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Column: Beauty product makeover

Posted: February 1, 2018 2:00 p.m.
Updated: February 2, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Makeup and skincare companies must think we’re pretty shallow. Not only do their commercials promise the ability to defy the laws of nature by turning back the clock, but they also imply that we care for nothing beyond ourselves. The implication is that we’ll buy any product just because, to paraphrase L’Oreal, “we’re worth it.” This idea certainly insults the intelligence and compassion of the women I know. Sure, we like to look good, but we also want to do good and the sad truth is that many companies today are trying to trick consumers into supporting the cruel practices of animal testing. According to the Humane Society of the United States, in the cosmetics industry alone, 500,000 animals across the globe (rabbits, mice, rats, and guinea pigs) suffer annually in such experiments. They experience ulcers, inflammation, rashes, bleeding and more, all without any pain medication. In addition, all of the animal subjects are killed at the end of each test. These are the ugly truths that some of the most popular “beauty” companies routinely hide from consumers. 

It’s easy to be taken in by glamorous models in slick marketing campaigns, but we don’t have to be. There’s a better indicator of the integrity of the company and the quality of its product than the mega-millions it spends on commercials. Look for the tiny logo of a leaping bunny or go to Leapingbunny.org for a list to download. Leaping Bunny certification is the gold standard when it comes to verification that the company has committed to avoiding all animal testing. In fact, this certification has become so desirable that some disreputable companies have made up their own bunny logos or have simply emblazoned “cruelty free” on their products. (Although they don’t test the final product on animals, they may very well test individual ingredients on them.) Don’t be fooled. If the product/brand is not listed on Leapingbunny.org, then it is not truly cruelty free.

You may be wondering if you’ll sacrifice quality by avoiding brands that victimize animals. The answer is a simple “no.” Rather than wasting money on cruel animal testing, which is notoriously expensive and unreliable, the companies on the Leaping Bunny list channel these funds into the development of new and better products. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct animal tests, an expense that corporations are only too happy to pass along to unsuspecting consumers. It’s also an expense that yields irrelevant findings. Because of the subtle and not-so-subtle differences among species, extrapolating the effects that a substance has on a nonhuman in order to determine its effects on a human is fraught with problems. Instead, forward-thinking companies are abandoning primitive animal experimentation in favor of cutting edge 3D computerized skin models, in vitro tests (using human cells in petri dishes), and even the development of synthetic human skin like MatTek’s EpiDerm and L’Oreal’s EpiSkin. 

By making thoughtful decisions about which cosmetics and household items to buy (and by bringing more “leaping bunny” products into our homes), we can help reward compassionate companies, end horrific animal testing practices and encourage greater innovation and product development. Although companies constantly tell us how much they care about consumers, most care only for our money. We need to be more mindful of this fact.  If we’re haunted by the images of animals who suffered solely for us to use a certain brand of lipstick or the latest face serum, then we need to put our money where our hearts are. When we buy a product, we bring that product into our homes, help keep it on the store shelves, and give it our implicit approval. Do we want companies that conduct animal testing to reap these precious rewards? 

2018 is still young, and there’s still time to commit to a New Year’s challenge. Just replace one or more of your personal care products -- shampoo, moisturizer, or mascara, for example -- with a cruelty-free alternative. Be sure to choose from the Leaping Bunny-certified list, and you’ll be well on your way to helping end the senseless suffering of vulnerable animals. 

Just as in my last article, when I urged you to join the Meatless Monday movement, this is a simple step that will allow you to send a powerful message to the companies that think we care only for ourselves. Let’s let them know that we’re too savvy to fall for their baseless claims, and we’re too humane to overlook their shameful practices. We won’t be tricked into condoning animal torture by promises of personal transformation.

By making thoughtful decisions to spend our money on cruelty-free products (those that are Leaping Bunny certified), we can shape the future of the entire beauty industry. Now that’s a transformation I’d like to see.

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