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Cosmetics without animal testing: What is the alternative way to test cosmetics today?

Unsere Mission 10.05.22 10 min. read

You want effective and compatible cosmetics, but you want to be sure that they have not been tested on animals? You are not alone with this wish. After all, the idea that rodents, dogs, cats or monkeys have to suffer for our beauty is all too horrible. But how can you be sure that you are holding an cruelty-free product in your hands? We would like to inform you about the current legal situation and give you tips on how to recognize cruelty-free cosmetics.

Why are animal experimentations conducted?

Animal experiments are supposed to prove the efficacy and tolerability of substances. Regardless of the strong moral dubiousness, the following question immediately arises here: Can they also " achieve" this? If you consider that each individual human being can already react differently to substances, it becomes even more doubtful that the results of experiments on mice or rabbits with completely different metabolic and immune systems, organ functions, genetics, body structure, but also environmental, nutritional and stress factors can be transferred to the human body without any problems. For example, more than half of the substances considered toxic to animals are completely unproblematic for humans, and more than 90% of the drugs tested with the help of animal experiments are not effective or even harmful in humans [7].

If you try to give chocolate to a dog, it can cause serious health problems. In humans, health problems associated with chocolate consumption depend in particular on the amount of chocolate consumed. Keyword "overweight" or " cavities" .The opposite is the case with the tuber leaf fungus in rabbits. While rabbits can digest this mushroom, humans risk poisoning, which can be fatal even with small amounts.

Choosing animal experiments as a meaningful model for the compatibility of substances in humans can therefore have fatal consequences for us.

The human organism is very complex and cannot be reduced to a symptom. In animal testing, therefore, the question is not whether substances should first be tested on humans rather than on animals. Rather, animal testing mainly serves the manufacturers, who use it to prevent users from suing for damages. They also enable them to export their products to countries where animal testing is mandatory.

What EU law says about animal experimentation for cosmetics

In 2004, the legislators of the European Union already decreed that cosmetic products, such as makeup, but also skin-care cosmetics, may no longer be tested on animals. Since 2009, no isolated ingredients from cosmetics may be tested on animals.

Products that do not meet these requirements may not be sold in the EU. Exemptions for cosmetics companies or their contracted institutes (e.g. abroad) have also no longer been possible since 2013. Shockingly, however, despite these clear regulations, there are still companies that test their products on animals. The problem is therefore obviously not yet completely off the table [1].

What are the loopholes in the law?

Because the ban on exemptions only came into force in 2013, older products and also ingredients that were tested on laboratory animals in previous years can still be sold. That alone might not be so bad, as long as you focus on newer substances. But again, it might be difficult to find out when the individual ingredients first reach market maturity.

In addition, the ban only applies to ingredients that can only be found in cosmetic or care products. This ban on animal testing therefore does not apply to substances or chemicals that are also found, for example, in food supplements or medicines, detergents, paints (such as vitamins, antioxidants, lipids, emulsifiers) (REACH Chemicals Act). In some cases, they still have to be tested on animals for their compatibility. A few years ago, around 90% of all cosmetic substances were still subject to this law.

Finally, companies that also export their products abroad are also allowed to conduct animal testing. All cosmetic products that reach the Chinese market, for example, must be tested on animals. In general, the issue of animal testing for cosmetic products is not yet regulated by law in many countries, or is regulated only inadequately. In addition, the definition of "cosmetics" varies from country to country, so that sunscreens, for example, are considered medicinal products in other countries and are therefore subject to animal testing [2]. It is not until 2023 that the resolution passed by the EU Parliament is to bring about a worldwide ban on animal testing.

But what does that mean for you?

To find cosmetics that are not tested on animals, focus on products that are manufactured and sold in the EU or, even better, in Germany with raw materials that are native to the country.

REACH also allows animal testing 

REACH, the European Regulation for "Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation of Chemicals", regulates the use, testing and approval of chemicals in the EU to protect the environment and the health of users (Chemicals Act). As a consequence, chemicals that have been on the market for a long time can be tested again on laboratory animals, even if they are contained exclusively in cosmetic products. One example: the two substances homosalate and 2-ethylhexyl salicylate, which have been used for years only in cosmetic products, in sunscreens had to be tested again in series of animal experiments in order to be registered by REACH.

The REACH regulation thus overrides the ban on animal testing in the Cosmetics Regulation. So if you want to consistently buy animal-free products, they should not contain reformulated chemicals that require animal testing. You can avoid this by using only natural cosmetic products with proven, purely natural ingredients [5; 6].

Lists of cruelty-free cosmetics 

If a manufacturer writes that his product has not been tested on animals or that he does not conduct animal testing, this does not at the same time mean that he offers cruelty-free cosmetics. Individual ingredients may still have been tested on animals or they may have commissioned animal testing to an external company. The statements can therefore be deliberately misleading for you as a consumer. You can help yourself by looking up cruelty-free cosmetics and care products or companies in lists such as:


To this end, the credible presentation of the company's philosophy can be a useful indication of animal-free cosmetics. 

Important seals for cruelty-free cosmetics 

You can only really recognize an cruelty-free product by a corresponding seal that proves that the companies do not conduct any animal testing, not even on behalf of or for individual ingredients. Each step of the supply chain is also regularly checked. These seals include, for example: 

  • The internationally valid "Leaping Bunny" seal from animal welfare organizations in various countries, the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC).
  • The "Leaping Bunny with Protective Hand" from the German Animal Welfare Organization in cooperation with the International Association of Manufacturers of Animal Welfare Approved Natural Cosmetics, Toiletries and Natural Products (IHTN) is the strictest seal. It also stands for the fact that no ingredients may be used that have been tested on animals after 1979. Animal testing carried out on behalf of external companies and trade with countries that carry out animal testing are also excluded.
  • The Vegan Flower of the Vegan Society stands for cosmetics that are not tested on animals and at the same time vegan production processes and ingredients of cosmetics. The products of This Place are certified by the Vegan Society. You can tell by the familiar flower symbol on our packaging. Please note that the Vegan Society does allow plant-based ingredients that have been genetically modified as long as this is declared on the product [1]. But This Place does not use genetically engineered ingredients.

Apps for Cruelty-free Cosmetics 

Really useful can be apps that accompany you when choosing cosmetic products and show you directly which cosmetics were really produced without animal testing. One of these apps for Android smartphones is the cosmetics without animal testing app from Blanc et noir. It works largely without internet access and shows you using a traffic light system, which cosmetic companies work without animal testing or not. You get the information whether your selected product is vegan and whether it is a natural cosmetics brand with a certificate.

Another app for cosmetics without animal testing for iOS and Android smartphones is Wer macht was by Animals Liberty. Once you have entered the product you are looking for, you will also be shown via a traffic light system with different colors whether it is associated with animal testing series and is vegan. For some products, no information can be found on this - they are therefore marked with black color. In this case, animal testing cannot be ruled out.

With this app, you also get information about products other than cosmetics, such as drinks, medicines and hygiene products. In addition, manufacturers who work with external plants that carry out animal testing are also marked with red, even if the manufacturer itself produces without animal testing [4].

Are cruelty-free cosmetics the same as vegan cosmetics? 

You may have seen that many products are now clearly labeled "vegan cosmetics". But what does that mean exactly? Does it also mean animal-free? No, it does not. Vegan cosmetics or care is free of animal raw materials. However, this does not necessarily mean that the ingredients have not been tested on animals. Conversely, animal-free ingredients can be of animal origin, for example honey.

Natural cosmetics means cruelty-free. Right?

Natural cosmetics manufacturers are subject to the same laws as manufacturers of conventional cosmetics. However, they can also use the same loopholes. Here, too, the following applies: Look for the appropriate certificates or seals. For natural cosmetics there are, for example: 

  • The seal from the Bundesverband der Industrie- und Handelsunternehmen für Arzneimittel, Reformwaren, Nahrungsergänzungsmittel und kosmetische Mittel e. V. (BDIH), which guarantees that no animal testing was carried out in the development and testing of products and that products tested on animals after 1998 may not be used. Substances produced by animals, on the other hand, are allowed as long as they do not come from dead vertebrates (such as collagen and animal fats).
  • The Natrue seal of the International natural and organic cosmetic association, which prohibits animal testing, even from non-EU countries [3].
  • The Cosmos organic and Cosmos natural labels, which exclude animal testing explicitly initiated by the manufacturer.

Alternatives to animal testing 

In the field of natural cosmetics, natural plant substances are used for the production of cosmetics. Some of them have been proven effective and compatible for centuries. Most of them were tested on animals before 1979, so they can also be used in natural cosmetics with the IHTN seal. So by buying natural cosmetics you can already make a small contribution against animal testing.

If you are still uncertain whether the products or ingredients are compatible, there are meaningful alternatives to animal testing that can actually be transferred to humans. Some (skin-care) substances, for example, can be tested on volunteers.

However, substances that fall under the Chemicals Act are sometimes harmful or even toxic, so in this case this option is not available. The test methods of choice here are so-called in vitro tests, in which the compatibility of the substances is tested in the test tube with the aid of (human) cell cultures, skin tissues, miniature organs, nerve networks, blood vessels, and many more.

Modern research can now reproduce the most complex structures and realistically imitate their functions in the organism. For example, substances can be tested on "mini-eyes", "mini-brains" or "mini-lungs" that have been scaled down 100,000 times. Comparative studies have shown that the results of tests on humans and in such a replicated cell system are more similar than between human and animal tests [9; 10].

Computer simulations, which can predict the probable effect of a substance on the basis of human data and the molecular structure of the test substance, do not require any biological material at all. Meanwhile, huge databases also provide information on whether a substance and chemicals similar to it but not yet tested could be harmful or toxic or not.

The advantages of all these systems are that they are more reliable, more sensitive, cheaper and faster than animal testing.

Animal testing for cosmetics: Are This Place products cruelty-free?

This Place has consciously decided against animal testing because we do not want to achieve a sense of well-being at the expense of other living beings and our respect for nature naturally includes the animal world. Nevertheless, we do not overlook science. Accompanying studies for our purely vegan cosmetic products are a testimony to our understanding of quality and a self-evident must in the sense of a sustainable product effect and above all the health of our customers.

For our cream "The Glow", for example, we used an in vitro model of human skin cells as a test object, which we treated with a substance that promotes inflammation. Different amounts of the facial cream were then tested on this inflamed skin area in comparison to a skin cream placebo without ingredients. As a result, "The Glow" was shown to inhibit the inflammatory response of the model tissue by 98%.

On This Place products, you will also find a bunny symbol to show you that This Place products are made without ingredients that were tested on animals, as was still required by law at the time, after 1979. We are proudly awaiting the official certification with the Leaping Bunny seal for this year.

Bottom line

Animal testing for cosmetics is not only an unnecessary torture for the animals, but also not very conclusive in terms of the efficacy and tolerability of substances in humans. Nevertheless, they are difficult to banish. The legal requirements alone vary, and in some cases animal testing is still required by law.

Yet nowadays there are very good alternatives to animal testing for testing critical substances. Models of human cell assemblies down to individual organs are much better able to reproduce the actual conditions and allow direct transfer of the results from the model to humans. There is much less risk that a substance that is well tolerated by animals will nevertheless have a toxic effect or trigger intolerances in humans.

When buying cosmetic products, apps can help you find out if a brand offers animal-free products, among other things. This Place's functional natural cosmetics are already certified by the Vegan Society and stand for animal-free cosmetics.


Which skin-care is cruelty-free?

Finding cruelty-free tested skincare products can be difficult because manufacturers don't always disclose their testing methods. However, you can reduce the risk of animal testing in the production of your skincare products by following these tips:

  • Prefer natural cosmetics brands.
  • Make sure that raw materials and production processes are traceable and that your brand is sold in Germany and other countries that prohibit animal testing.
  • Buy brands with seals for animal-free testing, such as the labels natrue or BDIH or Leaping Bunny.
  • Go for purely plant-based cosmetics whose ingredients have been proven and used for many years.
  • Avoid substances that are considered innovative, are new to the market and may have to be tested on laboratory animals.
  • Look closely at the manufacturer's product line and then decide on their trustworthiness regarding testing on animals.
  • When shopping, use an app that points out companies that use animal testing.

Are natural cosmetics automatically cruelty-free?

Natural cosmetics is an unprotected term that does not refer to either purely vegan cosmetics or cosmetics that are not tested on animals. The companies that produce natural cosmetics are subject to the same laws as the manufacturers of conventional cosmetics, including the possible exceptions to the ban on animal testing. Only products that have been independently tested and bear a corresponding logo can guarantee you, the user, that they are free of animal testing. Trustworthy certificates or seals for animal-free natural cosmetics brands are for example:

  • The BDIH seal from the Bundesverband der Industrie- und Handelsunternehmen für Arzneimittel, Reformwaren, Nahrungsergänzungsmittel und kosmetische Mittel e. V. (BDIH).
  • The Natrue label from the International natural and organic cosmetic association.
  • The Cosmos organic and Cosmos natural labels.