Was Your Makeup Tested On Animals? We Analyzed Popular Beauty Brands
Ever wondered what that little white rabbit on the back of beauty product packaging is all about?
No, you’re not Alice being led down the rabbit hole—although what it symbolizes does reveal an ugly truth about the beauty industry.
Many of the makeup brands you may know and love have a dirty secret: they use helpless (and adorable) animals in cruel experiments. You read that right: the industry geared towards helping people look and feel their best performs cruel experiments on loveable creatures.
If this doesn’t sit right with you, you’re not alone. The good news is that not all brands conduct animal testing—and these brands are the ones that bear bunny labels. You can choose not to support animal testing when shopping for your next lipstick or serum by only purchasing products with a white rabbit label. And lucky for you, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of cruelty-free beauty brands to help you on your way.
Pssst, here’s a secret: if you don’t feel like navigating the often confusing world of cruelty-free brands, sign up for a Kinder Beauty Box, where everything is 100% cruelty-free and vegan. There are no animal-based ingredients here!
What Does Cruelty-Free Mean?
The cruelty-free labels found on cosmetic packaging can mean that companies do not test their own products on animals; do not request other companies conduct animal testing; do not sell to places where it’s legally required; and do not use any ingredients that were tested on animals.
But what could be so cruel about testing a little mascara on an animal, you might ask? Cruelty is certainly not a word to toss around lightly, but when it comes to animal testing, it is justified.
Adorable, innocent animals like mice and rabbits are restrained and exposed to various chemicals to gauge their bodies’ reactions. One notorious experiment involves dripping chemicals into the eyes of rabbits, which as you can imagine causes excruciating pain. Laboratory animals are not given any pain relievers either.
What makes all of this abuse even more outrageous is that animal testing is no longer necessary. Computer modeling, or technologies involving real human cells, can effectively replace animal testing and have been around for a long while. There’s simply no longer a need to test cosmetics on animals.
Fortunately, animal testing is becoming less popular thanks in part to consumers who are demanding products that don’t involve animal suffering. Animal testing for cosmetics has been banned in the European Union since 2009, and India, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia have also implemented bans. The United States no longer makes animal testing a requirement, and several states have banned the practice as well.
But the situation in the US is not so cut-and-dried. Even though testing is not legally required, this doesn’t mean that all cosmetics sold in the country are cruelty-free. For one thing, there is no set legal definition of "cruelty-free" in the US, meaning that brands can use the term even if it isn’t technically true.
And companies are free to continue testing if they choose, or ask other companies to do testing on their behalf—a sneaky way of getting other businesses to do their dirty work while duping customers into believing that products are totally cruelty-free when they’re not. Some companies can use ingredients that are tested on animals, even if their final products are not, and still claim to not test on animals.
Then there’s China, a country that continues to require testing for many types of imported cosmetics. Any US company wishing to sell products in mainland China must continue animal testing. And because China represents such a huge market, many US companies are keen to do business there, giving rise to lots of animal testing.
It’s important to note that Chinese consumers are not to blame for these policies, and in fact are increasingly opting for cruelty-free brands—which places pressure on companies and regulators alike.
Voting with your wallet is one of the most effective ways you can bring important issues to the attention of companies that have a laser focus on bottom lines, and the beauty industry is no different. This is why it’s so important to keep an eye out for the white rabbit until animal testing is abolished entirely.
There are no federally-run cruelty-free labels in the US, so it’s a good thing that other organizations have stepped up to the plate. We’ll look at two commonly used labels in North America and what they mean.
The Leaping Bunny program is run by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics and is a rigorous program requiring companies to pledge to completely end all animal testing throughout every stage of product development.
One crucial component of this label is the third-party auditing system that sees all certified companies regularly reviewed to ensure compliance with the label’s stringent standards. Companies must also recommit to the program’s standards every year—so it’s much more involved than simply being certified once and then riding upon that certification for years.
It’s all too easy for companies to slide back into using animal-tested ingredients, or moving into markets that legally require animal testing; the Leaping Bunny certification strives to ensure companies are actually cruelty-free as long as they bear the label.
Leaping Bunny currently maintains a list of over 2000 different brands ranging from cosmetics to household products. So anytime you see their logo, you can rest assured that no animals were treated cruelly in laboratories in the making of those products.
Global Beauty Without Bunnies
The Global Beauty Without Bunnies program is run by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). This well-known nonprofit maintains a searchable online database that allows consumers to search for brands that have been certified as cruelty-free, meaning brands do not conduct or commission any tests on animals, nor do their suppliers.
While PETA’s certification has been running since the 1980s, it does not conduct routine audits in order to ensure companies are complying with the labels’ qualifications, nor does it require an annual recommitment. For these reasons, this label is a bit less trustworthy than Leaping Bunny. Still, seeing a PETA label on a product means that animal testing is less likely to have occurred than if there is no label at all.
Does Cruelty-free Mean Vegan?
The short answer is no: finding a cruelty-free label on a product does not necessarily mean it is vegan. This might seem counterintuitive since the process of turning animals into consumable goods can also result in a lot of suffering. But cruelty-free labels pertain only to animal testing (not to products or ingredients).
Unfortunately, many well-known ingredients used in makeup and beauty products are derived from animals. You’ve probably heard of squalene: great for moisturizing skin, reducing fine lines, and can be found in lipsticks, foundations, and sunscreens—but did you know squalene is shark liver oil?!
Gelatin, another common ingredient in face creams and body lotions can be made from any combination of cow or pig bones, tendons, or ligaments. Animal urine can even be lurking in your products under the name of allantoin (no, really). But there are many vegan versions of animal-derived compounds that work just as effectively.
If a product is made without animals, it will usually indicate this somewhere on the label. Watch out for a green V or other similar certifications when perusing your favorite brands.
An excellent one-stop-shop for all things both vegan and cruelty-free is Kinder Beauty—our boxes will never have any products that use even a single animal ingredient. We love vegan beauty, cruelty-free beauty, and clean beauty—and we're all about all three.
Do These Popular Beauty Brands Test on Animals?
We’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is that there are plenty of amazing brands on our list that are committed to furbaby welfare. But, there are also some well-known and beloved companies that are majorly missing the mark. This comprehensive list will help you navigate the often convoluted and confusing world of cruelty-free brands and show you how easy it is to replace those cruel brands with kinder choices.
Is Dove Cruelty-Free?
Dove appears not to test products on animals in the US and has taken pains to not sell products in China that will require animal testing.
But taking a broader view of Dove, the company is owned by Unilever, a massive conglomerate with an expansive portfolio of brands and products—some of which do conduct animal testing. Unilever also has a litany of other eyebrow-raising practices, including worker and environmental abuses that make this company’s brands tough to support.
Is Benefit Cruelty-Free?
Benefit’s FAQ page makes it clear it’s opposed to animal testing and that it uses non-animal methods for testing as it develops new products. However, it does sell to China, meaning that some of its products are tested on animals subject to Chinese law.
Is Clinique Cruelty-Free?
You won’t find a white bunny on Clinique’s packaging. The language on its website indicates that testing occurs when required by law—something that many other brands manage to avoid. Clinique also sells to the Chinese market, so testing can occur both in the US and overseas.
Is Colourpop Cruelty-Free?
If you love some Colourpop in your life, then rejoice! This is a cruelty-free brand. As per its website, the only testing it does is on the humans in the headquarters (sign us up?!). Colourpop doesn’t sell to China and doesn’t ask other companies to do testing for them, so this is one brand you can purchase with a clear conscience.
Is Olay Cruelty-Free?
Mark Olay with a big red X, because this company fails the test when it comes to being a cruelty-free brand. To Olay’s credit, animal testing is only done in order to comply with China’s laws, and it has developed alternative methods of testing (such as “lab skins”, yummy!) and invests in cruelty-free research.
But Olay’s parent company, Procter & Gamble, is guilty as sin when it comes to animal testing (although it seems to be trying to move in the right direction). Add to this the fact that it is destroying forests to make toilet paper and palm oil, and Procter & Gamble—including Olay—is not worthy of your hard-earned dollars.
Is Maybelline Cruelty-Free?
Maybe you’re hoping that Maybelline is cruelty-free, but we’ve got some bad news for you. This is another one of those brands that states it no longer tests on animals except “if regulatory authorities demanded it for safety or regulatory purposes.” Unfortunately, that’s just not good enough since it means animals are still being tested, either by Maybelline itself or companies it works with. We hope Maybelline will do better!
Is bareMinerals Cruelty-Free?
bareMinerals bills itself as “clean beauty”—something that is especially true since it does not have the blood of laboratory animals on its hands! This company is 100% cruelty-free, and the majority of its products are vegan too according to the website. One caveat is that some of its brushes are made from pony and goat hair, but the company claims that no animals are harmed in the making of these brushes.
Is Fenty Cruelty-Free?
Fenty rocked the beauty community by embracing diversity and offering concealers and foundations that work for any skin tone. This progressive stance is reflected within their animal testing policy as well. Fenty does not test products on animals nor uses ingredients that were animal-tested. And many of its products are vegan to boot, although some contain ingredients including carmine (tiny little beetles that are crushed up to make the color red) and beeswax.
Is Nars Cruelty-Free?
It’s a sad situation whenever the white bunny label is removed from packaging. Nars was once a cruelty-free brand, but in 2017 the company decided to enter the Chinese market, where animal testing is required for its products. Nars states that it does not support animal testing, but those feel like empty words when some of its products are being tested where it’s required by law.
Is Neutrogena Cruelty-Free?
Neutrogena is another brand that is owned by an ethically dubious mega-corporation—in this case, Johnson & Johnson, which does conduct tests on animals, albeit not on cosmetics. Even if Neutrogena weren’t associated with J&J, it would still fail to pass the cruelty-free test, since it makes exceptions where testing is required by law.
Is Tarte Cruelty-Free?
Three cheers for Tarte for being a certifiably cruelty-free brand! For over two decades the company has not tested on animals or requested others to test on its behalf. And because its products are not sold in China, there are no regulatory requirements for testing either. Tarte also boasts a wide range of “vegan-friendly” products.
The only drawback is that Tarte’s parent company, Kose, does test on animals when legally required.
Is Too Faced Cruelty-Free?
Too Faced has long been a cruelty-free brand, but fans and animal lovers alike became nervous when Estee Lauder, which does test on animals, acquired the company in 2016. Many worried that Too Faced would be compelled to follow in the footsteps of its new parent and begin animal testing.
But concerns were allayed when the company continued to emphasize its commitment to being cruelty-free—a commitment that continues to this day. Plus you can find a bunch of vegan products on their site for a totally animal-friendly experience!
Is Urban Decay Cruelty-Free?
Urban Decay is another good option for cruelty-free cosmetics. The company does not test on animals, even when regulations demand it (meaning they avoid selling to places that do demand it, including China). And it scores extra points by offering a wide selection of entirely vegan products.
A small caveat is that, like many of the other companies on our list, Urban Decay is owned by L’Oreal, which does test on animals.
Is Nyx Cruelty-Free?
Don’t nix Nyx off of your beauty list, because this is a cruelty-free brand! Nyx doesn’t test on animals or sell to places that require testing. Even after their 2014 acquisition by L’Oreal, which does test on animals, Nyx remained committed to producing cosmetics that are 100% cruelty-free.
Bonus points to Nyx for also offering some vegan products, however they also sell products that contain animal ingredients such as lanoline, also known as wool yolk (gross), a type of grease secreted by the skin of sheep (also gross).
Is Cover Girl Cruelty-Free?
Easy, breezy, beautiful… cruelty-free! Cover Girl is one of those household name brands that you can find in pretty much any drugstore in North America—so it's excellent that these products are not tested on animals! Cover Girl wasn’t always cruelty-free, but the company now proudly proclaims its certification with Leaping Bunny and has helped the cosmetics industry take a big bunny-hop toward a future without any animal testing at all.
Alas, Cover Girl’s parent company, Coty, remains a bit of a thorny issue since it does test on animals. Hopefully, Coty will follow the lead of Cover Girl and help create a future of even more cruelty-free brands.
Is Burt’s Bees Cruelty-Free?
Burt’s Bees is the bees knees when it comes to being cruelty-free! While not vegan, given the beeswax that is their namesake, this company is proudly against animal testing anywhere, for any reason. Burt’s Bees products are available in China, however only via ecommerce—a sneaky way of getting around the country’s animal testing requirements.
Is Garnier Cruelty-Free?
Garnier made big news in 2021 thanks to its newly-minted Leaping Bunny certification. For bigger companies like Garnier, the auditing process that must be undertaken in order to be considered cruelty-free is especially grueling, given that the company has around 3,000 ingredients and roughly 500 suppliers—each of which must be thoroughly investigated to ensure no animal testing is conducted at any stage.
For a company to voluntarily go through such intense supply-chain scrutiny speaks to the power of consumer demand, something that begins with you choosing cruelty-free products over those that test animals.
Even though Garnier’s parent company is L’Oreal, a company that does test on animals, it’s safe to say that Garnier itself is cruelty-free.
Is L’Oreal Cruelty-Free?
L’Oreal has come up repeatedly on this list because it owns so many well-known brands, including those that are cruelty-free like Garnier and Nyx, as well as those that aren’t, like Maybelline. But the company itself cannot be considered cruelty-free since it complies with regulations that require animal testing, and it sells products in mainland China that require testing.
The good news is that this mega-corporation is using some of its wealth to explore animal testing alternatives and also claims to be working with Chinese authorities to develop these alternative methods. But L’Oreal could do even better by the animals by completely refusing to test on them or sell cosmetics in places that require such testing.
Is Elate Cruelty-Free?
Ding ding ding! Here’s a brand that is firing on all cylinders. Not only is Elate cruelty-free, but it is also totally vegan—meaning that no animals whatsoever were harmed in the making of these products.
But Elate doesn’t stop there. Many of the ingredients are organic, fair-trade, and are sustainability sourced, plus the packaging is entirely compostable or recyclable and made from very few plastic ingredients.
It is no easy task to create a company that is ethical through and through, which is why we’re elated to feature Elate on this list!
Is Elf Cruelty-Free?
Rounding out this list is yet another company that is entirely vegan and cruelty-free. Elf cosmetics are made without harming any animals, so you can stock up on any of their products with abandon! The company even created a custom eyeshadow palette with shades named after pit bull dogs who were rescued from a shelter.
The importance of diversity and inclusion is on strong display throughout Elf’s website, where resources are provided to support essential workers, racial justice movements and the LGBTQ+ community. This is one company that wears its ethics on its sleeve.
The international beauty industry is constantly evolving, and even though it still has a ways to go before it can be considered totally ethical, major headway is being made. Between enacted bans, voluntary commitments to being cruelty-free, and working to develop viable alternatives to animal testing, the companies that create beauty products are working towards solutions that will hopefully one day result in a world in which no animal is forced to live short, pain-filled lives in a lab.
By supporting cruelty-free brands, you are showing your support for this kinder world. Shop the Kinder Beauty Box today.