Cruelty-Free Skincare: The Ethical and Environmental Effects

Why Cruelty-Free Skincare Matters

By Tess DiNapoli

The climate crisis is growing, and today, more and more individuals are sharing responsibility for the actions and consequences their everyday routines have on the environment. But treading lightly on the planet doesn’t have to mean giving up your favorite things. There are plenty of ways to work to reduce your carbon footprint, and choosing cruelty-free skincare products for your skincare regimen is a great place to start.

Incorporating cruelty-free skincare products into your skincare journey prevents animal abuse, helps you avoid harmful additives that might harm your skin, and looks after your skin’s microbiome along the way. Learn more about cruelty-free skincare, why it’s important (for yourself and the planet) and how to get started with your new cruelty-free skincare routine today.

What is Cruelty-Free Skincare?

Cruelty-free has become somewhat of a buzzword, so it’s important to understand all of its meanings. After all, it’s not bound by any legal definition and not overseen by any sort of government agency. The label ‘cruelty-free’ may be used to describe products that have used no animal testing in research, development, or production, but it may also have a bit of a murkier definition.

Cruelty-Free Skincare: Handmade soap and a wooden-handled brush on a folded towel

Some skincare products that claim to be ‘cruelty-free’ may involve some level of animal testing, but only at the level of their individual ingredients. For example, ingredients used in your skincare products may have been tested on animals prior to the synthesization of your skincare products. In other words, while the final product may not have been tested on animals, the singular ingredients that make it up may have been.

Companies can also claim to be ‘cruelty-free’ if the brand itself did not participate in animal testing. This places the accountability from the brand itself onto the brand’s individual suppliers, so while the company itself may not have participated in animal testing, the ingredients that make it up may be, at the supply level.

This confusion around a concrete definition can make choosing cruelty-free skincare products difficult for consumers. It’s important to remember that definition aside, many cruelty-free skincare products are more ethical than their traditional counterparts. They’re also more natural, and better for your skin, too, leading to a healthy, glowing complexion. If you’d like to learn more about a specific product, do research on the mission and values of the brand before committing to purchase.

See our complete guides:

three girls wearing facial treatment products and smiling

Why is Cruelty-Free Skincare Important?

Cruelty-free skincare carries a wide variety of benefits that go beyond just combatting animal cruelty. First, cruelty-free skincare products are often healthier and less toxic for your hair, skin, and nails. Many drugstore offerings are cut with harmful additives, toxins, and harsh chemicals, which can lead to less than optimal results. Cruelty-free skincare, on the other hand, often uses natural ingredients with known origins that are less likely to have negative side effects on your skin and overall health.

It also works to reduce your environmental footprint. Cruelty-free products contain only a fraction of the triclosan, parabens, sulfates, and microplastics that non-cruelty-free skincare products do, and the use of these harmful materials have severe environmental impacts, including harming our aquatic environments when they’re disposed of.

Cruelty-free skincare is also important when it comes to protecting our animals. Whether or not you agree that animal testing is cruel, the process of burning skin, inhaling toxic substances, and more is antiquated. Dermatological scientists can now practice better alternatives, including in-vitro testing, that is more scientifically accurate.

You can identify cruelty free or sustainable beauty products by looking for the leaping bunny logo on the back of the label.

Are Cruelty-Free Skincare Products Better for Your Skin?

When you opt for clinical skincare that hasn’t been tested on animals, you’re saying no to synthetic dyes, sulfates, and other skin irritants that may increase the likelihood of breakouts, allergies, and inflammation. Since cruelty-free products only use safe ingredients, they’re gentler on your skin and can lead to a better complexion along the way.

a brown glass bottle in a bed of rose retals

Are Cruelty-Free Skincare Products Better for the Environment?

The short answer? Yes. Since no harmful chemicals have been used to create cruelty-free skincare products, they have a much smaller environmental footprint. When you dispose of cosmetic products that contain harmful additives, you’re letting potentially toxic chemicals into the waterways, soils, and air. Cruelty-free products, on the other hand, contain mostly natural ingredients that will easily degrade upon disposal.

Cruelty-free skincare products also typically do not contain animal-derived ingredients, which may range from milk products, to animal fats, to royal jelly. Using animal-derived ingredients contributes to deforestation, which is not only horribly destructive to our ecosystems, but also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and higher global temperatures.

a clean white bathroom sink with products on a wooden tray

Should I Switch to Cruelty-Free Skincare?

Cruelty-free skincare involves and encourages mindful purchasing on a wide range of cosmetic products. This is when you become more aware and involved with the products, mission, and values of a brand before you buy and consider the potential impacts it may have on your health, the environment, and the wallet along the way. Instead of buying something just because you want to, mindful purchasing pushes you to purchase items that serve a real purpose and meet a need that you may have.

When you look for cruelty-free skincare products, you limit your options and consciously say no to products that were tested on animals and have a less than optimal environmental impact. This will empower you to create change, to send a message to brands and companies that you believe in ethical practices and that they should adopt cruelty-free practices. If enough people take a stand, companies will change their practices, and cruelty-free skincare will become the standard.

It may take a village, but it’s up to us to make a difference.

About the Author

Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and world of fitness.