Animal testing


In the UK, a ban on the testing of cosmetics and their ingredients on animals came into place in 1998.

In 2013, a new EU law was fully implemented that made it illegal to sell animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, even if the testing was done elsewhere. This ban also covered the ingredients that went into the finished product.

Rabbits in a laboratory,

Other countries such as Israel and India introduced similar legislation, but some, such as China and the USA, continue with animal testing. Because of this, companies who can’t sell animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, continue to test their products on animals outside of Europe, and sell those products in countries where animal testing continues.

Despite the ban in Europe, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) established that in certain cases, widely used cosmetic ingredients with a long history of safe use must be tested on animals to comply with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation. And in 2020 the ECHA announced that some substances must be tested on animals, arguing that the assessment was needed to establish if there was a risk for workers in factories where the products are made.

Since 2019 the UK government had been issuing licences for animal testing of cosmetic ingredients in line with EU chemical rules, (which it retained despite leaving the EU in 2020). But in 2023, after facing strong opposition from animal welfare groups and the public, the Government introduced a new ban on animal testing of ingredients exclusively used in cosmetics. However, ingredients used 'exclusively' in cosmetics only amount to about 20% of the total number of chemicals used. The previous ban had covered substances used exclusively, or predominantly, as cosmetic product ingredients. The latest ban also doesn’t take into account the large number of ingredients that are used in both cosmetics and other types of products such as paint, washing-up liquid, or glue. Thousands of rabbits, and other animals, are still at risk of being used in painful tests and killed for cosmetics in the UK and Europe.

Animal welfare groups will continue to campaign for the 1998 blanket ban to again, be put into law, and OneKind will be supporting this.

Animal ingredients

Animal ingredients can be found in most types of cosmetics and toiletries. Well known products like milk, honey and beeswax can be found in shampoo, shower gel and body lotion, while less familiar ingredients such as civet musk or ambergris can be added to perfumes and aftershaves without the companies having to list them on the bottles.

The following is a list of animal ingredients, with examples of where they can be found, but it is by no means exhaustive:

  • Allantoin (uric acid from cows and other mammals). Used in creams and lotions. 
  • Ambergris. Used in expensive fragrances. Produced by Sperm Whales and collected from seas or beaches. No whales are normally harmed however, there is a bigger issue: trade in whale products or byproducts of any kind perpetuates the notion of whales as a commodity, with their parts to be consumed or used in some way by humans.
  • Arachidonic acid (fatty acid from animals). In skin creams and lotions to soothe eczema and rashes.
  • Beeswax (also Royal Jelly or cera alba). Found in Shower gel, shampoo, skin care and makeup.
  • Caprylic acid (fatty acid from cows or goats milk). Can be found in perfumes and soaps.
  • Carmine/cochineal (crushed cochineal insect). Used as red colouring in makeup, shampoos and shower gel.
  • Castoreum (scent produced by beavers who are killed in the harvesting process). Not as commonly used nowadays but there is still some demand for luxury perfumes.
  • Collagen (can be produced from bacteria and yeast, but more often from animal sources such as beef or fish). Used in skin care products.
  • Civet musk (from the African/Asian Civet who are farmed in poor conditions and the secretion is painfully obtained). Used as a scent in perfumes.
  • Guanine (from the scales of fish). Used in make up.
  • Gelatine (animal bones, tendons and ligaments). Used as a thickener in toiletries and cosmetics.
  • Honey. Found in Shower gel, shampoo, skin care and makeup.
  • Keratin (protein from ground horns, hooves, feathers, quills, and the hair of various animals). Used in shampoos, hair rinses and hair treatments.
  • Lanolin (from sheep wool). Used in makeup and skin care products.
  • Milk (including lactose and whey). Used in shower gels, skin care and perfumes.
  • Oestrogen (vegan versions are available but may be extracted from the urine of pregnant horses). Added to anti-ageing creams.
  • Musk oil (dried secretion painfully obtained from musk deer, beaver, muskrat, civet cat, and otter genitals). Used in perfumes.
  • Shellac (from beetles who are killed during the harvesting process). Used in nail varnish, hairspray, skin care and perfumes.
  • Snails. Crushed and used in skin moisturisers.
  • Squalene (extracted from the livers of sharks). Found in deodorant and moisturisers.
  • Tallow (fat from cows and sheep). Found in soap and lipstick.

Due to the lack of transparency in ingredient lists for products like perfume and fragrance, it can be very difficult to identify all animal ingredients used. As a general rule of thumb, if a company does not explicitly state a product vegan, we should assume that it may use some animal ingredients.


Similar to household cleaning products, many cosmetics and personal care items state ‘vegan’ or ‘cruelty-free’. But the labelling refers to that particular product or brand only, so the item itself, and the brand, may indeed be vegan, but the company that owns that brand may sell factory farmed meat and dairy in other parts of their business.

The words ‘cruelty-free’ may be accurate when referring to the brand, but the company who owns the brand, may sell animal tested products abroad. For example, in China where animal testing is required by law. This means that many cosmetic brands are funding and prolonging the existence of the animal testing industry.

Help is at hand!

Finding genuine cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics and personal care items has been made a lot easier with certifications from animal welfare organisations. The ones mentioned below are who the OneKind team rely on for up-to-date info and endorsements. Please be aware though, things can change: a brand can be bought by a new owner that doesn’t share the same values, and it may lose endorsement because of this. It’s complicated, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with these changes. We’re human, we can only do what we can!

Naturewatch Foundation

Compassionate shopping guide magazine.

Naturewatch Foundation have produced a very handy Compassionate Shopping Guide which only endorses brands that have zero ties to animal testing.

They state that, while a specific product may not be tested on animals, it could be owned by a parent company that produces or sells other products that aren’t cruelty-free and that it’s important to understand the true picture of a company’s commitment to cruelty-free products.

The list of products contained in the shopping guide includes beauty products, cosmetics & personal care, household cleaning products, pet care and health care products. Not all those endorsed are vegan, but they have included a refined search option on their website. All vegan, organic, and eco-friendly products are clearly marked.

Cruelty Free International

Leaping bunny logo

Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny programme approves hundreds of cosmetics, personal care items and household brands. They assure that a company has made a genuine commitment to help end animal testing. Brands must meet rigorous criteria which apply globally and extend over and above laws governing animal testing and include ongoing independent audits.

Leaping Bunny approval is dependent on a brand being able to demonstrate that it meets the strict criteria, but some of those brands may be owned or bought by larger corporations which may not hold Leaping Bunny approval. They understand that this may change how some shoppers view a brand’s ethical status, so they do indicate when a Leaping Bunny brand has a non-approved parent company.

Not all brands approved by Cruelty Free International are vegan, but they have included a refined search option on their website for products free from animal ingredients.

Search for cruelty-free products here or look for the Leaping Bunny logo while out shopping. 

The Vegan Society

Vegan Society logo.

The ‘Vegan’ trademark is an internationally recognised vegan product certification, established in 1990 by The Vegan Society, and has been helping make vegan products more accessible ever since. It appears on over 65,000 certified vegan products, in over 65 countries across the world, on cosmetics, household products, clothing, food, drink, and much more.

The Vegan Society check each product application against their strict criteria, working with manufacturers and suppliers across a range of fields to ensure that each product meets the highest vegan standards. The Vegan trademark is renewed on a yearly basis to ensure they have the most up to date information on all the products they certify.

In order to gain Vegan Society certification, the development and/or manufacture of the product, and its ingredients, must not involve or have involved, testing of any sort on animals conducted at the initiative of the company or on its behalf, or by parties over whom the company has effective control.

Look for the Vegan trademark on product labels and search for products on their website.

Cruelty Cutter

Cruelty Cutter is a very handy app and is easy to use.

Cruelty Cutter app.

Simply scan product barcodes to instantly learn if they are cruelty-free! Please be aware, Cruelty Cutter does not yet report on whether a company is vegan


Check our resources section for a list of cosmetics and personal care products that are firm favourites with the OneKind team!