Alternatives to Cosmetic Testing on Animals

Have you ever thought about how regulatory agencies like the FDA ensure that it is safe for you to use your toiletries and makeup?


That’s right.. they test those cosmetic products on animals.


Makeup brands that women use are not the only types of “cosmetics.” Cosmetics are applied to the face as well as the body. So that includes products such as body soap, shaving cream, and lotion–many cosmetic products that both women and men use.

Even larger companies like Dove, Olay, Neutrogena, and Head & Shoulders test on animals. Check out this list to see other brands that test their products on animals.


Animals are being used for experiments every day in the United States for several purposes: medical progress, educational purposes in high school, and product testing. For product testing, while we think testing ingredients on animals might help find out how products affect humans, we are really only finding out how they affect these animals.


Since 1966, the Animal Welfare Act has helped to regulate the treatment of animals although it does not completely eliminate the kind of pain the animals suffer through. Under this act, many scientists follow the 3Rs: “reduction, refinement, and replacement.” When using animals for testing and experimenting purposes, scientists should always try to replace animals with non-animal alternatives whenever possible, reduce the number of animals being used, and refine how they use those animals by not using cruel methods.

There has been a lot of progress to reduce and refine animal testing in the United States, but scientists are still trying to find efficient ways to test the safety of products without the use of animals.

This graph illustrates the steady decline in the number of animals being used for research in the US annually from 1973 to 2015: 

Although these numbers are gradually declining, they still remain very high. According to the USDA, 767,622 animals were used for research in 2015 in the US and this number only accounts for the animals covered under the Animal Welfare Act.

To more effectively test cosmetics products intended for humans, there are several alternative methods that could be used instead of animal tests:

  1. Lab-Grown-Epidermis-Functional-Permeability-Barrier.jpgLab-grown epidermis is derived from human pluripotent stem cells. An epidermis is the outermost layer of skin with a permeable barrier. These stem cells in the skin are unlimited, so they can be used to create multiple 3D epidermal equivalents of different skin types that are no different from human skin. To increase efficiency, tissue engineers can also create large-scale epidermis models from just one skin biopsy sample. Apertura-.jpg
  2. In vitro or “in glass” is an experiment conducted in glass tubes to test the effects of certain drugs or chemicals on human cells and tissue instead of on live animals. These tests help identify harmful substances inside certain cosmetics products:
    • Skintex – uses the rind of a pumpkin (which is very similar to the human skin) to test for a reaction to the substance.
    • Corrositex – uses synthetic skin from protein membrane that can detect the corrosiveness of a substance by its color.
    • Eyetex – uses jack bean as a model of the human cornea to test irritancy by its level of cloudiness.
  3. In silico (computer simulations models) are also becoming more popular today. Some examples are:tox21
    • Tox21 – a quick and efficient method for testing the toxicity of chemicals on a computer-generated human model
    • Tissue Metabolism Simulator for Skin Sensitivity (TIMES-SS) – a computer model specifically for testing the sensitivity of skin after applying certain chemicals.
  4. Human trials are more effective tests using actual human volunteers:
    • Micro-dosing – a process where humans are given very small and safe doses of a substance to see if there is a reaction.
    • Microchip technologies – test cosmetics and other products on a chip to let scientists determine how that product might affect the body as a whole and not just on a certain part of the human tissue culture. For example: “organ-on-a-chip” to represent an organ with human cells that can pump blood in a small plastic chip or “lung-on-a-chip.” 

Since humans are the ones using these products, isn’t it more logical to have a human model rather than an animal model?

Reasons to promote the replacement of animals in safety testing:

  • More efficient methods (using actual humans or human models)
  • Faster results
  • Less expensive
  • Less animals suffering and dying

What you can do:

  • Buy products from several cruelty-free brands (even popular makeup brands like Too Faced, e.l.f., Urban Decay, NYX, and more!)
  • Spread awareness by sharing this blog and any information about this topic with others.
  • Support a ban on cruel cosmetics testing in the United States just by signing your name here. Every name counts!
  • Learn more on how to take action by visiting

The European Union serves as a great example to the United States in regards to animal testing on cosmetics. They completely banned animal testing on cosmetics in 2013 and the European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) are working to develop the best alternative methods to animal testing. This legislation has been beneficial to the European Union by saving millions of animals and euros that otherwise would have been used for animal experimentation.


The more support there is in the US, the more likely that we will see a ban on cosmetics testing on animals as seen in the European Union. Banning cosmetics testing on animals will not only save animal lives, but will also benefit the economy and the health of Americans by saving millions of dollars from expensive animal tests and speed up the medical progress with quick and more efficient technologies.

Please provide any feedback or questions about the blog in the “leave a comment” section at the top – Thank you!!

Other Sources:

“Animal Testing. ” Issues & Controversies. Infobase Learning, 16 Apr. 2015. Web. 14 Dec. 2016. <>.

Dw, Roberts, et al. “TIMES-SS – A Mechanistic Evaluation of an External Validation Study Using Reaction Chemistry Principles.” Joint Research Center, AMER CHEMICAL SOC, 25 May 2007, Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.

Goldberg, Alan M., and Thomas Hartung. “Protecting More Than Animals.” Scientific American, vol. 294, pp. 84–91.

Haugen, David M., editor. Animal Experimentation. Detroit, Greenhaven Press, 2007.

Parks, Peggy J. Animal Experimentation. San Diego, CA, ReferencePoint Press, 2008.

“Skin layer grown from human stem cells could replace animals in drug and cosmetics testing.” Stem Cell Week, 12 May 2014, p. 30. General OneFile, Accessed 21 Jan. 2017.

“Toxicology Testing in the 21st Century (Tox21).” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 2 Dec. 2016, Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.