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What does it mean to be Cruelty-Free?

If you were to ask people if they support animal testing for cosmetics or personal care products, I have a hunch that most would say no. So many people own dogs or other pets and wouldn’t want to envision them being harmed for the sake of testing products. However, if you were to look in consumer's cabinets, it would probably tell a very different story. Most people don’t realize that the products they are using are tested on animals. With the recent passing of the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act in California, we thought it would be a good time to dig a little deeper about what it means to be cruelty-free and break down the regulations in different countries.

What are the regulations around animal testing?

Regulations are different in each country. Let’s start with China. In order for a company to sell cosmetics in China, they are required by law to test on animals. So, if a brand is sold in China, testing is done on animals. This seems crazy to me especially when there are non-animal methods that can be used to safely test cosmetics. What is even crazier is that most conventional cosmetics brands are owned by 7 major parent companies. All of these parent companies sell some of their brands in China, meaning that they are involved in animal testing. It’s a whole other blog topic in itself, but yet another reason why I like to support indie brands.  It’s something you should consider when buying a product. Some people are okay with buying a brand whose parent company tests on animals, others are not. On the other end of the spectrum is Europe. The UK banned animal testing back in 1998 and the EU followed suit in 2013. So, you cannot purchase any cosmetics there that have been tested on animals. In general, Europe is way ahead of the game when it comes to animal testing and banning unsafe ingredients in cosmetics. The US is somewhere in the middle. Animal testing is not required here, but some companies still do it. A few weeks ago, California passed the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act (SB 1249), which prohibits the sale of cosmetics tested on animals after 1/1/2020. While I was thrilled to see California pass this law, my first question was how are companies like Mac, Nars, Loreal etc (owned by companies shown above) going to react? After researching further, I read that “during last-minute negotiations, the bill was modified to contain two exceptions: that animal-testing would be allowed if a cosmetic product or ingredient required testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to a health concern, and as a regulatory compliance imposed by a foreign authority (a provision that will expire by January 2023)” (link to source: In other words, those companies will still be allowed to sell their cosmetics in California until 2023. Even with the addition of last minute “loop-holes”, it’s still a step in the right direction. We hope to see this ban gain more momentum and eventually be enacted in the entire US.

So what does it mean to be cruelty-free?

Unfortunately, it’s not a straightforward answer either. The term “cruelty-free” is not legally defined so it can mean different things to different companies. In general terms, it means that the product was manufactured or developed by methods that do not involve experimentation on animals. To us, it means that neither the ingredients nor the final products have been tested on animals. We don’t believe that animals should be harmed in the making of any products and only work with brands that are aligned with this standard.

When shopping for other cosmetics, try to dig a little deeper when a brand says they are  “cruelty-free.” It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not involved in animal testing. For example, some companies will say that their products are “cruelty-free” but they source their ingredients from places that test on animals. In these cases, it is always a good idea to look at their website for more information or reach out to them to understand their process for sourcing their ingredients. Another example where this definition is fuzzy is if we go back to China regulations. If a brand is sold in China, they are also involved in animal testing. 

Leaping Bunny certification is a great way to know that a product is truly Cruelty Free. Their products go through a certification process which requires that no animal testing be used in any phase of product development by the company, its laboratories, or ingredient suppliers.

Bottom line, you might have to do a little research to confirm that a company is not involved in any animal testing whatsoever. The good news is, there are tons of brands that are truly cruelty-free and are transparent about their practices.

*The information we provide is intended to motivate our customers to make their own decisions regarding the products they use. We are not scientists, chemists or healthcare professionals. Any statements or claims about benefits of ingredients have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. As health and ingredient research continuously evolves, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of any information presented on this website


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