Although they may seem synonyms, cruelty-free and vegan labels in cosmetics don´t always have the same meaning. If you are an animal lover and a protectionist, this is what you need to know.
The beauty industry has been causing animal abuse by using rabbits, mice, and monkeys to test cosmetic products and find out their possible results. Fortunately, more and more companies are distancing themselves from these traditional procedures and opting for production free of animal suffering.
That is why labels such as organic, vegan, eco-friendly, or cruelty-free frequently appear on the packaging of makeup and facial care products. But which of these characteristics is truly animal friendly?
Vegan and cruelty-free are not synonyms
For any cosmetic product to be considered vegan it must not contain any ingredient of animal origin or derivatives such as lactic acids, keratin, elastin, collagen or honey. A slightly less demanding category is that of vegetarian, which assumes that the product cannot contain any part of the animal, but can contain ingredients produced by them. But vegan or vegetarian products can be tested on animals, so although they might not contain animal byproducts, they can still be produced at the expense of their suffering.
- Collagen is derived from animal tissue, bone, skin, or ligaments – often from cows. There are plant-based alternatives such as soy protein and almond oil.
- Elastin is a protein extracted from the muscles, ligaments and aortas of animals. Vegan alternatives include hyaluronic acid and MSM.
- Keratin comes from the hair and horns of animals and is often used in nail and hair products. Soy protein and almond oil are used as vegan alternatives.
- Beeswax is commonly used in emulsions can also be replaced by soy wax.
On the other hand, a cosmetic classified as cruelty-free, that is, free from animal abuse, depends on other factors. For this, both the final product and all the ingredients it contains cannot have been tested on animals. But the responsibility does not only fall on the brand that sells that cosmetic but on third-party companies hired only to carry out a part of the production. If any of these use animals to test their ingredients, then they cannot receive the cruelty-free label.
It is also possible that the firm that markets the product does not test on animals, but is part of a larger company with other brands that do. And, if we go even further, it would be convenient to pay attention to the market for the sale of their products. For example, cosmetics sold in China are required by law to be tested on animals. Thus, any brand that claims to be cruelty-free in Europe loses that category when it goes on sale in the Chinese market.
The bottom line
Although you might be buying products that don't contain animal parts, the fact that they might have been testing them on animals -in horrible conditions- is considered an act of cruelty according to organizations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). The truth is that this procedure has become obsolete. Currently, it is not only possible to have new mechanisms that allow knowing the effects of an ingredient -such as replicas of animal tissue- but there is also a large list of ingredients classified as "safe" that have already been tested previously. Even so, many firms tend to retest these ingredients, either due to ignorance or because they test the final product.
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