Cosmetic Testing

Seeking humane alternatives to testing products on animals

According to Humane Society International, more than 500,000 animals die yearly from cosmetic testing. Animal testing is the inhumane practice of experimenting on live animals to study the effects on their behavior or biological system. People experiment on these innocent animals to test defense research, disease treatments, and toxicology. Cosmetic testing is a form of toxicology research that studies the impact of chemical reactions and lethal doses on animals. Every day, numerous rabbits, mice, dogs, and guinea pigs are subjected to cruelty from skin and eye irritation tests to dermal penetration experiments.

There are five main forms of animal testing, including:

  • Dermal penetration tests discover the chemical movement of a substance within the bloodstream of rats to study its skin absorption levels. Numerous rats are injected with lethal substances for this inhumane testing method.
  • Skin sensitization experiments study allergic reactions to injected chemicals or applied on a shaved patch of skin in guinea pigs. The appearance of the skin afterward showcases the effects of skin sensitization.
  • Acute toxicity tests expose rats and mice to lethal doses of chemicals via their mouth, skin, or inhalation. These studies determine how dangerous chemical exposure is for humans. Lethal Dose 50 experiments slowly increase chemical exposure to determine the dose that causes half of the test population to die from the chemical. Afterward, the remaining test subjects are killed to gather information about the internal effects of the chemicals. Other tests can use fewer animals but can cause convulsions, loss of motor function, and seizures.
  • Draize tests assess the toxicity of chemicals that may come into contact with the eye. These experiments result in high amounts of pain through dermal and airway sensitization, endocrine disruption, and lethal dose tests, and is typically performed on rabbits.
  • Skin corrosivity or irritation experimentation explores the potential of a substance to cause irreversible damage to the skin. It is typically performed on rabbits and involves putting chemicals on shaved skin patches. Symptoms of itching, inflammation, and swelling are documented to determine the level of damage to the skin.

Animal testing inaccurately predicts the effects of chemicals on the human body. According to this article, many scientists, such as Dr. Donald Inber, founding director of the Wyss institute, have found that “animal models, used as a proxy for humans in drug discovery and development, cannot consistently and accurately predict human efficacy and toxicity.” The future of the scientific community lies with In vitro and In silico testing.

One of the most prominent In vitro methods is organ-chip models, lab-grown human cells that mimic organ systems designed to replicate and mimic the functions of their real-life counterparts within the human body. These models allow scientists to measure the effects of a substance on the whole organ system rather than just the cellular level. Another alternative In vitro method is tissue models. This model uses 3-dimensional, lab-cultivated human cells that can replace the need for conducting skin corrosivity and irritation experimentation on rabbits. We can save countless rabbits from agonizingly painful experiments by replacing rabbit testing with this alternative method. VITROCELL is a new alternative method that researches the effects of inhaled chemicals on the human body. This test exposes human lung cells in a dish to chemicals to test the health effects of inhaled substances. These devices can replace acute toxicity testing, saving thousands of rats and mice from chemical-induced suffering and death. In vitro testing alternatives are the future of cruelty-free research.

Another strong candidate to replace animal testing is In silico testing. These advanced computer modeling techniques differ from In vitro testing as they do not use lab-grown human cells. Computer modeling allows scientists to research the progression of a developing disease on the simulated human body. In this study, scientists found In silico testing to accurately predict the effects of a new asthma treatment on the human lungs. This means that by investing in computer modeling systems, we can eliminate the need to test these drugs on innocent animals. Quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSARs) are another In silico computer-based technique that evaluates the toxicity of a substance. QSARs would decrease the need for acute toxicity tests on rats and mice as we expand our knowledge of human biology and the database of existing substance toxicity levels.

The Humane Cosmetics Act would end the testing of cosmetic products on animals and prohibit the sale of products developed using animal testing. There are nine states with laws ending the sale of cosmetics tested on animals, including California, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Nevada, and Virginia. In addition, three additional states proposed bills to ban the sale of cosmetics tested on animals in 2021, including New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island. Reach out to your representatives in Congress, urging them to support the Humane Cosmetics Act to protect these animals from inhumane experimentation

The fight to ban animal testing doesn’t end with the Humane Cosmetics Act. Many hurdles still exist to overcome to protect all animals from cosmetic product testing. One exception to these bans is for companies conducting animal testing to abide by foreign regulations, such as China. Many countries necessitate extensive animal testing for cosmetic brands to sell their products abroad, creating a loophole through state bans. This exception allows their products to be sold domestically despite their use of animal testing. Another loophole concerns abiding sections of the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which require animal testing when no recognized non-animal method exists. So while the intent of these animal testing bans is positive, this legislation is not the end-all solution for protecting animals from cruel testing. This legislation is still essential as it educates the public, brings media coverage to the issue of animal testing, and pressures companies to end animal testing.

Consciously choosing cruelty-free certified products is a significant first step in becoming a responsible consumer. There are no federal criteria that regulate the definition of “cruelty-free.” Many brands use terms such as “not tested on animals” or “cruelty-free” to appeal to the emotions of the consumer market. This messaging is often misleading and confusing without a universal definition to guide consumers. 

The Leaping Bunny Program was founded to create a single comprehensive standard and an internationally recognized Leaping Bunny Logo. The Leaping Bunny certification requires that no new animal testing be used in any product development phase by the company, its laboratories, or ingredient suppliers. Be a responsible consumer by buying cosmetic and skin care products accredited with the Leaping Bunny Logo. Supporting brands leading the way in ethically created products will encourage other cosmetic brands to join the bandwagon. 

Many countries across the globe have already banned animal testing. The European Union put into effect one of the first bans on testing cosmetics on animals back in 2013. This comprehensive ban eliminated any beauty products that were tested on animals to be sold on their market. This early success for animal rights prompted extensive alternative research to replace animal testing. Since then Iceland, India, Israel, Norway, Mexico, and Switzerland have passed similar laws. Cosmetic companies in the United States and abroad that conduct animal tests are not able to sell their products in these countries unless they change their practices. Australia, Colombia, Guatemala, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and several states in Brazil have also passed laws to ban or limit cosmetic animal testing.