Animal Testing and Cosmetic Claims: Could You Be Misled?

By GalTime's Consumer Watchdog Mary Schwager

How is your makeup being tested?How is your makeup being tested?Cosmetics quiz: When you see makeup, lotions and other personal care products that say "cruelty free" and "not tested on animals" what do you think that means? The answer may surprise you!

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has no specific legal definition for these terms, the agency even admits the surprising result right on its website: "The unrestricted use of these phrases by cosmetic companies is possible."

Vicki Katrinak from the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics says if buying products from companies that don't test on animals is important to you-- you could actually be misled by claims you see on labels! "The Food and Drug Administration says they will not and do not regulate those terms. Therefore companies have free will to say whatever they want, make their own 'no animal' testing claims and have no data to back it up."

Related: Where Exactly Does Your Food Come From?

How does it happen?

Some companies may claim its cosmetics are cruelty free and not tested on animals, but that might only apply to their finished products. Katrinak knows the reality. "It could still be tested on animals, the component ingredients could definitely be tested on animals." Other companies may contract out third party test labs, so it's not actually the one testing on animals.

Two new surveys found a majority of Americans oppose animal testing and actually look for products that are cruelty free. The good news is some companies are listening. Nancy Beck, who's the Science and Policy Advisor for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says, "Many companies are putting big investments into developing new methods that don't depend on the use of animals because of public opinion against the practice."

There's no requirement companies test on animals, the FDA says they can "rely on combinations of scientific literature, raw material safety testing, or controlled human-use testing to substantiate their product safety." Makeup manufactures also know some common cosmetic ingredients are now proven to be safe and they don't have to be re-tested.

Related: Natural Organic Beauty Products, Demystified

How do you know if a product is really "Cruelty Free"?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics both have lists of companies who say, and in some cases prove, they don't test on animals on their websites. Both organizations also license their own bunny logos, which consumers can look for on products in the store to help avoid cosmetic claim confusion.

If you have more questions for a specific company, you can always call and ask if it tests raw materials on animals or contracts out a third party to do the testing.

The FDA would not tell us if it plans on regulating the terms "cruelty free" and "not tested on animals" in the future, so if that's important to you, be sure to do your makeup homework.

More from GalTime: