Cosmetics Testing on Animals

Issues-Animals-Used-in-Cosmetics-TestingThe Issue

People trust that the cosmetics and personal care products that they purchase are safe for all their family members, including their companion animals, but object to the use of animals in toxicity testing to assess the safety of these products and their ingredients. Polls have shown that most consumers would prefer to use products from companies that do not test on animals. And innovative alternative cosmetics testing methods are now available that are more humane, faster, less expensive and better able to predict how these products will affect people. Despite this, the practice of cosmetics testing on animals for safety purposes continues in the U.S. and throughout the world.


Cosmetics—typically defined as products that are intended to be applied or introduced into the human body for the purposes of cleansing or beautification—are, for the most part, not required to undergo animal testing in the U.S. There are exceptions, including hair dyes, certain cleaning products and anti-bacterial soaps. However, companies are still legally responsible for ensuring the safety of their ingredients and finished products before they come to market.

The use of animals for cosmetics testing was instituted in the 1940s in response to serious injuries suffered by people who were exposed to unsafe beauty products. Today, many companies actually have no need to test, as their formularies rely upon ingredients that are classified as “generally recognized as safe.” Testing for these ingredients may have been conducted on animals at one time, but is not done so currently. Regardless, some companies continue to do animal testing as a kind of legal protection against a lawsuit if a product harms a person. They may use the animal tests as evidence that they used “due diligence” in conducting safety testing.

Another reason  that cosmetics testing may take place using animals is that a company may be testing new chemical compounds, or testing compounds on a sensitive population such as children or the elderly, to determine whether the substances will cause an allergic reaction if applied to skin, or whether they cause irritation or corrosion of the skin or eyes.

Companies that manufacture or market their products overseas may be required to submit them for animal testing. Today, however, a growing number of countries around the world have passed laws banning cosmetics testing on animals. At the same time, many companies are working to develop, validate and implement innovative alternative methods that are not only replacing animal testing for cosmetics, but which are also being used in other industries.

How NAVS Helps

NAVS has been committed to providing consumers with credible information regarding cruelty-free products for more than 30 years, starting with the publication of our first “Personal Care with Principle” pamphlet in 1985 and continuing through 13 print editions of our authoritative guide, Personal Care for People Who Care. Today, NAVS is proud to be a member of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), which, through its Leaping Bunny Program, utilizes a single, comprehensive standard for identifying cruelty-free cosmetics, personal care products and household products. A continuously-updated listing of these products can be found in NAVS’ Cruelty-Free Product Guide.

In addition, our funding of the International Foundation for Ethical Research and support of the Society for In Vitro Biology allows NAVS to invest in the development and implementation of alternatives while working to advance greater respect, compassion and justice for animals. We’ve also taken an active role in support of the Humane Cosmetics Act which would prohibit the sale of cosmetics products that have been tested on animals. This legislation is currently being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives.