The True Meaning of Cruelty-Free in The Beauty Industry
When you see “Cruelty Free” claim on beauty products, you think “the product and ingredients are not tested on animals”. The bunny logo, certificate from third parties, means it. But what we really want is that all cosmetic products we use every day are not harming anyone. It is not about only animal testing. While “Cruelty Free” is one of the information most people look for, the common knowledge about animal testing needs to be updated. The truth is that cosmetic products and ingredients have not been tested on animals for quite some time except products imported into China. We are ending animal testing. Instead, we should learn more about other important issues, package waste, deforestation, ocean pollution, poor labor conditions, and more.
Animal testing for cosmetics
Did you know there is no regulations or definition of cruelty free? Cruelty-Free certificates are given when the finished product and ingredients are not tested on animals. With this definition, cruelty-free cosmetic is like cruelty-free bottled water… You don’t need to say it because it is normal unless you are in China. Only when you are exporting special cosmetics such as hair dyes, sunscreens, and anti-hair loss product, into China, animal testing is required. The products made in China for oversea market don’t need animal testing. So, even if your product is made in China, it hasn’t been tested on animals.
Most products and ingredients produced today are no longer tested on animals. However, we tested many ingredients on animals in the past when we didn’t have many other methods to ensure the ingredient is safe for cosmetics. We cannot change what has already done.
Animal testing vs human testing
You might be wondering how cruelty free products are tested. Are cruelty free products safe? We have many other ways to test ingredients and finished products. A focus group test performed on volunteers, testing on human tissues donated from the donors, computer analysis, all are more cost effective and give more accurate results than animal testing. You see there is no reason even large companies will want to do animal testing unless they have to export special cosmetic products into China.
Does cruelty free mean vegan?
Cruelty free is not equal to vegan. Vegan products don’t contain any ingredients sourced from animals. For example, beeswax, honey, lanoline, and carmine (the red pigment for lipsticks and eye shadows) are not vegan. The product can be both vegan and cruelty free or can be cruelty free with animal-derived ingredients.
“Dose cruelty-free mean anything when animal testing no longer exists?”
What cruelty free means?
We believe you look for “cruelty-free” products because you want to be sure that the product is made without harming anyone. Products we consume shouldn’t leave any trace in the environment when disposing them as well. In reality though, this is not easy to achieve.
Let’s say vegan is better because we don’t take anything out of animals. But while we grow crops such as rapeseed, cacao, coconut, lavender, and many other plants used for cosmetics, many animals including insects are killed by accident, pesticides or in the process. So, vegan or palm-oil free doesn’t mean cruelty-free. This challenge is not only for cosmetics but also in other areas of our life. Harvesting enough plants for our food without damaging the environment is very closely related.
Many cosmetic ingredients are harvested and processed in countries where labor working conditions are poor. For example, mica (shiny power for eyeshadows and lip glosses) is mined from the ground in India by children to support their family. Many mining sites are illegal, and people are aware of the danger. But they have no other better way to put food on the table other than mining mica. There are many other stories like this, and the solution is not easy as boycotting those materials.
In beauty industry, there are regulations to restrict the use of ingredients in cosmetic products. This ensure the products are safe for us to use. But this doesn’t mean they are safe when they accumulate in the environment for years. Especially microplastic contents in some ingredients such as glitters and manicures can be toxic. The research in this area is still immature and we need to keep an eye on the updates.
Packaging has been the biggest issue with beauty products. For personal care and beauty products only, more than 120 billion units of packaging is made every year globally. Plastic bottles, tubes, and jars are breaking in small pieces and accumulating in the environment. Animals (including humans) ingest them via water and food and causing health issues. There is not enough research done to know the impact of microplastics to our body yet.
Achieving “cruelty free” is a big challenge. We consider all processes related to our product and operations with our best knowledge and capability at the time. We choose the best possible ways that benefits to you, the environment, and our business for the entire product life cycle. (This is why we don’t choose to go palm oil free.) We currently don’t use plastic because there isn’t a good system to recycle all plastics. However, we may have systems and plastic is no longer a problem in the future. If that happens, the best solution to deliver beauty products will be very different.
There is a lot going into one cosmetic product and it is difficult to know all. But we all just need to be conscious about what we do, keep learning, and make conscious decisions.
Vegan Makeup Products From Cruelty-Free Brands - https://www.peta.org/living/personal-care-fashion/cruelty-free-vegan-makeup/#:~:text=For%20people%20looking%20to%20cut,include%20any%20animal%2Dderived%20ingredients.The Ugly Side of Beauty - https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/blog/the-cosmetics-industrys-plastic-packaging-problem