Is Your Favorite Beauty Brand Honest About Its Cruelty-Free Status?

According to PETA, every minute, 219 animals are killed in a lab in the United States.

When shopping, some consumers make the conscience choice to only purchase cruelty-free products, but they rely on the back of these products for their information, which can be misleading. Many products read, “This product was not tested on animals,” or other similar jargon, but companies can write whatever they want on their products concerning animal-testing, regardless of policies. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “the unrestricted use of these phrases by cosmetic companies is possible because there are no legal definitions for these terms.”

But even when a brand is cruelty-free in the U.S., it doesn’t mean the brand is cruelty-free globally.

Many major beauty brands claim to be cruelty-free but knowingly sell their products in China where most imported products are required to be tested on animals. So, while in the United States these brands may consider themselves to be “cruelty-free,” in China and many other markets, their products are used on animals in harmful or unsafe practices.

Animal testing is a hot-button issue that even transcends into legislation. California just became the first state in the U.S. to ban the sale of animal-tested cosmetics within the state after 2020.

As legislation and policies are always changing, it’s important to know for yourself what brands are genuinely not practicing animal testing. Here are five beauty brands whose self-proclaimed cruelty-free statuses are false.

1. L’Oréal Paris

On a page solely purposed to addressing animal-testing concerns on its site, the leading drugstore-brand says, “Today, L'Oréal no longer tests its ingredients on animals and no longer tolerates any exception to this rule.” However, it later goes on to say that L’Oréal products must comply with China’s regulations –– but wouldn’t that be an exception? L’Oréal is often considered a cruelty-free brand because of its multiple contradicting guidelines and policies like these. The brand claims to have a new U.S. animal testing policy, but with a cut-off date of March 2013. They claim to not test any finished products or ingredients after this cut-off date for cosmetics usage. But in reality, this is their loophole. By categorizing anti-wrinkle creams, sunscreens, and other skin-care products, as medicated products or drugs instead of its correct cosmetics usage, they can still test animals with these products. L'Oréal has even been sued by the FDA for improperly categorizing its cosmetics as drugs –– as if this wasn’t already shady enough. Save the animals, because they’re worth it.

2.  Lancôme

The manufacturer of my favorite mascara, Hypno-Drama, is sadly not cruelty-free.

On the company’s FAQ page, the brand states that it does not test any of its products or ingredients on animals, “except when required by law.” The brand is sold in mainland China, where testing is required. To make the water even murkier, Lancôme is a subsidiary of L’Oréal, a brand known for shady cruelty-guidelines. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be switching to Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara as a clean dupe ASAP.

3.  Maybelline

Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it was tested on animals, first. Another brand owned by L’Oréal, Maybelline has no clear policy, but instead adheres to L’Oréal’s vague policies. Considering it’s sold in China, even if the brand had its own policies, it’s clear that it would not be cruelty-free.

4. Estée Lauder

Despite acquiring Too Faced in 2016, a publicly known cruelty free brand, Estée Lauder’s namesake brand as well as many of its subsidiary brands like Clinique, Bobbi Brown and Origins are not cruelty-free cosmetics. Estée Lauder claims to not test on animals, but at the same time states, “if a regulatory body demands it for its safety or regulatory assessment, an exception can be made.” Rather than focusing on its animal-testing policy, the company’s site deflects to its product quality and its vague ‘partnerships’ with organizations that strive to end animal testing, not naming the company’s own efforts or what they contribute to these ‘partnerships.’

5. Nars

Many makeup-lovers are shocked by this one because of the brand’s 23-year status as a cruelty-free brand, but in 2017 the French makeup and skincare brand announced its decision to sell in China, stripping its cruelty-free title. The brand continues to not test on animals in the U.S., but complies to China’s harsh regulations for legal purposes.

I’m not here to tell you that you need to switch up your entire beauty routine, or why testing on animals is wrong.

But if you’re willing to make the switch, here are five cruelty-free brands that are worth the hype.

1. NYX

While many argue that going cruelty-free is not in their budget, many cheap drugstore cosmetic brands like NYX and ELF don’t condone or practice animal testing. NYX is not only available at nearly every major drugstore in the country, but it’s cheaper than well-known brands like Maybelline and Rimmel London that do test on animals.

2. Paul Mitchell

Often when people think of animal-testing, they only think of cosmetics, not shampoo. Unfortunately, many popular shampoo and hair-care brands like Pantene, John Frieda, Bed Head, TRESemmé, and more test on animals, leaving them blind, bald or worse. Unlike those brands, Paul Mitchell refuses to sell in mainland China “until alternatives to animal testing methods have been accepted by the government.” If the brand’s cruelty-free status still isn’t worth the price tag for you, maybe the upgrade in hair-care quality will change your mind.

3. Fenty Beauty

Rihanna’s new cosmetics line that’s been making waves since its launch one year ago is proud to say that it’s cruelty-free and does not sell its products in China. Although it’s not a vegan line, many Fenty products are free of animal byproducts, including the Match Stix Matte Skinsticks, the Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, the Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer and all of the line’s tools and brushes.

4. ColourPop

This affordable cosmetics brand offers the same quality make-up products as many luxury beauty brands and offers great dupes for Kylie Cosmetics liquid lipstick. The company is proud to leave “fur babies to be fur babies,” and instead tests its products on ColourPop HQ people instead. Most ColourPop products are even vegan –– extra fur baby friendly!

5. Anastasia Beverly Hills

It’s true –– you can have the best contour on the block with a clear conscience! The high-end cosmetics company offers an extensive list of vegan products and is even certified by Peta. The brand is one of the few cosmetic companies that doesn’t test on animals or have a parent company that tests on animals.

Other notable brands that are genuinely cruelty-free:

- Kat Von D Beauty

- Urban Decay

- Milk Makeup

- Marc Jacobs Beauty

- Bare Minerals

- Lush

- Becca

To find out if what’s in your makeup bag is cruelty-free, visit Cruelty Free Kitty.