Makeup shelf in shop
Many makeup products use animal-derived ingredients in their formulas | Image credit: Gemma Cockrell

A YouGov survey revealed in 2021 that 85 per cent of people in the UK think animal testing for makeup ingredients is unacceptable.

Yet The UK Home Office secretly abandoned the ban on animal testing for makeup ingredients in 2019, 25 years after it was imposed.

The Vegan Society are one of many organisations that have voiced their disappointment in this decision.

“The British public really don’t support this, and I think it’s a shame that the government have backtracked on such a long-standing law,” says Maisie Stedman, 28, the society’s media and PR officer.

The society has called on the government to reinstate the law and use alternative testing methods. “Laboratories are developing alternative testing solutions like synthetic skin,” Stedman says.

“Some testing takes place on animal enzymes, but we’ve got a method registered with the vegan trademark that replaces these with plants, like papaya and soybeans,” she says, adding that the results can be more accurate.

The society is hopeful that the industry is going to shift towards these plant-based testing methods, but Stedman acknowledges it will take time.

“We’re seeing more research into vegan testing alternatives, and there are now a wide number of companies using them, so we’re hopeful that there will be more trust in the vegan alternatives as they become more widely used and that brands will continue to switch over.”

Many makeup products use animal-derived ingredients in their formulas, including lanolin, beeswax and glycerin, which Stedman believes is unnecessary.

Maisie Stedman looking at the camera
Stedman doesn’t know if the makeup industry will ever be 100 per cent vegan | Image credit: Maisie Stedman

She predicts that brands will have to adjust their formulas to catch up with the increasing demand for vegan products.

“Lots of these products were developed using animal products before people were using the alternatives or before those alternatives were available. Hopefully, more companies make that shift,” she says.

Even though it is difficult to put a date on when the beauty industry will be completely vegan and cruelty-free, Stedman hopes it will happen eventually.

“It’s hard to put a timeline on it, and I don’t know if it will ever be 100 per cent vegan and cruelty-free, but we’re heading in the right direction.”

She continues: “People who aren’t vegan in other areas of life are interested in vegan cosmetics, so it is a big market.” It has been predicted that the vegan cosmetics industry will be worth £17.1 billion by 2027.

‘Sometimes certain ingredients can trip you up because they can be plant-based or animal-based’

She thinks it is possible to be a vegan and cruelty-free beauty enthusiast at this point in time if you are willing to take the time to do your research, even though there are things to watch out for.

“Sometimes certain ingredients can trip you up because they can be plant-based or animal-based,” she explains. “But there are enough vegan brands out there for people who are passionate about makeup and beauty to do this.”

Someone who made the switch is Sali Jones, 36, a wedding makeup artist from Nottingham better known as Ms Moo. She has been using cruelty-free makeup on her clients for 10 years.

She only supports brands that do not test on animals, and she aims to use vegan products where possible.

Sali Jones wearing a pink jumper smiling at the camera
Jones has used cruelty-free makeup on her clients for 10 years | Image credit: Sali Jones

“No animals need to be hurt for us to look good or feel good, and I didn’t want to put my money in the hands of brands that were doing that,” she says.

She has noticed that her cruelty-free makeup kit is often what leads to clients discovering her business. “People are becoming more conscious of it, and it’s great to see,” she says.

She found the news that the government had abandoned the ban on animal testing shocking but not surprising.

‘They did it quietly and quickly and under the radar of the British public, which is disgraceful’

“It’s appalling they issue time-limited licences, and that when the news broke about it, they said no new licences will be issued now. But they shouldn’t have been issued in the first place.”

She continues: “They did it quietly and quickly and under the radar of the British public, which is disgraceful.”

Lobby group PETA is also campaigning for the government to implement a ban on animal testing and recall all licences that are in place.

“Testing cosmetic ingredients on animals is a shocking and crude practice that deserves to be relegated to the dustbin,” says Dr Julia Baines, PETA science policy manager.

Headshot of Julia Baines
“It is a shocking practice that deserves to be relegated to the dustbin” | Image credit: Julia Baines

“Only by safeguarding the future of the testing ban can the government make amends for a decade of deceiving consumers with half-truths and scores of unnecessary animal deaths,” she continues.

Baines believes “there are simply no excuses for cruel tests on animals to continue” because of the existence of cutting-edge tools such as three-dimensional tissue models and advanced computer simulations.

“Once people learn that beetles are crushed to death to make a lipstick or that ingredients are forced down the throats of rats, they are eager to choose kinder options.”

Top tips

Do you want your makeup bag to be cruelty-free and vegan? Here are some tips from our experts on how to make the switch.

  • Baines and Jones recommend using the internet to research whether products are cruelty-free and vegan, such as PETA US’ global database, which can be accessed either online or via the mobile app Bunny Free.
  • Jones suggests buying from drugstores and independent brands because many high-end brands continue to test on animals so they can sell their products in China.
  • Jones recommends keeping an eye out for the most common animal-derived ingredients in cosmetics: Carmine, Beeswax, Lanolin, Squalene, and Shellac.
  • Baines’ favourite cruelty-free brands are Urban Decay, Kat Von D, Lush, Too Faced, The Body Shop, bareMinerals, and Dove.
  • For hair care, Baines uses Aveda and Paul Mitchell products.