Understand what animal testing in the cosmetic industry


Since March 2013 it has been illegal to sell cosmetic products within the European Union that have been newly tested on animals or cosmetics that contain any ingredients that have been tested on animals. As a whole animal testing in the cosmetic industry is undergoing a slow but steady change with modern consumers taking greater responsibility for the impact their purchase decisions have on the industry. If you are interested in learning more about cosmetics testing on animals and how you can make a difference towards reducing your contribution to this inhumane practice, then this article will be very helpful.

Animal testing in the cosmetics industry 

Animal testing became a requirement with the signing of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act into law in the United States in 1938. The law required cosmetic products to be tested for safety before being sold for use, which created the widespread testing of products on animals by cosmetic companies.

According to the Humane Society International, it is estimated that ‘100,000–200,000 animals suffer and die every year’ due to cosmetic testing. Animals including rabbits, mice, rats and guinea pigs are kept in test labs and used to test the quality of cosmetics and beauty care products, with substances forced down their throats or dripped into their eyes or smeared on their skins. Their reactions are then documented over a period of time or until they die to see how safe the products are for human use. 

Draize test – Rabbits are restrained to prevent them from responding naturally to the irritation that is put into the eyes. Their eyes are evaluated for up to 14 days. This test was developed in 1944 to assess the irritation to the eyes of a certain product. The rabbits can suffer from ulcers, bleeding and redness and eventual blindness as a result of these tests. 

Skin irritation test – This tests the possible irritation of a substance to the skin and usually involves placing a chemical on a shaved patch of skin to evaluate the damage to the skin, including itching, swelling and inflammation.

Acute toxicity test – This tests the danger of a particular chemical when exposed through the mouth, skin or inhalation. A fixed-dose is administered to study the effects and monitor for signs of pain or suffering. The animals can suffer from excruciating pain, loss of motor functions, convulsions and seizures. Rats and mice are the usual test animals for this and are killed at the end of the test so that they can be studied.

These are just some of the main test methods mentioned by Leaping Bunny that are done on test animals.

Are there alternatives to animal testing? 

There are successful alternatives to animal testing mentioned by PETA, that are sophisticated and humane. These methods include testing on human cells and tissues referred to as in vitro method. Advanced computer modelling techniques known as silico models are also proving successful. And of course, there are studies done with human volunteers which are just a few of the non-animal methods that are gaining popularity as they also are usually less costly and consume less time in the long run.

Current regulations 

Currently, many countries have removed their rigid stance on animal testing for cosmetics, so it is no longer legally required. The main exception to this is China which still requires animal testing for a cosmetic brand to be sold there. In the EU, selling cosmetic products tested on animals is prohibited including the final product and the ingredients used in the product. 

The shift towards cruelty-free cosmetics 

Organisations such as Cruelty Free International have made great strides in bringing the plight of animals to light. The shift to cruelty-free cosmetics is a result of such awareness as more consumers are given access to the reality of life for animals in labs. This has given consumers more decision-making power as they understand how they can choose not to promote products that use such inhumane methods in their manufacturing process. 

Social media has played a huge role in helping to promote this message with influencers and celebrities passionate about the cause using their platforms to highlight animal testing issues. This rising awareness of animal welfare has caused consumers to be more mindful of cosmetic products and their ingredients and manufacturing process in its entirety. This in turn has resulted in cosmetic manufacturers making significant efforts to  make their products cruelty free to cater to growing demands. 

Switching to cruelty-free cosmetics 

For those looking to adopt an ethical beauty care lifestyle, the shift is no longer difficult. Unlike a few years back, today the cosmetic market has many top quality cruelty-free cosmetic brands on offer. This ranges from well-known big brand names that are slowly making the shift, to newer brands that are of good quality and affordable and dedicated to making cruelty-free beauty accessible to all consumers. 

If you are looking to make the move to using cruelty-free cosmetics then the below tips should be useful towards making the practical shift. 

  1. It is important to take it slow and steady. There is no rush. Use the products you have currently to avoid waste but start researching cruelty-free alternatives. A gradual change is a more sustainable change because you can invest in products that you will actually use in the long term.
  2. Use online resources to find brands that offer cruelty-free options. At purchase read the cosmetics ingredients carefully to determine that none of it has undergone animal testing.
  3. Check the labels and/or websites for certifications such as the Leaping Bunny logo to guarantee that they are genuinely cruelty-free.
  4. There are so many top-quality new cruelty-free brands in the market with transparent manufacturing processes for you to try. You can have fun finding new favourite brands and cosmetics which you will find are very affordable. 
  5. You will also find that these cruelty-free brands tend to use more natural ingredients with less chemicals that are actually good for your skin and overall health.


Cruelty-free beauty is here to stay and is making a massive impact on eliminating animal testing from the cosmetic industry. As a consumer, you too can make a difference by truly understanding the ingredients and processes used to manufacture your favourite cosmetics. If it does not seem compliant with cruelty-free requirements then do your research to make a change to brands that are completely cruelty-free and start your ethical beauty care journey.

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Seren Scents

Seren Scents is an ethical, cruelty free and Vegan brand house based in London that specialises in cosmetics, men’s grooming and sun care. Our vision and greatest strengths have always been uncompromising product quality and the strive to make beauty affordable and cruelty free.