CRUELTY- FREE FUTURE
SARAH ENGSTRAND explores the ins and outs of beauty brands that claim to avoid animal testing – and discovers that things aren’t always as they seem
a car into space, robots are running our homes (looking at you, Alexa!) and models are being replaced by drones on the world’s runways. Let’s face it: the future is here. In the beauty industry, brands are turning away from outdated methods and embracing the new, too – namely, going cruelty-free.
Once a rallying cry limited to Birkenstock-wearing, hippy-dippy granola enthusiasts, “cruelty-free” now graces the labels of some of the world’s most popular beauty brands. Kat Von D Beauty, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Hourglass Cosmetics, Fenty, Urban Decay, Too Faced and Charlotte Tilbury all refuse to test on animals for their products – though it’s worth noting that some of their parent companies, including L’Oréal, Shiseido and Estée Lauder, are not cruelty-free.
It’s a financial minefield for many brands, which have to choose between animal rights and higher profit margins. To sell in China, now one of the world’s largest markets for beauty products, overseas retailers are currently required to test on animals. This policy is intended to improve the country’s reputation for letting poor-quality products and dangerous imitations hit the shelves. It’s the last major country that requires animal testing on all imported cosmetics, from moisturiser to mascara; the European Union banned the act in 2013.
These laws have kept big-name brands such as Burt’s Bees and Urban Decay out of the Chinese market entirely, allowing them to keep their cruelty-free reputations. Not all companies, however, have resisted the allure of China. In 2017, cult favourite NARS began retailing in the country and announced it was no longer cruelty-free. The backlash from consumers was swift: #boycottnars took over social media and many people vowed to disown the brand.
NARS responded in a public Instagram post, claiming that it only tests on animals when required by law. The brand also reaffirmed its dedication to the universal abolishment of animal testing with its support of the Institute for In Vitro