Cruelty Free Beauty
Image from The Leaping Bunny Program
Hello! Welcome back to another blog about skin care and how it relates to the environment. Throughout April in honor of Earth Month, I'm blogging about various topics related to this subject matter. Today I'm here to talk a bit more about about the cruelty free beauty movement and why I only use products that are not tested on animals. This is something that is important to me, and I'm sure many of my clients.
What does Cruelty Free mean?
Cruelty free is a blanket term used to label products that do not harm animals and are not tested on animals. It's become extremely trendy to market a product as cruelty free or not tested on animals. However, because there are no official laws or standards for labeling a product "cruelty free" it is difficult to know if the product is in fact cruelty free. For example a product may say it is not tested on animals, but it may refer only to the final product. Meanwhile some ingredients may have in fact, been tested on animals. Similar to "green-washing," companies can mislead consumers to believe that their products are more animal friendly, than they actually are.
Further, because some countries like China still require animal testing, a company may not be engaging in animal testing as a company practice, but may be allowing it abroad in order to meet certain countries' requirements and sell the product there. If a company sells its product in these countries, it cannot be considered completely cruelty free.
The good news is that by now, most of the world has banned animal cruelty in the cosmetic industry or is on its way to stricter practices. In 2013, the European Union completely banned animal testing and the sale of any product tested on animals, Cosmetic companies outside of the EU that conduct animal testing, are not permitted to sell their products anywhere in the EU. In 2015, the United States began taking steps toward a similar ban. Currently animal testing is not required in the U.S. but it is not banned either.
Why choose cruelty free?
For most people, using products not tested on animals is out of love and respect for animals. I personally am not okay with the cruel practices (including killing the animals after testing) behind animal testing. You can read more about these practice on the Humane Society website here. But beyond that, the fact is that animal testing is not necessary, nor is it even really accurate to gauge how a product will react on humans.
At one time, animal testing was widespread practice in order to test things such as vaccines and other drugs. This then expanded into the cosmetic industry as a way to predict whether or not a product may be toxic or harmful. However, as technology has advanced, this kind of testing is simply no longer necessary. In many cases, alternatives such as testing on human cells, are actually more time and cost effective and even more technologically advanced.
In fact, as a side note, I have learned that both of the skin care lines that I use in my treatment room - Skin Script RX and PCA Skin - only test their products on humans. PCA does this with each new product, using a controlled test group. Human participants from the industry are given samples of the product to thoroughly test its effectiveness. The testers are given little information about the product, other than how to use it. They are then monitored for positive results and/or negative reactions. If the product passes the test, it is then ready for consumers. I don't know about you, but I feel much better using a product that was tested this way, versus one tested on lab rats.
What can you do if you are concerned about animal testing?
Besides making conscious choices about what you put on your skin, you may want to research cosmetic companies whose products you use and the places you buy them, to ensure that they meet the highest standard.
In response to advertisers and cosmetic companies misleadingly using the "cruelty free" label, a group of animal protection agencies joined together to form a new standard called the Leaping Bunny Program. The Leaping Bunny symbol is a designation given to companies who submit to transparent and cruelty free manufacturing processes. Companies must agree to uphold a standard of no animal testing at all stages of the product. Even their ingredient suppliers must uphold the same standard in order for a company to be cleared to use the label. You can read more bout the Leaping Bunny Program here.
Websites such as the one linked above, provide lists of products and brands that meet the guidelines and which do not. PETA.org is also a great resource if you are concerned about the practices behind your products. They provide extensive lists of brands to shop and which to boycott. If you aren't sure what a company's policy is regarding animal cruelty and the use of animal testing in products, write an email or call their customer service hotline for more information. A few companies like Trader Joe's, have taken it to the next level as a chain and do not allow the sale of products that have been tested on animals period. Don't be afraid to ask your favorite beauty store, if they uphold a similar policy.
By being inquisitive about what a business stands for and making smart shopping decisions accordingly, you send the message to brands about what you are and aren't okay with. They all want your hard-earned dollars, so the influence is literally in your hands. Instead, support brands that you know are up to the Leaping Bunny standard and spread the word. Shopping small is another great way to know more about what you're buying. Often small business owners are the ones selling their own product at markets or on Esty and they can tell you about every step of their manufacturing process. If enough people chose to shop this way, more brands might start to recognize the value of going cruelty free and follow suit.
If you are especially passionate about this issue, put your fingers to the keyboard. Write to companies and urge them to adopt a higher standard. Write to the ones that do and thank them. Write to policymakers on a local and national level. Let them know what you care about and ask them what their stance is come voting time. These are small changes anyone can make but if made by enough people, they have the power to amount to a huge difference.
Until next time,