From a very young age, I have adored makeup and beauty products. Growing up in Dallas, Texas during a time when nails were long, hair was big, and people were remiss over who shot J.R. was interestingly influential on a pale, chubby girl who felt just a lil’ bit out of place. For one, my mother was and certainly still is a total fox. She rocked amazing winged blonde hair and ethereal purple eyeshadow. She pulled off 80’s glam with a Stevie Nicks flair that made all the Southern soccer moms p-i-s-s-e-d. So, she was definitely my first beauty and fashion influence – Very much herself, while also using make up to look like a gorgeous watercolor of something iridescent and magical, not unlike a unicorn. Anywho…
I’d sneak down to her bathroom and unload her drawers of Wet n’ Wild and Revlon and party down. I’d mix conditioners and lotions with crushed up blush to create my own (surprisingly effective) liquid blushes. I was 6, so the cosmetic world really did feel like my oyster. And then I saw a flyer about animal testing on the ground when I was about 11 (pre-innernettes, yo) and the images therein really stuck with me. Having had many rescued dogs, cats, hermit crabs, fish, box turtles, and whathaveyou at home, I could never fathom hurting an animal so I could have sparkly eyeliner or a sweet smelling shampoo. And from then on, I worked hard to phase cruelty from my beauty routine. And as many of you who have been on this same journey since the 80’s can attest – the landscape was a little barren before.
I won’t belabor the consequences or processes here, but animal testing, also known as vivisection, is FUGLY. It’s unnecessary, insanely cruel and twisted, and pretty much done only for our own vanity and stupidity. Hurting others was never my definition of beauty and I highly doubt it’s part of yours.
Now, I’m gonna give you the straight dish here and I’m not gonna pull any punches. And let me tell you, you won’t look at a bottle of conditioner or a razor the same way ever again, but you’ll be better for it, and the animals will be better for it.
So, it’s been awhile and I have to say, the market is so full of fantastic, gorgeous, luxurious, mind-blowing cosmetics and personal care products of all types that I actually wonder why people would even want the grody chemical- and cruelty-laden crap they sell at drugstores, grocery stores, and salons. Yep, unfortunately, most of what you’re using now is very likely the product of awful, repeated tests on dogs, cats, mice, rats, rabbits, monkeys, fish, goats, and other sentient, wonderful animals that have no place in a lab (i.e. all of ’em). I know that you want to make the best decisions with your dollars, so I want to help steer you in the right direction. There are lots of cruelty-free options out there, you just need kick ass recommendations and a little guidance on where to get ’em, but first, you gotta spot the bad guys.
*** A FOXY GUIDE TO SWITCHING TO CRUELTY-FREE PRODUCTS ***
First, start here: Look in your bathroom, your makeup bag, your gym bag, and wherever you keep your cleaning products (including detergent and laundry stuff). All your makeup, bath products, lotions, skin care, house cleaners, perfumes, oral care, etc – look at the labels on the back. Do any of them explicitly say the products are not tested on animals? If they don’t, it’s a safe bet that they were. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. You see, companies that do not test on animals or, better yet, are against animal testing, work very hard and often times pay lots of money to be inspected to have that designation. They are proud of it and they will pimp it out, loud and proud, on their products. If an item doesn’t say it explicitly, you can bet that the money you paid for it is in part supporting painful and unnecessary animal tests. To ease that queasy feeling you’re likely getting from knowing the truth, vow to swap out these products with cruelty-free ones once they’re done. Still not sure if your items are animal tested? Consult this handy dandy database. Or this bitchin’ searchable database.
Then, Look for these:
- Shop where you know these products are prevalent. No, not at the CVS, Target, or the Walgreens (though there are some cruelty-free finds there, but let’s wait until you’re super savvy). Cruelty-free shopping requires a little tweak in routines. Make this fun, rather than an imposition, and spend some time in the Whole Body section of Whole Foods (a guilty pleasure of mine), pop in to the personal care aisle at Trader Joe’s, hit up your own local health food store, or have a fun, fragrant excursion to LUSH. You’ll still have to look at labels, but most of these types of stores have standards against selling tested products or, at the very least, sell mostly natural products, which often (though not always) are also cruelty-free.
- Look at the Labels. Yes, this requires a little more work than, say, grabbing whatever off the shelf at Costco. But, just as we pay attention to food nutrition labels, your skin is the largest, breathing, absorbing organ of your body. Shouldn’t you know what goes in it, on it, and around it? Aren’t the animals suffering in labs worth a 2 second glance at a label? Shyeah! Okay, so the work is worth it! Now, what does the product label say? “Not Tested on Animals”? That’s a damn good start. “Against Animal Testing?” Well, that’s even better (that means that the company is going beyond turnin’ a profit to actively advocate for the abolition of animal testing on a national level, and that fucking rocks). “Cruelty free” and “Vegan” are often inclusive terms that mean that the product has no animal ingredients (like honey, milk, lanolin (from sheep), gelatin, animal glycerin (from fat), etc) and has also not been tested on animals. Labels that are questionable and not-so-good: “This product not tested on animals” means that that particular product may not have been tested, but the company’s other products have been (This is a no-go. You’ll see this BS on Herbal Essences haircare and Clorox Green Works (aka: Green Wash) cleaners); “Finished product not tested on animals.” Ew, do you know what this means? It means that the final product wasn’t tested on animals, but every ingredient and combination therein was. Gross. Pass on that bullshit, stat. Show those companies you ain’t no fool!
- Look for the Signs. Thankfully, there are fantastic designations like the Leaping Bunny symbol, which kick ass products proudly bear to show they have earned their cruelty-free stripes. Leaping Bunny products have not been tested on animals, in any iteration or raw ingredient. Also look for the “Vegan” symbol or wording. Leaping Bunny doesn’t always mean that the product is vegan, just that the ingredients weren’t tested on animals. There are other bunnies in this designation pack and this lil’ guide to other designation symbols gives nice visuals. Look for the signs, and get excited when you spot products with ’em! Just like Blue’s Clues, you’re on the right track! Wheeeeee!
- Who’s Your Daddy? Parents are important. Parent companies are also important, because your money ultimately goes to them. For instance, I used to love love love the Body Shop. That is, until they were bought by L’oreal. So, while most Body Shop products claim to be cruelty free, and even against animal testing, all the money you pay for them goes right back to L’oreal, who is one of the biggest and baddest animal testers in the world (seriously, they have labs so stocked with animals, you’d think it was fucking Chicago Animal Care and Control). A little Googling will unearth the mystery of parentage and get you on the right track to purchasing with confidence. In this instance, having bad parents, IMO, always means bad kids.
- Shanghai and Bye. As a general rule of thumb, don’t but from companies that sell and market their products in China. Here’s why: As a country, China has a pretty abysmal track record on human rights. Now, with that in mind, imagine what their record is on animal rights? Yeah, it’s that fucking bad. The country that brings you the most real fur (often marketed as faux, but it’s really from street dogs and cats), is also the one country that requires animal tests on every product sold therein. So, companies that used to be cruelty free, like Avon, Estee Lauder, Mary Kay, and others who have recently decided to sell in China are now complying with the Chinese government and directly funding seriously vicious, totally uncessary animal tests. By buying these products, you are too! These companies chose greed over ethics and have basically been shamed and booted out of the cool kids’ cruelty-free club. Bottom line: Don’t buy ’em when there are so many other awesome products and companies working hard to make a little living whilst doing the right thing.
- When in Doubt, Do Your Homework. Companies can be very sneaky about how they portray or shroud their product vetting practices, because, hi, they don’t want you to know the evil shit that goes on behind closed doors. Vivisection is awful and they know it, but they don’t want to change because they think YOU don’t care. But now that you know this stuff, I bet you do care…A LOT. When a product is shrouded in mystery, don’t blindly trust salespeople (after all, they’re there to sell you the product and make a commission, not necessarily to ensure that every lotion meets your ethical standards) or green washing that it is cruelty-free. Do what every web-savvy person on the planet does and Google away. Ask friends. Consult other blogs and websites. Ask me. It’s actually fun, like you’re Veronica Mars or something (and hi, Kristen Bell is a vegan!).
Then, Get Mad As Hell!
Is your mind blown right now? Are you feeling mad/sick/sad/disenchanted with the world/hopeless? Don’t feel bad, get mad and get active! For one, you’re making a change to stop this cruelty and exploitation by swapping over to rad and lovely cruelty-free goods; You’re showing companies that they can’t pull the polyester over your eyes! And there are awesome organizations out there making a BIG difference for these animals on direct action, advocacy, and political levels. Check ’em out, support them however you can, and tell your friends and family:
- The National Anti-Vivisection Society
- New England Anti-Vivisection Society
- In Defense of Animals
- Stop Animal Exploitation Now
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
- The Beagle Freedom Project
- Leaping Bunny
Why lather up with Pantene, which was shoved in cats’ eyes (many of whom are unadopted animals sold to labs by shelters. For shame!), when you can suds up with something made from gorgeous smelling flowers that makes you feel like a goddess? No need to use Crest toothpaste with its crushed up animal bones and piss-poor legacy of vicious animal tests when Kiss My Face makes such a knock-out, smile-sexifying toothpaste with aloe and a natural vanilla mint flavor (seriously, you could drink it). Cruelty-free products nowadays are so wonderful that you never have to compromise effectiveness and user-experience for ethics, and for that, I think we all can feel very grateful. And, if you think this is all silly or a big imposition, or blown out of proportion…or if people say, “That’s pretty extreme, why not just buy some Suave at the Drugstore?,” (1) Show them this post and give ’em the stink eye, (2) Gird your loins and mosey on over here, and (3) Remind yourself that since you’ve read this (i.e. taken the blue pill) you’re not the kind of selfish foolio who mindlessly funds this.
I have a lot of raves and faves when it comes to beauty products, and I will share them with you. I like nothing more that to linger in a bath each night with masks, oils, conditioners, and other potions on me. Perhaps I was a kept woman in another life? Anyway, when I see an awesome product, I don’t just want to buy it, I want you to try it! I want to pimp it. And that’s what I intend to do with these “Pretty Compassionate” posts. Expect to see some seriously gorgeous products for guys, gals, and home that are 100% cruelty free, effective, economical (this varies, of course), and deeeeeeelish. And if you have suggestions, please let me know. Mining the market is certainly about word of mouth and tips, and I’d love to hear yours. And, of course, give me your questions, your challenges, and your concerns – I’ve been in the game a looooooong time and have tried it all. I would love to help you swap out an icky animal tested product for one that makes you and the bunnies swoon.
For those of you confused about what the recent European Union ban on animal testing really means, Leaping Bunny did a nice FAQ here that helps to clear the air.
Your mission this week, should you choose to accept it: Examine all of your personal and home care products and determine if any are cruelty free. Then vow to make a change. It’ll be fun – pinky swear!