What To Look For When Buying Cruelty-Free Makeup

What To Look For When Buying Cruelty-Free Makeup

Testing makeup on animals is a thing of the past, right? 

Sadly, the answer is no. It’s 2021, and there are still a ton of beauty brands that test their products and ingredients on animals. Testing on animals is not required by law, and yet the practice continues.

If you’re an animal-loving makeup artist, an environmentalist, or just a compassionate human being, you would probably choose cruelty-free products over animal-tested products any day of the week. And yet, testing on animals still occurs—why? It’s hard to say, really.

Fortunately, there are many ways to combat the harmful nature of this practice. One of those ways is to buy cruelty-free makeup and skincare products whenever possible because these products can be just as high quality as ones that are tested on animals. 

This feat sounds simple enough, but it’s actually a bit complex. That’s why we’ve assembled a short introduction to the world of cruelty-free cosmetics.

Here at Gleamin, we’re proud to be cruelty-free, and we want to support the movement as much as possible. Read on to learn how you can do the same.

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Cruelty-Free: What Does It Mean? 

In theory, the term “cruelty-free” (in reference to cosmetics) has a simple definition: it means that a product has not been tested on animals. Though this is the popular understanding of the term, the reality of its meaning and usage is far more complicated. 

The term “cruelty-free” is not regulated in the United States or Canada. As such, it’s quite easy for companies to claim their products are cruelty-free, when in reality, they simply aren’t—at least not entirely.

Due to the lack of regulation, cosmetic companies use the term loosely. For example, if a finished product was never tested on animals, the company can claim that it is cruelty-free. But here’s the catch—the individual ingredients were tested on animals. 

Notably, most animal-testing actually happens with singular ingredients, not the finished product.

Similarly, some companies use a semantic loophole to get away with animal testing. They state that they do not test on animals, but then outsource the testing to a third party. Thus, the statement is true—the company doesn’t conduct the testing—but the product or ingredient has still been tested on an animal. 

As you can see, the language surrounding cruelty-free products gets pretty complex. This makes it difficult to be certain that a product is cruelty-free.

This short lesson has probably left you wondering one thing: how can you tell if a product is cruelty-free if you can’t always trust the brand itself? Don’t stress—there are many ways to ensure that the products you buy are truly cruelty-free.

Read on to learn about all our best advice for buying cruelty-free makeup.

The Best Ways to Research Cruelty-Free Brands 

With so much ambiguity surrounding the cruelty-free label itself, buying cruelty-free makeup is more time-consuming than it may seem at first. However, doing the right thing is always worth the extra effort.

A large chunk of that extra effort goes into doing the necessary research before you buy a product.

As we know, just because a product is labeled “cruelty-free” or the company claims to be a cruelty-free makeup brand doesn’t mean they really are. However, with a simple Google search, you can uncover the reality of a brand’s practices.

To begin your investigation, the following search: [brand name] + cruelty-free + [current year]. With any luck, you’ll find some information about the company’s official policies about their animal-testing practices. This should work with drugstore brands like Cover Girl and e.l.f. and higher-end brands like Estee Lauder and Tarte. Companies should be proud of their cruelty-free designation, so it shouldn't be hard to find. It's also worth looking up the parent company to see what kind of practices they follow at a higher level.

Even if you can’t find the info you need on the company’s website, there are plenty of reliable websites and blogs that evaluate haircare, skincare, and makeup brands on these practices. Try reading through a few trusted sources.

In some cases, especially with smaller companies, you may not be able to find information anywhere. If so, consider contacting the company directly through email. Hopefully, someone will get back to you, but it will probably take a while.

The Internet has given us access to a vast amount of knowledge. It’s easier than ever to research the products you buy and ensure that they’re truly cruelty-free. 

And, if you stick with it, soon enough, you’ll be an expert on the practices of all the big brands.

How to Evaluate Product Labels and Logos

Online research is an excellent tool for learning about cruelty-free companies, but what if you’re shopping for concealer in-person? What if you just don’t have enough time to sift through all the information you can find about product formulations?

Well, if you really want to get serious about buying cruelty-free, you should learn how to evaluate product labels and the little logos they contain. 

As we’ve already established, the phrases “cruelty-free” and “not tested on animals” don’t carry much weight when it comes to trustworthiness. Even if you see these phrases, you should take a close look at the product itself.

One of the best indicators of a truly cruelty-free product is the logos you’ll see on the label. These should be present whether you're shopping for drugstore brands like L'Oreal and Milani or you're at Sephora or Ulta looking for high-end brands like Too Faced and Urban Decay. 

Next time you shop for cruelty-free products, see if it is Leaping Bunny certified. This small symbol depicting a bunny is internationally recognized, and it indicates that no new animal tests occurred during the development of the product it adorns.

Since it is a third-party seal, you can trust that the makeup brand isn’t acting shady or skirting around the rules.

There are several other logos that indicate that a product is truly cruelty-free, and here’s the best part—they’re all bunnies.

One of the most prominent of these logos is the logo from PETA, or People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. This is a well-known symbol—there are over 5,000 brands from around the world that have been certified by PETA. 

However, PETA’s requirements for certification are more relaxed than Leaping Bunny’s. PETA does not require that brands provide documents from suppliers that prove compliance with PETA’s cruelty-free policies. Similarly, PETA does not conduct audits on its brands. Moreover, PETA allows its certified brands to sell their products in China, where animal tests are actually required in certain circumstances.

This is all to say that the PETA logo is not quite as reliable as other similar logos. Frankly, if you see the PETA bunny logo on a product, you should consider doing further research on the product itself. 

There are two more relevant bunny logos to look out for: Cruelty-Free International and Choose Cruelty-Free. The former is based in the EU, and the latter in Australia. 

Be sure to familiarize yourself with all four of the logos mentioned here. Unfortunately, many products will use a “fake” bunny logo to try to pass as cruelty-free. Any logo that looks unfamiliar shouldn’t be trusted. 

Other Ways You Can Support the Cruelty-Free Movement 

Shopping cruelty-free can be complicated—there’s no doubt about that. Just remember: making the effort to educate yourself on this topic is the first step to creating change.

When you’re not shopping for new makeup, you can still support the movement in several important ways:

  • Start small. If you’re just learning about the intricacies of cruelty-free beauty products, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. It’s a lot to take in. 

    First of all, don’t beat yourself up if you’ve purchased animal-tested products before. To be honest, many big companies still practice animal testing, so it’s pretty hard to avoid. Your favorite eyeliner or matte eyeshadow palette might have been tested on animals, and you didn't even know it. 

    You don’t need to get rid of all your products at once. Instead, spend a little time each day sifting through the makeup you already have. If you find out that something isn’t cruelty-free, make a note of it. Now you know to stop purchasing it in the future!

  • Return any animal-tested makeup products. Along similar lines, if you discover an unopened or unused product in your makeup collection that is not cruelty-free, consider returning it to the retailer. That way, you’ll get your money back, and you won’t be supporting a business whose values you don’t agree with.

  • Talk to your friends about this issue. Raising awareness is another excellent way to promote cruelty-free shopping. Many people aren’t fully aware of the complexities of this problem. Next time you get the chance, start a conversation with your friends and family about cruelty-free cosmetics, and maybe the next time they head out to buy a highlighter, they'll remember your conversation.

    Who knows—maybe you’ll learn something, too!

  • Support vegan makeup brands. Veganism and anti-cruelty often go hand in hand (but not always). A vegan product won't contain animal ingredients like lanolin or animal by-products like beeswax, and they're often cruelty-free, as well. Both movements center around promoting the well-being of animals. Thus, consider purchasing your next mascara, moisturizer, or face mask from a vegan brand.

  • Relax. Finally, don’t forget to relax. If you’re overwhelmed and exhausted, you may get burnt out if you're sitting at your computer reading about parabens all the time. Get a manicure or a facial, and let yourself rest for a day. Then, come back ready to keep fighting.

  • By taking these simple steps, you can start working towards making a big difference.

    Final Thoughts About Cruelty-Free Makeup 

    Animal testing is still pervasive in the beauty industry, with everything from full-coverage foundation and makeup brushes to nail polish and deodorant. Luckily, there are thousands of cruelty-free brands in the world, as well as organizations working towards ending animal testing entirely. That means that there
    are products out there that will work for you, regardless of skin tone and type.

    Although it may be difficult sometimes, buying cruelty-free makeup is a foolproof way to support this growing movement.


    "Cruelty Free"/"Not Tested on Animals" | FDA


    The Dos & Don’ts Of Going Cruelty Free | navs.org


    The Leaping Bunny Logo | Leaping Bunny


    Which Cruelty-Free Logo Can We Trust in 2021? | We Compare Them All! | Ethical Elephant

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