Animal Testing: Cosmetics

Evita Apalaki

Animal testing is a way to determine the safety of a medical substance before its commercial release and public use. Αpart from health care, cosmetic brands also experiment on animals in order to achieve a high standard of quality for the ingredients in their products. However, even if the reason for this testing is to protect the consumer’s health, thousands of animals suffer and die annually due to the serious bodily damage from the chemicals. The opposition of the animal organizations to such experiments is loud, especially for those testing in order to release more unnecessary cosmetic products into the market. 

The animal experiments have provided answers to many scientific questions over the years, and undoubtedly human and animal health has been improved and protected from fatal diseases. Cosmetic products are also mixtures of chemical and natural ingredients that are intended for human use. New ingredients need to be safety tested in order to come into contact with human skin during normal use. Also, it is necessary to determine the correct dosage of the product in order to avoid toxicity due to allergies or unintentional consumption. Furthermore, the extent to which a chemical can irritate skin or cause other dermal problems is essential information. 

There is no doubt that brands should guarantee the safety of their commercial products, but unfortunately, the traditional way to achieve that goal, with animal testing, is very cruel. Around 100,000 – 200,000 rabbits, rats, mice and guinea pigs die after painful experiments in the labs of cosmetic brands. Chemicals are dropped in their eyes, injected into their bodies, applied on their shaved skin or are consumed unintentionally by force. All the different dosages of the given ingredient need to be tested in order to determine its toxicity and the low lethal dose (LD50). The latter is defined as the dose of the chemical that is needed to kill half of the animals that are tested in a survey. The results are more shocking than the ways of application. Animals suffer from intense irritation, severe burns, inflammations, blindness and intoxication. Death is the same denominator for all of them. 

The question is whether the final results are worth all of this pain. The truth is that even if an ingredient or a final product is tested on animals, side effects and allergies cannot be avoided in human application. Every individual is a special case with different needs, so they may react differently to a chemical compound despite the fact that animals wouldn’t have shown signs of irritation. There are also financial disadvantages of animal testing, as it is extremely costly to maintain animal facilities, pay for trained stuff and provide the needed equipment for all the experiments. Of course, it should not be ignored that all these animals suffer and die in order to test products that are not even of great importance for human health, like mascaras, foundations and night creams. In 2013 Europe became aware of the tragic results of cosmetic testing on animals and prohibited the selling of all products derived from such experiments. Several years before, in 2009, European countries banned the animal testing in Eurpoe, however tests could be conducted elsewhere and imported products were still accepted. The 2013 law closed this loophole. 

Despite the EU’s decision to protect animals from cosmetic testing, some of the most famous brands continue to work around this law by having their factories in other countries continue to test and then market the products outside of Europe. For example, China, one of the biggest cosmetic markets of the world, demands animal testing for all cosmetic products and newly released ingredients. The European Chemicals Agency supports that new ingredients can still be tested, but under alternative programmed processes. Apart from animals, it is also efficient to use artificial skin tissue or computational models to conduct the experiments. These commonly named in vitro or in silico experiments lead to equally reliable results. Furthermore, products can be directly applied on human volunteers in order to achieve more applicable indications regarding their safety. Finally, as an alternative solution, it would be reasonable to stop producing new ingredients for cosmetic products and instead turn to the utilization of the existing ingredient lists, which consists of more than 5,000 already tested compounds, in order to create new products. 

It is not random that cosmetic animal tests are alternatively called poison tests. Big organizations, like PETA, have been mobilized to inform people about the inhumane animal experiments that some of the largest cosmetic companies (Estee Lauder, Maybelline, Bobbi Brown, boscia, Clinique, make up for ever, Victoria’s secret, La mer) still follow. Anyone who feels inclined to take on the fight against animal torturing can simply start by changing everyday habits and switch to products from vegan or cruelty free brands (check the link below). Simple everyday actions can deliver the message that people want a greener world and that animal rights will not be neglected anymore. Members of animal organizations or international offices like “Humane Society International” and “Cruelty Free International” are available to help people who would like guidance and more information about cosmetic testing and easy ways to embrace another aspect of vegan life. 

List of officially Cruelty-free cosmetic brands 2020:

Sources: PETA