Testing cosmetics on animals

Testing cosmetics on animals is a form of animal testing, intended to ensure the safety and hypoallergenic properties of the products for use by humans. Because of the harm done to the animal subjects, this testing is opposed by animal rights activists and others, and is banned in much of the European Union.



Using animal testing in the development of cosmetics may involve testing either a finished product or the individual ingredients of a finished product on animals, often rabbits, but also mice, rats, and other animals. In some cases, the products or ingredients are applied to the mucous membranes of the animal, including eyes, nose, and mouth, to determine whether they cause allergic or other reactions.

Re-using existing test data obtained from previous animal testing is generally not considered to be cosmetic testing on animals; however, the acceptability of this to opponents of testing is inversely proportional to how recent the data is.

Legal requirements

Animal testing
Wistar rat.jpg

Main articles
Animal testing
Alternatives to animal testing
Testing on: invertebrates
frogs · primates
rabbits · rodents
Animal testing regulations
History of animal testing
History of model organisms
Laboratory animal sources
Pain and suffering in lab animals
Testing cosmetics on animals
Toxicology testing

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Animal rights/Animal welfare
Animals (Scientific Procedures)
Great ape research ban
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Britches · Brown Dog affair
Cambridge University primates
Pit of despair
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Unnecessary Fuss

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Dr Hadwen Trust
Foundation for Biomedical
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PETA · Physicians Committee
for Responsible Medicine

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Speaking of Research
Understanding Animal Research

Tipu Aziz · Michael Balls
Neal Barnard · Colin Blakemore
Simon Festing · Gill Langley
Ingrid Newkirk · Bernard Rollin
Jerry Vlasak · Syed Ziaur Rahman

Animal testing · Animal rights
Animal welfare

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Due to the strong public backlash against cosmetic testing on animals, most cosmetic manufacturers say their products are not tested on animals. However, they are still required by trading standards and consumer protection laws in most countries to show their products are not toxic and dangerous to public health, and that the ingredients are not dangerous in large quantities, such as when in transport or in the manufacturing plant. In some countries, it is possible to meet these requirements without any further tests on animals. In other countries, it may require animal testing to meet legal requirements. The United States and Japan are frequently criticized for their insistence on stringent safety measures, which often requires animal testing. Some retailers distinguish themselves in the marketplace by their stance on animal testing. The Co-operative Group in the UK maintains a cosmetic-testing website, [1] which includes statements from all their suppliers about the extent of their animal testing.

European Union bans

Testing of cosmetics on animals is banned in the Netherlands, Belgium, and the United Kingdom, and in 2002, after 13 years of discussion, the European Union (EU) agreed to phase in a near-total ban on the sale of animal-tested cosmetics throughout the EU from 2009, and to ban all cosmetics-related animal testing.[1]

Products in Europe not tested on animals carry this symbol

France, which is home to the world's largest cosmetics company, L'Oréal, has protested the proposed ban by lodging a case at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, asking that the ban be quashed. The ban is also opposed by the European Federation for Cosmetics Ingredients, which represents 70 companies in Switzerland, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy.[1]

UK position

Although the British Home Office stopped giving licences to test finished cosmetic products in 1998, compounds that have both cosmetic and medical uses, such as those in the "anti-wrinkle" preparations Zyderm, Restylane and Botox, are still bound by the regulations requiring animal testing. According to activists, a raid on a laboratory in 2004 revealed that the LD50 test is still used on every batch of Botox (a toxin that, when administered intravenously, is lethal to humans) to establish potency [2] [3] [4].


Cosmetics manufacturers who genuinely do not test on animals generally use the following for safety testing of their products:

  • reliance on existing natural or synthetic ingredients, compounds and substances, which have already been extensively tested on animals;
  • avoiding novel ingredients or combinations of ingredients that have not been fully tested and may not be safe;
  • testing on human volunteers/clinical trials.

This presumes that cosmetics companies are already using computer modeling and cell cultures to simulate human tissue, two techniques that have had ambiguous utility in discovering problems early. Supporters of animal testing say that neither can fully replace live human or non-human animal tests.

See also


  1. ^ a b Osborn, Andrew & Gentleman, Amelia. "Secret French move to block animal-testing ban", The Guardian, August 19, 2003.

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