Would you rub animal fat, beetles or cancer-causing chemicals on your face to add color or moisturize? Unless you are trying to win a contest, you probably would not willingly do so, yet you are very likely doing this everyday! Many cosmetic companies use animal ingredients like gelatin, glycerin, carmine, collagen, lanolin, fragrance, and many others in their products. These ingredients are given fancy names like carmine, which is the natural red color that comes from the dried female cochineal beetle. Other chemical ingredients are known to cause cancer, birth defects and other health issues.
Currently, the US cosmetic industry is unregulated, leaving these companies free to put virtually anything into our personal care products. There are no laws that require pre-market testing. This is unacceptable, but there are groups working to push Congress to change this and make cosmetics safe for use.
The Environmental Working Group is one of them. Check out their Skin Deep website where you can look up individual ingredients, products and companies. I have noticed that some products are dated, but you can double check the ingredients they have listed with those on your bottle, you can even join for free and get customized reports on products you use that are not listed in the database. While at their website, be sure to sign their petition to the US Congress urging them to make cosmetics safe for use.
The Compact for Safe Cosmetics is a global push for cosmetic companies to sign and agree that all of the cosmetics and personal care products made by that company anywhere in the world “meet the formulation standards and deadlines set by the European Union Directive 76/768/EEC to be free of chemicals that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation or birth defects.”
There is some good news, there are many companies that are cruelty-free and have vegan products. Vegan products are not tested on animals and contain no animal by-products (like the beetles). Vegan products do not contain any animal by-products including eggs, milk, glycerin, etc. (important note: some contain plant derived glycerin). Look at the ingredients and for symbols, such as vegan certification. Besides Skin Deep’s website, you can look at websites such as this one or this one to learn more about cosmetic ingredients. It will note if the ingredient is derived from animals and what ingredients are harmful chemicals. Check out this website to learn what 10 ingredients to avoid to choose more organic products. This is a greater list of toxic chemicals found in personal care products.
Animal testing is just not necessary for cosmetics and personal care products. So much testing has been done to date that there is virtually no ingredient or combination of that has not already been tested. Yet some companies still conduct animal testing. Here is a good reference to determine who is and who is not conducting animal testing.
Many products make claims that the product is not tested on animals. There is no regulation or legal definition on what this means, so companies may make this claim if the final product is not tested on animals, though the individual ingredients may be. Companies may also farm out the testing to other companies or buy the ingredients from a company who does do animal testing. So just because that particular company is not testing themselves, does not mean that the company is ensuring the final product nor its ingredients have never been tested on animals.
List of Cruelty-Free companies (even beyond cosmetics)
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics