Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Why Can't All Cosmetics Be Cruelty Free? || #RivetRant

NARS has just announced it will be retailing their brand in mainland China, the only territory in the world where animal testing is a mandatory regulation to assure safety of products entering the market.

The flaws are obvious with this legislation, and here is why.

The legislation covers products that are imported for retail sale (brick and mortar retail, to be precise) in the provinces of mainland China. This means that territories such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau are exempt from these laws.

Imported goods, we're talking formulations that have come out of labs in Europe and the US, which have some of the highest regulations for safety of consumer goods (cosmetics and personal care items), are entering a market that requires animal testing for safety. The laws were in place to protect the consumers, but at the cost of torturous testing on lab animals.

The weird thing is, even before animal testing was banned in the EU, most beauty companies (think L'Oreal) were not actually participating in these tests because they were costly and the data didn't reflect human biology, so they skipped it.

Capitalism. Let's just start at the basis of profit. The Chinese beauty market has become so vast and popular in recent years. Women (not strictly speaking) in China have been purchasing beauty products and are requesting more and more. Many brands have taken these opportunities, which by no means is a bad thing, but they have thrown away ethics in order to make a quick dollar (even though they have to pay for the safety testing).

The brands that have been selling over in China for however long, have been stating that they are working with authorities to loosen up these laws, however, the slow progress of getting the mandatory guidelines changed has been a nightmare for cruelty free consumers. We really want to use those products.

Well, you can watch this video from Lush Cosmetics in their protest using a consenting human volunteer. Animals cannot consent.

In the U.S., the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) is probably the highest ranking source of toxicity standards in the world on materials used for food and drugs, this includes cosmetics. It all comes down to safety.

'The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) defines cosmetics by their intended use, as "articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body...for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance".'- U.S. Food & Drug Administration

Most ingredients in cosmetic formulations tie in closely with standards set for food more so than drugs. Food grade (what we can safely ingest) and cosmetic grade (what we can safely apply topically) are slightly different, but the data shows that we can safely use our cosmetics (and yes, synthetic ingredients are included) without negative impact on our biology (so long as the user is not allergic to anything). This is obviously an oversimplification, there are far more things to take into consideration when it comes to safety.

Drugs on the other hand rely on animal testing data before they can be moved into clinical trials involving humans. The substances are meant to alter biology, so the amount of time it takes for a drug to be marketed is far greater than cosmetics, because we have a database of safe and effective ingredients used in cosmetics already.

The cosmetic ingredients used in products have their safety data recorded from a long time ago, and we place those in a special grouping called GRAS "Generally Recognised As Safe", hence why using those ingredients, the extra time and effort required in using laboratory animals in testing is absolutely moot.

On top of this, because cosmetics are topical products that are applied to the skin; and despite what you have heard about your skin absorbing 60% of what you put on it (BULLSH*T), topical agents, unless specifically classed as a drug, have been proven safe to use over the decades, and most ingredients don't even react with the skin*. This means that safety testing can be done with lab grown skin samples, and humans can be the trial subjects too. Lipstick uses food grade dyes and pigments, otherwise it would never pass safety standards.

*"Active ingredients" that are used in cosmetic medicine and by trained professionals are usually not available directly to the consumer, but follow the same GRAS and drug laws as all other ingredients. Some are cosmetics, some are drugs. The distinction can be found on their Material Safety Data Sheets and how they are marketed.

There are theories, but they really just want to make sure imported goods are safe to use.

Chinese manufacturing is huge, because it's still considered cheap, but the exploitation of workers by businesses and factory owners is an ethical problem in itself. Products can be manufactured in China for export (providing they meet requirements of the market in which they are to be sold), and these manufacturers can also apply for exemptions from animal testing if they are to sell their products locally.

Basically, out of all the nations that haven't banned animal testing, China simply has not opted to not use it. Australia has yet to ban it, but nobody is using animal testing for cosmetics, because we have data to prove safety, and the industry doesn't want to lose customers.

A neat little loophole is to set up an E-Commerce business based in Hong Kong, where the products can be retailed, but also sold to mainland consumers via the internet, without animal testing. This is how most brands operate and maintain CF status. Antipodes Skincare is a great example.

Shanghai has a Free Trade Zone, however, if goods are imported there, they are subject to the laws. A loophole, however, to take advantage of manufacturing in the area, is to not import goods, but manufacture the products there, specifically for the market, and apply for an exemption from the animal testing law. This is how NUDESTIX is bypassing animal testing to bring Chinese consumers their products without sacrificing their CF status.

Do not purchase from brands selling in mainland China. Here are some resources for great CF brands out there!

User Created Lists:
Logical Harmony (US)
Phyrra (US)
Cruelty Free Kitty (US)

Choose Cruelty Free (Australia)
Leaping Bunny (International)


I have been CF since 2012, and am proud to continue this journey with my cosmetics to really crack down on animal testing.

Edited to add information about cosmetic formulations and skin interactions, and information about alternative testing methods.

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