Chapter 5: Animal Testing: The true cost of Beauty


“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” ― George Orwell, Animal Farm

What is the one product that comes to your mind when I say the word – Beauty?

Did I make you think about your favorite red lipstick, the one that enhances your smiles in pictures, or the voluminous mascara that charms your eyelashes or the depth of the dark black kohl you just cannot do without or the skincare products you religiously apply to achieve a healthy glowy skin. These are just a few of the staple for any beauty lover, even if you are not one, you at least have one of these in your vanity. Beauty products just like fashion have become a necessity. With thousands of options to choose from, to variety of cosmetic products that almost confuse you, beauty industry has trapped you almost perfectly.

According to Statista, “The Beauty & Personal Care market revenue worldwide amounts to US$ 564,438m in 2022. The market is expected to grow annually by 4.76% (CAGR 2022-2026).”

As per a report published on Statista ‘Value of the beauty and personal care market worldwide in 2020’, “United States was the largest beauty and personal care market in the world, valued at over 93 billion US$. China was second largest with a market value of 71 billion US$”

While cosmetics have become an integral part of our daily lives, there is still a plethora of information we don’t know and understand about the beauty industry. One of them being – Animal Testing.

According to Human Society International, “Animal testing refers to procedures performed on living animals for purposes of research into basic biology and diseases, assessing the effectiveness of new medicinal products, and testing the human health and/or environmental safety of consumer and industry products such as cosmetics, household cleaners, food additives, pharmaceuticals and industrial/agro-chemicals.”

According to information published on Cruelty Free International website, “A report from the European Commission shows that 12.3 million experiments were conducted on animals across the EU in 2018. A total of 2.9 million experiments were completed in Great Britain during 2020.”

Animals used for testing include rabbits, rats, pigs, owls, baboons, cats, cows, dogs, ferrets, fish, frogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses, llamas, mice, monkeys (such as marmosets and macaques), quail, and sheep. These animals are kept in cages, treated with harmful chemicals that eventually do no prove to be useful for humans.

“The history of cancer research has been the history of curing cancer in the mouse. We have cured mice of cancer for decades and it simply didn’t work in human beings.” – Dr. Richard Klausner, former director of the US National Cancer Institute

As per information published on Cruelty Free International, ” 92% of drugs fail in human trials even though they passed preclinical tests (including animal tests) – whether on safety grounds or because they do not work.”

This brings me to the question if animal testing isn’t working why is it still being performed? Especially when it comes to cosmetics, with technology by our side, why are we relying on methods that are inadequate?

According to Cruelty Free International,” Animal tests include dripping cosmetics chemicals into animals’ eyes, shaving their fur and rubbing them into their exposed skin or forcing them down their throats. Once the tests are over, the animals will be killed and dissected.”

Animals do not develop the same diseases that humans do. The science of animal testing is ineffective. The reaction a cosmetic could have on an animal could be completely unrelated/ may not translate to humans or vice-versa, making the whole process of testing on animals pretty pointless. Animals go through great amount of pain and suffering during the process that causes them skin irritation, eye irritation, swollen eyes, distress, blindness, organ damage, bleeding and more. If the animals somehow survive the cruelty of these experiments, they are eventually killed without any pain relief generally through the process of decapitation, neck-breaking, or asphyxiation.

Animal testing in the cosmetic industry can take place when the brands are developing new ingredients to understand the reaction it could have on humans or during the formulation of a product or the testing of the final product. To avoid this people now look for brands and products that are “Cruelty Free”.

Cruelty free beauty simply means that the cosmetics are not tested on animals. It signifies that the ingredients, formulations, products manufactured by the brand are not tested on animals during any stage of its development and production anywhere in the world.

A brand can be both Cruelty-free and Vegan if they specify that they don’t test on animals and don’t contain animal derived ingredients

Globally, 41 countries have passed laws to ban or restrict animal testing on cosmetic ingredients and cosmetics, including all countries in the European Union, Australia, Colombia, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Kingdom and several states in Brazil.

However, this does not necessarily mean that all brands selling in these countries are cruelty free. A global brand that sells in one of these countries may also be selling in a country that requires animal testing. China for example is one of the only countries to have mandatory animal testing laws on cosmetics.

Any brand that states it doesn’t test on animals except ‘when required by law’ means that the brand has been selling itself in a country that requires animal testing, mainly China. Animal testing anywhere in the world by a particular brand is still animal testing.

These can also be used as questions to ask a brand if you are unsure of their cruelty free status. For example –

  • Do you sell in any country that requires mandatory animal testing by law?
  • Does any of your supplier engage in animal testing at any stage of the product development and manufacturing?
  • Are any of your ingredients tested on animals?

The answer to all these questions should be a NO to prove a brand’s cruelty free credibility.

Alternatively, one of the easiest ways is to look if the brand is certified by an organization like PETA, Leaping Bunny, Cruelty Free International. Leaping Bunny Program requires that no new animal testing be used in any phase of product development by the company, its laboratories, or ingredient suppliers.

While these are the only logos you should trust, be wary of uncertified fake logos that do not have any credibility and are used to fool customers.

China has been evolving and ever changing in regards to its animal testing laws. However, when it comes to the country being entirely cruelty free, it is still a long road. Last year, China announced a new set of animal testing laws which I will explain below along with its previous laws that still apply. Since China is the only country with mandated animal testing, these evolving laws have a significant role in the cosmetic industry.

  • Pre-Market Testing

Pre-market testing means testing on cosmetics before they can enter the Chinese market to be sold in the Mainland China stores. Earlier, all brands that were importing into China to sell into the Mainland China stores were required to go through animal testing. However, with the changing laws. Cosmetics have been divided into two categories – General (also known as Ordinary cosmetics) and Special use cosmetics.

While all special use cosmetics are required to go through mandated Pre-Market animal testing to be imported into China, General use cosmetics however can bypass animal testing with certain exceptions:

  • Products designed and intended to be used by infants and/or Children
  • Products that contain a ‘new ingredient’ during their 3 year monitoring period
  • The notifier/RP/manufacturer is listed as a key supervision target according to the results of the quantitative rating system established by National Medical Products Administration (NMPA)

The above-mentioned products are required to be tested on animals to be able to enter the market.

General cosmetics can be exempted from animal market testing requirements if they can:

  1. Provide a Good Manufacturing Product (GMP) certificate issued by the government authority of the country where the product is manufactured. This also means that a brand that has been manufacturing in more than one country will require to submit GMP certificate from all the countries it plans to sell into China’s physical stores.
  1. Provide safety assessment result that can prove the full safety of the products.

While these steps have made a pathway for brands to establish and sell their products physically in China while also trying to stay cruelty free, it is not necessarily an easy road to access these certificates and safety measures. UK and French government last year announced they have launched digital platforms to provide the brands in their countries with GMP certificate and other required approvals that would allow the brands to establish themselves in the Chinese market. However, the NMPA established that it will not be pre-approving any GMP certificates. So far, there has been no news of any brand having successfully entered China through the above process of accessing certificates.

A brand selling both special and general cosmetics cannot be considered cruelty free because brands are seen as whole and not through each of their products.

  • Post-Market Testing

Post-Market testing means that the products sold in Mainland China stores can anytime be pulled from shelves for testing, to check for product authenticity and its consistency with what is in the records. Testing can also be conducted against a consumer complaint of a brand or its products. In case a brand or its product is pulled up for testing, the brand has the freewill to recall its products from China.

Although Post-Market testing is now being considered a rare occurrence and even rarer occurrence is the use of animals in the testing process. It is still isn’t a guarantee. It is still a possibility because Chinese laws do not explicitly exclude the use of Animals for Post-Market testing. Since, it isn’t a complete guarantee that animals will never be used for post market testing, cruelty free consumers do not find it to be fit enough to support such brands.

  • Some other important laws:
  1. In 2014 China passed a regulation, that allows brand to skip animal testing on import if the products are manufactured in China itself. Wet n Wild for an example, manufactures and sells in china.
    However, there is still a possibility of Post-Market testing if these brands sell in Mainland China Stores. Hence, these brands are not considered cruelty-free by cruelty free advocates.
  1. Cosmetics that are made in China are not tested on animals as long as they are not sold in the Mainland China stores. Made in China is NOT equal to tested on animals. Made in China does not mean it has been tested on animals. Elf cosmetics for example, is manufactured in China but since it does not sell in Mainland China, it is a cruelty free brand.
  1. Cosmetics that are sold in Hong Kong and Macau do not require animal testing.
  1. If a brand is selling its cosmetics into Mainland China via cross border E-commerce through the brands own website or China’s e commerce platform like T-Mall, Taobao, it does not require to be tested on animals.

Animal testing has been a long part of China’s cosmetic industry. The current Chinese laws are making slow progress towards a cruelty free cosmetic world. While China is the only country with established laws on animal testing, it may not be the only country conducting animal testing. Post market animal testing can also be performed in U.S and other countries against any complaints or issues.

As per an article published about a new analysis in The Guardian, “Hundreds of cosmetic products sold in the UK and Europe contain ingredients that have been tested on animals, despite bans that outlawed such testing years ago. Banned tests were performed on ingredients used in products including moisturizers, lipsticks, sunscreen and hair conditioner, the analysis found, with more than 100 separate experiments performed on animals including mice and rabbits.”

There are well researched options available in the market that do not require testing on animals. The alternative testing options like In Vitro testing require testing on human cell cultures and tissues, Silico Models use advanced computerized techniques, and human volunteers are always a choice. Animals shouldn’t be kept in cages, applied with your favorite mascara, rubbed with your favorite perfume just to learn if it will not cause any adverse effects on humans. These products are meant for human consumption and it only seems fair for them to be tested through other methods that do not involve animals to establish their efficacy. The money spent of animal testing can easily be diverted into research of better technologies that could make human lives easier.

There are multiple reasons why one should or shouldn’t shop from brands that are cruelty free but their parent companies aren’t. But that’s your choice to make.
These brands and their Parent companies both are cruelty free

When it comes to Cruelty Free Beauty in 2022 no brand can fully be entrusted unless they can provide the necessary proof of their cruelty free status. It eventually comes down to an individual choice and what cruelty free beauty will mean for each individual. It is a simple yet difficult choice, to choose whether your beauty products are worth it all? Indulge in cruelty free beauty & see your beauty shine through!

“Science without conscience is the soul’s perdition.” – Francois Rabelais



10 comments on “Chapter 5: Animal Testing: The true cost of Beauty”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s