For decades, animals have been tortured and killed for human vanity. From fur coats to mascara, the horrors we inflict upon innocent creatures are shocking.

Thankfully, the tide is starting to turn. As awareness grows about animal testing, conscious consumers are seeking cruelty-free beauty products, and an increasing number of companies are creating cosmetics and skin care products in response.

But what is the true definition of a “cruelty-free” brand or product? Are all cruelty-free products classified as vegan? And how can you be sure the brands you support don’t test on animals?

We all want to make sure we’re supporting responsible, ethical brands, so let’s look at what cruelty-free means, find out which companies aren’t telling the whole truth, and learn how to make sure your beauty products have never harmed a furry friend.

What does cruelty-free really mean?

While there’s no formal legal definition in the U.S., the consensus is that cruelty-free brands have never tested their products on an animal — anywhere in the world. But companies can be devious; though the final product hasn’t been tested on animals, some of the ingredients used in the product may have been.

True cruelty-free products don’t contain any ingredients that were tested on animals.

Are cruelty-free products vegan?

To date, cruelty-free products only refer to animal testing. However, some supposedly “cruelty-free” products may include animal byproducts.

A growing number of brands are introducing vegan lines, making it easier to buy a beauty product that is both.

The foreign market “loophole.”

Some brands advertise that they don’t test on animals in the United States, but that doesn’t make them cruelty-free. China, with a 26 billion dollar beauty industry, still requires any cosmetics sold in the country to be tested on animals.

While a company may be cruelty-free in North America, it’s still allowing torture of animals for financial gain in foreign markets.

Here are some well-known brands that are NOT cruelty-free:

  • L’Oreal
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Revlon
  • Covergirl
  • A.C
  • P.I.
  • Benefit
  • Tresemme’
  • Avon
  • Estée Lauder

How can I be sure the product I am buying is truly cruelty-free?

Anyone can slap a cruelty-free sticker on their product, but the FDA doesn’t regulate these claims, so don’t believe a label unless it’s from a trusted source.

There are several certifications you can rely on when shopping for animal-friendly products. The most well-known is the “Leaping Bunny” label.

To receive this label, a brand must be cruelty-free from process to product. They must have no animal testing on any ingredients or in the final product, and not participate in animal testing in foreign markets.

The animal advocacy group PETA has its own “Beauty Without Bunnies” certification and an extensive list of cruelty-free brands. To receive this certification, a company must sign an agreement confirming they don’t conduct or pay for animal testing at any stage of production.

Choose Cruelty Free (CCF) is a not-for-profit based in Australia that has stringent requirements for certification. Their logo is a white rabbit with the words “Not tested on animals.”

Thanks to the hard work of organizations like these, it’s getting easier to find out if a product we are buying is truly cruelty-free. Supporting cruelty-free and vegan companies saves lives, and paves the way to a kinder, more compassionate future.