Like most young people, I enjoy the occasional shopping trip for makeup. Let’s be honest – not much matches the joy of trying out the new facial glitter you definitely didn’t need but bought anyway. And when I shop for cosmetics, I try my best to buy cruelty-free brands, but I’m often left confused by which products animal test and which don’t, Googling my way to a decision.
We’re all guilty of forgetting to question where our makeup comes from, or indeed just giving up all hope of knowing for sure. We tend to make our way through the jungle of makeup stores and beauty counters with a slight trepidation, looking for the colors and coverage we want without thinking too much about what goes into the latest looks. It’s something which begs the question: Is it our collective responsibility to make sure that we boycott the companies which are known to test on animals, or should we pursue the emerging field of vegan makeup, removing animals from the equation altogether?
Yet, we can’t make a decision on which cosmetics we want to boycott and which we want to support if we don’t know which are cruelty-free. It is in this that the true issue lies. Knowledge. It is essential to make a change in how much the public knows, so we can make informed decisions about the products we use.
The renowned animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have produced a list – known as the “Beauty without Bunnies” list – of the companies which are known to produce only cruelty-free cosmetics and those that are not.
The list is available as an online database or shopping guide brochure. Yet many of us still go confused because there simply isn’t enough publicity or clarity in how the cosmetics industry is run.
We need a more transparent industry, one which allows for us to know what we are buying and what exactly goes into our products. With such a push for this transparency in other industries such as the food market and a desire for organic produce, the cosmetics industry remains shrouded in confusion. This needs to change.
UK high-street store Superdrug offers an online guide to the vegan makeup on the market, and the difference between vegan makeup and cruelty-free cosmetics, a mistake that many people make. Vegan makeup, although one would assume it to be naturally cruelty-free, can still be tested on animals so long as they don’t contain any animal products. Animal products that may be found in makeup include carmine, a deep red color taken from crushed insect bodies and legs, and guanine, a sparkle and shine which is created through the use of fish scales. Every way we turn, we are confronted by the confusing territory of the market.
The leaping bunny logo is “the globally-recognized gold standard for cosmetics, personal care/house-holding and cleaning products and demonstrates that a brand is genuinely committed to removing animal testing from its supply chain” – something which is an important step in allowing consumers to see through the veil of confusion.
But does every shopper know to look for this? Or even what it means? The leaping bunny shows a huge step towards making sure we are informed in our shopping, but more progress needs to be made.
The company responsible for the logo, Cruelty Free International, has a database in which you can search for the products that hold the logo, meaning that we can educate ourselves on the go.
One quick search and we know where to look on the shelves of our favorite makeup stores. But still, this brilliant tool is too often left unknown by shoppers.
Companies such as Lush and The Body Shop are marketed on their cruelty-free products, and Superdrug have launched the a new brand of make-up called ‘B’ which is vegan and cruelty-free. These are brilliant and are making huge progress in the industry.
But the publicity ends there. We have little knowledge of which of our favorite brands are known to be animal testing. An increasing number of people are throwing their support behind these brilliant companies such as Lush and their efforts to end animal testing, whilst unknowingly packing their makeup bags with products that animal test – simply because we do not know.
So how do we change it? We all want to see the progress, but how do we, mere consumers, make it happen in such a dense and confusing market? We must support the companies that are working toward the end of animal testing. We must demand that we know what is happening in the production process. Uniting in pursuing the cause makes all the difference. If we take the first little steps to creating a cruelty-free cosmetics industry, then eventually those steps could turn into real change. But first, we must demand knowledge.
Updated: January 15, 2020.
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Emma Jacob is a history student at the University of York. She has worked as Deputy Features Editor of her student newspaper.