The Ugly Truth of the Beauty Industry

Historically, the Beauty Industry has done a great deal of harm, both to the fellow creatures that inhabit our planet and to the fragile environment that sustains us all. Times are changing, and more and more people are taking steps to address this terrible situation, but there is still a long way to go.

By Kailee Barnes

The Ugly Truth of the Beauty Industry

As an avid user of all things beauty, I was horrified to learn the secret that nobody in the beauty industry wants you to know.

In reality, it’s not a secret. We are all aware of the cosmetic testing done on animals but only a small majority of people know what it really is. When we go to Ulta, Sephora or even our local drugstore we see cruelty free underneath the picture of a bunny written on the back if it is in fact, cruelty free. Sadly, a lot of the brands we know and love are not cruelty free.

So, what is cosmetic testing on animals? According to Cruelty Free International, animals are forced to eat or inhale substances, or have them rubbed on to their skin or injected into their bodies. The animals are then subjected to further monitoring and testing before almost always being killed, so that researchers can look at the effects on their tissues and organs.

There is a range of cruel tests done on animals. Basic research is the most common type of experiment. This type of research is curiosity-driven and is done to answer scientific questions that animal researchers think could be useful in the future. It is important to note that it does not involve testing new medicines, this is done on a completely voluntary basis. This research is usually carried out by universities.

The chances of this research leading to advances in medicine is very slim. According to Cruelty Free International, A review of 101 high impact discoveries based on basic animal experiments found that only 5% resulted in approved treatments within 20 years. These recreational tests are being conducted on animals and they are not even advancing research in science. Animals are suffering and dying at the expense of humans voluntarily doing recreational research that could be done with more humane methods.

Animals are also being genetically modified by researchers, a form of torture resulting in many of these animals not surviving childhood. According to Cruelty Free International, these tests are far from harmless.

hand, book, and cosmetic oil, used by the beauty industry
Photo by Angélica Echeverry

Suffering is acknowledged at every step of the process.

Researchers will continue to breed and modify until they get just one animal that carries the desired traits. These tests are done because researchers are focusing on genes that may be relevant in human medical conditions.

There is also regulatory testing, standardized testing done to see if medicines, chemicals, pesticides, cosmetics, and more to determine if they do their job effectively. This is the type of testing that beauty and cosmetics are tested on animals. Cruelty Free International is just one of the places encouraging regulators to delete tests that are no longer required from legislation and guidelines, and to adopt non-animal methods that have shown to be safe and effective. Continuing to test on animals and ignoring non-animal, humane options is cruel and unnecessary.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, who are fighting to end animal testing, 500,000 animals suffer and die worldwide every year in cosmetic tests.

Even more unsettling than that, more than 110 million animals are killed yearly in U.S. laboratories each year. These animals are suffering and dying and 95% of all drugs that are shown to be safe and effective in animal tests fail in human trials.

PETA has a lot of eye-opening information and statistics on animal testing. They are one of the organizations fighting for these animals and fighting for change.

Why are we testing these products for humans on animals when animals are not even using them?

Why are animals suffering and dying at our expense?

The testing of beauty and cosmetic products has proven time and time again to be unnecessary and cruel.

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Photo by Satyabrata sm

If animal testing is so cruel, and there are so many alternatives to it, then why is it still happening?

Cruelty Free International states that half a million animals are used to test cosmetics around the world each year. That is over 1,000 animals today. The most common animals used in cosmetic testing are rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, and in rare cases, dogs.

Sadly, the U.S. has not banned animal testing and it is still occurring. There are petitions and bills trying to change and while progress has been made, nothing major has changed. Innocent animals are being forced into lives of pain, torture, and suffering just so that we can have cosmetics. Sadly, some of the bigger names we all know and love are still testing on animals despite efforts to change that and advances in science. L’Oréal, Maybelline, Benefit, and Clinique are all among brands that are still testing on animals.

A big part of why animal testing is still happening is China. China requires animal testing on imported cosmetics and domestically manufactured cosmetics. A lot of companies, including NARS, are allowing animal testing because they are receiving their products from China. NARS received a lot of backlash when they joined the Chinese market and switched from cruelty free to animal testing.

Another example is L’Oréal who claims they are cruelty free but is in fact not. They found a loophole in their claims, since it is required in China, meaning they do pay to have their products tested on animals.

These companies need to be held responsible for this. There is no reason for them to be testing on animals, especially considering there are so many humane options readily available. Many of these companies have sufficient funds and should not be testing their products on animals.

We need to speak up. These companies need to hear us and need to change.

green frog on plant
Photo by David Clode

Most countries have terrible regulatory measures to protect animals from suffering or prevent them from being used when there are humane, non-animal options.

According to PETA, in the U.S., the species most commonly used in experiments (mice, rats, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians) compromise 99% of all animals in laboratories but are specifically exempted from even the minimal protections of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Meaning that these animals have no rights and nothing to protect them. It is legal for these animals to be tortured, to suffer and be killed, to live lives only ever knowing pain and never being loved.

Many of these U.S. laboratories are not subject to federal laws and inspections because the testing on these animals is so largely unregulated. Unfortunately, these laboratories and companies don’t seem to see animals as anything other than a subject to test. They treat them miserably, torture them, and watch them suffer and then kill them. Innocent animals born to live in misery and pain. It is inhumane and it is evil.

Fortunately, 41 companies have full or partial bans on cosmetic testing on animals as of now.

Unfortunately, it still happens and there are still a lot of countries that don’t have bans. But there are humane alternatives to it. The first one is obvious, human testing.

According to Cruelty Free International, some cruelty free companies carry out humane testing on humans. Though, this is usually only done at the final stage of testing. There are also humane methods that don’t involve humans. These methods include cell cultures, human tissues, computer models and volunteer studies.

These methods also happen to be faster, more reliable, and less expensive than animal testing. Skin allergy tests are a great example of this reliability. According to Cruelty Free International, skin allergy tests in guinea pigs and mice only predict human reactions 72% and 82% of the time while a combination of chemistry and cell-based alternative methods have been shown to accurately predict human reactions more than 90% of the time. The Draize skin irritation test in rabbits can only predict human skin reactions 60% of the time, while using reconstituted human skin is up to 86% accurate.

Statistics comparing animal testing and humane alternatives continue to prove that animal testing is not only cruel and unnecessary, but less effective than it’s alternatives.

What Can You Do?

First and foremost, stop using products that are not cruelty free. I know it doesn’t seem helpful because there are always going to be people buying these products, but it really does make a difference if we all make the change and stop supporting cruelty free. It is important to focus on everything, not just cosmetics. Your household products, chemicals, lawn care, and more are all contributing to animal testing. You can also sign the petition below:

Contact your legislators. Call. Write letters. Send Emails. Don’t stop there either. Educate. Educate everyone you know. There is so much more to it than most people know, and we can only change things if we are informed. If we are going to end cosmetic testing on animals, innocent animals that have no say in their fate, we need to take action.

Author Biography

My name is Kailee Barnes, and I am an English major at the University of Central Florida. I have always had a special bond with animals, and I am very passionate about the topic of cosmetic testing on them because I think it is cruel and unnecessary.

I was inspired to write this paper for an assignment in my class, and after learning so much about the testing of cosmetics on animals, I felt that it was important to inform others about this issue so that we can come together and make a change.