Beauty Cosmetics: Compassion in a Lipstick
The phrase “Beauty is skin deep”, has taken a huge beating with vanity taking the leap and creating products that can, “remove dirt and brighten the skin from its deepest layers”. In 2018, the global cosmetic market grew by 5.5% over the previous year, with skincare products making 39% of the global market share.
While we try to attain an ever blemish-free, soft, smooth skin- chances are, we overlook one important detail while choosing the best products for our skin types- Animal Testing.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the ways in which animals are used in the cosmetic industry and the new and upcoming technology that omits animal use for such experiments. We also list a number of brands that have vowed to go “cruelty-free” by providing 100% Vegan cosmetics. (Check out the list at the end of this article)
Animal Testing- The Beauty Secret?
Animals commonly used by the cosmetic companies to test for various skin, eye and hair irritants include rabbits, rats and mice, sometimes even monkeys and dogs. Approximately 100,000-200,000 animals suffer and die just for cosmetics every year.
The use of animals in cosmetic testing is based on the assumption that all animal skins react similarly to human skin which is reinforced by the simple reason that we feel entitled to animal bodies and their use in any way that suits us best.
The question to be asked here is does animal testing of cosmetics give accurate results for human use?
No, animal tests have scientific limitations, as different species respond differently when exposed to the same chemicals. This creates unwanted outcomes when such products are used by humans, as they can under- or overestimate real-world hazards to people. Results from animal tests can be quite variable and difficult to interpret. Unreliable, ineffective and expensive animal tests mean consumer safety cannot be guaranteed.
Various tests that are conducted on animals include:
- direct application of “test” chemical on the skin, eyes, nose, etc. to check for swelling, irritation, lesions, blindness, bleeding or ulcers,
- measuring the toxicity of a product through skin, inhalation or ingestion by poisoning test animals till 50% population dies (LD50 test),
- use of pregnant animals to check for reproductive or developmental toxicity of the chemical in question.
At no point during these tests is the animal given any painkiller or a numbing agent.
The end result of all these tests is a mutilated animal which is ultimately killed once his/her “purpose” is served.
Are better alternatives available?
The need to develop Replacement Alternatives was initiated in the 1950s, with an increased demand for animal rights, stricter controls on animal experimentation were introduced from the 1980s, based on the Three Rs of Russell and Burch (reduction, refinement and replacement).4 It was studied that three main factors are required to develop alternatives to animal testing:
- understanding the nature of toxic chemicals being used to choose the best corresponding study methods
- developing technology that can be adjusted to the demand of a particular experiment and
- robust scientific results to convince regulatory authorities to adopt these alternatives.5
Based on this, the most cost-effective and accurate alternatives that have been developed so far include human reconstructed skin, such as EPISKIN®, EpiDerm®, SkinEthic®, and EPiTRI®. Reconstructed Human Epidermis (RHE) is an artificial epidermis made in such a way that it resembles human skin, and can be used for the identification of irritant chemicals, especially for cosmetic and topical medicinal products. The EPiTRI® experiments give much better results for various skin testing factors such as the sensitivity of 100%, the specificity of 70%, and an accuracy of 85% in the international validation study.
The other easy option is to encourage the use of ingredients with a long history of safe use, because these will have existing safety data and require no further testing.
Role of Government Policies
A lot of countries around the world are shifting towards more humane, cost-effective and accurate alternatives to test for cosmetic products. This shift has been achieved by introducing legislation that bans the use of animal testing in most countries and also the sale of such products.
Animal testing for cosmetics has been banned throughout the 28 countries of the European Union since 2009. EU also banned the sale of cosmetic products or ingredients subject to new animal testing after March 2013. Israel imposed testing and a sales ban in 2007 and 2013, respectively. India also introduced a national test ban in 2013. The Brazilian state of Sao Paulo introduced a complete cosmetics animal testing ban in January 2014, and New Zealand achieved a national cosmetics animal testing ban in 2015.
However, cosmetics animal testing remains legal in most other countries. Although many countries don’t expressly require such testing, as it is not prohibited it continues to take place at the discretion of cosmetics companies and ingredient suppliers.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
With millions of animals being subject to unnecessary and painful testing for our vanity, it is important for us to recognize that our personal choice to look good externally comes at the cost of many lives.
One choice at the cosmetic store seals the fate of helpless animals, who are reduced to test dummies in sanitized laboratories. Even though cosmetic brands practice huge clout in marketing and pushing their products, it is up to us as customers and consumers to make well-informed choices and put an end to unjustified, barbaric practices of animal use.
Here is a list of companies and brands that are 100% Vegan or have vegan product options available:
The Body Shop
Kat Von D
Beauty Without Cruelty
Remember, one cruelty-free choice at your end will help prevent the suffering of millions of innocent animals, now that’s what we call a Real Beauty.
- Cosmetic Industry- Statistics and Facts, statista.com (accessed 29th June, 2020) https://www.statista.com/topics/3137/cosmetics-industry/
- About Cosmetics and Animal Testing, Humane society International (HSI) (accessed 26th June, 2020) https://www.hsi.org/news-media/about_cosmetics_animal_testing/
- Alternatives to animal Testing, American Anti Vivisection Society (AAVS) (accessed 26th June, 2020) http://aavs.org/alternatives/testing/
- Replacement of animal procedures: alternatives in research, education and testing. (1994). Laboratory Animals, 28(3), 193–211. https://doi.org/10.1258/002367794780681714
- Daston, G. P., & McNamee, P. (2005). Alternatives to toxicity testing in animals: challenges and opportunities. Essays on the Future of Environmental Health Research.
- Netzlaff, Frank Lehr, C.M. et.al. (2004). The human epidermis models EpiSkin®, SkinEthic® and EpiDerm®: An evaluation of morphology and their suitability for testing phototoxicity, irritancy, corrosivity, and substance transport. Science Direct.
- Lin, Yu- Chun, Hsu, Hui- Chun, et. al. (2018). Testing Method Development and Validation for in Vitro Skin Irritation Testing (SIT) by Using Reconstructed Human Epidermis (RhE) Skin Equivalent – EPiTRI®. Alternatives To Animal Testing. Springer, Singapore.
- Setijanti H.B., Rusmawati E., Fitria R., Erlina T., Adriany R., Murtiningsih (2019) Development the Technique for the Preparation and Characterization of Reconstructed Human Epidermis (RHE). In: Kojima H., Seidle T., Spielmann H. (eds) Alternatives to Animal Testing. Springer, Singapore