• Beauty

What is cruelty free beauty?

How to make sure your favourite brand doesn’t test on animals 

Cruelty free is one of those non-negotiables we tend to take for granted when shopping for skincare and beauty, but it’s also still an area that needs a lot of attention. For example, did you know that each year approximately 200 million animals are used around the world for scientific purposes? Or that Australia is in the top 10 animal testing countries of the world? 

Cruelty free beauty can largely be defined as beauty and skincare products that haven’t been tested on animals. However, like many areas of the clean beauty industry, the list of terms, accreditations and approval systems associated with a brand being able to make a cruelty free claim is longer than the line for sourdough at your local artisan bakery. And in our humble opinion, a lot more confusing than necessary. So we’ve done the research for you.

What is cruelty free beauty?

According to Emma Lewisham, founder of organic skincare company by the same name, PETA’s definition of cruelty-free is that you need to not only ban animal-testing, but also refuse to use any animal derived ingredients.  

“We have taken cruelty-free considerations right down to the sourcing of our ingredients,’’ Emma says.

“For every ingredient we publish on our website we include all certifications it holds, whether it has been tested on animals, how the product has been extracted or farmed, and consider social and environmental implications of each ingredient.”

How does it work?

“We ask brands to adopt a cutoff date to say that they will no longer test. It’s not just about the brand themselves testing, it’s that they won’t conduct or commission (animal) testing and critically, we ask the same question of their suppliers by asking their suppliers to track down to the level of the individual ingredient,’’ Cruelty Free International CEO Michelle Thew says.

“So we go right down to raw material level in the tracking and we ask that brands do all that they can to remove animal testing from their supply chain from that point forward.”

The length of time it takes a brand to be accredited depends on how many products in its line, and the number of ingredients used.

“The critical part is about reaching out to suppliers. So the time it takes really depends on two factors, the range of suppliers and ingredients that a brand has so therefore, the number of skills that they have, the scale of their operation and then critically, the commitment that the brand give to wanting this done,’’ Michelle says.

For example, according to Michelle it took Garnier, who was recently officially approved by Cruelty Free International under the Leaping Bunny Program, two years to gain accreditation thanks to 500 products and 3000 ingredients that needed to be tracked.

Can a brand be cruelty free without accreditation?

Thanks to increasing demands for transparency and innovations around non-animal product testing, cruelty free beauty is moving towards the norm, says The Natives Co. co-founder, Leesa Gibbs.

“A brand can still be cruelty free without being certified. Understanding a brand’s ethos and sourcing policies is one way of seeking confidence that a brand is sourcing and using cruelty free ingredients,’’ she says.

“Opting for products that are not tested on animals is often associated with clean beauty brands that have an holistic ethos. They encompass not only cruelty free practices, but go that extra step formulating with the best sustainably sourced potent ingredients from nature ensuring products are free of parabens, sulfates and synthetics.

Ask the question: is the final formulation trialled and tested on humans, as this is a great indicator.”

Are vegan and cruelty free the same thing?

Not necessarily. 

“Cruelty-free and vegan products go hand-in-hand but they are not the same,’’, Emma says.  

“Vegan products don’t contain animal-derived ingredients, but they could still be tested on animals.’’

RELATED: Why I made the switch to natural beauty 

RELATED: 6 natural vegan bronzers to try 


The Green + Simple Newsletter

Sign up for the best of sustainability each week