One Surprising Result From My Switch to Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

Several years ago, I vowed to go cruelty-free with my cosmetics. I thought Iíd have to pay a lot more for products that didnít work as well, but I was seriously mistaken. Here are eight lessons I learned throughout the process, culminating in one result I didnít expect.

8. Animal testing is terrible and unnecessary

Many locations around the world have already banned animal testing, and more are on their way. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration ďdoes not specifically require the use of animals in testing cosmetics for safety,Ē and one state, California, could be the first to ban it entirely.

Once you learn the cruel procedures that laboratory animals have to endure, itís hard to justify buying cosmetics that arenít cruelty-free. And considering that there are limitations and alternatives to animal testing, itís even more difficult to support companies that use it. “Different species respond differently when exposed to the same chemicals,”†according to the Humane Society of the United States. “Consequently, results from animal tests may not be relevant to humans.”

7. Cruelty-free brands are everywhere

Iíve never been a huge cosmetics person. I recently baffled my hairdresser when I told her I donít own hairspray. Still, even without an extensive product list, I own plenty of cosmetics for which I had to find a cruelty-free alternative. Going into this journey, I thought I would have to hunt to find affordable products that I liked. But in reality, the stores I already shopped at had everything I needed ó and for a comparable price to what I was paying before.

6. Labels can be misleading

Woman reading label of organic shampoo

ďCruelty-freeĒ and ďnot tested on animalsĒ might not always mean what you hope they do. According to the Food and Drug Administration, ďThe unrestricted use of these phrases by cosmetic companies is possible because there are no legal definitions for these terms.Ē So, for example, some manufacturers might use the label because a finished product isnít tested on animals, but the ingredients are.

When I research products, I check the item on Leaping Bunnyís list and conduct a search of my own to see whether anything pops up that makes me skeptical about its cruelty-free status. I also occasionally email companies about their testing methods. And in stores, I look for the trustworthy logos that mean cruelty-free.

5. Cruelty-free isnít necessarily vegan

Iíll admit I didnít realize this at first when I started my cruelty-free journey. I just assumed cruelty-free items wouldnít use any animal products. But thatís not always the case. The product might not be tested on animals, but it could contain animal ingredients, such as beeswax and honey. Some items come with vegan on the label, but your safest bet is always to read the ingredient list, and look up anything youíre not sure about.

4. You might become healthier and more eco-friendly

Woman washing her hair in a white-tiled shower

Now that Iíve been reading labels and researching brands more than ever in my life, Iím not only more conscious about what products I use but how I use them. I’m picking healthier cosmetics based on their ingredients, and I’m only using what I need.

For instance, I used to buy a fairly cheap drugstore brand of shampoo. I had no qualms about slathering it on in excess because the bottles werenít a huge hit to my budget. But now, the cruelty-free shampoo Iím using costs more, and Iím reluctant to waste a drop. Thus, the bottle actually ends up lasting longer, Iím producing less waste and Iím not spending any more money than I used to.

3. Itís OK to work gradually

Once I started learning the grisly details of animal testing, I immediately wanted to throw away all my products that weren’t animal-friendly. It disgusted me that animals had to die for the nonessential tube of mascara I used to lengthen my eyelashes by millimeters. But I resisted the urge because wasting the products wouldnít do anything for those animals or the environment. And I probably wouldnít have fared well if I had given up my personal care products all at once like a crash diet.

So I worked in pieces. I picked the products I use more of, such as shampoo, and found cruelty-free options for those first. I actually made a list of when I would be out of certain items ó because Iím a planner like that ó so I knew when I had to start searching for new products. It took more than a year before I replaced everything with a product I liked, but never once did I feel like it was a burden or impossible.

2. Testing deodorant is the worst

This was probably the hardest part of my journey to cruelty-free cosmetics. For most of my life, I bounced between typical drugstore deodorants. Yes, I eventually learned they contain potentially harmful chemicals, but they worked.

When I looked into cruelty-free brands, most seemed to be natural deodorants, which in my experience are a lot more finicky in how they work. I read a ton of reviews, tried a variety and had plenty of fails. It certainly wasnít as fun as trying new makeup, but I persevered. And now I have a few options I cycle between that seem to work for me.

1. Surprise! I can’t stand artificial fragrance anymore

two bottles of perfume next to a flower

Cruelty-free and natural donít necessarily go hand in hand, but more often than not the products seem to contain healthier ingredients ó or maybe I just gravitate toward them. Either way, after ditching my shampoo laden with artificial fragrance, exchanging perfume for essential oils and making other more natural choices, I began to notice that I hated fake fragrances. My nose became extra sensitive to even a whiff of the stuff, and too much would bring on a nasty headache.

This was an entirely unforeseen effect of making the switch to cruelty-free cosmetics, but itís one Iím completely OK with. Many artificial fragrances can be detrimental to our health, triggering everything from asthma to reproductive issues and cancer. “When you see ‘fragrance’ on a personal care product’s label, read it as ‘hidden chemical,’” according to the Environmental Working Group. “A major loophole in FDA’s federal law lets manufacturers … include nearly any ingredient in their products under the name ‘fragrance’ without actually listing the chemical.”

So Iím not exactly displeased Iím extra sensitive to fake fragrance now because never again will I be tempted to buy a product just because it smells “good.” It makes the cruelty-free, healthier choices look that much better to me.

Main image credit: JackF/Thinkstock

59 comments

HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R14 days ago

thank you

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Elizabeth M
Past Member 22 days ago

Thank you Mary.

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Lesa D
Lesa Dabout a month ago

it makes you beautiful on the INSIDE!

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Lesa D
Lesa Dabout a month ago

#308035 petition signed...

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Lesa D
Lesa Dabout a month ago

thank you Mary...

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Amanda M
Amanda Mabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda Mabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

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Renata Kovacs
Renata Kabout a month ago

Thoughtful and useful to read Thank you for sharing,,

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Janis K
Janis Kabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Kathy G
Kathy Gabout a month ago

Thank you

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