At it’s most simplistic definition, Cruelty-Free Beauty consists of beauty and personal care products that are manufactured or developed by methods that do not involve experimentation on animals. This includes the raw materials used to make the products, too.
Despite the straightforward book definition, Cruelty-Free Beauty is much more complicated to navigate in real life. There is no legal definition of what constitutes a Cruelty-Free brand.
Bunnies are often a symbol for Cruelty-Free Beauty, Photo by Ulrika Joutseno on Pexels.com
Levels of Cruelty-Free Beauty Adoption
Cruelty-Free Beauty Level 1 | Brands that don’t personally test on animals, but pay for Third-Party animal testing
It is worth noting that many staunch CF consumers do NOT consider brands that fall within this category to be Cruelty-Free. Third-party animal testing is still being conducted on behalf of these brands. I do not refer to these brands as Cruelty-Free on my blog.
Most mainstream Western beauty brands fall into this category. Brands such as L’OREAL, Estee Lauder, MAC, NARS, Lancome, Maybelline, etc. do not test on products sold in the US or Europe. However, they do pay for third-party animal testing in China (due to government regulations).
As a consumer, I fall into this category. I am not 100% Cruelty-Free. Moving forward, I would like to purchase more products from brands that do not test on animals as opposed to brands that allow testing.
Cruelty-Free Beauty Level 2 | Brands that do not sell in China and do not pay for Third-Party animal testing, but are owned by a conglomerate that tests on animals
Brands that fall into this category do not sell in countries that mandate animal testing and do not test their products on animals. However, these brands are owned by a larger parent company that submits “sister” brands to animal testing where required by law.
Who are the main Western beauty conglomerates (sometimes referred to as Parent Companies? Coty, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, P&G, Revlon, Shiseido, Unilever.
Most mainstream or globally-recognized Cruelty-Free brands fall within this category. Notable Cruelty-Free brands owned by parent companies include BECCA (Estee Lauder) Smashbox (Estee Lauder), Too Faced (Estee Lauder), NYX (L’OREAL), Urban Decay (L’OREAL), etc.
Many Cruelty-Free consumers purchase from a brand owned by parent companies. Many mainstream Cruelty-Free YouTubers fall within this category.
Cruelty-Free Beauty Level 3 | Brands that do test on animals, do not sell in China and are not owned by a parent company
Many Western indie beauty brands fall within this Cruelty-Free classification. Brands that are not owned by a conglomerate do not typically test on animals. Given that these brands typically only sell within a small, Western-focused market they do not sell their products in China. Brands that fall within this category include ColourPop, Melt Cosmetics, Persona Cosmetics, etc.
This is the most clear-cut, Cruelty-Free consumption option. Consumers’ money is not going towards a brand or parent company that conducts or pays for animal testing.
Cruelty-Free Beauty News
In the US,starting in January 2020, California is set to become the first state to ban the importation and sales of Cosmetics (including personal care / personal hygiene items) that have been tested on animals.
This law will not impact brands who only test in international markets. For example, MAC will be allowed to sell in California even though they do submit to animal testing regulations in China.
Helpful Resources for Transitioning to a Cruelty-Free Beauty Collection
If you want to learn more about Cruelty-Free Beauty or are considering going Cruelty-Free, please check out the following resources:
Cruelty-Free brands may not necessarily be any less toxic or environmentally detrimental than non-Cruelty-Free brands.
Many Cruelty-Free brands still use ingredients that are harmful or toxic to humans (sulfates, parabens, talc, essential oils, etc.). Some Cruelty-Free brands use ingredients that are not sustainable (palm oil, titanium dioxide).
Tons of Cruelty-Free beauty brands continue to use bulky, wasteful plastic packaging that cannot be recycled. Cruelty-Free beauty brands with a fast fashion business model encourage wastefulness and overconsumption.
Finally, there are Cruelty-Free beauty brands that produce products in China, where animal testing is mandated for international brands. Some of these brands use questionable sales practices, while others associate with controversial figures in the beauty community.
**Side note: Cruelty-Free does NOT mean Vegan. Cruelty-Free brands may use animal by-products (like carmine or beeswax), in their formula.**
Making a Cruelty Free Beauty Transition
If you are considering transitioning to Cruelty-Free beauty, consider donating or giving away the products you no longer feel like using. Some charities and sites will take gently used products.
I have so much respect for anyone who keeps a Cruelty Free beauty collection. It is my hope that animal testing for cosmetics will be banned in the future.