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Cruelty-free, Vegan, and Clean Beauty: What’s the Difference and How to Upgrade Your Routine

November 22, 2021 By

What is Cruelty-free Skin Care?

Cruelty-free is a phrase you might be noticing on the label of your newest
moisturizer or mascara. For decades the skin care industry has been using animals to test their products, ingredients, and formulas. It has been the standard forever, but it’s not even the most accurate way to test products anymore.    

cute golden doodle dogCruelty-free skin care is a dedication to creating products that aren’t tested on animals and don’t harm animals at any point through the production process. Not to worry, cruelty-free doesn’t mean you can’t use your favorite lip gloss anymore. Each year, more and more companies are noticing the trend and committing to developing cruelty-free practices. Buying cruelty-free products is how you can tell companies that you don’t support animal testing.  


What Does ‘No Animal Testing’ Mean?

Animal testing is an incredibly common practice for many skin care companies. They test new products and formulas on animals first to make sure they are safe for people to use. However, thanks to advancements in technology, animal testing is no longer the most accurate method. Despite this, animal testing is still common. Testers apply products to rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, and rats.  They even sometimes force-feed animals products, whether or not the product is intended to be ingested by humans! The animals are closely watched for any signs of irritation, extreme reaction, or worse. The animals can easily be hurt and sometimes die from severe reactions, and when the testing is done…they aren’t sent to a nice farm upstate.

animal testing for makeup

No animal testing means just that.
The products are tested and determined to be safe without the use of animal subjects at all. They are verified as cruelty-free because no animals are hurt in the development of the products.     

How Do I Know Cruelty-free Products Are Safe For My Skin?

clean beauty safetyWhile not tested on animals, cruelty-free products have been extensively tested and are safe for your skin. There are several stages of effective testing that do not harm animals but still
allow product developers to discover the information they need to ensure these products won’t harm your skin:   

  • Human Testing: I know this doesn’t sound all that different from animal testing, but the humans volunteer of their own free will, they are not forced, can stop at any time, and are not kept in cages. Also, many people can donate tissue after a surgery, biopsy, or transplant. That human tissue is vital for testing, but does not put the human volunteer at risk in the least.
  • Lab Grown Tissue: Scientists can grow human or animal cells in a lab. This is more commonly used in the medical field to develop treatment for serious diseases, but the lab grown tissue is integral for testing and identifying safe chemicals for the skin.
  • Computer Simulation: These computer models are up to 96% accurate in testing whether products are safe for human use, that is more than 10% higher accuracy than the average animal test. 

One thing to remember, although cruelty-free products are rigorously tested and safe for your skin, everyone’s skin is different. So when adding something new to your routine, it’s best to do a “patch test” on a small area of your skin to make sure the new product is a good fit for you.    

Don’t Be Fooled By Fake Labels

city beauty cruelty freeThere is no required regulation for printing ‘cruelty-free’ on a product label. Some companies claim to be cruelty-free because the final product wasn’t tested on animals, but those same companies test every individual ingredient in the formula, meaning plenty of animals were harmed in the development process.

So yes, dishonest companies could slap cruelty-free on their bottles and assume their customers are none the wiser…but you ARE wiser. 

How Do I Know If Products Are Actually Cruelty-free?

The Leaping Bunny Program is a coalition of animal protection organizations that created an industry standard for what it means to be cruelty-free.  In order for a company to be certified by Leaping Bunny, they have to meet the following requirements:  

  • The company cannot conduct, commission, or participate in any animal testing on their products, ingredients, or formulas. Not only is the company forbidden to test on animals, they can’t source their raw materials from suppliers that test on animals, and they can’t have any involvement in 3rd party testing.
  • The company cannot purchase ingredients from a supplier or 3rd party who conducted animal testing since a strict fixed cutoff date. Here’s the truth: many skin care ingredients have already been tested on animals for decades. Leaping Bunny does not ban those ingredients, they just ban testing. So, if a company wants to use those ingredients, they can’t get them from suppliers who currently participate in testing or have participated in testing recently. Each ingredient has its own specific cutoff date.
  • The company and their supplier must agree to a yearly audit. Leaping Bunny does not just take the company’s word for it. Independent audits are conducted yearly on every company to ensure that they are adhering to the Leaping Bunny Certification guidelines.
  • The company cannot allow regulatory agencies from foreign countries to conduct animal testing on their products. Some countries require animal testing on any product intended for human use. If a Leaping Bunny Certified company wants to sell to those countries, they need a loophole from the government, because they certainly aren’t getting one from Leaping Bunny.

vegan skin care

While anyone can print cruelty-free on their label, the Leaping Bunny Certified logo can only be used by companies that adhere to the above requirements and recommit every single year. If it says Leaping Bunny, you can trust that it is actually cruelty-free.  

Is Cruelty-free and Vegan Skin Care the Same Thing?

Cruelty-free skin care and vegan skin care share some of the same ideals, but have key differences. 

Vegan skin care does not use any animal products or byproducts in their formulas. For example, collagen is a star ingredient in skin care. While it can be sourced from animals without causing harm, vegan products don’t use it or ingredients like it.

Also, as mentioned above, many raw materials were tested on animals decades ago. Cruelty-free skin care can include these ingredients as long as they are not being currently tested on animals. Vegan skin care bans those ingredients altogether.


Is Cruelty-free and Clean Beauty the Same Thing?

Cruelty-free skin care and clean beauty are two different focuses. Clean beauty excludes ingredients that are known or suspected to be harmful to humans. The FDA doesn’t regulate a lot of undesirable ingredients (including carcinogens) when it comes to skin care.  Seems like a no-brainer, but clean beauty commits to not using those ingredients and also to being transparent with the customers about what is really going on their skin.

Cruelty-free and clean beauty are not at odds, but they are not the same thing.

eco-friendly skin care

Why Does Cruelty-free Even Matter?

I know you want the best products for your skin. Everyone’s skin and needs are different, so when you find your
favorite face cream, you never want to let it go. With all our advancements in skin care, there is no need to hurt animals in the process of developing products. Not only are the testing alternatives cruelty-free, they are more accurate in determining the safety and effectiveness of these formulas. You can sleep easy wearing your night cream, knowing the product is safe for you and didn’t harm any animals on its way to the bottle.  Cruelty-free is not a fad that will be gone faster than chunky highlights. It is a commitment to do better and be better.

Check your skin care shelf, odds are, more than one of the products you already use every day is Leaping Bunny Certified. And if your favorite product isn’t cruelty-free, shout them out in the comments below. Skin care companies can change their practices and adhere to cruelty-free standards without changing their formulas one bit. So let brands know what’s important to you, and let us know below.  


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