Cosmetic Companies, Animal Testing, and China: My Thoughts

Hey Guys and Dolls,

I have to say first off I avoided writing this blogpost  because it was such a snarled mess of crap in my head, and it’s taken me a while to work though. I’ve tried separating my emotions from the equation but found that I can rationalize either side with logic, so essentially this boils down to how I feel. My opinions on this still a bit tangle-y and I’m sure this post will be rather informal and ramble-y, so just bear with me. Consider yourself warned- this post is LOOONG!

This blog post has been edited from it’s original version to clear up some confusion.

This is a SUPER honest blogpost, nothing held back, and while you might not agree with what I have to say, please be respectful. I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian. I will not discuss that. This post is about animal testing for cosmetic products, how I define cruelty-free, and where I draw the line in terms of what I will buy and promote.

Let’s start chronologically, because that seems to help me organize my thoughts. Several years ago I learned that some cosmetic companies tested either ingredients and/or finished products on animals, but there were also companies who did not, including some of my favorite brands like MAC, Urban Decay, NYX etc and brands I grew up on like AVON. I was appalled that companies would continue to test their products on animals when it seemed clear to me that it was not necessary since alternative testing methods were available. I think we can all agree that testing on animals for makeup is a cruel and outdated practice- and even if you’re not emotionally swayed by animal suffering, testing on an animals isn’t the same as human tissue! I decided to only buy from the “good” companies, and eventually phased out all use of brands who tested on animals or whose parent company tested. Thankfully a lot of my favorite brands were cruelty free, and the things I had to giveup I was able to find replacements for. I felt very good about my decision thinking it was a very obvious black and white issue. But overtime I realized that it’s not a black and white issue.

Several friends or family members would tell me sheepishly, that they would use an Olay moisturizer, or loved their L’oreal mascara, as if confessing an unforgivable sin to me. It made me feel so bad that they felt shame talking to me- the fact is, many people are on a fixed income, and quality, cruelty free products that would suit their needs are out of their price range. Going cruelty-free was affordable and right for me, but I have no kids, no mortgage, and this is my job & my hobby- so I find ways to buy what I need. Yes there are several cruelty free makeup lines at the drugstore, but few options for moisturizers, sunscreen, and hair care. You and I -beauty junkies- know that these things exists, but not everyone had the time/resources to investigate everything they bought. I decided to not judge and after bringing it up one or twice drop the issue- if someone was trying to force their morals on me I would have a fit.

Then a few people pointed out that while it was admirable to buy only cruelty free beauty products- I was still buying things like laundry detergent from companies that test on animals. The fact is, most of the chemicals and products we use everyday have at one point been tested for safety on animals.  Replacing every single thing with cruelty free alternatives would cost a fortune, and honestly I just can’t afford to put my money where my heart is on every social issue.  There’s a lot of first-world guilt that goes along with my first-world problems, and we have to pick & choose our battles.

As you guys know I’m also a makeup artist and I would occasionally run into a sticky situation- a client would request a non-cruelty free product, and be quite adamant about it: What do you do in that situation? I tried suggesting an alternative, but people get very attached to their faveorite beauty products, and on-set isn’t really the best place to argue your case. It really got me thinking about my future as a makeup artist; Would I ever walk off a set/away from a job because a non-cruelty free brand was being used? I’d like to think that won’t be an issue, but you’re not always using your own kit, sometimes the cosmetics are provided by a specific cosmetic company.  I realized the best I can do is stock my own kit with cruelty-free brands, and try to turn people on to those products. I also try to stock as many Vegan products as I can since I get requests for that as well.

I never made a video about this on YouTube or talked about it much here, except to add a line in my disclaimer about how I only promote cruelty free products, because I wanted you guys to know that if you wanted to buy only cruelty-free items, anything I reviewed or used would be OK. The issues I had in my personal life just made me not want to make a big fuss over it because I didn’t want to have to constantly explain my feelings about it, or shame anyone. I tend to over think everything and due to my wonderful, awful logic loving, yet emotionally charged brain, I tend think of every side of an argument and end up torturing myself, picking apart my own truths. Once I’ve finally made a decision I hate explaining myself, because it brings it all up again.Virgos man.

Everyone has to draw their own line of what is acceptable, and what their own morals are. For me, I decided that it was enough to buy only beauty products not tested on animals. This was/is my line in the sand. Perhaps a squiggly line, but I felt sorted out with it. So that’s where I’ve been at for about 3 years or so- it was a journey, but I was at a place where I was at peace with it all.

Last year I was double checking MAC’s parent company Estee Lauder to make sure they were still cruelty free, and their policy stated something to the effect of “We do not conduct animal testing except where required by law” etc… I assumed this meant except for Sunscreen, or medicated treatments for acne which are technically considered drugs, which I figured had to be tested on animals for safety by law.

Apparently I should have read between the lines about what “where” meant.

Over the last few weeks it has come to light that several major cosmetic companies had a change in their Animal Testing policies, the main ones making headlines were Estee Lauder, Mary Kay and Avon.  These companies have changed their Animal Testing policies so they could sell their products in China, also known as  p.r.o.c. (People’s Republic of China). Apparently, the Chinese government requires all cosmetic company’s to submit their products for safety testing on animals, or requires that the testing be done- it’s unclear exactly how this is handled. I’m completely shocked, pissed off, betrayed, and frankly a little confused. Estee Lauder owns TONS for brands, including MAC whose slogan was once “Tested on Models, not Animals”. I was fuming mad and I felt deeply betrayed; MAC in particular was hard for me. MAC was the brand that made me fall in love with Makeup, and want to be a makeup artist. MAC has incredible programs like Viva Glam and Back to MAC. More than 70% or more of my entire makeup collection is MAC. Perhaps most importantly, I used to work for MAC. I polished my skills on their sales floor, and became a better makeup artist though their training. I love MAC like it’s a living breathing thing. To be clear, I no longer work for MAC, I quit back in January.

AVON! I grew up on AVON- we were very poor when I was a teen, and without my mom selling Avon I wouldn’t have had any toiletries, let along food on the table. Even though I don’t really buy much anything from them anymore (it’s simply not convenient) AVON means a lot to me. The hurt I feel over this is hard to explain, and I could go on and on about why I don’t like this and how I deeply disagree with these brands, but let’s get down to my burning, game changing, questions:

Does this mean the companies will be themselves contracting out tests on ingredients/finished products, are they simply handing them over ot the Chinese government for testing? Though that isn’t much better; They are still moving into a market that requires animal cruelty, but I can’t help but see that as a bit different.

What about the European Ban on Animal Tested cosmetics which goes into effect in 2013? I could see this causing a huge problem, and it will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Will these companies who claim to still be cruelty free have separate testing facilities for North America and Europe?

What about separate manufacturing?

And then the Million Dollar Question: Does this mean ALL COSMETICS MANUFACTURED, but not necessarily SOLD in China are also tested on animals? If that’s the case, then world of truly cruelty-free cosmetics just got a whole lot smaller. If any cosmetics made in China are now considered not cruelty free, then tons of brands are now in the “gray area”.  EDIT June 12 2012 3:33 PM- Apparently the regulations & laws are different for products that are only manufactured but not sold in China. This is excellent news! 

After I cooled down from my initial anger, I tried to think about it logically-I know it’s not as though these companies woke up one day and said  “Eff animals, let’s torture on them for fun! What country will let us do that?!!”. They did this to make a profit- no matter what their PR spin is. Let’s face it, the US economy is tanking, it’s not a great thing to think about, but we’re in a massive recession. Spending on “fluff” things like makeup initially goes up (in fact, it’s referred to as the Lipstick Effect), but over the years, it tapers off. American movies are now premiering overseas before we get them here! All industries are looking globally in order to stay in business and stay profitable. China has 1.5 billion people, and American and European brands are in high-demand there. I know we become attached to these brands and think of them as people, friends even, but these are businesses, and even though I hate it, I understand from a business point of view why they would want to move into the Chinese market.

For weeks I’ve felt a little lost with this, trying to not think about what this means for me, but a few days ago Urban Decay -a company that built it’s entire reputation on being cruelty free, and touted it’s Vegan products to attract customers- announced they would now be selling in China as well. Boycotting brands is simply not working if even the “good ones” are going to the dark side. I feel as though if I did replace my entire kit, tomorrow those brands could switch sides. Public opinion and laws need to change. I feel like when I initially went cruelty free it was very simple: Either a company tested on animals, or they didn’t. Now I realize there are layers- and it’s so complicated and hard to know where to draw my line in the sand anymore. I feel like as more and more companies move into other markets, things are going to change- either there will be fewer and fewer truly cruelty free brands, or laws will change, banning animal testing. At this point it time right now- it’s all a gray area really.

It feels like everything is changing; the cosmetic world I thought I knew is not the same, and I feel like I need to formally address it to my viewers and readers who look to me for guidance, or just let you know where I stand.

Makeup is my industry as a Makeup Artist and a Beauty Vlogger- it’s literally what I do for a living. It took a lot of soul-searching, I realized that giving up makeup is not an option for me- but neither is claiming to be 100% cruelty free anymore.  To be clear I still will buy mostly “legit” (as far as we know) non-animal tested beauty products, but I will also be using some products from companies that fall into the “gray area”.  I will NOT be buying & promoting brands like L’oreal who have actually fought the European Ban. Maybe that only makes me semi-cruelty free. I hope that one day all cosmetics will be cruelty-free and at some point this will be a non-issue, but at this point, it seems like there is a awful lot of lying going on.

I hate that these companies can’t be truthful. I’ve been put in a tough position, and I hate it.

Edit- I took the breakdown of my new policy out of this blog post because I don’t think it was clear enough in the context of this post. If you’d like to read it, please click here

If you read this whole thing, you deserve a medal! Thank you for reading, Cora

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