The Cruel Procedures Animals Suffer in Cosmetics Testing

The life of an animal in a cosmetics test lab is not at all glamorous.

Hundreds of thousands of mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits and other animals suffer and die each year to test cosmetics and other personal care items. Is that really worth it for products you just wash off your face at the end of the day? Knowing the details of what these creatures go through might just be the push you need to make the switch to cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics, if you haven’t already.

Find out what these lab animals have to endure, and learn how you can help put an end to these inhumane practices.

The Horrors of Animal Testing

The Cruel Procedures Animals Suffer in Cosmetics Testing

A white rabbit is in a cage in an animal testing laboratory.

The Humane Society of the United States has compiled some common cosmetics tests on animals, during which “pain relief is rarely provided and the animals used are always killed at the end of each test.” These are just some of the tests the animals have to suffer.

Skin Sensitization and Irritation

These tests look for allergic reactions and skin irritation. A test substance is either applied to an animal’s skin or injected beneath the surface, resulting in everything from redness and itchiness to lesions and permanent skin damage. Needless to say, the tests range from uncomfortable to highly painful for the animals.

Eye Irritation

Rabbits often are used for these tests, which look for eye irritation and irreversible corrosion. A person applies a substance directly to the animal’s eye, which could result in bleeding, ulcers and blindness, among other damage.

And remember, the animal likely doesn’t have any pain relievers.

Acute Toxicity

These tests include oral, dermal and inhalation toxicity. They determine how much of a substance results in half of the test animals dying within 14 days of exposure. The animals might experience bleeding, seizures and paralysis — and consequently death — as the substance is forced into them.

Repeat Dose and Subchronic Toxicity

These studies are similar to the acute toxicity tests, but the suffering lasts longer — from roughly 28 to 90 days. Researchers force a substance on the animals, and at the end of the exposure period researchers kill them to examine their organs for abnormalities.

Carcinogenicity and Chronic Toxicity

Hundreds of rats or mice might be used for these tests to look for cancer and other long-term effects of chronic substance exposure. Researchers expose animal to a substance at regular intervals, either by force-feeding, inhalation or rubbing it onto their skin. Then, after years of exposure, researchers kill them to examine their bodies. It’s essentially a lifetime of suffering for these unlucky animals.


The animals in these tests have to endure regular blood draws after substance exposure to measure its metabolism in the body. Then, the researchers kill the animals at set intervals to see how the substance affected their bodies at different points in time.

Reproductive Screens

These tests — which can involve thousands of animals — look for effects on fertility, reproduction issues and birth defects. The researchers force-feed either just the female or both the male and female a substance prior to and throughout pregnancy.

In some tests, they kill the babies before birth or just after birth to examine their tissues. In other tests, they force-feed the babies the same substance to examine its effect on multiple generations — if they survive. They often exhibit symptoms of chronic poisoning, such as convulsions and weight loss.


Mice and rats often are victims of these tests, which monitor for the beginning stages of cancer. The researchers force-feed the animals a substance daily, and then take samples of their blood and bone marrow to check for mutations.

How to Help Lab Animals

The Cruel Procedures Animals Suffer in Cosmetics Testing

Disgusted yet? You’re not alone. Several countries have banned testing cosmetics on animals, and more are working toward that goal.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration “does not specifically require the use of animals in testing cosmetics for safety,” but it advises manufacturers to do whatever they deem appropriate to ensure product safety. And many still include animal cruelty as part of the process.

So what can you do?

HSUS offers a comprehensive guide on helping lab animals. You can add your voice to legislation and campaigns that seek to end animal testing. Share what you’ve learned with family and friends and on social media to educate others. And, perhaps most importantly, take note of some cruelty-free shopping tips.

“The best way to stop companies from using animals is to refuse to purchase their products and to write and tell them why,” according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Become familiar with PETA’s database of cruelty-free companies. There are plenty of cruelty-free and vegan (meaning the products don’t contain animal ingredients) cosmetics out there to meet your needs.

Of course, sometimes it’s easier said than done to incorporate new cosmetics into your beauty routine, but the change doesn’t have to happen overnight. Every product you switch to a cruelty-free brand helps. And finding a new lipstick seems like a tiny inconvenience compared to all the animals suffering in cages.


Images via Thinkstock.


Janis K
Janis K12 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing

Carole R
Carole R5 months ago

So sad.

Peggy B
Peggy B5 months ago


Dennis Hall
Dennis H5 months ago


Alexandra Richards
Alexandra Richards7 months ago

Thank you.

Chad A
Chad Anderson7 months ago

Thank you.

Marija M
Marija Mohoric7 months ago

tks for sharing.

Angela K
Angela K7 months ago

Petition signed & shared

Mark T
Mark Turner7 months ago