What Does "Cruelty-Free" Actually Mean in Skincare?

What Does "Cruelty-Free" Actually Mean in Skincare?

More skincare brands than ever are claiming to be “cruelty-free,” claiming that their products aren’t tested on animals — a cruel practice that injures thousands of animals every year. 

But does this term actually hold any weight? And does buying cruelty-free skincare products actually make a difference in the grand scheme of things?

To answer these questions, we’ve compiled a guide that will explain what “cruelty-free” means in skincare and if you should switch over to products with this label. 

What Is “Cruelty-Free” Skincare and Why Is It Important? 

Testing skincare products on animals is a cruel practice that can lead to serious injuries — and, in some cases, even death — in the animals being tested on. 

Animal testing is done to ensure that beauty products — which include moisturizing lotions, exfoliants, sunscreens, toners, scrubs, and even face masks — are safe for humans. Product testing helps identify any potential side effects to confirm safety. 

There are many different animal testing methods, many of which are becoming outlawed due to the distress they cause to some animals. However, many others remain in use. 

For instance, the Draize test — which was developed almost 80 years ago — involves applying experimental products to the skin and eyes of animals (most often rabbits) and leaving them on for long periods of time to observe their potentially harmful effects. 

Although many countries have banned testing on animals, others still allow it, and some even require it. This is why some skincare brands are working towards animal welfare and making the commitment to be cruelty-free. 

Is It Safe To Use Cruelty-Free Skincare? 

Animal testing is considered the gold standard by many scientists and regulatory agencies for testing the safety of skincare products. So, you may be wondering if cruelty-free cosmetics are safe to use. 

The answer to that is yes, and testing on animals isn’t a great method for testing skincare or even haircare product safety, anyway. 

No one would argue with the fact that animals and humans aren’t the same. Differences in skin, metabolism, detoxification, and many other structures and functions make humans different from animals tested on. So, just because some ingredients affect animals a certain way doesn’t mean they’ll do the same to humans.

Plus, the animals being tested on are held in seriously stressful conditions, which can increase their levels of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is known as the inflammation hormone and can drive anything from mild rashes to serious allergic reactions. For this reason, the results of animal testing might not be very accurate. 

Just because a skincare product tests well on animals doesn’t mean that it will automatically be safe for humans. On the other hand, cruelty-free makeup and skincare brands now use many innovative methods to test their products' safety.

For instance, scientists can create artificial human skin and use it for experimenting with skincare products. Another testing method is to use a computer-simulated model to see how some chemicals can react when exposed to human eyes or skin. 

Plus, cruelty-free products tend to use gentle botanical ingredients, which have a proven track record of safety. 

What’s the Difference Between Cruelty-Free and Standard Skincare?

At this point, it’s pretty clear that animal testing is an inhumane practice. This alone is enough to make the switch over to cruelty-free skincare. 

However, there are a few other reasons to move to cruelty-free and vegan brands. These are:

1. Cruelty-Free Skincare Is More Gentle

When a mainstream beauty brand has to test their product on animals, it’s probably because their formulation is very chemically complex — with a major potential to cause adverse side effects.

Plus, the skincare products that some conventional brands come out with may be harsh for sensitive skin types, which is why animal testing may be used in some cases.

Skincare brands committed to animal welfare know that they can’t exactly do the same thing. For this reason, cruelty-free and vegan products use more gentle ingredients that won’t be as irritating — a super benefit for those with sensitive skin. 

When you buy cruelty-free skincare, you’re more likely to get a product that’s free of harmful chemicals like parabens, phthalates, sulfates, fragrances, and other synthetic ingredients. Not only are these ingredients super harsh for the skin, but they’re also linked to various health problems, such as hormone disruption

So, sticking to cruelty-free can help to support your health and wellness while contributing to animal welfare. 

2. Cruelty-Free Skincare Uses Natural Ingredients 

To avoid animal testing, cruelty-free companies use natural products in their ingredient lists with a proven track record of safety. 

For instance, shea butter and cucumber extract are two gentle skincare ingredients — and two of the main ingredients in our Miracular Cleanser. Even if something isn’t derived from plants, it can still be natural and gentle — like the hyaluronic acid in our Miracular Serum

The main benefit of using natural ingredients is that they’re unlikely to cause adverse side effects. But that’s not all: Natural ingredients may also be more nourishing for the skin, work for more skin types, and have a beautiful scent — free of added synthetic fragrances. 

3. Cruelty-Free Skincare Is More Eco-Friendly

Mainstream skincare companies use many different chemicals that can end up in the air, water, and soil.

For instance, one popular ingredient in standard skincare products is triclosan. When it’s broken down by the sun, it can create dioxins — chemicals that may cause cancer. If dioxins reach water, they can poison and kill marine life. 

Plus, injuring animals for the sake of testing skincare products is in no way friendly to the environment. Animals are a crucial part of our ecosystem and should be treated humanely. 

On the other hand, cruelty-free ingredients come from the environment, so they don’t typically cause damage to it. And, of course, no animals are harmed to create cruelty-free skincare products, which is a major step towards a healthy and humane environment. 

What Makes a Skincare Product Cruelty-Free?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the term “cruelty-free” when it comes to makeup and skincare products. For this reason, it’s possible for a company to call itself cruelty-free when some of its ingredients are associated with animal testing. 

For instance, some skincare companies may not test their final product on animals. However, their product may use individual ingredients that do animal testing. Others may use animal ingredients or byproducts such as beeswax and animal-derived collagen in their products.

So, how do you know if a skincare product is truly cruelty-free? Well, one way to check is to look for official certification. 

The gold standard for cruelty-free certification comes from programs like the Leaping Bunny Program. These programs work with all kinds of brands to make sure they meet strict standards for being cruelty-free. If you see a Leaping Bunny logo on the label of your favorite lip balm, mascara, or other beauty product, you can be sure that neither the product nor its ingredients have been tested on animals.

However, just because a skincare brand doesn’t have a Leaping Bunny certification, doesn’t mean it tests on animals. Some companies may be truly cruelty-free but have trouble getting certified — which can be an expensive and time-consuming process

Curious to know if your favorite skincare brand tests on animals? Ask them yourself! 

You can shoot any skincare brand an email and directly ask them if they use animal testing. A transparent skincare company will tell you everything about their testing policy, where they get their ingredients, and how they make sure their products are safe to use. 

Last, you can check for another certification that may be cheaper or easier to get — while meeting the same animal testing standards. For instance, PETA, a major animal rights organization, also issues cruelty-free certificates through their Beauty Without Bunnies program to skincare and makeup brands. 

Cruelty-Free Beauty With Nourishing Biologicals

Testing skincare products on animals is a cruel and inhumane practice that can permanently injure and even kill them. Many conscious consumers stand up against animal testing by switching to cruelty-free skincare products. 

Cruelty-free skincare products also tend to be less toxic to the environment and to use non-irritating ingredients that are safe, effective, and nourishing. 

Nourishing Biologicals is a certified cruelty-free brand that never tests on animals. We use only gentle botanical ingredients that are clinically proven to be effective — so you can meet your skincare goals while contributing to a safer and happier world. 

Discover our best-selling line of products today.


Cosmetics and Cancer: Adverse Event Reports Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration | PMC

The Draize test—Motivations for change | ScienceDirect

Stress and Allergic Diseases | PMC

Estimated dietary dioxin exposure and breast cancer risk among women from the French E3N prospective cohort | BMC 

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