Sustainability

Animal Testing & Cosmetics

31 May 2024

Animal testing in cosmetics has been a subject of controversy for many decades. Over 115 million animals are used for lab research every year. Out of those 115 million, cosmetic testing alone claims the lives of approximately 500,000 lab animals who are subjected to unnecessary suffering in the name of science. 

Many animal rights activists and organizations are dedicated to promoting animal welfare and encouraging the global ban of animal testing. A prime example is the acclaimed organization: Cruelty Free International. As of 2022, over 5000 cosmetic companies were registered with Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny Program (recognized as the global gold standard for cruelty-free cosmetics). Furthermore, public opinion leans toward the ban of all types of animal testing. A 2019 survey reported that 79% of the respondents were in support of legislation to prohibit animal experimentation, and 57% of respondents in a 2020 survey reported that they refused to buy from brands that still used animal testing. 

So, what are the implications of these statistics and what alternatives can cosmetic companies implement to replace animal testing? In this article, we’ll take a look at what animal testing in cosmetics is, its history, alternative methods, and ADA Cosmetics unwavering commitment to cruelty-free beauty.

What is Animal Testing in Cosmetics?

Animal testing is the process of performing scientific experiments on animals to assess the potential effects a chemical may have when used by humans. It involves various experiments that are carried out during the product development phase to test the properties and safety of individual cosmetic ingredients or the finished product itself. These experiments are collectively known as Regulatory Testing. Most of these tests are intended to measure the toxicity level of a chemical and observe reaction time. However, due to the biological differences between humans and animals, as well as uncertainty about the credibility of these experiments, the necessity for animal testing has been a subject of debate over the past several decades.

But what is the origin of animal testing, where do all these animals come from, and which animals are most commonly used in these tests? The animals used in cosmetic testing are specifically bred for experimentation and therefore spend their lives in the lab. The animals most commonly used for cosmetic research are rabbits, mice, rats, and guinea pigs.

History of Animal Testing in Cosmetics

The history of animal testing in cosmetics begins in 1938 when the United States Food & Drug Administration signed an Act requiring cosmetics companies to test the safety of their products on animals. Six years later, the Draize Test was invented in 1944 to test the ocular toxicity of chemicals used in cosmetics. This became the standard for the next several decades until the Belgian-American animal rights activist Henry Spira, founder of Animal Rights International (ARI), launched a campaign against Revlon and their use of the inhumane Draize Test. Revlon and other cosmetic companies, such as Estée Lauder, Chanel, and Mary Kay Cosmetics, responded to Spira’s publication positively by making significant donations to the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing. 

In 1998, the UK became the first country to enact a ban on animal testing in cosmetics. Over the course of the next 20 years, several other countries began to phase out animal testing and the sale of newly animal-tested cosmetics, followed by a full legislative ban. For example, in 2004, the EU passed a law to begin phasing out the production and sale of animal-tested cosmetics. In March 2013, the EU finally put a full ban on animal-tested cosmetics into effect. 

Today, animal testing for cosmetics is still required in some countries, namely China. In the US, however, despite a growing community of animal rights activists and public support for a legislative ban on animal testing in cosmetics, the country remains divided. There are currently 12 states that have independently enacted laws to prohibit the sale and production of animal-tested cosmetics. Nevertheless, the animal rights community continues to pressure the government to enact a federal ban to put an end to all animal testing in the US. 

Is Animal Testing Necessary for Cosmetics?

Animal testing for cosmetics is still allowed in about 80% of the world. According to a 2024 report, approximately 78% of the top 50 beauty brands are still using animal testing for their product development. But is animal testing necessary for cosmetics? 

Animal testing is well established and may provide data that can be trended or reused for new cosmetics. Most alternative methods, however, are new and lack time-tested proof of accuracy. Animal testing is believed to be essential for consumer safety. Because the variables and side effects of a chemical can be more accurately assessed in a living creature than an artificial alternative or computer model, many companies choose to rely on animal testing. 

Although animal testing is intended to protect human health, non-animal alternatives have proven to be more accurate and less expensive. Humans and animals share many biological traits, however, rats and mice may have a very different reaction to a chemical or no reaction at all, whereas humans may have a serious reaction to that same chemical. Therefore, if the reactions between lab animals and humans differ 40% – 60% of the time, compared to about 20% – 30% with non-animal alternatives, the purpose of animal testing is negated.

Alternatives to Animal Testing in Cosmetics

Most alternatives to animal testing in cosmetics originate from human cells. These cells are used to create cell cultures. For example, human skin cells can be grown in the lab to create artificial skin that can be used in place of the Draize Test or other skin toxicity experiments. This non-animal alternative is known as In Vitro testing and is the most common animal testing alternative. 

More recently, technological alternatives to animal testing are beginning to gain traction in the cosmetic research field. One of these methods is computer modeling, which simulates how the human body will respond to a chemical using Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationships (QSARs) technology to replicate a human’s biological reactions. The results of this technology have been surprising, with an 87% accuracy rate.

ADA Cosmetics and its Non-Animal Testing Policy

At ADA Cosmetics, we proudly advocate animal welfare. In accordance with the European Union REGULATION (EC) No 1223/2009, we never perform animal testing for cosmetic purposes, neither for our finished products nor the ingredients used for the products, unless this is mandatory by law. These principles apply to all ADA Cosmetics operations globally, including research initiatives outsourced to third parties.

We require our raw material suppliers as well as our finished products suppliers to provide a testified confirmation for “non-animal testing” to ensure they have not performed any animal testing on their raw materials or finished products after 11.03.2013, in compliance with the EU REGULATION (EC) No 1223/2009. We also provide a template to all our suppliers and expect a signed and stamped testimonial for non-animal testing.

This testified confirmation for “non-animal testing” is a prerequisite before entering into any business relationship with ADA Cosmetics. We don’t believe it is necessary to use animal testing to assure the safety of our products or the ingredients in them and support calls for a worldwide ban on animal testing in cosmetics.

FAQ

What are the statistics of animal testing in cosmetics?

– It is estimated that approximately 500,000 animals are killed each year for cosmetic research
– Animal testing in cosmetics is still legal in about 80% of the world
– Animal testing has an accuracy rate of 40% – 60% compared to alternative methods that have an accuracy rate of 80%
– Animal testing has been banned in 45 countries around the world
– In a 2019 poll, 79% of respondents were in support of legislation to ban animal testing

Where is animal testing in cosmetics banned?

According to the Human Society of the United States, there are currently 45 countries that have banned animal testing for cosmetic purposes, including all member states of the European Union, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, and several others. Furthermore, there are also 12 twelve states in the US that have independently banned animal testing in cosmetics.

Why is animal testing for cosmetics bad?

Cosmetic animal testing is cruel to the animals, an expensive method of research, and has been proven to have a 40% – 60% accuracy rate. On the contrary, alternative methods are not only significantly less expensive, but have also been proven to have an 80% accuracy rate. Therefore, using cruel methods is no longer necessary when harmless and more accurate alternatives exist.