free doesn’t mean vegan. A final product may be cruelty free but still contain animal byproducts such as lanolin, tallow, wax, etc. Google animal rendering – gross!

    1. I know. And the practices in China are beyond disturbing. I looked outside the beauty industry at what they do to dogs and I don’t think I can ever recover from seeing a few of the images I did. It’s mentally disturbing.

  2. This is one of the hardest things about trying to be cruelty-free. I will no longer buy products that are sold in China, even if they claim not to test on animals when it’s not required by law. Goodbye Clinique 🙁

  3. Thanks for posting this. This is something I an completely oblivious about. When I buy makeup I don’t even normally think about animal testing vegan friendly etc. For the fact that China requires animal testing is shocking but yet again not because it is so cheap to manufacture stuff today. Almost everything we even use is coming from China. For the fact their r loop holes into claiming products to animal cruelty free when it’s not is definitely something scary to think about.

  4. This is unfortunately not news to me! I tend to research fairly heavily before I label anything as cruelty free, and I’ve been very aware that the Revlon/L’Oreal deals aren’t, and MAC hasn’t been for awhile. I believe UD did sell in China for a brief period before pulling back.

    I think animal testing is a necessary evil when it comes to finding cures for terrible diseases, but the animals must be treated well. Most people who are trying to find cures and have to test on animals do take good care of them, love them, and treat them as pets. If they’re in it to genuinely help people, it makes sense that they would be compassionate. But testing on animals for something as frivolous as makeup is unforgivable. Suffering should only be done to alleviate greater suffering.

      1. That’s rapidly becoming truer and truer, but I don’t think we’ve found a true replacement for it yet.

        What really gets me is that you know there would be tons of people who would willing agree to test makeup to see if it’s safe, so there’s just no /need/ for animal testing. =/

        1. I know. And in this day what are they even using that hasn’t been tested? It’s like there’s plenty of things already good to use. But….. Everyone wants to make a dollar somehow.

          1. Yeah, exactly. You’d think that the cost of animal testing would actually be a detractor! Look at all the dollar brands that easily afford not animal testing (wet n wild, elf, la colors, etc).

            1. I know – but they make a conscious choice to pass on selling where it has to be done. Those other brands don’t want to give up the market share

    1. I completely agree with this! Animal testing for medical reasons is currently unavoidable as there is no other way to see how a drug or treatment will interact with a live immune system. You can’t just grow a liver and test a drug on the cells in a dish in case it accidentally causes kidney issues or over production of macrophages etc., but there is absolutely no excuse for cosmetics and makeup! Like you said, many people are wiling to do it and all you need is a small patch of skin.

  5. No way! My gosh advertising is a tricky business. I had no idea is was actually REQUIRED in China- that’s horrible!!!

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