Animal Testing 101 - Cruelty Free & Vegan Make Up

July 16, 2014

"It is estimated that over 100 million animals are used in experiments each year across the world" - RSPCA

Although this post is about animal testing it DOES NOT contain any images of animal cruelty. I don't want those on my blog and you don't need to see them.

In an ideal world there would be no testing on animals full stop, but in the case of this post I am just discussing cosmetics testing and not medicinal. I think (I hope!) we can all agree that there is absolutely no argument whatsoever for cosmetic testing.

Don't be fooled into thinking that animal testing is just putting lipstick on a rat... all different kinds of animals are used; dogs, monkeys, rabbits, mice, rats, etc. They are not treated humanely, they have products applied under their skin, to broken skin, in eyes, forced to ingest it and worse. I will not go into further detail or include pictures but PLEASE do not be naive about the level of suffering these animals endure. (FYI - That is as graphic as it will get on this post)

I do not claim to be an expert, I am very much still learning and improving. I have become more aware and stricter in my views on this recently so older posts and videos may clash/conflict slightly with what I say below, please bear in mind we are all on a journey and I am constantly trying to do, and be, better.

As I moved to more natural cosmetic options I automatically fell into (mostly) using /buying cruelty free (and some vegan) products. Previously I had thought I was being 'cruelty free' but in fact I wasn't... more on that later. I also 'bumped into' a number of great cruelty free bloggers and vloggers. Us natural and CF ladies tend to move in the same circles, one often overlaps the other.

I've done a video about this and this will be a very long post so I want to add some structure to it in order to cover as much ground as possible in a short time, I'll be using headers in a Q&A style to get my point across quickly.

I thought that animal testing for cosmetics was illegal here in the EU?

Yes and no, there has been a ban on testing completed cosmetic products in the EU since September 2004 and since March 2009 there has been a ban on testing the ingredients or a combination of ingredients. Nothing you buy from within the EU will have been tested on animals at any stage of production - yay! But there's more to being cruelty free in my opinion...

What do you consider cruelty free?

I personally believe that a product is only cruelty free if it, or it's ingredients, haven't been tested on animals AND when the parent company (if applicable) also doesn't test on animals.

Parent company?

You may not realise this but a lot of smaller, individual brands are owned by larger 'parent' companies.

In my opinion, If you purchase from a brand that has a parent company that tests then you are funding testing on animals, and therefore supporting it.

L'Oreal, for example, owns a huge proportion of the beauty industry; Garnier, Maybelline, Essie, NYX, Urban Decay and The Body Shop to name just a few. This is why I do not shop at the Body Shop any more - I do not consider them cruelty free as a proportion of my money goes into funding animal cruelty if I purchase something from the body shop. Burts Bees is owned by Clorax - they also test so I avoid this brand as well.

What's third party testing?

My understanding is that some companies outsource their animal testing to laboratories or third party agents - this way they can say 'we do not test on animals' but their product is not actually cruelty free. (Very sneaky, right?)

What about China?

You may already be aware that in order for a cosmetic product to be sold in China it is required, by law, to be tested on animals. (recent change to the law applies only to certain, domestic cosmetics)

Therefore, if a brand sells in China (Avon, L'Oreal, etc) then they will be testing their products on animals and therefore NOT cruelty free.

I think it is disgusting that rather than make a stand together and all companies agree in unison that they will not sell in China until the law is changed... most of them just considered their profits instead of refusing to lower themselves to torture.

How can I know if a product/company is actually cruelty free (by the highest standard of 'not testing')
I think PETA has a good list, there are lots of online lists you can use, certain logos  on the product are a good indication (e.g. leaping bunny) BUT I think the only way to really know is to actually ask the company.

I have a new policy now - before I buy or try anything from a company they must go through some checks from me, I email them the following questions: (obviously dress it up with polite writing before and after, not so blunt)

- Do you test any of your ingredients, combination of ingredients or finished products on animals? 

- Do you ever authorise third parties to test your products or ingredients on animals on your behalf?

- Are you owned by a parent company? If so, do they test any of their ingredients or products on animals?

I then study ingredients lists closely for animal derived or animal by products that I am not comfortable with (some I am, I will talk more below).

If you're worried about asking a company these questions, don't be! If they are cruelty free and proud they will be very happy to reassure you and shout from the roof tops that they do not test.

What are 'animal by products' in cosmetics? And where do you stand?

I believe that no animal should suffer for the production of my cosmetics- however what a person defines as 'suffering' is personal. For me I don't want an animal to suffer pain, discomfort or death for my vanity. I am personally okay with animal 'by products' that are obtained ethically, humanely and on a small scale - for example beeswax, honey, eggs, lanolin and a few others.

I also look at the business that I am buying from as a whole. If it is a huge, mass produced type outfit then I tend to doubt how humanely the by product has been obtained, mass farming is cruel in my opinion. 

I buy my honey from a local bee farmer - I know how the bees are kept, how the honey is made, etc so I am happy to buy it and to support his business. Burt's Bees on the other hand...

Some examples? 

This is not an exhaustive list, if you are vegan and want to be really strict about what to avoid then you will need to check other sources. Also, I am just letting you know my opinion, I am not saying I am right, I may be a lot 'stricter' than you or I may be a lot more lax, we are all different and on our own journeys. I do not judge others by their own beliefs, please do not judge me. Having said that, I am happy to receive constructive and polite comments on this as I always welcome discussion.

I judge every single product and brand on a case by case basis BUT here are some I try to avoid: Carmine, Gelatine, Bee venom, Silk (silk proteins), Squalane (if from sharks, olive derived is perfectly fine) as these all involve the animal dying (except bee venom which involves an electric shock to the bee.)

Any useful links to share?

There is a wealth of information available online and there are a number of blogs, youtube channels and websites that are far more knowledgeable than me and keep up to date much better than I can.

Always remember to do your own research, verify your findings and use your own instinct as a guide as well.

The Vegan Peach has an extensive list of cruelty free brands covering more than just cosmetics:

PETA is very extremist in a lot of their methods and have been accused of fabricating extremest claims to gain publicity but they are still a useful resource and have strict requirements for something to be considered cruelty free so if something is PETA approved I usually feel better. I do like their 'Beauty Without Bunnies' pledge.

The Leaping Bunny is also a useful site and their logo is a good indicator as to whether a product is cruelty free. 

BUAV is a great resource too.

Sarah over at Sugarpuffish has written a great post about Bee related products. Click here.

A numerical resource with some fact and figures: RSPCA

There are some great Cruelty Free Vloggers on YouTube, they do make up tutorials, etc with cruelty free products, I will link some of them below:


Angharad LateBloomer
Beauty Talk With Cin
Inspired Mom 824
Simply Maya Beauty

I hope you've learnt something from this post or it has re-ignited your passion for buying cruelty free. Remember you CAN make a difference. Don't buy anything that encourages or supports animal cruelty - find your level of comfort and then shout from the roof tops about it until all your friends, family, readers, subscribers, etc start to change their thinking too.

Remember a bug's life? One ant couldn't do much harm to Hopper, but when they all stood up to him they changed their way of life for the better. (Can you tell I have a 4 year old daughter who loves Disney Pixar?!)

I welcome your comments, please let me know your thoughts.

This post does not include any products sent for consideration.
The links are not affiliated.
All opinions are honest and my own, any suggestions made are based on my own experiences and are meant as a guide. Please always take care when making any DIY products and patch test to rule out an adverse reaction.


  1. Great post! I've recently been doing a lot of research on this topic as well so I found it really interesting :)

  2. A topic I have been passionate about since my teens. I will never understand why Body Shop sold out to L'oreal. The parent company situation is tricky, in general because I'm buying from small brands I avoid this dilemma by default. I think beeswax and honey are the only two animal by-products I am happy to use. Thanks for mentioning my blog post x

  3. Yeah I really don't get that either... The woman who started it was so passionate in the beginning.. was it money?! or did she get fed up with it all?
    You're welcome (for the link)
    Rach xx

  4. It's a tough topic! And hard to cover in a one sided presentation style, it is much more of a conversation item but I wanted to get my point across and maybe do my bit to raise awareness. Thanks for reading :-)

  5. Loved this post, I discovered natural skincare just because I went cruelty free :) There's quite a few different "definitions" to being cruelty free, some more strict than others but I also don't do China, parent companies and brands like that and I find it so annoying that sometimes you really have to do a big research just to find out if a brand is okay for your standards.. But it's funny how I find lanolin really disgusting but still use products with carmine..oh well I'll never go vegan 'cause I can't live without honey<3 xx

  6. Went and check few of my makeup bits where I normally don't really read the ingredients very closely and found out that some of them contain lanolin and now I'm grossed out..aghr so annoyed!
    Sorry for the ramble :) x

  7. Haha this was funny... I'm on the fence about Lanolin to be honest - in one way I sort of see it like using/wearing wool but at the same time I think to myself, 'It's sheep sweat' and feel gross for using it lol.
    I think I have one moisturiser that has it in but it is right at the bottom of the ingredients list so doesn't bother me.
    Yep, honey is key for me to although I do try to make sure it comes from a good source.
    Rach xx

  8. disqus_FlZLjPLeUJ21 July 2014 at 09:49

    Just want to point this out, and lets not kid ourselves, the world wouldn't be where it is today without animal testing. Is it possible for companies to test drugs only on humans? Is it more ethical to test it on humans than animals?

    Don't be blinded by one side of the argument spectrum, people.

  9. Okay, I'm just going to assume you're trolling and I'm trying not to rise to the bait but I DO want to point out that if you read the title and the information in this post this is about cruelty free COSMETICS. There is no argument for testing on animals for cosmetic reasons. I did not even enter into the medicinal side of things as that is an entirely different discussion.


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