Cosmetic Testing On Animals Ain’t Pretty (Plus How to Shop Cruelty-Free)

When buying a product like mascara, you probably consider whether it will lengthen or thicken your lashes, but you might not take into account whether the product was tested on animals. And even if animal testing for cosmetics comes to mind, the first image you think of could be almost comical — a bunny’s eyelashes delicately being coated with makeup, or a monkey painting her nails.

In reality, testing products on animals is much more cruel and gruesome.

Millions of animals are tortured and killed — thrown away like worthless garbage when the experiments are completed — to test products we use every day without a second thought. In addition to rats and mice, bunnies and even cats and dogs (bought from breeders or taken from shelters) are used in animal testing, for everything from makeup to laundry detergent to toothpaste to cigarettes.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition asking the EU to ban all animal-tested cosmetics. 

No U.S. law requires cosmetics and household products to be tested on animals, but the Food and Drug Administration “urges cosmetic manufacturers to conduct whatever tests are appropriate to establish that their cosmetics are safe.” Fortunately, many companies are choosing to test their products humanely, with no animal involvement, and many also use no animal-derived ingredients.

Others, sadly, continue to (unnecessarily) test their products with procedures like the Draize test, used to analyze eye and skin irritation and corrosion. In this test, rabbits are locked into full-body restraints, with their necks in a tight vice so they can’t squirm while the tested substance is dripped into their eyes or rubbed onto their shaved skin. While they are subjected to this torture — which could be for weeks — the bunnies suffer swollen eyelids and other eye irritation, inflamed skin, ulcers, bleeding, bloody scabs, and blindness. 

Other tests include acute toxicity tests like the lethal dose 50 percent test, or the LD50 test — the most common form of animal-poisoning study. In an LD50 test, groups of animals are force-fed a substance until half of them die. This test, despite decades of use, has never been scientifically validated to confirm the results are predictive of chemical effects in people.

…which kind of makes this all sound like sick, needless torture, doesn’t it?

In 2009, thanks to the tireless work of caring organizations and activists, the European Union began a gradual ban on the sale of all new animal-tested cosmetics to be completed by 2013. The first phase of this ban affected all tests except for these three, described by the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments:

– the repeat dose toxicity test, in which rabbits, rats or guinea pigs are forced to eat or inhale, or are rubbed with, the tested cosmetic ingredient every 28 or 90 days and are then killed;

– the reproductivity test, in which pregnant rabbits or rats are force-fed the tested substance and then killed along with their unborn babies;

– the toxicokinetics test, in which rabbits or rats are forced to eat the tested substance and are then killed so that their organs can be examined for damage.

You’ll notice all of these experiments end with the unfortunate: “then they are killed.”

These tests are fortunately set for eradication from the EU under the current 2013 deadline — but cosmetic industry officials are now pushing to extend that date even further, possibly another ten years. Meanwhile, animals continue to be tortured and killed for the sake of thicker lashes, flawless skin and more luscious lips.

There is hope. The next time you’re shopping for cosmetics or any personal care or household product, choose those that weren’t used in cruel animal experiments. I can say from my own experience that these products are just as effective as traditional animal-tested ones, and thankfully they are becoming more and more available as consumers request them and support the companies that make them.

To help usher the ban of animal-tested cosmetics in the EU — a major site of the cosmetic companies and an influencer for the entire industry — sign the petition urging European leaders not to cave to cosmetic industry officials and keep the 2013 deadline for the ban.

And to help choose products that were not tested on animals, visit the vegan beauty mecca Cruelty Free Face, which lists vegan cosmetic companies (meaning they neither test on animals nor use animal ingredients) as well as vegan products of companies that aren’t completely cruelty-free yet AND gives helpful makeup tips from a professional makeup artist. 

You can also consult PETA’s handy lists of companies that do and don’t test on animals.

Sign the petition to ban the sale of new animal-tested cosmetics in the EU here.

Related Stories: 

Animal Experimentation Attitudes are Changing

The High Cost of Animal Testing

Scientist Protests Animal Testing


Photo credit: istock


William C
William C1 years ago


W. C
W. C1 years ago

Thank you.

Past Member
Past Member 3 years ago

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David O.
Past Member 4 years ago

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Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoni4 years ago

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Past Member 4 years ago

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Terri Hughes
Terri Hughes6 years ago

These poor animals where not put here on this earth to be experimented on. This is CRUEL AND INHUMANE and this needs to STOP, NOW!!!!

Roberta R.
Roberta R.6 years ago

Hey Rood A. - "Apparently the pain and agony of rabbits is of greater concern to you than the pain and agony infants experience when they experience genital mutilation."

You bettcha!! Humans have cognitively made a Hell-on-earth for animals. It's human-arrogant attitudes like yours that perpetuate these actions. We do NOT have the right use animals in any way we please then dispose of them. We are the parasites of earth, killing our host so, what happens to a few penises...oh well! An infant's parents can always opt out of circumcision - animals have no one to say "no" for them.

Ellyn L.
Ellen L6 years ago

Rood A where do you get your information. You have been reading too many fairy tales, what you claim has been disproven a hundred years ago.

Sheri D.
Sheri D6 years ago

Thanks for informing everyone. I will look for the bunny symbol.