By Nicole Noel

More and more people around the world are starting to appreciate the benefits of cruelty-free cosmetics, which is great news for human health, environment, and animals. Still, every silver lining has a cloud, especially in the business sky, so it’s not a surprise many personal care brands aren’t running true to animal-friendly marketing slogans.

These days, endorsements of cruelty-free testing and organic ingredients are often abused by brands looking to scoop up peak profits and attract fresh scores of green-minded buyers – and sometimes, telling true from fraudulent labels can be extremely difficult if you don’t know which red flags to look out for when skimming contents on product packaging.

Not sure if the lotion in your hands is truly cruelty-free or is just cleverly marketed? Then you might want to check out the tips below: it may help you learn the truth about the ugly side of the beauty industry.

Cruelty under the radar

One of the most common loopholes cosmetic brands use to skirt the animal cruelty blame game is the infamous third-party testing. With this phrase on the packaging, cosmetic companies get to market themselves as cruelty-free and thus wash their hands clean of animal testing which may (and usually has been) carried out by the parent company or independent testing authority. Similarly, a label which states that the finished product wasn’t tested on animals doesn’t mean no cruelty was inflicted on an innocent critter as individual ingredients used in production might have been tested on animals even if the end product wasn’t.

Labels under the lens

You’d think only marginal brands use misleading marketing to get away with animal testing and lose no profits thereon, but even world-known companies don’t shy away from twisting the truth now and again. To stay on the cruelty-free side of the mirror, it may be a smart idea to check the Leaping Bunny and PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies and see if your favorite personal care brand is truly as animal-friendly as it claims to be. If you don’t find the brand you’re looking for on either of the two lists, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not animal-friendly: it just means you’ll need to run a thorough website search and double-check labels for each product.

Beyond marketing

According to an investigation carried out by CHOICE, an Australia-based consumer watchdog, as many as 40% of 55 websites belonging to cosmetic brands lacked third-party certificates to back up their cruelty-free claims. In addition to that, the examination found salespersons in charge of marketing products by certain brands, such as Lancome and Dior, didn’t know if the merchandise was tested on animals or not. Furthermore, certain cosmetic companies, such as Mary Kay, Avon, and Estee Lauder, found themselves in the midst of court proceedings over fraudulent marketing claims a few years back, which only shows a brand’s fame has little to do with credibility.

Lotion on hands

Label reading ABC

Brands such as Olay, Neutrogena, Urban Decay, and Garnier can make cruelty-free testing claims all they want in an attempt to snatch buyers from environmentally responsible companies such as Ultraceuticals and Badger — but label-savvy shoppers won’t be fooled by sham marketing if they know which red flags to watch out for. In case you don’t know how to read labels but don’t want to switch to 100% vegan personal care products just yet, check out the list below and stay away from products which contain the following ingredients.

  • Ambergris – a perfume fixative extracted from the intestinal tract of whales;
  • Carmine/carminic acid/cochineal – red pigment used in makeup obtained by crushing the female cochineal beetle;
  • Casein/caseinate/sodim casienate – a common ingredient of hair products and face masks extracted from cow’s milk;
  • Cholesterol – an ingredient of eye creams and shampoo obtained from various animal sources such as fat, eggs, and tissue;
  • Estrogen/estradiol – an ingredient found in lotions, perfumes, and restorative creams extracted from pregnant horses’ urine;
  • Glycerin/glycerol – an ingredient found in lip balms, lotions, toothpastes, and soaps extracted from animal fat;
  • Keratin – a common ingredient of hair products made from hooves, horns, and animal fur;
  • Lactic acid – an ingredient obtained from blood and muscle tissue found in skincare products;
  • Lanolin – an ingredient commonly found in lip and hair products extracted from the oil glands of sheep;
  • Lecithin – an ingredient obtained from eggs and used in waxy cosmetics such as soaps, shampoos, and creams;
  • Glycerides/monoglycerides – an ingredient of glycerin-based products obtained from animal fat;
  • Musk – fragrance ingredient extracted from the genital secretions of animals such as musk deer, otters, beavers, and wild cats;
  • Oleic acid – fatty acid obtained from animal fat known commonly used as emollient in skincare products;
  • Placenta – an organ extracted from pregnant mammals found in certain skin and hair treatments;
  • Polypeptides – an animal-based protein commonly found in anti-aging products;
  • Polysorbates – fatty acid derivative often used as emulsifier in cosmetic products;
  • Progesterone – animal-based steroid hormone commonly used in anti-wrinkle creams;
  • Retinol – Vitamin A derived from animal sources and used to make skin and anti-aging products.

lip gloss magazine

If you’re unsure if the product you’re about to buy is cruelty-free, you’d better do your research before you show the brand your money. If you’re still here, you now know how to tell a cruelty-free brand from a cosmetics company that puts profits before honest marketing, environmental safety, and customer satisfaction, so be sure to make your picks wisely the next time you go makeup shopping. Good luck!