Column: Cruelty-free makeup

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With so much thought on what we put in our bodies, there seems to be very little attention given to what we put on our bodies.

The skin is our largest organ and absorbs chemicals directly through the pores on its surface. When you apply your makeup in the morning, do you ever think about what you’re putting on your skin or where it came from? Many consumers are unaware of the horrors that go on behind the scenes of the cosmetics industry in the form of animal testing.

The atrocious process subjects animals, including rabbits, mice, rats, guinea pigs and hamsters, to painful and dangerous tests.

Humane Society International, an organization that works on animal protection issues, estimates that approximately 100,000-200,000 animals suffer and die for cosmetics every year around the world.

Harsh chemicals are rubbed into their eyes and on patches of freshly shaved skin, all without any pain control administered. Animals are forced to breathe in dangerous fumes and are restrained to prevent them from struggling. Most of these test subjects end up dying in the lab and never get to see the outside world. Despite the fact that innocent animals are maimed and murdered in the name of safety,  people still have serious reactions to the cosmetics that have been tested.

Many of the products tested on animals include dangerous and harmful chemicals in their formulas. Some cosmetics contain the embalming chemical formaldehyde, which is linked to cancer among other health problems. Cruelty-free cosmetics do not contain these dangerous additives, therefore, they do not need to be tested on animals and are healthier for your skin. Don’t be misled by the “all natural” label as it is usually just a marketing ploy.

There are two categories of contentious cosmetics that exist in the market – vegan and cruelty-free. Vegan cosmetics contain no animal derived ingredients and have not been tested on animals. Cruelty-free cosmetics may contain animal products such as honey, but do not use animal testing. The easiest way to identify a cruelty-free product is to look for the leaping bunny symbol.

In addition, it’s not just makeup that buyers should be conscious about when making their purchases. Hair and skincare products, such as shampoo, conditioner and body lotion, as well as cleaning products like dish soap, are also tested on animals.

Some of the big names that still use animal testing methods include Avon, Covergirl, Johnson & Johnson,  Dial,  L`orèal, Head & Shoulders and Maybelline. For a more extensive list of brands that do and don’t use animal testing, visit PETA.org.

Developed over 70 years ago, the animal testing method is antiquated. There are newer, safer and more effective methods available, but it’s up to the companies to decide. Alternative methods include in vitro testing that use human tissue and cells, as well as chemical tests and advanced computer modeling. These alternatives tend to be cheaper, faster and more effective. Another solution would be for companies to only use ingredients that have already been tested and deemed safe.

Economic incentive to switch to cruelty-free products has never been stronger. On March 11, 2013 the European Union, which makes up nearly half of the global cosmetics market, passed laws banning the import and sale of animal tested cosmetic products and ingredients. There is currently an effort in the United States to pass similar legislation. One example is the Humane Cosmetics Act, which would eliminate animal-based testing in the US.

It’s important to be a conscientious consumer and vote with your dollar by supporting companies that don’t use cruel animal testing methods. There are plenty of cruelty-free and vegan brands on the market ranging from drugstore mascara to high end beauty serums.

Some of my go-to cruelty-free brands include Kat Von D, Too Faced, Ogx, LUSH, e.l.f., Hard Candy, Wet N’ Wild, Kiss My Face, Trader Joe’s, Giovanni, Method and Alba Botanica.

I encourage you to do some research of your own and really think about the impact your purchase makes before buying your next bottle of shampoo.