WTF Is Cruelty-free?

Here's everything you need to know about CF beauty and converting.

By: Dani

We hear you. We keep talking cruelty-free this, cruelty-free that, and you’re like, what is it with this cruelty-free stuff? Here’s the thing: there are a few choices we’ve made that we like to consider some of the best decisions of our lives, like getting Invisalign, getting the Accutane treatment, getting laser hair removal, and going CF is high on the list. Why? For us it was part of becoming an adult, taking responsibility for our everyday actions. So yeah, it’s a big deal for us. We could go on and on about why it’s important to be conscious of where your products come from, but first…

What does cruelty-free even mean?

A product that is considered CF is simply a product that was produced with no animal(s) being harmed during the process, from start to finish. Animal testing is one of the most prevalent unnecessary practices of cruelty towards animals. And just FIY: a cruelty-free product is not necessarily a vegan product. I know, doesn’t make much sense, but a lot of brands who don’t test on animals still use animal-derived ingredients (beeswax, honey, carmine, palm oil, etc.) in their products, or natural hair or fur from animals in makeup or hair brushes. To us, if you use animal ingredients you are not cruelty-free. But legally, they can claim this.

Now we got that cleared up, let’s move on to why you should jump ship, and go CF like us. We promise, it’s not as scary at it sounds.

Products tested on animals may still be harmful

Facts first: U.S. law allows animals to be burned, shocked, poisoned, isolated, starved, drowned, addicted to drugs, and brain-damaged. Nothing is off limits. Pain-killers are not required and are rarely, if ever, used. And to think, after all of this trauma, pain, isolation, and misery, the products out on the market still have a chance of being potentially harmful to your health. Yup, it’s true. Don’t care about the animals and just want makeup that works and looks good? Well, here’s another probably not-so-shocking fact for you. There is actually NO evidence that animals testing prevents harm to humans, although this is the claim that most companies that participate in animal testing lead you to believe. The fact of the matter is that there are simply too many differences between animal species (including the human species) for any of the data derived from these tests to be accurate in any way. Meaning, for example, an ingredient tested on a cat can be considered lethal, but for a human it may come up clean, perhaps even beneficial to us. The same way some ingredients can be a sedative for a monkey, but a stimulant for humans. Get where we’re going, here?

We know what you’re thinking: well, why, why, why in the world would they continue to do it then? One word: China. Basically, the Chinese market enforces mandatory animal testing on any and every product that hits the shelves. (Elaboration below.)

There’s no legit reason to test on animals

Here are some more facts for you. There are thousands of ingredients out there for companies to choose from when formulating their products that are already proven to be safe for humans. Thousands. So why would companies need to test any new products ingredients on animals? Well, some brands like to try to be innovators and include fancy, unheard of ingredients in their products as a marketing ploy in effort to lure more (new) customers to their brand. Thing is, these “innovative” ingredients are unproven and generally attached to some astronomical (read: ridiculously impossible) claim, like say to remove signs of aging in only two weeks. So really, do you want to buy these kinds of products anyway?

It’s a small way to be more ethical

Okay, we’ll be honest. It was a lot easier to commit to going totally CF with our beauty routine than it was giving up leather (we know). Though the transition maybe a little tough at first, there’s so many great, versatile brands out on the market that finding products that weren’t test on animals isn’t as intimidating as it may seem. In the realm of being more ethical and conscious, it’s (actually) the least you can do.

Other brands make it work

There’s just no justifiable excuse. There are plenty of other popular and high-end brands that don’t test on animals that manage (to say the least), so why the hell can’t others? Any thoughts? Oh, more money. Right.

Sidenote: remember, as the demand grows for cruelty-free products, more companies will jump on the bandwagon and supply more products. Supply and demand. Simple business module. You do the math. More demand = more supply. Less demand = less supply. So do your part and don’t ever think one person can’t make a real difference. You can.

You probably already use some CF products

Tell me you don’t have the Charlotte Tilbury ‘Filmstar Bronze & Glow’ Face Sculpt & Highlight or the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette. What about the crazy popular Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit or Brow Wiz? Use any products from E.L.F Cosmetics, Kat Von D Beauty, Becca, Josie Maran, Cover Fx, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics? Well, guess what? These products are all cruelty-free. See? There’s plenty of CF products that you love already, and trust us, there are so much more out on the market that you’ve probably never even heard of. Just give it a chance!

Want more CF product recommendations? Subscribe to our blog so you never miss a post. We’re always trying new products to give you guys feedback on which products are the absolute best like we did here and here.

It’s not as hard as you may think

Especially not when you have all the facts at your fingertips. Ever not sure about a specific product or brand, just do what we do and go to crueltyfreekitty.com to double check a brand’s stats, the ultimate source for CF and vegan makeup, skincare, bodycare and haircare products. Oh and be sure to follow @logicalharmony on Twitter. She tweets out updates all the time whether a brand is no longer CF or has passed inspection.

But first, here’s a little head start.

How to tell if a brand is CF

Here’s the deal: a lot of brands don’t like to admit that they participate in animal testing (shocking). Why though? Maybe because they fear that they would turn off potential customers like me (and you?). Or maybe because they figure that by making it seem like they are CF, they will gain customers who care about the welfare of animals. Either way, the point is that these companies get away with presenting their company as something other than what it is (in other words, lying) because they can. But doesn’t the government have some type of regulations against this? Hell no. They don’t. A lot of brands get by with using elusive and misleading language in their policy descriptions that the average person won’t be able to decipher, so t e c h n i c a l l y, no fault on their part. Instead of admitting to the cruelty they continue to administer behind closed doors, lots of companies get around it by slipping it in their animal testing policies found (read: hidden) on their sites. Any yes, even if a brand tests on animals they can actually put “not tested on animals” on their labels. It’s a dirty game and so many of your favorite brands play it. Sorry to burst your bubble. Anyway. Here’s how to read between the bullshit:

1.

If they sell their product(s) in China

As we mentioned, if a company decides to sell their products in China, then all products must go through animals testing; there’s no way around it. It’s a standard regulatory procedure there. It’s really a shame because China is, in fact, the only country that requires every company to test every product and every ingredient on animals before their products are put on the Chinese shelves. Of course, China is an absolutely titanic market, so unfortunately, plenty of companies forgo ethics for profit.

To be clear, if a product is manufactured in China, and/or is sold online and ships to China, animal testing is not required. As per their government policy, animal testing is only required if a finished product is sold (in stores) in China. That just goes to show you how many companies choose to totally neglect a thing called integrity. Online purchases just aren’t good enough for these brands. The good news in all of this? Thankfully, Europe has a ban on animal testing, so majority of all of our beloved French and Scandinavian brands are cruelty-free.

So let’s sum this up. If a company sells in China, bad. If a company doesn’t sell in China, good, but investigate more. Any questions so far?

2.

Always check the fine print

Lots of companies claim in their animal testing policies that they are against animal cruelty, but then slip in the fact that they will only test when required by law. What the hell? In other words, they care more about profit than animals, because remember, China China China. To their credit (kind of) some companies may not be in love with the idea of torturing and harming animals, but (and this is a big BUT) they choose to sell their products in China, which means they do believe in animal cruelty because Chinese law requires this. It’s also NOT obliged – by government or any other means – for companies to mention this on their websites or include it in their policies (the ‘required by law’ part). Example? Bath and Body Works always believed in the notion that they would test on animals if required by law, however they hadn’t mentioned this in their policy until pretty recently. They also sell in China, just FYI.

3.

If their animal testing policy is MIA

This is always a red flag. If a brand doesn’t have a policy then chances are they are owned by a parent company – who does have a policy, and nine times out of ten, does test on animals.. See, technically if a brand doesn’t believe in testing their products on animals, they can opt out. However, if they are owned by a company that does test on animals (which majority of them do, since parent companies are usually bigger, more successful companies that choose to sell in all markets, including China), when you purchase from them your money is still financially benefiting a company that does test on animals.

Urban Decay is a good example of this. Urban Decay actually just got bought by L’Oréal a couple years back, thus completely obliterating their CF status. Such a disappointment for lots of people, including us, but it’s true. The biggest frustration about stories likes these is that most companies that are owned or get bought out by these larger parent companies are already successful brands on their own; they don’t necessarily need a bigger brand to back them up and fund them. They choose to. Of course, having a parent company means potentially a lot more money, but it still comes back to the same dilemma: is ethics and morals worth trading for extra profit?

4.

Do your own research

Don’t be shy. Not sure if a brand tests on animals because of an unclear policy, or lack thereof, pull out your device of choice and send them an email, asking them to elaborate. Don’t cringe; we do this all the time. Hate to sound like a broken record, but double check everything and do your own research. If you take anything away from this post, let it be that. Trust no one.

BTW, mistakes are okay

Our best advice is just to do the best you can. You may slip up once in a while and purchase something that is not CF, which wouldn’t entirely be your fault since there are so many brands with vague and misleading animal testing policies (plus, companies are constantly tweaking their stance on animal testing). And that’s okay. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about the effort.

How to deal: the transition

Don’t freak out: you don’t have to throw away all of the products in your makeup collection if you want to go CF. The first step (and most important) is to commit to never buying any products that test on animals. Just by making this decision is doing a lot for the animals. Psst: We also have a definitive guide for you to fully transition your closet into being 100% cruelty-free as well. It’s right here.

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Have you been using cruelty-free products all along and never even realized it? If so, what are some of your holy grail CF products? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Leave a Thought
  • Nik

    What if a company says they are cruelty free but they source ingredients from another company that does testing on animals?

    • Amber

      Hey, Nik.

      Unfortunately, this is simply another way companies get away with claiming that they are cruelty-free, when really they still encourage animal cruelty. In our opinion, if you still pay for people to harm animals then you support it, and that is not acceptable Bottom line is that animal testing is neither effective or necessary.

      The choice is ultimately up to you. For some, it can be a tough decision because so many companies that used to be cruelty-free are either bought out by a parent company that test on animals, or as you mentioned, source ingredients from a third party that does the dirty work for them. It doesn’t matter how far down the chain it is, if animals are being tortured, or harmed at any way, and you as a brand choose to support these actions, you are not cruelty-free. Personally, we choose not to support companies likes these.Whatever you decide, just remember every time you buy from these brands you are voting with your dollars that its okay to harm animals.

      Hope this help! if you have any other questions feel free to ask 🙂

    • Hey, Nik!

      Unfortunately, this is simply another way companies get away with claiming that they are “cruelty-free”, when really they still encourage animal cruelty. In our opinion, if you still pay for people to harm animals then you support it, and that is not acceptable. Bottom line is that animal testing is neither effective or necessary.

      The choice is ultimately up to you, though. For some, it can be a tough decision because so many companies that used to be cruelty-free are either bought out by a parent company that test on animals, or as you’ve mentioned, source ingredients from a third party that does the dirty work for them. In our eyes, it doesn’t matter how far down the chain it is, if animals are being tortured, or harmed at any way, and you as a brand choose to support these actions, you are not cruelty-free. Personally, we choose not to support companies likes these. Whatever you decide, just remember every time you buy from these brands you are voting with your dollars that its okay to harm animals.

      Hope this helps! if you have any other questions feel free to ask 🙂

  • Tequila M. Allums

    I truly think it is super contradicting when a company says that they don’t test on animals but yet still have animal and animal byproducts in the ingredients. People need to do their research and not just go by what the labels say. Research each and every ingredient because of course they won’t say “membrane from fish bladder” they’ll just create a fancier name for it like “Isinglass”! 🙄.. I don’t trust anyone! That’s why I just make my own stuff!

    • We totally get where you’re coming from and agree; those companies that say they’re cruelty-free, yet still insist on exploiting animals by using parts of their bodies or their bodily secretions are hypocrites, and the worst kind. Some will claim, “We source our animals ingredients ethically.” Well, that’s a paradox in itself. It’s misleading and frustrating, quite frankly, especially when you’re new to the game and not privy to all of the industry terms or technical jargon for (common and uncommon) animal-derived ingredients.

      But yes, that’s why we encourage everyone to do their own research, even on the products we post about here on GOCO. We’re human, and may miss something from time to time, but we try to only recommend products that are both cruelty-free and vegan. And it also doesn’t help that some brands reformulate their products.

      That’s cool that you make your own products, though. What kind of things do you make? We love a good DIY project 🙂