Testing cosmetics on animals

Cosmetic testing on animals is a type of animal testing used to test the safety and hypoallergenic properties of products for use by humans. Due to the harm done to the animal subjects, this testing is opposed by animal rights activists and others. Cosmetic animal testing is banned in the European Union, India, Israel,[1][2] and Norway.[3]


Using animal testing in the development of cosmetics may involve testing either a finished product or the individual ingredients of a finished product on animals, often rabbits, as well as mice, rats, and other animals. Cosmetics can be defined as products applied to the body in various ways in order to enhance the body's appearance or to cleanse the body. This includes all hair products, makeup, nail products and soaps.[4]

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to endorse animal testing methods.[5]

Re-using existing test data obtained from previous animal testing is generally not considered to be cosmetic testing on animals; however, the acceptability of this to opponents of testing is inversely proportional to how recent the data is.


Methods of testing cosmetics on animals include many different tests that are categorized differently based on which areas the cosmetics will be used for. One new ingredient in any cosmetic product used in these tests could lead to the deaths of at least 1,400 animals [6]

Dermal penetration: Rats are mostly used in this method that analyzes moment of a chemical, and the penetration of the chemical in the bloodstream. Dermal penetration is a method that creates a better understanding of skin absorption.[5]

Skin sensitisation: This is a method that determines if a chemical causes an allergic reaction. The chemical adjuvant is injected to boost the immune system. In the past it was performed on guinea pigs, and applied on a shaved patch of skin. Substances are assessed based on appearance of skin.[5]

Acute toxicity: This test is used to determine danger of exposure to a chemical by mouth, skin, or inflammation. Rats and mice are injected in lethal dose 50% (LD50). This test can cause animal convulsions, loss of motor function, and seizures.[5]

Draize test: This is a method of testing that may cause irritation or corrosion to the skin or eye on animals, dermal sensitization, airway sensitization, endocrine disruption, and LD50 (which refers to the lethal dose which kills 50% of the treated animals).

Skin corrosivity or irritation: This method of test assesses the potential of a substance causing irreversible damage to the skin. It is typically performed on rabbits and involves putting chemicals on a shaved patch of skin. This determines the level of damage to the skin that includes itching, inflammation, swelling, etc.[5]


Cosmetics manufacturers who do not test on animals may now use in vitro screens to test for endpoints which can determine potential risk to humans with a very high sensitivity and specificity. Companies such as CeeTox in the USA, recently acquired by Cyprotex, specialize in such testing and organizations like the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT), PETA and many other organizations advocate the use of in vitro and other non-animal tests in the development of consumer products. By using safe ingredients from a list of 5,000 which have already been tested in conjunction with modern methods of cosmetics testing, the need for tests using animals are negated.[7]

EpiSkin™, EpiDerm™ and SkinEthic are each composed of artificial human skin as an option for alternative testing. Artificial skin can imitate the reaction actual human skin will have to a product and the chemicals it contains and can be altered to mimic different skin types and ages. For example, using UV light on EpiSkin can cause it to resemble older skin and adding melanocytes will turn the skin a darker color. This helped create a spectrum of different skin colors that are then used to compare the results of sunblock on a different variety of people.[8] To address potential issues with other parts of the human body, research companies such as NOTOX have developed a synthetic model of the human liver, which is the main organ to detox the body, in order to test harmful ingredients and chemicals to see if the liver can detox those elements.[9] Research companies can also use body parts and organs taken from animals slaughtered for the meat industry to perform tests such as the Bovine Corneal Opacity and Permeability Test and Isolated Chicken Eye Test.[10]


In 1937, a mistake was made that ended up changing the pharmaceutical industry drastically. A company created a medicine “to treat streptococcal infections”, and without any scientific research the medicine was out on shelves.[11] This medicine turned out to be extremely poisonous to people, leading to large poisoning outbreaks followed by over 100 deaths.[11] This epidemic led to a law being passed in 1938, called the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, enforcing more rigorous guidelines on cosmetic products.[12] After this law was passed companies looked to animals to test their products, in turn, creating the first encounters of cosmetic animal testing.

Non-profit organizations

  • Cruelty Free International: Cruelty Free International and its partners manage the certification of all the companies across the world looking to be cruelty free. Companies producing beauty and household products which do not test their products on animals for any market can request membership of The Leaping Bunny Program, which allows that company to feature Cruelty Free International's Leaping Bunny logo on their products. This program sets global standard of operations and sales. Companies headquartered internationally can obtain certification from Cruelty Free International.[13] Companies headquartered in the United States and Canada can obtain certification from The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC)[14] In 2013, over 500 companies were certified.[15] However, some company's certifications were revoked after it was discovered they continued to test on animals in Asia.[16]
  • Humane Society International: This is a global animal protection organization that works to help all animals—including animals in laboratories.[17]

Procedures of animal testing

There is a strategy used in animal testing laboratories titled the 'Three R's:' Reduction, refinement, and replacement' (Doke, "Alternatives to Animal Testing: A Review").

  • Reduction: This approach is built upon the ethics to have a minimal number of animal subjects being tested on for current and later tests.
  • Refinement: This suggests that the planned distress and pain caused to an animal subject to be as little as possible. This approach focuses on making a home for the animals before entering testing grounds in order to elongate the life of laboratory animals. Discomfort to animals causes an imbalance in hormonal levels which create fluctuating results during testing.
  • Replacement: This provides the opportunity to study the response of cellular models, but in other words, replacement searches for alternatives that could be done rather than testing on animal subjects.

Due to the strong public backlash against cosmetic testing on animals, most cosmetic manufacturers say their products are not tested on animals. However, they are still required by trading standards and consumer protection laws in most countries to show their products are not toxic and not dangerous to public health, and that the ingredients are not dangerous in large quantities, such as when in transport or in the manufacturing plant. In some countries, it is possible to meet these requirements without any further tests on animals. In other countries, it may require animal testing to meet legal requirements. The United States and Japan are frequently criticized for their insistence on stringent safety measures, which often requires animal testing. Some retailers distinguish themselves in the marketplace by their stance on animal testing.

Although Japanese law doesn’t require non-medicated cosmetics to be tested on animals, it doesn’t prohibit it either, leaving the decision to individual companies.[18] Animal testing is required mainly when the product contains newly-developed tar colors, ultraviolet ray protective ingredients or preservatives, and when the amount of any ingredient regulated in terms of how much can be added is increased.[19]

Japanese Brands such as Shiseido and Mandom have ended much, but not all, of their animal testing. However, most other leading cosmetics companies in Japan still test on animals.[18][20][21]

Jurisdictions with bans

Brazil, São Paulo

São Paulo in Brazil, banned cosmetic animal testing in 2014.[22]

European Union

The European Union (EU) followed suit, after it agreed to phase in a near-total ban on the sale of animal-tested cosmetics throughout the EU from 2009, and to ban cosmetics-related animal testing.[23] Animal testing is regulated in EC Regulation 1223/2009 on cosmetics. Imported cosmetics ingredients tested on animals were phased out for EU consumer markets in 2013 by the ban,[23] but can still be sold to outside of the EU.[24] Norway banned cosmetics animal testing the same time as the EU.[25] In May 2018 the European Parliament voted for the EU and its Member States to work towards a UN convention against the use of animal testing for cosmetics.[26]

European Free Trade Association

The rest of the EFTA, including Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Iceland also banned cosmetic testing.[27]


In 2017, Guatemala banned cosmetic animal testing.[28]


In early 2014, India announced a ban on testing cosmetics on animals in the country, thereby becoming the second country in Asia to do so.[29] Later India banned import of cosmetics tested on animals in November 2014.[30]


Israel banned "the import and marketing of cosmetics, toiletries or detergents that were tested on animals" in 2013.[31]

New Zealand

In 2015, New Zealand also banned animal testing.[32]


Turkey "banned any animal testing for cosmetic products that have already been introduced to the market." [33]


Animal testing on cosmetics or their ingredients was banned in the UK in 1998.[34]

Jurisdictions where prohibitions are considered

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is potentially "making strides toward ending cosmetics testing on animals."[3]


In Australia, the End Cruel Cosmetics Bill was introduced to Parliament in March 2014, which would ban local testing, which generally doesn't happen there, and importation of cosmetics tested on animals.[7] In 2016 a bill was passed to ban the sale of cosmetics tested on animals, which came into effect in July 2017.[35]


Brazil's legislation will vote on a nationwide animal testing for cosmetics ban by the end of March 2014.[2]

United States

In March 2014, the Humane Cosmetics Act was introduced to the U.S. congress which would ban cosmetic testing on animals and eventually would ban the sale of cosmetics tested on animals.[3] The bill did not advance.

South Korea

South Korea is also potentially "making strides toward ending cosmetics testing on animals."[3]


In 2015, Taiwan launched a bill proposing a ban on cosmetic testing on animals.[36] It passed in 2016 and goes into effect in 2019.[37]

Other statuses


China passed a law on 30 June 2014 to eliminate the requirement for animal testing of cosmetics. Though domestically-produced ordinary cosmetic goods do not require testing, animal testing is still mandated by law for Chinese-made "cosmeceuticals" (cosmetic goods which make a functional claim) which are available for sale in China. Cosmetics intended solely for export are exempt from the animal testing requirement.[38] As of March 2019, post-market testing (i.e. tests on cosmetics after they hit the market) for finished imported and domestically produced cosmetic products will no longer require animal testing. [39]


In 2013, the Russian Ministry of Health stated "Toxicological testing is performed by means of testing for skin allergic reaction or test on mucous tissue/eye area (with use of lab animals) or by use of alternative general toxicology methods (IN VITRO). In this manner the technical regulations include measures which provide an alternative to animal testing".[40]

See also


  1. Engebretson, Monica (16 March 2014). "India Joins the EU and Israel in Surpassing the US in Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Testing Policy". The World Post.
  2. Fox, Stacy (10 March 2014). "Animal Attraction: Federal Bill to End Cosmetics Testing on Animals Introduced in Congress" (Press release). Humane Society of the United States. Archived from the original on 11 March 2014.
  3. "Cruelty Free International Applauds Congressman Jim Moran for Bill to End Cosmetics Testing on Animals in the United States" (Press release). 5 March 2014. Archived from the original on 18 March 2014.
  4. Nutrition, Center for Food Safety and Applied. "Laws & Regulations - Is It a Cosmetic, a Drug, or Both? (Or Is It Soap?)". www.fda.gov. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  5. "Testing". American Anti-Vivisection Society.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 February 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
  7. Bainbridge, Amy (17 March 2014). "Australia urged to follow EU ban on animal testing; Greens to move bill in Senate this week". Australian Broadcasting Corporation News.
  8. Merali, Zeeya (28 July 2007). "New Scientist". Human skin to replace animal tests. 195: 14–14. doi:10.1016/s0262-4079(07)61866-1.
  9. Mone, Gregory (April 2014). "New Models in Cosmetics Replacing Animal Testing". Communications of the ACM. 57: 20–21. doi:10.1145/2581925.
  10. "Alternatives to Animal Tests : The Humane Society of the United States". m.humanesociety.org. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  11. Scutti, Susan. "Animal Testing: A Long, Unpretty History." Medical Daily, 27 June 2013, www.medicaldaily.com/animal-testing-long-unpretty-history-247217.
  12. Scutti, Susan. "Animal Testing: A Long, Unpretty History." Medical Daily, 27 June 2013, www.medicaldaily.com/animal-testing-long-unpretty-history-247217.
  13. "Frequently asked questions by companies - Cruelty Free International".
  14. About Cruelty Free International Archived 16 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Cruelty Free International, d.d.
  15. Leaping Bunny Welcomes Wen® Hair and Body Care by Chaz Dean as Cruelty-Free. Leapingbunny.org, d.d.
  16. . Eluxe Magazine, d.d.
  17. "About Us : Humane Society International". www.hsi.org. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  18. "Be Cruelty-Free Campaign Backed by Global Stars, Launches in Tokyo to End Cosmetics Animal Testing in Japan (March 17, 2014)". Humane Society International. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  19. "Development of Cosmetics -- Toward Abolishment of Animal Testing (February 2015)". JFS: Japan for Sustainability. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  20. "Initiatives in Response to Animal Testing and Alternative Methods". Shiseido Group. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  21. "Approach to alternative to animal experiments". Mandom. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  22. "São Paulo Bans Animal Testing". AFP News. 24 January 2014.
  23. "EU extends ban on animal-tested cosmetics". EuroNews. 11 March 2013.
  24. Fynes-Clinton (20 March 2014), OPINION: Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon’s End Cruel Cosmetics Bill 2014 answers the public’s growing opposition to animals testing, Courier-Mail
  25. Aryan (12 March 2013). "Norway ban animal testing of cosmetics". The Oslo Times. Archived from the original on 18 March 2014.
  26. Jacqueline Foster (3 May 2018). "Foster: "Cosmetic testing on animals must be banned worldwide"". Conservatives in the European Parliament.
  27. cosmeticsdesign-europe.com. "Global ban on animal testing: where are we in 2019?". cosmeticsdesign-europe.com. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  28. "Guatemalan Congress approves animal testing ban | Cruelty Free International". www.crueltyfreeinternational.org. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  29. Mukherjee, Rupali (23 January 2014). "Govt bans cosmetic companies from testing on animals". The Times of India.
  30. Mohan, Vishwa (14 October 2014). "India bans import of cosmetics tested on animals". The Times of India. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  31. "Import ban on animal-tested products goes into effect". The Times of Israel. 1 January 2013.
  32. "MPs unanimously support animal testing ban". Radio New Zealand. 31 March 2015.
  33. "Animal testing for cosmetics banned in Turkey". DailySabah. 27 July 2015.
  34. "Animal Research Regulations in the UK". Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  35. "Department of Health: Ban on the use of animal test data for cosmetics". Australian Government, Department of health. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  36. "Taiwan Proposes Animal Testing Ban for Cosmetics".
  37. "Taiwan bans cosmetics animal testing". Humane Society International.
  38. "Understanding China's Animal Testing Laws 2015". ethicalelephant.com. 9 September 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  39. "China announces end to post-market animal testing for cosmetic products". Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  40. "Cruelty Free International wins Russian commitment on non-animal testing". Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
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