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What Does Cruelty-Free Skincare Mean?

“Cruelty-free” has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent decades, but the term actually dates back to 1959 when clothing brands began marketing fake furs. Today, many industries and brands boast the “cruelty-free” slogan, from food production to skincare. Like any popular term, however, the meaning of “cruelty-free” has changed over the years and remains somewhat malleable today. Ultimately, the term suggests that no animals were harmed in the process of bringing a certain product to market. As a consumer, however, it’s important to remain skeptical whenever a brand makes such a claim, as their primary objective is to make a profit. This isn’t to say that “cruelty-free” is a meaningless term, however, or that companies are merely seeking a cynical cash grab from this trend. There are in fact many reasons to seek out cruelty-free products, including those related to skincare.

Let’s go over the many possible meanings of cruelty-free skincare so you can make more informed decisions about your skin’s health and environmental impact.


What to Know About Cruelty-Free Skincare


What Does Cruelty-Free Skincare Really Mean?

While the phrase “cruelty-free” has gained traction in modern society, it’s not bound by any legal definition. As such, companies have a lot of leeway when claiming their products don’t involve animal testing. Today, a product that’s “cruelty-free” will often fit one of four major classifications or meanings, which we’ll discuss below.

Meaning 1: No Animal Testing Was Involved in Research, Development, Production, or Distribution

This first category represents the purest form of cruelty-free skincare products, whether it’s makeupa cleanser, moisturizer, etc. Products that fit this bill contain no ingredients or processes that involve animal testing at any stage.

Meaning 2: Individual Ingredients May Have Been Tested on Animals

Just because something is labelled “cruelty-free” doesn’t mean some level of animal testing wasn’t involved, however. In this second classification, individual ingredients may have been tested on animals prior to the synthesization of the skincare product itself. In other words, the final product was never tested on animals, but singular components might have been.

Meaning 3: The Skincare Brand itself Did Not Participate in Animal Testing

Things get murkier with this third meaning of “cruelty-free.” In this case, much of the accountability is removed from the cosmetic dermatology brand itself and instead is placed on ingredient suppliers. So, while the skincare company might have zero involvement with animal testing, various companies that provide ingredients to create the product itself may have tested ingredients on animals.

Meaning 4: Animal Testing May Have Occurred in the Past to Create the Product

Lastly, a product that claims to be cruelty-free might be truthful in its current production (i.e., no animals are currently harmed or tested on in the process). However, certain ingredients or the final product may have been used on animals in the past. It’s debatable whether this category would even classify as cruelty-free, but consumers can at least rest assured that the product they’re purchasing isn’t actively contributing to animal suffering.

Why Switch to Cruelty-Free Skincare?

Various definitions aside, why should anyone consider adjusting their skincare routine to one that’s cruelty-free? There is an obvious ethical component to using products that don’t involve animal testing. As it turns out, though, there are other benefits to making this change even if animal suffering isn’t the first thing on your mind (though it is important for many). Namely, cruelty-free skincare products are often more natural and better for your skin overall, lacking chemicals like sulfates, parabens, artificial dyes, and more — toxic substances that can exacerbate acne, inflammation, irritation, etc. Also, if you’re concerned that a lack of animal testing relates to a lack of safety, know that technological advances have made this concern moot. Today, researchers can use reconstructed human epidermis to judge the efficacy and safety of skincare products in development. In other words, animal testing is becoming less and less necessary on the whole.

Being More Mindful About Your Skincare Choices

Many people have made or are making the change to cruelty-free skincare for different reasons, and several brands are following suit. In the past, it wasn’t always easy to find affordable and equally effective cruelty-free products, but that has all changed. Whether you’re trying to combat wrinkles, reduce acne, brighten your complexion, or enhance your appearance with makeup, there are countless cruelty-free products available today, and many are worth trying for yourself. If you’re ready to change up your skincare routine, the experts at North Pacific Dermatology can help you find the best cruelty-free products for your skin. Set up a consultation with our team today.

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