What is Animal Testing in Cosmetics? How is it Cruel?

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Last Updated on 04/04/2023

Animal testing occurs in the food, chemical, drug, and cosmetics industries. It also happens in the fashion industry alongside leather and fur being the popular ‘accessories’. Tests are done for various reasons such as training, advancing biologically, curiosity, and commercializing.

Many consumers are unaware of animal testing, especially in cosmetics. Today let us understand animal cruelty in plain simple language. Our primary focus in this Guide is the beauty and cosmetic industry.

What is Animal Testing for Cosmetics?

What is animal testing in cosmetics?

Let’s look at the standard definition. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica,

“animal testing, animal experimentation, animal research, in vivo testing, and vivisection” means “Operation on a living animal for experimental rather than healing purposes; more broadly, all experimentation on live animals.”

Animal testing goes by various names such as animal experimentation and animal research. All of them mean the very same thing.

It is a method to test the effectiveness and safety condition of new discoveries. For the cosmetics and beauty industry, an example is testing a new formulation.

Simply put,

Animal testing refers to experimentation (mostly inhumane) carried on animals as test subjects.

Animal Testing in Simple Words

Animal testing is the torturous practice of testing products on animals for safety purposes. It is inhumane, cruel, and brutal. Experimenting for cosmetics is the trial and testing of beauty products on animals.

Focusing on the word ‘testing’ in our definition above. Ir encompasses animals who are tortured, trapped in small confinements, and put in harsh conditions. Many animals are euthanized in the process. The process is painful and horrendous.

Who does the testing?

Here is something more important than who does the testing. It is who funds these cruelty practices.

Cosmetic companies fund the testing.  Now, who does the testing?

It can occur at any level of production. Generally, brands, suppliers, and manufacturers perform animal testing all by themselves.

Yes, companies outsource here. They hire university research facilities, testing laboratories, or even defense research labs to do animal-based testing.

Testing occurs on both the constituting ingredients and the final product for application-based products. Cosmetics fall under this category. Think skincare, hair care, and makeup industry.

Why is animal testing used for cosmetics?

When a brand or a research team comes up with some new item for human use, they have to run some safety tests on them before commercializing.

In the majority of cases, the result of the testing is not predictable. So, the common practice is to use vertebrates and invertebrates animals before human trials.

For some countries like China, cruelty testing is a mandatory process for cosmetics. Brands have to fund these inhuman practices to get entry into these countries.

Animals are also experimented upon for curiosity reasons.

What animals are used for animal testing?

Different species of animals are used. Cats and dogs are on the list. It also includes fish, mice, rabbits, beetles, farm animals, hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, and apes among others. Cats, dogs, and freshwater fish constitute a huge majority of pets in the United States.

According to the latest reports from American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other animal organizations, 38.4% of households own a dog. While 25.4% of pets are cats in the USA.

Is animal testing for cosmetics cruel?

Animal research doesn’t sound cruel to a regular person. But that is far from the truth. Animal testing is cruel and brutal. The majority of testing facilities treat animals as mere testing subjects.

Every year we lose millions of animals so that some face cream or mascara can reach customers.

It is insensitive and cruel commercialization.

How many animals die from cosmetic testing?

Every year approximately 100 million animals die in animal testing. 75% of them are from pharmaceuticals or drug testing laboratories. The remaining 25% comes from cosmetic testing.

Out of these, 8 million go through severe pain and torture, followed by death. 10% of them are left to die without any painkillers to relieve their pain.

What do they do to animals in animal testing?

Different methods with fancy names are used for testing. But here is a quick summary in layman’s language.

  • Injected, force-feed, or force-inhaled highly toxic substances
  • Perform genetic manipulation
  • Notch and clip their ears  – Wounded purposely
  • Deprived of food & water – Because it is just a human privilege
  • Made to go through extreme suffering. Such as – Live dissection

Some of these tests cause irreversible damage to their bodies. Finally, they are mass-euthanized using carbon-dioxide asphyxiation or neck-breaking at the end of the testing procedures.

Is animal testing still happening in 2023?

Yes, animal testing is a harsh truth happening throughout the globe. Although there are countries that have banned the torturous practice, it still happens on a large scale.

From recent research, we concluded that animal experimentation for cosmetics is more or less insufficient to determine the safety of application-based skin, hair, or makeup products.

Human skin is different from animal body parts. Many countries and brands still rely on cruelty-based tests massively.

On the brink of protests and campaigns by animal welfare societies, many brands have stopped testing their products on animals on their own. But they still hire third parties for testing.

What is the solution?

Cruelty-Free Living is a go-to solution. Check out what is cruelty-free explained in simple words. It is easy to learn and follow. Step-by-step transition makes a huge difference.

Scientific Alternatives

Not one, there are multiple alternatives to it. Britannica and Wikipedia both offer great insight into scientific alternatives to animal experimentation.

1. Computerized modeling or ‘In Silico Modeling

This technique constructs a human in-machine model. It uses scientific facts regarding human biology and the progression of diseases. PETA funds one such procedure. It is the Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationships (QSARs).

2. Human Cell-based ‘In Vitro Testing

In this process, the human cells are extracted and preserved outside. This happens by mimicking their identical environment. These living cells are then fed with experimental substances instead of animals.

MatTek’s EpiDerm and CeeTox are by far the best skin simulations. L’Oreal has one such technology to test its ingredients.

3. Volunteer-based Testing

Volunteer-based testing fetches the best results in both drug & cosmetic testing. Here a number of selected volunteers with their consent, apply a microdose of the test substance. Then highly sensitive imaging tools observe. The Body Shop uses this method on a large scale.

Testing Facts

1. The oldest record of testing dates back to Greece in the 2nd and 4th centuries BC.
2. Second-century Roman physician Galen is considered the “father of vivisection”.
3. Of every year’s statistics only 10% of the test animals are included in official documents in the US.
4. Skincare and cosmetics are tested on shaved skin or eyeballs of animals.
5. Over 90% of cruelty tested products fail human testing.

Read Further

Cruelty Free vs. Vegan

How to Identify Cruelty-Free Cosmetics?


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Aisha K. Ashi

Ashi K. is a beauty blogger and certified makeup artist. She loves to rescue cats and currently has 2 rescue babies. Join her on the journey as she uses this beauty blog to spread awareness regarding ethical ways of living.

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