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’s 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. The most common testing methods include:

  • Draize Test: This test is an ocular toxicity test that was first developed in 1944 to determine the potential irritation or damage a chemical or substance might cause to the human eye. This experiment is usually performed on rabbits. However, the data collected from this test has proven to be unreliable due to the biological differences between rabbit and human eyes.

  • Skin Sensitization: The skin sensitization test is intended to assess whether chemicals will cause the skin to have an allergic reaction. To test for reactivity, the chemical will either be injected into the lab animal or rubbed onto a shaved patch of skin, followed by a period of observation.

  • Dermal Penetration: This method is generally performed on rats to analyze how the skin will absorb a chemical. First, the chemical will be injected into the lab rat’s bloodstream, after which the movement of the chemical throughout the body will be observed.

  • Acute Toxicity: The acute toxicity test is one of the most cruel methods of animal testing in cosmetics. This test is used to measure the lethal dose of a chemical. Groups of rats or mice undergo short-term exposure to a chemical through injection, inhalation, or ingestion to determine how much it takes for that chemical to cause death. The lethal dose (LD50) is set once 50% of the test group has died from chemical exposure.

  • Skin Corrosivity: Another method of assessing the harmful effects of a chemical applied to the skin is the skin corrosivity or irritation test. This experiment is typically carried out on rabbits to measure the amount it takes for a chemical to cause irreversible damage to the skin.

But 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 raised in the lab. The animals most commonly used in these experiments 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 adhere to the European Union cosmetics REGULATION (EC) No 1223/2009 and do not perform animal testing for cosmetic purposes, neither for our finished products nor the ingredients used for the products. Furthermore, the majority of our products are vegan and produced in compliance with EU regulations. 

Similarly, our Cruelty-Free policy  and the principles in this statement apply to all ADA Cosmetics operations globally and all of our outsourced vendors, including third-party suppliers and research labs.  We are requiring our raw material suppliers as well as our finished products suppliers a testified confirmation for “non-animal testing” to ensure us they have not performed any animal testing on their raw materials or finished products in compliance with the EU REGULATION (EC) No 1223/2009. We provide a template to all our suppliers and are expecting a signed and stamped testimonial on non-animal testing.
This testified confirmation for “non-animal testing” is a prerequisite before entering into any business relationship with ADA Cosmetics.

With the use of alternative methods, we believe that no living creature should be put through immense pain when harmless alternatives have been developed to replace animal testing. We don’t agree that animal testing is necessary to assure the safety of our products or the ingredients in them and support calls for a worldwide animal testing ban on cosmetics.


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

Which animal is tested the most?

In cosmetic testing, mice, rats, and rabbits are used the most. For example, rabbits are preferred for eye irritation tests because their eyes are larger, making it more convenient for observation, while mice and rats are preferred for other tests, such as the acute toxicity test.

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.