How to know if a product is really cruelty-free

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

How to know if your products are truly cruelty-free. Can you trust the label?

It is important to make conscientious choices about the products we buy to maintain both our physical and mental health. Each purchase we make is a vote. Make sure that vote is in line with your self care goals and personal beliefs. 

Unfortunately, this is a uniquely difficult endeavor, considering that the term “cruelty-free” is not defined or regulated by law. So the question then becomes, can we trust cruelty free seals published on logos? Which symbol is to be trusted?

Certified Cruelty Free

Due to the ambiguity in the legal definition of the term, each individual company can decide for themselves what it means to be “cruelty-free.” In the worst case scenarios, the term can imply:

  • that the product nor its ingredients have been tested on animals by that company, but the ingredients they use where tested on animals by other entities or suppliers 

  • ingredients were tested on animals but the final product was not

  • ingredients or products were not tested by that company, in the US, but could have been tested by others in a foreign country where laws protecting animal rights are weaker

  • the final product or ingredients were tested on animals in the past, but are not currently being tested on animals 

So, depending on the ethical nature of the company, these labels can have significant meaning, or none at all. 

Is all hope lost? Not necessarily. 

Doing some additional research on companies with one of the cruelty free logos can go a long way in determining if it is true. The CEO of Juice Beauty, for example, published a statement with The Humane Society, noting that “Juice Beauty abides by our EcoValues which include a strict no-animal-testing policy for all phases of product development [emphasis mine] and manufacturing of our products.

Juice Beauty stands for cruelty-free, highly effective, authentically organic skincare and makeup.” Companies that intentionally provide statements, reports, and other proof of their production process being cruelty free, helps prove their credibility to consumers. 

Cruelty Free (PETA)

PETA’s cruelty-free label goes a bit farther than the previous cruelty free seal in ensuring products are really created without inflicting harm to animals. In order for a product to be certified cruelty free by PETA and adorn the logo, the company producing that product must:

This means that the company may still use ingredients that were tested on animals in the past, but agree not to personally test ingredients or final products on animals now or in the future, which is certainly a step in the right direction. Once companies complete these two simple steps they are free to use the cruelty-free bunny logo on product labels. So while PETA approved products may contain ingredients that have been tested on animals at one point in time, at least you are (hopefully) supporting companies that are true to their word, and to their labeling. To find companies that have signed a pledge to not test on animals, use PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies shopping guide. 

  • complete a questionnaire 

  • sign PETA’s statement of assurance that they do not currently conduct or allow animal testing on any ingredients, formulas, or finished products and pledge not to do so in the future. 

  • pay a one-time $100 licensing fee 

Recently, PETA developed a new logo for vegan products. Similar to PETA’s cruelty-free bunny logo, this PETA approved vegan logo can only be used by companies that sign PETA’s statement of assurance verifying that their product is vegan.