Why your favourite beauty brands are STILL being tested on animals - even though it’s been banned in the UK since 1997 (2023)

YOU probably think that testing beauty products on animals is a thing of the past.

The days of rabbits having shampoo dropped into their eyes, or shaved lab rats having makeup applied to their bare skin are long gone, right?


Well, the truth is that not only does this sort of testing still exist in 2018, but some of your favourite brands could be being tested on animals in China, right now.

Government animal testing is the price that the likes of Clinique, Lancome, Kiehl’s, L’Oreal Paris, Olay, Nivea, Mac, Cremedela Mer, Dior, Caudalie, Benefit and many, many more knowingly pay for access to the Chinese beauty market.

These brands don't do the testing themselves and it's not happening in the UK, where animal testing has been banned since 1997.

In fact, all major beauty brands say they are staunchly against animal testing - but they can't escape it when they start selling in China, where the law requires allimported beauty products to be tested on animals by a government health agency.


Under Chinese legislation, any beauty product manufactured outside the country must be tested on animals before it hits the shelves - and that could include products by your favourite cruelty-free brands.

And any cosmetic sold there, regardless of where it’s made, can be subject to additional government testing, which may include testing on animals.

It’s true that the companies don't carry out the tests themselves, but basically any beauty brand that wants to sell to China accepts there's a possibility their products will be tested on animals - and they pay the regulatory fees which fund these tests.

And for many animal-loving beauty fans, that’s simply a technicality — and not one they’re prepared to overlook.



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When, last June, makeup brand Nars announced plans to move into China, their fans took to social media saying they were "disappointed", "disgusted", "heartbroken" that a brand that had previously touted itself as “cruelty-free” would “condone such miserable, ugly, barbaric tests.”

“Social media has forced a certain amount of transparency on the industry,” says Jane Cunningham ofBritishBeautyBlogger.com.

“People know that it’s not essential to test cosmetics on animals, they can easily find out when brands are colluding with this practise, and they won’t just be vocal about it, they’ll vote with their feet.”

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Customer Backlash

In fact a customer backlash can change things — in 2012, after a public outcry, cosmetics brand Urban Decay backtracked on their plans to move intoChina.

But why ARE so many brands prepared to risk their reputation in the rest of the world?

The answer boils down to money: Chinais a huge market for thebeautyindustry.



In fact, in 2016 a Morgan Stanley report states that China is now “the world's largestbeautymarket”, representing almost 20 per cent of the globalmarket.

That makes it a bigger market than the US (around 17 per cent) and way bigger than the UK (just under four per cent.)

And if you want to put a cold hard cash figure on it, research firm Mintel forecasts thatChina'sbeautyretail market will be worth over £38 billion by 2020.

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Vegan beauty

With the rise in veganism, consumers don’t just want cruelty-free, they want vegan too.

In fact, in the last year, sales of high end vegan products have leapt by 38 per cent according to researchers.

That means more and more people are searching out products without common cosmetic ingredients such as honey, beeswax, silk powder and lanolin.

Increasingly, brands are stepping up to the challenge — all of the brands on our cruelty-free list have vegan products (some are flagged on the websites, others you may have to email to ask) while e.l.f. and Skyn Iceland sell only vegan products.

Expect to see more brands taking this route as demand for vegan beauty soars.

Colossal cosmetics brands

All of the major companies we spoke to for this article said they believed that eliminating animal testing entirely was the right thing to do, and that they were committed to working with theChineseauthorities to show them that there were reliable, non-animal alternatives to prove the safety of cosmetic products.

And if you don’t like it, you can of course boycott companies who sell in China, but that’s not as straightforward as you'd think.


Not least because about seven global companies own around 200 of the world’s biggest brands.

So you might buy Urban Decay (cruelty-free logo, not sold in China), but it’s owned by L’Oreal who own other brands, such as Maybelline, La Roche-Posay and Kiehl’s that are sold in China.

Or eco-loving brand Aveda, not sold in China but owned by Estee Lauder Companies (ELC).

That'll be the Estee Lauder that's one of China's biggest beauty brands.

It’s also why fans of “cruelty-free” company Deciem, who make The Ordinary, Niod and Hand Chemistry, were furious when they took investment from ELC last year.


Even vegan Kat Von D’s beauty line is problematic for purists.

It’s owned by a company called Kendo, which is a part of LVMH, a mega company whose Dior perfume goes down a storm in China.

You might think that the cruelty-free Leaping Bunny symbol was a pointer, but actually that can be awarded to brands who sell inChina, as long as they are manufactured there and are one of the products that doesn’t require pre-sales safety testing on animals.

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That’s because Cruelty Free International, the organisation behind the certification, says: “Although in theory possible, post market surveillance is something we have yet no real evidence of taking place.”

And almost all “cruelty-free” certifications look at just the individual brand rather than the parent company, meaning you could be buying a brand that’s classed as cruelty-free and making money for a company that does sell in China.

What brands say about animal testing

Johnson & Johnson:The company "does not test cosmetic or personal care products on animals anywhere in the world except in the rare situation where it is required by law or governments."

L'Oreal:"L'Oreal no longer tests its ingredients on animals and no longer tolerates any exception to this rule.

"Certain health authorities may nevertheless decide to conduct animal tests themselves for certain cosmetic products, as it is still the case in China.

"L’Oréal has been the most active company working alongside the Chinese authorities and scientists for over 10 years to have alternative testing methods recognized."

Coty:"We do not perform, nor do we ever commission any third parties on our behalf to perform, testing of our products or ingredients on animals, except where required by law.
"It is common knowledge that China requires mandatory animal tests on all cosmetic products imported into the country. We continue to be involved in the dialogue with the Chinese authoritiesto replace animal tests with alternatives."

P&G:"We do not test our products or ingredients on animals anywhere in the world unless required by law. We are working hard to make it obsolete.

"We have been closely collaborating with international experts and the Chinese authorities on the acceptance of safety assessments using non-animal tests."

Unilever:"We do not test our products on animals and are committed to ending animal testing.

"Occasionally, when there are no suitable non-animal approaches available, some of the ingredients we use have to be tested by our suppliers to comply with relevant regulations; and some governments test our products on animals as part of their regulatory requirements."

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Estee Lauder: "The Estée Lauder Companies does not test on animals and we never ask others to do so on our behalf. If a regulatory body demands it for its safety or regulatory assessment, an exception can be made.

"We will continue to work in close partnership with industry, government and non-profit groups in countries that require animal testing to work together towards the elimination of this practice and the global acceptance of non-animal testing methods."


Why do cosmetic companies still test on animals? ›

It remains the responsibility of the manufacturer to substantiate the safety of both ingredients and finished cosmetic products prior to marketing. Animal testing by manufacturers seeking to market new products may be used to establish product safety.

Why is animal testing still happening? ›

Scientists study animals when there is no alternative and it is impractical or unethical to study humans. Animals are good research subjects for a variety of reasons. They are biologically similar to humans and susceptible to many of the same health problems.

Do cosmetic companies still test on animals? ›

According to a survey among the 50 largest cosmetic brands in the world, 88% of them are not cruelty-free. This means that 44 of the 50 largest cosmetic brands test on animals themselves or have them tested by third parties."

How are beauty products tested if not on animals? ›

In Vitro Techniques

“In vitro” is the scientific term for cosmetics testing techniques that use human cell- and tissue-based models. Scientists culture human cells to test substances, growing them in a laboratory dish.

Why should animal testing not be banned? ›

Animal testing contributes to life-saving cures and treatments. Animal testing is crucial to ensure that vaccines are safe. There is no adequate alternative to testing on a living, whole-body system. Animals are appropriate research subjects because they are similar to human beings in many ways.

Do you think that animal testing should be banned? ›

Although humans often benefit from successful animal research, the pain, the suffering, and the deaths of animals are not worth the possible human benefits. Therefore, animals should not be used in research or to test the safety of products.

What percent of cosmetic companies test on animals? ›

Of the 50 largest cosmetics companies ranked by market value as per Brand Finance in 2021, we found that 88% fund animal testing. This means that of these 50 companies, 44 are not cruelty-free.

What percent of animals survive cosmetic testing? ›

What percentage of animal tests fail? The National Institutes of Health recognize that approximately 95% of all drug safety experiments on animals fail in human trials.

Do animals feel pain during animal testing? ›

There's no doubt that animals can experience pain and distress as a result of being used in experiments - but there also are many other causes of suffering that must be acknowledged and dealt with.


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