As industry standards evolve, the practice of animal testing in cosmetics is being phased out everywhere around the world. Except in some rare cases – such as in China - manufacturers are adopting animal-friendly alternatives that also offer more compelling results.

Animal Testing in Cosmetics: What You Need to Know

The long-standing practice of animal testing in cosmetics is gradually being phased out worldwide. As technology continues to evolve and consumers become increasingly conscious about the products they purchase, manufacturers are indeed abandoning it to look toward more suitable alternatives. But is it the case everywhere? What countries still require animal testing for cosmetics? Here is what you need to know.

What Is the Role of Animal Testing in the Cosmetic Industry?

Before modern methods (such as computer models and human cell-based tests) for testing the safety of cosmetic ingredients were developed, companies would conduct tests on animals. Some manufacturers still choose to perform such tests when studying a new compound and use them to assess whether chemicals may cause skin or eye irritations or health hazards (such as birth defects, cancer, or other types of illnesses), or to determine their "lethal dose".

Yet, the limitations of animal testing for cosmetic products are significant, as animals and humans often respond differently to the same chemicals, leading to dangerous inaccuracies. Results can also vary between two species of animals which means that they cannot be used to guarantee the safety of a cosmetic ingredient.

What Are the Alternatives to Animal Testing for Cosmetics

People often ask: Is cosmetic animal testing necessary? The fact that there used to be no real alternative is the reason why animal testing for cosmetics was considered a good practice. Since then, thousands of cosmetic ingredients have been proven absolutely safe to use without conducting any further tests of any kind. This means that companies can explore various combinations to create innovative products from ingredients that have undergone decades of extensive use. Thanks to cosmetic manufacturing software, manufacturers now have large databases of ingredient information right at their fingertips. This is by far the most cost-effective solution as well as a sure way to comply with laws on animal testing.

In addition, for those wishing to assess the adverse effects of new ingredients, there exist almost 50 non-animal alternatives to animal testing, with even more still in development. These approaches are not only less expensive, but they are also more accurate in that they can mimic how humans respond to cosmetic ingredients more closely. Computer models and human cell-based tests, for instance, even deliver faster results.

What Are the Laws on Animal Testing in the Cosmetic Industry?

The only country that requires animal testing for cosmetics is China. And even there, regulations have been modified in favor of limiting the practice. As of 2014, companies manufacturing ordinary cosmetics (such as soap or shampoo) are no longer expected to perform animal testing for their products. And as of 2021, it is possible to import the same category of cosmetics without having to test them on animals first. Special use cosmetics, on the other hand, still don't qualify.

In the US, animal testing in cosmetics is no longer required and some states, such as California, Maryland, Illinois, Nevada, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia have even imposed a ban. In the European Union, selling cosmetic products that were tested on animals or that contain ingredients tested on animals has been prohibited since April 2022. Similar laws on animal testing were passed in the U.K., Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Israel, India, and Mexico. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Colombia, Guatemala, Turkey, South Korea, Taiwan, as well as several Brazilian states have also implemented limitations or bans.

The practice of animal testing in cosmetics is now widely recognized as outdated, irrelevant, and unnecessarily cruel. Conscious of the fact that it is being phased out, more and more companies are striving to embrace cruelty-free production models, with many even going as far as to meet the Leaping Bunny standards. The world of personal care products has definitely changed for the better!