Though most of us would agree we want our skincare products to be cruelty-free, not everyone actually takes the time to research the companies we buy from. Unless that Leaping Bunny logo is staring you in the face, it’s easy to hope for the best and continue using your favorite mascara or face wash. Thankfully, more and more companies are saying no to animal testing and creating effective, conscious skincare, making it easier than ever to go cruelty-free.
What Is Cruelty-Free Skin Care?
In a nutshell, cruelty-free skincare means the products are never tested on animals. Unfortunately, cosmetic animal testing is still pretty common, especially among big beauty brands. And despite the fact that it’s banned in other places like the EU and India, it’s permitted by the FDA.
How to Know if a Skincare Product Is Cruelty-Free
There is no legal definition for the term cruelty-free, which means just because something says “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals” doesn’t mean that's necessarily true. The FDA doesn’t regulate or verify these claims, so a company can claim to never test its products on animals when, in actuality, it uses third-party labs that do or buys animal-tested ingredients from suppliers.
To find out if a product is truly cruelty-free, check if the brand is in the Leaping Bunny database or look for its certified bunny logo. Just beware that not all rabbits are the same. Some companies slap unofficial bunnies on their label to make it look like their products are cruelty-free.
Another way to verify? Reach out to the brand directly—but be sure to go beyond just, “Are you cruelty-free?” Ask if their ingredients are tested on animals, if they use third parties that do animal testing, and if they test their products on animals when required by law.
The Difference Between Vegan and Cruelty-Free Skincare
The words vegan and cruelty-free are sometimes used interchangeably when it comes to skincare, but they don’t actually mean the same thing. If a beauty product is vegan, that means it doesn’t contain any animal or animal-derived ingredients (honey, beeswax, shellac, tallow, lanolin, etc.) But it doesn’t say anything about how the product was made. A vegan brand may still test its products on animals.
It goes the other way too. Skincare that is cruelty-free is not tested on animals, but it can still contain animal-based ingredients. Of course, a vegan company may be more likely to care about treating animals humanely, which is why many brands create vegan, cruelty-free products. However, it’s important to understand that the terms describe different things, especially if vegan and cruelty-free skincare is important to you.
4 Reasons You Should Go Cruelty-Free
1. Animal testing is harmful to animals.
Each year, more than half a million animals suffer and die from cosmetics testing—and that statistic likely leaves out thousands upon thousands of lab-bred mice and rats, who are not technically considered “animals” when it comes to protection from abuse. Sadly, many of these tests are extremely painful and subject animals to irritants, force feeding, and even lethal doses of chemicals.
2. Animal testing is unnecessary and unreliable.
It’s true: Animal testing isn’t even necessary. There are thousands of cosmetic ingredients that have been proven safe and don’t require additional testing. Not only that, but we now have many non-animal testing alternatives that can be cheaper, more efficient, and even more accurate. As with all animal tests, testing bodycare products on anything other than humans can lead to inaccurate results. For one, mice, rats, and rabbits are not people, and they process chemicals very differently. Secondly, they are often given extremely high doses of each ingredient, unlike us humans, who usually consume or absorb them in small amounts. Some of these alternative testing methods, on the other hand, use human cells, making them much more precise.
3. Cruelty-free skincare is better for your skin.
Many cruelty-free skincare products are made from natural, plant-based ingredients that have already been proven to be safe. And not only that, but they are also just as effective, even for troublesome skin. For example, if you’re looking for cruelty-free skincare for acne, seek out clean beauty options that contain ingredients like willow bark (to help unclog pores) and glycolic acid (to exfoliate dead skin cells). Or, if you need cruelty-free skincare for oily skin, try products that contain niacinamide (vitamin B3, which helps absorb excess oil) and hyaluronic acid (a lightweight moisturizer).
4. Cruelty-free skincare is better for the environment.
By choosing cruelty-free skincare, you’re also protecting our planet. In addition to using up tons of energy, animal testing facilities discard millions of dead animals and hazardous materials every year, which is polluting our air and water and contaminating our soil. Some cruelty-free brands even go so far as to use sustainable ingredients and minimal or eco-friendly packaging.