Bit Confused About Cruelty Free Beauty? Here Are 5 Big Questions, Answered

How does a brand prove it's cruelty free? All shall be revealed within.

Yesterday, Penneys announced that its own cosmetics line, PS Beauty, has been certified 100% cruelty free by the organisation Cruelty Free International.

The news was welcomed by animal-loving beauty obsessives, and re-started the conversation about what it means to go cruelty free. Animal testing is completely banned in Europe, and while it might appear that the case is closed, it certainly is not.

So what’s the story with cruelty free beauty? Settle in, because there’s lots to talk about here.

How does a brand prove that it’s cruelty free?

Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny logo

To be certified by Cruelty Free International, every ingredient in every product has to be investigated for animal testing. For example, it took PS Beauty 18 months to confirm that every ingredient was cruelty free and present the evidence to Cruelty Free International.

Penneys (and Primark worldwide) has also signed up for regular independent auditing to ensure every ingredient will always be cruelty free. It’s a lot of work, so it’s good to see such a huge brand taking the initiative.

The PETA cruelty free logo

Animal rights organisation PETA also has its own cruelty free certification, which has been bestowed on brands like NYX, Wet’n’Wild and TooFaced.

Here’s the thing, though: PETA ask only for a written agreement from a company, while Cruelty Free International requires them to submit to audits to properly verify cruelty free claims. Something to think about!

Why is China always brought up in cruelty free chat?

China is the only country in the world that still requires mandatory animal testing, and every company that wants to sell into China has to have its ingredients tested by the authorities there. This rules out a LOT of very popular companies who don’t test on animals otherwise, including MAC, Benefit, L’Oréal, Bourjois, Clinique… really, there are so many.

NARS was previously a cruelty-free company, but in 2017 it announced that it would begin selling in China, a move that generated a huge backlash from fans of the brand. A statement said:

We firmly believe that product and ingredient safety can be proven by non-animal methods, but we must comply with the local laws of the markets in which we operate, including in ChinaWe have decided to make NARS available in China because we feel it is important to bring our vision of beauty and artistry to fans in the region.

(Just to clarify: The only products being tested on animals are those to be sold in China, meaning the products for sale here are still technically CF. Technically.)

So what’s being done to stop animal testing in China? In 2014, mandatory animal testing was lifted for some domestically manufactured cosmetics, and a new regulation could mean a lifting of the requirement for some imported items. It’s getting there, slowly but surely.

Cruelty Free International are currently trying to get the UN to ban the practice worldwide, and CEO Michelle Thew says they’re closer than ever to ending it for good.

What’s the story if a cruelty free brand is owned by a non-CF company?

This is an interesting one. Lots of brands who are certified cruelty free by either PETA or Cruelty Free International are owned by bigger parent companies who do test on animals in countries where they are required to.

For example, Leaping Bunny approved Urban Decay are owned by L’Oréal, which tests on animals in China, and the PETA-certified brand TooFaced were acquired by Estée Lauder, which does the same.

Michelle Thew tells STELLAR that consumers mostly follow their own instincts on this – some people feel that as long as everything Urban Decay itself does is cruelty free, they’re happy to buy it, while others prefer to support companies that are cruelty free right to the top.

What’s the difference between cruelty free and vegan products?

Current mood = Indecisive

A post shared by Kat Von D Beauty (@katvondbeauty) on

Not every product that is cruelty free will be vegan. It’s possible for a cruelty free product to contain ingredients like honey, beeswax, lanolin (a substance made from sheeps’ wool), carmine (a red colouring made from insects), and collagen (which is derived from animal tissue).

Brands who claim to be vegan include Kat Von D Beauty, Elf Cosmetics, and Spectrum makeup brushes – it’s always worth getting to know no-no ingredients and reading the labels of your products.

How do I start being cruelty free?

Get familiar with the certified brands, through the Cruelty Free International database or lists like these. We’ve got PS Beauty now, of course, but there’s also Urban Decay, Wet’nWild, Dermalogica, Sugarpill, Stila… If your makeup bag isn’t 100% cruelty free at the moment, no need to chuck the whole thing – work through what you have and make conscious choices to shop CF the next time.

It’s lots to chew on, alright. What do you think?

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