Why Cruelty-Free Products Aren’t Always Cruelty-Free

Are you noticing the cruelty-free craze too?

It appears to be a consistently growing ‘trend’. I’ll be honest, it should never ever ever be considered trendy to respect animals and not use them in consumer products. That is something that should be an ethical/moral standpoint from the very start.

So many of you are being opened up to the horrific world of animal testing, and are starting to care about it. Taking action with your wallet is a wonderful step. By purchasing cruelty-free cosmetics, skincare, haircare, etc; you are choosing to fight against animal cruelty. Or so you may think.

Before I explain why cruelty-free isn’t what it seems, here’s some shocking numbers to consider.

Animals Used in Research 2014 / 2015 

Source: American Anti-Vivisection Society












Guinea Pigs Hamsters Rabbits Dogs Nonhuman Primates Pigs Sheep Other Farm Animals Cats All Other Animals TOTAL ANIMALS USED


If you don’t find that outright sickening, then I’m not sure what will.

I was also able to find an archived PDF of my own state’s annual animal testing report from each facility from 2007. 

Each USDA-registered research facility is required by the Animal Welfare Act to submit an Annual Report that documents its use of animals for research, testing, teaching and/or experimentation. USDA Animal Care compiles these numbers and produces five reports each year. Each report is based on a specific pain category.” – Source: USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Hold on a second…

There are PAIN CATEGORIES?!?!?!?!?! 

To summarize all the information above, animals are being tested on left and right in mass amounts, being killed or enduring suffering in the process, and then they are put into pain categories so that laboratories can send off their reports.

Please, take a moment to let that sink in.


Now to continue onto the subject of cruelty-free not being what it appears.

Cruelty-free by definition: Cosmetics or other commercial products, that are manufactured or developed by methods that do not involve experimentation on animals.

Okay, so that looks pretty straightforward right? You may assume that there’s nothing else to worry about now that you are following a cruelty-free buying habit under those terms. But there’s more.

  • Just because a company is cruelty-free, does not mean that they aren’t using animals in their products.
  • A product can be labeled cruelty-free, yet still contain animal derived ingredients.
  • A product is not truly cruelty-free if it contains animal components in any way!

It is cruel to test on animals, and it is cruel to use them in product formulations.


Now you may be thinking, “Well what kind of animal ingredients are in all these products?”

If you would like to see a full list, check out this resource from PETA. I’m not a PETA supporter, but their list is a handy guide if you want to read up.

In addition, here’s a list of ten of the most common animal-derived ingredients with a few examples of how they are typically used. They are in a surprising amount of products. Source: One Green Planet


1.Cochineal Dye / Carmine 

A colorant or dye collected from crushed cochineal beetles. The insects feed on cactus plants in Central and South America and the females eat the red cactus berries; when they’re crushed an intense red dye is produced. It’s found in many lipsticks, blushes, and eyeshadow.

2. Guanine

This is often confused with bat guano, or bat poop. It’s actually a crystalline material that’s shimmering or light-diffusing and found in crushed fish scales. It’s in most mascaras, nail polishes and lipsticks.

3. Tallow

Tallow is a common ingredient in many cosmetics including eye makeup, lipstick, makeup bases and foundations. To the everyday consumer, it’s common name would be rendered animal fat. The process involves boiling the carcasses of slaughtered animals until a fatty substance is produced, and then added to cosmetics.

4. Gelatin

Similar to tallow, gelatin is the boiled skin, tendons, ligaments and bones of animals. It’s other names include gel, hide glue, gelatine, isinglass, kosher and halal gelatin. It can be hiding in creamy cosmetics and nail treatments.

5. Lanolin

Lanolin is the greasy excretion from wool-bearing mammals and is found in most lipsticks and makeup removers.

6. Squalene

This substance is extracted from the livers of sharks and then added to your eye makeup and lipsticks.

7. Ambergris

This ingredient is derived from the waxy oil that lines whale’s stomachs. Surprisingly enough, this oil substance is used to make the scent “set” in perfumes.

8. Collagen

Found in cosmetic lip-plumping glosses, this is a fibrous protein from animal tissue that has no proven effect on your own collagen reproduction.

9. Estrogen

Also listed as Estradiol this hormone-based can be found in most perfumes, restorative creams or lotions. Estrogen is obtained by extracting urine from pregnant horses.

10. Retinol

This can often be found in products that boast an “anti-aging” quality. Retinol is a potent source of vitamin A, but it is almost always derived from an animal.


Has it begun to sink in yet? Do you understand how nasty the cosmetic industry really is?

I don’t want you to be fed the candy-coated label of “cruelty-free”. With just a little more digging, we all know that it’s not always truly what it claims to be. I encourage you to take initiative and search out truly animal-free products.

Even if that means giving away some of your current makeup collection, reading ingredient labels, or not purchasing from specific brands altogether. Animals are worth it, and so are you.


What I’m listening to

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