Beginners Guide to Cruelty-Free Beauty

September 5, 2016
Beginners Guide to Cruelty Free Beauty

I’ve been quite hesitant to write about this topic as emotions seem to run high on the subject of cruelty-free beauty. But since I’ve been researching the topic I wanted to create a beginners guide to cruelty-free beauty. If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed me asking for blog posts and information on cruelty-free beauty as I wanted to learn a little more about the topic. To be honest with you I thought it would be a pretty simple topic and I would just need a list of brands, but the topic is very complicated and there is way more to it than a list of cruelty-free brands. So here is my beginners guide to the subject of cruelty-free beauty.

Lack of Regulation

There is no regulation on the use of the term cruelty-free and brands are under no obligation to tell you anything. This means that brands can have third parties test products on animals on their behalf or buy ingredients tested on animals and still say they are cruelty-free. Brands will tell us that their finished products are not tested on animals, while many of the ingredients might well have been. It’s really difficult to tell what has been tested on animals and what hasn’t as brands will obviously want to appear cruelty-free as that is what consumers want.

The EU Ban

Animal testing for cosmetics is illegal in the EU which is a huge step forward in the cruelty-free movement. I’m going to put my hands up here and admit I was really naive about the EU ban, I assumed that because animal testing was banned in the EU that my cosmetics (brought in the EU) were going to be cruelty-free. However the EU can only regulate what happens in the EU, so although brands can’t test on animals within the EU they can elsewhere. Until there is a worldwide ban on animal testing, we just can’t be 100% sure that all our cosmetics haven’t been tested on animals somewhere.

The China Issue

Animal testing is required by law for all foreign cosmetic companies selling in China. Unfortunately, this has led to a massive step backwards for large cosmetic companies such as MAC, Clinique and Benefit (to name a few). It’s really disappointing after the progress made to end animal testing in Europe. I can understand the appeal of the Chinese market, it’s currently worth around 26 billion dollars and is growing daily. But these brands are choosing profits over ethics and trying to hide it from their western consumers. If you notice a disclaimer like ‘We do not test on animals, except when required by law’ then that company is probably selling in China.

Parent Companies

Some companies can remain cruelty-free after being purchased by big brands which aren’t cruelty-free (or sell in China). For example NYX, Urban Decay and The Body Shop are all owned by L’Oreal which tests its products on animals whilst remaining cruelty-free companies. I’ve found this one of the trickiest issues to get my head around as the companies themselves are cruelty-free, everything they make is completely separate from the parent company, however, the parent company will get a cut of the profits. These profits could then be used to fund animal testing. However, by choosing to purchase from a cruelty-free company you are at the same time sending a message to the parent company that you want cruelty-free products. If the likes of L’Oreal notice that their cruelty-free brands are more popular it could lead to change.

Can you be Cruelty-Free if you’re not Vegan?

I didn’t even consider this an issue until someone brought it up on Twitter. She felt it was hypocritical to say you only used cruelty-free cosmetics if you weren’t vegan as well. I have to disagree with this issue, I think there is a very clear difference between animal husbandry and animal testing. I think that it is better for people to change one thing than nothing at all. If someone decides to eat meat that is their decision, but you can eat meat and not want to use products tested on animals. It’s about making ethical decisions which work for you.
These are just a few of the issues relating to Cruelty-free beauty and it’s completely up to you whether or not you decide to purchase a product. I think the best thing we can do as consumers is to educate ourselves on the topic and make informed decisions. When given a choice it is up to us to make the ethical decision.

6 responses to “Beginners Guide to Cruelty-Free Beauty”

  1. Alyssa says:

    Great post Jen!

    This is definitely an emotional and sometimes controversial subject, good on you for covering it.

    I was on that Twitter thread and while I didn't engage in a discussion on the vegan point I completely agree with you. I think we have to be very careful when promoting an ethical lifestyle not to alienate or overwhelm people who are just starting their journey. There are so many issues of ethics and sustainability in our consumer driven society, expecting people to take on everything at once is a recipe for failure. We can't look down on people for changing one thing while not addressing another ethical choice.

    PLUS – the ethical 'answer' to a question is different for everyone. I care deeply about animal husbandry issues in the food supply chain so my partner and I raise our own chickens for eggs and meat. Our chickens have amazing lives, and raising them ourselves makes a smaller ecofootprint than buying grocery store birds. That's the ethical decision I'm comfortable with.

    Many people would disagree with me, but does that negate my efforts to reduce our household waste, grow our own vegetables, compost, eliminate fast fashion and generally become a more conscious consumer? Of course not.

    We have to make sure we celebrate ANY steps people take towards social and environmental consciousness and responsibility. If we cultivate an attitude of superiority about our own choices we start to turn this ethical movement into a cliquey and exclusive club.

    It's a journey, we all have to support each other even when we disagree with each other 🙂


    • admin says:

      Thank you so much for this! We need to support anyone wanting to make a change towards a more ethical lifestyle and respect their choices. One small step is better than nothing.
      BTW I'm so jealous of your chickens, we don't have the space but I would love some (maybe one day)

      Jen x

  2. Vicky says:

    Such an informative post! =) you're absolutely right about how the issue of animal testing for cosmetics isn't just black and white! especially the idea of cruelty-free brands owned by a parent company that tests on animals… I feel that everyone is entitled to purchase whatever they want but as long as they're being told all the right information before they buy!

    It infuriates me when I read a brand's animal testing policy with very misleading terms like we don't test on animals, *unless required by law* …most of us won't catch that this implies the brand supports animal testing in certain cases.

    I only wish brands could be more up-front with us but until then, I'm glad to see informative posts like yours educating others about these issues! =) THANK YOU!

    • admin says:

      It really is such a complex issue and your right brands need to be more transparent so people can make an informed decisions. I think so many people are purchasing products assuming they're cruelty free when they're not, especially with the 'unless required by law' small print.

      Jen x

  3. Cattt says:

    Ah! This post is amazing, I've just retweeted it on Twitter!
    I am recently cruelty free too and I struggle with the ethics too. I decided to buy brands who are cruelty free and don't sell to China, I do but from Nyx and urban decay but like you said it's to support the cruelty free brands and hopefully influence the parent companies.
    I'm also not a vegetarian or a vegan. I think it's fine to eat meat and be cruelty free because I'm not hurting animals for beauty purposes. I eat meat because it comes natural and I do like it, and I'm keeping myself alive, like I said before not torturing animals for cosmetic purposes! It's hard to explain but I hope you know what I'm trying to say.

    Also I decided to keep what I had already bought that isn't cruelty free to not be wasteful. I think some people assume you won't use the stuff you've bought again but I am in no financial place to throw hundred of pounds of makeup away at this point. But I won't buy anything unless it's cruelty free from now on. I've even gone as far as bathroom products and struggling to find a new cleanser!

    Anyway, I loved this post! Thanks for sharing it 🙂

    Cat | What Cat Says

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Like you I think I'll continue to buy from NYX etc because hopefully it will send a message to the parent company.
      I'm not vegetarian or vegan myself and think that is a completely separate issue and the testing of beauty products on animals is very different to raising them for food.
      I also think you're right to keep what you already own – what's done is done and throwing away your products isn't going to change anything, except costing you lots of money. Glad you intend on making more informed choices going forward.

      Jen x

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