I like to put my money where my mouth is—and by that I mean, after being a vegetarian for 10 years I’ve recently also transitioned into no longer purchasing cosmetic products from companies that test on animals. While I know it’s not possible to be a totally ethical consumer, I feel better about doing something than I do about doing nothing, and this choice was the next natural step to my dietary lifestyle. No one can argue that animal testing isn’t harmful to its subjects, and if that’s something you care about, I’m here to tell you that it’s easier than you might think to fight it. (Or even if you have no intention of going down this route, you can at least stick around to get the basics.) For the sake of sticking to the popular terminology, I will be using the term “cruelty-free” to refer to companies whose products are not tested on animals and to the choice to not buy from those companies. However, I personally hate this term because it sounds a bit self-righteous and ignores other ways in which the process of producing these products could be cruel.
Going cruelty-free isn’t of comparable difficulty to going vegetarian: there are many, many companies across all price ranges whose products are not tested on animals. I would estimate that about half of the most popular makeup companies are considered cruelty-free. This meant that the process of becoming cruelty-free was pretty undramatic for me, as it required me only to shift to buying more from some companies that I already liked and to shy away from a few others. Animal testing is not legally required because it is in no way necessary for safety anymore, which is why so many brands are free of animal testing. According to the Humane Society, there are thousands of ingredients available for use in cosmetics that have been long established as safe and therefore do not have to be tested, and there are a plethora of methods to test new ingredients that don’t involve animals. At this point, still testing on animals in the U.S. only puts companies behind their competitors as this “cruelty-free” movement gains mainstream traction.
It gets somewhat complicated from here, though. Many companies do not test on animals themselves, but do not earn cruelty-free status because they sell their products in China, a country that legally requires animal testing and performs tests on U.S. products before they can be sold there. This is true of MAC, who was originally a proudly cruelty-free company. Big brands tend to value their international business over the morals of animal testing, and this is the problem more often than an unwillingness to change practices within the United States. Another complication is that some brands that do not test on animals are owned by larger makeup companies that are not cruelty-free. For example, L’Oreal owns NYX and Urban Decay, which is troubling because NYX in particular prides itself on being cruelty-free. This becomes a matter of personal judgment. I choose to buy from these companies because I’m still supporting brands that are cruelty-free themselves. Putting money towards them also shows those larger companies that the cruelty-free brands they own are successful.
Finding out which brands to avoid is not at all difficult: a simple Google search will tell you whether and to what capacity any specific company tests on animals. As terrible as PETA can be, they do have a detailed database of information about cruelty-free cosmetics that they update frequently. PETA-approved brands will actually often have the cruelty-free bunny logo on their product packaging. Another equally good website is Cruelty Free Kitty. I find myself on this website a lot to check whether or not a brand I don’t buy from frequently is cruelty-free because it is easy to navigate.
With so many high-quality companies that do not test on animals to choose from, going cruelty-free seemed like a no-brainer to me. I’ve found my favorite makeup brands whose products are not animal tested that I’ve stuck with (Too Faced, Tarte, NYX, Colourpop, Urban Decay, Milani, IT Cosmetics) with really no inconvenience. If you’re into animal rights or have been curious about doing this at all, I highly recommend trying to give your money more often to companies that don’t test or even commenting to a company that you don’t support them testing. It’s not a life-altering change like going vegetarian or vegan, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t buy a lot of makeup.
Despite this, it’s something that can make a big difference even with small effort. The tide is turning towards the elimination of animal testing, and companies are listening as the protest becomes louder. Animal testing within the European Union has been banned since 2013. A few weeks ago, a video from MAC came up on my Facebook news feed advertising Halsey’s new lipstick shade. One of the most popular reactions to the video was the angry face, and almost all of the comments were protesting MAC’s animal testing policy. And I keep seeing these types of comments everywhere. Social media pressure has prompted L’Oreal to update their website to say that the company “no longer tests on animals any of its products or any of its ingredients, anywhere in the world“—a completely misleading statement that is later contradicted by “an exception could only be made if regulatory authorities demanded it for safety or regulatory purposes,” meaning that they still sell in China. For companies like MAC and L’Oreal who want to sell their products in places like China where they have to allow the government to perform animal tests on their products, there isn’t an easy solution. However, whether it’s the international policies or the company values that change, I have hope that the pressure will continue to build and soon force real change instead of empty words.