Wondering why you should choose cruelty free shops? More and more people are making that decision every day — because it matters.
If you’ve ever owned a pet, then you know the bond that can form. Animals, like humans, have their own personalities and characteristics. They too are they are complex creatures, have emotions, share love, feel pain and experience sadness and loss. I know how forlorn my own fur child becomes when we go on holiday, even though we only ever leave him with family!
Many cosmetics, skin care, cleaning, clothing and food products involve cruelty. For some people, cruelty free is not an important consideration, but for others it’s an immutable ethical commitment. Sometimes, however, things get blurred as it’s not always obvious that a product has involved cruelty – and it’s certainly not in the interests of companies to reveal this to their unsuspecting buyers!
There are many global big-name companies in the beauty space who disguise the fact that they undertake animal testing and use animal derivatives or pursue markets that require animal testing. But there are also many small brands that shout their animal credentials from the rooftops without having any real traceability of their supply chain or knowledge of whether their ingredients are derived from animals or tested on animals. Just because a company says it doesn’t test on animals, doesn’t mean the product is cruelty free.
A company isn’t always aware that the ingredients they’re using have been tested on or derived from animals. Additionally, the ingredients it’s using may have been sourced from a supplier in a country where the data sheets and even certification are questionable.
The world of beauty isn’t always pretty. It can be dark, murky and downright cruel.
What is cruelty free?
Some people choose cruelty free shops because they want to liberate animals from unnecessary captivity, pain, loss and even death. Many of these are animal lovers, but others make this choice to limit their impact on the environment.
Cruelty free involves not buying or consuming products that are tested on animals or derived from animals. This not only spares animals from suffering and ensures they’re not raised purely to be exploited. Products that are not tested on animals or derived from animals are also known as vegan products.
Cruelty free products are growing in demand. People have become much more conscious of the choices they make and the impact they have. Companies also have become more aware of their ethical responsibilities and are paying more attention than ever to the sourcing and testing of their products. Many are working to bring about change for the better. Others, however, use cruelty free purely as a way to market their products.
Which countries are cruelty free?
It’s becoming easier to find cruelty free shops thanks to the growing demands of consumers and campaigns by grass-roots organisations across the world.
About 41 countries to date have banned the testing of cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients on animals. The EU has been at the forefront of trying to stamp out this practice since 1993.
Australia, the European Union, Iceland, Guatemala, India, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and the UK have legislated to ban animal testing.
Many other countries are in the process of bringing in changes to end or limit this practice, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Russia and Ukraine.
Japan doesn’t require testing but neither does it ban it; it’s left up to companies to undertake their own safety assessments. Although some cosmetic ingredients are considered quasi drugs and testing is required. In Japan, there is little awareness of animal cruelty and therefore a lack of grass-roots pressure to bring about change.
China has modified its testing requirements. Since 2021, ‘ordinary’ cosmetics imported into China no longer need to undergo animal testing, however ‘special use’ cosmetics, such as sunscreens and hair dye, still require testing on animals.
The US, however, continues to drag its feet on animal testing, despite about 100 million animals being killed in laboratories, universities and class rooms every year. The FDA doesn’t require that cosmetics and household products be tested on animals, but it does require companies to demonstrate safety. Testing is only required during the development of new ingredients. More than 7000 cosmetic ingredients already have been classified as safe and can be readily used by the industry without further testing. But if a brand spruiks a novel ingredient, cutting-edge technology or new patented ingredient, it may well have tested on animals.
Some states in the US have moved to stop animal testing and prevent the sale of products tested on animals, but the majority have not.
You can read more about the types of tests conducted on animals here.
Reasons to go cruelty free
People choose to support cruelty free shops for a range of reasons.
I often hear and read unfounded reasons as to why you should choose cruelty free, such as products are natural, chemical free or cheaper. These arguments are simply not true.
However there are many real reasons to choose cruelty free. Here are eight of those reasons to consider.
My purposeful eight
1. Animals not harmed or killed
Animals do not get exploited through farming and do not get kept captive in laboratories, where they’re subjected to cruel and unnecessary practices that often end in them being killed. Nor are animals subjected to intensive methods that keep them unnaturally producing offspring or being used reared purely for our consumption or use.
The cosmetics industry is responsible for the death of more than 500,000 rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and mice every year. These animals are used to do skin, eye and other tests, causing immeasurable pain, ulceration, blindness, internal bleeding and even organ damage.
Thankfully many countries no longer require testing on animals before an ingredient or product is permitted for use on humans any more, however there are still many cruel practices involved in the rearing and slaughter of animals for other purposes.
2. Animals not reared to be exploited
Cruelty free means that animals do not need to be intensively raised and are not forced to lead short lives in conditions that rob them of their natural behaviours.
Sometimes it’s not obvious that a food or ingredient has come from an animal. There are many ingredients used in the formulation of beauty products that come from animals. The brands are not going to call this out on their labels, are they! The conscious brands that are sourcing plant derived or synthetic, however, are more likely to call out their choices.
The natural beauty industry continues to purport that synthetic or lab-made skin care ingredients are all inherently bad. This is one of the great lies of the industry. There are many synthetic ingredients that save animals from cruelty and exploitation. Amino Acids, Collagen, Hyaluronic Acid and Squalane are just a few examples of ingredients that can be derived from animals or made synthetically.
3. A force for good
By boycotting those companies and brands that continue to test on animals, whether directly or indirectly, you are sending a clear message and pushing them to change their practices. The greater the pressure, the greater the incentive to bring about change. No lipstick or face cream is so unique that there isn’t an equally good cruelty free alternative available. With just a little effort, you can find cruelty free shops.
4. Change forces change
Countries that are still dragging their feet on banning testing, such as the US, will eventually be forced to do more and do more, more quickly. Arguments to allow testing for market competitive reasons will lose their power and more countries will come on board and adopt other systems of testing. Eventually, the remaining countries will find themselves isolated and lonely, and if their companies want to sell to the rest of the world they’ll need to drop animal testing.
5. New testing methods
Alternatives to animal testing include using tissues and cells taken from humans (in vitro), computer modelling (in silico) or chemical methods (in chemico). These tests are quicker, cheaper and more predictive for humans. These types of tests have a high level of rigour and are required to be validated, that is, shown to be more effective than the tests they are replacing (animal testing). Interestingly, despite animal testing being used around the world, it has never been validated for human reactions or responses. The more alternative testing is done, the more we’re able to improve alternative testing methods and develop new ones.
6. A better planet
Rearing animals for the purpose of exploitation, suffering and death has an impact on the planet. Not only do these animals need to be bred, fed and housed, they need to be killed and disposed of. With population growth putting increasing pressure on global resources, it’s unnecessary as well as cruel to raise animals purely for testing purposes, when they are validated alternative methods available.
7. Faster to market
Brands can invest more money in creating better products rather than dealing with the excessive regulatory burden and animal testing requirements used by some countries to prevent foreign brands entering their market. It also encourages the use of newer and technologically advanced ingredients, some of which are lab created and have less of an impact on resources and our planet.
8. Smaller brands thrive
The elimination of animal testing enables new and conscious brands to launch faster and penetrate markets easier. They won’t be forced to make decisions such as rejecting to enter markets because they refuse to be inhumane. It will also be faster and cheaper for them to enter those markets and have their existing testing methodologies accepted. And there’ll be a ready-market for them, with many more cruelty free retailers eager for their products.
Not all black and white
But things can get grey and fuzzy at times. There is a spectrum and not everyone is at one end or the other.
Some people may entirely boycott a company that conducts animal testing only on one or two products in one specific country because that country’s regulations require it. But others may simply refuse to buy the specific products in question. Some people may choose not to use a skin care product containing honey whereas others won’t have a problem with it. Some people will reject leather but not be concerned about the presence of lanolin in their cleansing balm.
Everyone has different boundaries and I’m not here to tell you what those should be.
These days there’s an increasing number of products available that do not use animal ingredients and are not tested on animals. For anyone who cares about this, opting for cruelty free or vegan is the logical and ethical choice. Millions of animals will be spared unnecessary suffering and death every year.
Finding cruelty free shops
Everyone claims to be cruelty free these days, but not all are. There are a lot of smoke and mirrors.
Many companies tell bunny-loving stories but have questionable practices.
L’Oreal has been active in trying to stop animal testing. It states that “today, L’Oreal no longer tests its ingredients on animals and no longer tolerates any exception to this rule”.
Sounds pretty convincing, right, but the word used here is ingredients. Why is there is no reference to products?
L’Oreal also states that “certain health authorities may still decide to independently conduct animal tests themselves for cosmetic products, as is still the case in China”. Despite knowing this, L’Oreal still choose to push ahead to get its products into China.
Unfortunately profits often trump ethics, even when brands create an image of themselves as being for animals.
Drunk Elephant has used its elephant-loving, cruelty free and vegan credentials to help build its brand, yet its behaviour on a number of fronts has left many people raising questions about whether it’s drunk. It’s really hard, make that near impossible, to find information on how Drunk Elephant has been helping elephants with the windfall profits it makes from selling its overpriced marula oil.
So many global beauty brands are driven by a culture of growth at all costs. They are driven by constant top-down pressure that demands year-on-year growth and higher profits. Ethics is something that needs to be at the heart of an organisation and permeate every interaction and every behaviour, not something that gets paraded in a CSR report and marketing collateral. Sadly, too many companies use cruelty free as nothing more than positioning. If they really cared, they would boycott those markets that require animal testing when, these days, such testing is unnecessary.
Sometimes you need to dig a little deeper. There are resources on the web that help you identify brands that behave badly and find cruelty free shops. PETA and many other animals rights organisations call out some of the bigger companies doing this, however it can be harder to research the smaller ones.
Shopping at Skin Clinica
At Skin Clinica we like to partner with brands that care. We chose to be clean, conscious and results-driven. We intentionally search out brands that are cruelty free and offer products that don’t use animal-derived ingredients.
We look for those brands that go beyond superficial claims. While there are many great big-name brands, we also know that there are just as many that only talk the talk.
All of the brands we keep in our shop are not tested on animals. We also have many brands and products that do not contain ingredients derived from animals or organic solvent remnants, and are therefore suitable for vegans. We try to provide as much information as possible on our product pages to make your selection easier.
Our brands BioBare, Comfort Zone, Medik8, Pestle & Mortar and Primera are completely vegan. Our other brands offer a range of vegan-friendly products.
At Skin Clinica, we have specifically sourced high-performing vegan versions of products that usually contain animal-derived ingredients.
- BioBare Collagen Revive uses marine collagen.
- Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Intense and Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Acid use alternative sources of Hyaluronic Acid.
- Pestle & Mortar Erase Cleansing Balm and Skin Juice Smudge Budge Face Cleanser use no Lanolin or Beeswax.
- Medik8 Crystal Retinal and Pestle & Mortar Superstar Retinoid Night Oil use an advanced lab-created version of Vitamin A.
- Comfort Zone exclusively uses only clinically proven botanical actives, including Mexican Hyssop, Marvel of Peru, Marula Seed Oil and Babassu Oil.
- Primera also only uses plant-based ingredients based on science and extensive R&D.
In addition to animal considerations, we like to partner with those brands that operate ethically and give back rather than just take. This is why we take other issues into consideration, including ethos, reputation and sustainability.
Making your choice count
It’s up to you to determine your position on animal rights and what’s within your tolerance and what isn’t. But know that your purchasing decisions can have enormous power.
Do your research so that you can make an informed and humane choice, whenever possible.
This is especially important as cruelty free doesn’t always mean cruelty free.
Do your bit to support those cruelty free shops and brands that are working towards a better life for animals and a better planet. No creature, big or small, should endure the cruel practice we call cosmetic testing.
Yours truly in better skin