Science @ CHS: Cruelty Free Products


This article, the second in a three part series centered on general consumer product awareness, briefly explores animal cruelty in cosmetics and the personal care industry, and discusses how to identify whether a product is accurately labeled “cruelty-free”. You may read the first article, titled “Parabens”, in the February 2018 edition of The High-O-Scope.

Each year, more than 100,000 animals in the United States, including rats, mice, guinea pigs, and rabbits, are subjected to harsh laboratory conditions, where they are tortured or killed in research labs, all in the name of consumer product safety testing. In recent years, however, compassionate-minded consumers have turned away from cosmetics and personal care products tested on animals, instead choosing products deemed cruelty-free.

“My decision [to go cruelty-free] had to do with the ethics of animal testing”, shared Ella Rose, a junior at CHS who uses cruelty-free products, including makeup, shampoo, and conditioner.

Likewise, in a recent survey of 102 CHS students, more than 68% reported that they chose cruelty-free products when given the choice of other alternatives. Despite this indicator that our student body is generally conscientious about the personal care products purchased, some students responded that they didn’t know the definition of the term and asked for more clarification.

In general, the socially acceptable definition of a cruelty-free product is one that is manufactured and developed in a manner that does not involve animal experimentation. Like many product labeling tricks, however, neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the Consumer Product Safety Commission oversee the use of the phrase “cruelty-free”. As a result, companies can use “cruelty-free” in whatever manner they desire.

To determine whether a cosmetic product adheres to the socially acceptable definition of cruelty-free, a two-part assessment may be applied. First, does the product label advertise being cruelty-free? If it does, this should provide a soft reassurance that the end product has not been tested on animals. Second, are the raw materials making up the consumer good manufactured in a cruelty-free manner? While some companies report being cruelty-free because their finished product is not tested on animals, the method of testing the safety of raw materials must also be considered.  

To aid in identifying socially acceptable cruelty-free products, an internationally recognized organization, called The Leaping Bunny Program, is the only one of it’s kind to issue cruelty-free “certification for cosmetics, personal care and household product brands which are not tested on animals.” The program audits the entire manufacturing process to certify a consumer good’s raw materials and its final product are tested under “cruelty-free” conditions. The Leaping Bunny then provides consumers a free mobile app with the ability to scan product barcodes to check a product’s cruelty-free status.

If you’re interested in choosing humane cosmetic or personal care products that are deemed cruelty-free, a few of my favorite cruelty-free cosmetics and personal body products include Burt’s Bees, The Body Shop, and Pacifica, all of which allow me to adopt an ethical beauty routine and use cosmetics with a clear conscience.

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