It occurred to me recently just how many companies are using trendy catch phrases like 'vegan', 'cruelty free', and even 'natural', to push their products.
It's no lie that vegan diets have become increasingly popular of late - in fact, Australia is now the 3rd-fastest growing vegan market in the world - as more and more people are becoming concerned about their health, climate change and cruelty to animals. Australia's vegan food market was worth $136 million in June this year, and it's predicted to reach $215 million by 2020. With the food industry booming alongside the population's interest in all things vegan, why wouldn't the cosmetics industry jump on board?
First up, let's define vegan skincare. Vegan Online define vegan skincare as products not tested on animals, and state that they are usually made from ingredients that have already been tested as harmless. Vegan skincare also doesn't contain any animal products, including honey, beeswax, milk, lanolin, etc.
So if our skincare products tell us they're vegan, they are, right? Wrong.
In 2012 in the US, cosmetic giant Avon were dealt a class action lawsuit for false promotion of the term 'cruelty free' and for actively promoting their products as 'not tested on animals'...when in fact, "the defendant was testing its cosmetic products on animals so that it could sell its products in China". Apparently all cosmetic products sold in China require registration, and "in order to become registered, companies are required to submit a dossier to the relevant government authority, along with product samples for the authority to test. The authorities then do a number of tests, including for pH [levels] and viscosity. They also do some skin and eye irritation tests. And at the moment, these tests are done on animals."
No cute bunnies harmed in the writing of this post!
Most of us are pretty concerned about the welfare of animals, so we'll opt for cosmetics that are "against animal testing". But, hold up. L'Occitane and Bobbi Brown both state they're against animal testing (where most of us super time-poor peeps will stop reading), and then go on to tell us that they test where required by law, and that they're very respectful of each country's individual laws on testing. So, basically, if China would like the products to be tested on animals before selling in their country, L'Occitane and Bobbi Brown (and many others) will go right ahead. Complete contradiction.
In 2013, Choice assessed 22 cosmetic brands claiming their products are not tested on animals. Only a minority were actually certified.
Giorgio Armani, for example, "does not use animals to test its products, and does not have animal testing conducted on its behalf by anyone else". However, not only do they sell to the Chinese market, but they're also on PETA's 'baddy' list of companies who do test on animals.
So, how do you know that your skincare actually is vegan? In Australia, you can look out for certification by several independent third party companies, including PETA, Choose Cruelty Free, and Leaping Bunny, who all offer an awesome list of skincare companies and their veganability.
And, not surprisingly, it's a very similar story for those who use the terms 'organic' and 'natural'. Lucas' Papaw Ointment, for example, contains only 4% papaw and is predominantly petroleum jelly. And Fruit of the Earth's Aloe Vera 100% Gel may be 100% 'gel', but that gel certainly ain't all aloe vera. And the first result on Google when I typed in 'natural skincare' right now? Neutragena Naturals. While many of their ingredients are "naturally derived", the processes undergone in order to actually derive them from nature involve chemicals (and even petrochemicals).
If you're looking for actual natural, organic skincare products, your best bet is to check for certification: COSMOS, Australian Certified Organic, Natrue and NSF are just some of the certifiers in the Australian market.
Gimmick buster Emily, at your service. Over and out ;)
References: PETA, Vegan Online, Choice - Animal Testing Labelling, Choice - Natural & Organic Cosmetics, Sydney Morning Herald