Updated on June 15, 2023

5 Ways To Know If Your Cosmetics Are Cruelty-Free – And Which Way Is The Best?

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Not sure if a cosmetic product or brand is truly cruelty-free? Whether you’re shopping online or in-store, there are several ways to tell if your cosmetics are cruelty-free and not tested on animals.

In this post, I share five methods you can use to identify which companies are cruelty-free. I’ll also be sharing when it’s best to use each method and some of the limitations and drawbacks of each.

Let’s first define what is cruelty-free.

What is Cruelty-Free?

Cruelty-free‘ is generally used to describe cosmetics that are free from animal testing. However, the term ‘cruelty-free’ is unregulated, and there is no official or legal definition. So ‘Cruelty-Free’ can mean different things to different people.

See here a list of our standards of what we consider ‘Cruelty-Free.’

How To Know if it’s Cruelty-Free?

Some may prefer to use one or a combination of the following methods to determine whether a product or brand is truly cruelty-free. Whichever or how many methods you choose to use is up to you. I’ll also be listing some limitations with each one as there isn’t a perfect or ideal method.

The fastest and easiest way to know whether a product is cruelty-free is by looking for a certified cruelty-free bunny logo on product packaging.

You can find it on the store display, the company’s website, or on the packaging somewhere. Just make sure you’re looking for Leaping Bunny or PETA’s bunny logos, and know that not all bunny logos are created equal.

Use this method when:

  • You have the product in front of you
  • You’re browsing the company’s official website
  • You want a quick and easy reference
  • You trust the third-party certification and its cruelty-free standards

Limitations of this method:

Companies must pay to use and license a certified bunny logo. That means a company can be certified cruelty-free and meet all the criteria, but they might not be able to afford the licensing fee to use the logo. For example, PETA’s licensing fee costs $350. Leaping Bunny’s licensing fee is based on the company’s gross annual sales.

Also, due to limited space on the packaging, some companies may decide not to advertise and use the certified bunny logo.

Another thing to keep in mind, since the EU has a marketing and sale ban on animal-tested cosmetics and ingredients, they have restrictions on allowing cosmetics to be marketed as “Cruelty-Free.” So some EU-based brands will not display the cruelty-free logo on their packaging.

Lastly, the organizations that issue and regulate these certified bunny logos all have different cruelty-free standards. None are the same, so it’s important you research and find which ones meet your standards.


2. Look it Up – Online Certified Cruelty-Free Database

Shopping online or don’t have the product in front of you? Then you can also reference an online cruelty-free database. Unlike the first method, a company doesn’t have to pay to be listed.

Brands will still need to meet all of the cruelty-free criteria in order to be approved and listed. But using this method will ensure you aren’t missing out on any brands who may not have been able to afford to license and use the bunny logo on their packaging.

How to know if it's cruelty-free? Look up the brand in an official cruelty-free database

Certified Cruelty-Free Brand Lists:

Use this method when:

  • You trust the third-party certification and its cruelty-free standards
  • You may or may not have the product in front of you. The list is organized alphabetically by brand name, so you just need to know the company name.
  • If you want a portable version of the list, you can print it out.

Limitations of this method:

Cruelty-free certifications have different standards from each other, so it’s important you find an organization that you’re aligned with. You’ll often find that each cruelty-free list will have different brands from one another.


3. Download a Cruelty-Free App

Some of us aren’t down for printing a list and bringing it to the store, so thankfully, there’s an app for that! Download a cruelty-free mobile app where you can quickly scan a product’s barcode and instantly know whether it’s tested on animals or not.

Cruelty-Free Mobile Apps to Download:

Use this method when:

  • You have the product in front of you to scan
  • Need a quick, on-the-go reference while you’re at the store
  • Short on time
  • You trust the third-party certification and its cruelty-free standards

Limitations of this method:

Your trust is in a third party’s cruelty-free standards and how frequently the app is updated. A product or brand may also scan and show different results from app to app.


4. Email the Company & Ask

This method is the most time-consuming, but you’re in total control. Composing your own specific questions will ensure all of your cruelty-free questions and concerns are properly addressed.

How to know if it's cruelty-free? Email and ask the company.

Use this method when:

  • You don’t trust other third-party certifications or their standards
  • There is no available information online or on the packaging
  • Or if there is information available, it is outdated, incomplete, or not credible
  • You have the time

πŸ“§ Get an Insider look at what we ask brands when verifying their cruelty-free commitments and animal testing policy with our email templates. (Only available to Ko-Fi members)

Limitations of this method:

It can be incredibly time-consuming; expect a week to a month before getting a response, and sometimes will require multiple follow-up emails.


5. Consult a Cruelty-Free Blogger

Cruelty-free bloggers are incredibly helpful as they’re considered experts in decoding cruelty-free claims. They’ve also already emailed companies and have their own curated cruelty-free lists based on the responses they received from companies.

I’m totally biased here because I’m a cruelty-free blogger myself. But I like to think we offer a more personal experience where you’re able to email or message us asking our opinion on a company’s cruelty-free status and claims.

How to know if it's cruelty-free? Consult a cruelty-free blogger.

Use this method when:

Limitations of this method:

There may be conflicting opinions among cruelty-free bloggers where one may consider a brand to be cruelty-free, and another has them on their blacklist. Also, be aware that just about anyone can start a blog nowadays. Some do it to help others. While others create blogs strictly to make money. (Hint: if you see a lot of Amazon links or an excessive number of ads on their site, they’re most likely not doing it for the animals.) So just be aware of which bloggers to trust and where they are getting their information from.

A few of my favorite cruelty-free bloggers that I would recommend are Cruelty-Free Kitty, Logical Harmony, and My Beauty Bunny.


Final Words

As you can tell, there are several ways to know if a cosmetic product or brand is truly cruelty-free. With so many options, it makes going and being cruelty-free easier than ever! Just know there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be cruelty-free. Just try your best and make better choices every day.

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What do you think

6 thoughts on “5 Ways To Know If Your Cosmetics Are Cruelty-Free – And Which Way Is The Best?”

  1. Honestly, after what I’ve seen with “certified” logos, I trust them as much as third party bunny stickers…

    Nice article =)

  2. Alene C. Burrell

    This isn’t good enough- it should be better! Not many consumers are curious enough to even google when or if they see ANY rabbit logo, for instance. That means companies are still getting away with murder, in my opinion, and that’s 100% not good. A standard, certified logo should be enough, but, as I investigate this, it ISN’T. We need to demand that false, uncertified bunny logos are ILLEGAL. AND SLAM THE TV AUDIENCE WITH A QUICK COMMERCIAL SHOWING THE ONLY CERTIFIED BUNNY LOGOS THAT WE CAN TRUST ARE INDEED 100% CRUELTY FREE. ALL THE MONEY RAISED BY ANIMAL RIGHTS ADVOCATES ARE NOT BEING USED TO SPREAD THIS SIMPLE LOGO-IDENTIFIER IN COMMERCIALS. I’ VE NEVER SEEN ONE. Just when we think we can rely on a bunny logo to mean 100% cruelty-free, it turns out that we cannot! All these ways to find out if a bunny means 100% cruelty-free takes too long to read about or apply, and that’s ONLY if someone thinks to ask questions. Most people don’t. A bunny should mean a 100% certified cruelty-free product, PERIOD. USE THE MONEY WE DONATE TO INFORM TV AUDIENCES and TO EXPOSE/SUE ANY COMPANY WHO USES A FAKE BUNNY LOGO. THE ANIMALS ARE STILL SUFFERING IN 2020 AND 2021, U can be sure of that, and you wonder why it’s taking so long? Because evil is sneaky, shady,covert, and will pop up wherever you don’t monitor for it. These fake bunny logos, for instance, are proof of the tenacity and persistence of evil, in its adaptation and re-invention, to survive, like anything else, and we need to step it up and always keep an eye or an ear open for when it does. Ex-president Trump proved what Hitler said almost a hundred years ago: IF YOU REPEAT A LIE OFTEN ENOUGH, IT WILL BE BELIEVED. ESPECIALLY BY NON-QUESTIONERS. The reverse application should work equally well. REPEAT THE TRUTH OFTEN-ER THAN LIES, IN POSITIVE DECLARATIONS, and not as a defense! “That lie was a lie”, is how defense sounds. You don’t need to do that when you counter it by MAKING A POSITIVE DECLARATION. It should be spoken as it is, and often, as I said, just the same way that skunk, Donald J-for-Jerk Trump DECLARED ALL OF HIS LIES: OVER AND OVER AGAIN, positively declaring “fake this , fake that”.
    History repeats itself. That’s all they ever say. They don’t say it repeats itself because people never learn from its’ mistakes, but that’s the sad truth of it. We should be ashamed to claim that history does so, in a manner that makes it sound like there is something profound about that. What is profound about repeating the same stupidity that everyone claims they’ve learned after every re-repeating of it? It only proves how stupid and how easily we forget. No one is benefitting by learning it once. Maybe this is an entirely different matter, but, it comes down to the same in the end. Evil repeats itself, so be vigilant at the first inkling of it. We didn’t do that when Trump’s big mouth uttered an offense the first time, doubling that offense by interrupting people every time it was THEIR TURN, and HIS TURN to SHUT UP. Transgression after transgression was ignored and we’re still suffering tho he’s gone, “for now”. “I’ll be back—in some form” he said, and you can believe that. In some Form, just like slime sneaky evil comes back. I don’t think we have a chance, this far into the demise of everything good, but, can’t we fight this bunny logo RIP-off evil? Animal suffering and exploitation will continue, too, unfortunately, but it seems to be a smaller target to fight for, although nothing can be smaller when even one animal still writhes in pain at the hands of humanity, just to push a product that’s questionable in the first place. Would we need make-up if the advertising world didn’t do such a great job of convincing females that their BEST value STILL resides in their physical appearance alone?
    There is too much that’s wrong, I get lost. I lose the point I’m trying to make. If females must get suckered into always having to be quantifiable for men’s Approval, there must always be makeup. But can’t we do better than we are, can’t we make animal testing so taboo that it’s just as prevalent, in the positive sense, as all the Lies that abound the word over? It’s only skin deep, beauty is, they say. But it’s not deep under their skin, is it, when testing beauty products! Let women come forward to be tested on with the same poisons they’re forcing animals to put up with. I’m not making sense anymore, but I’m also not going to redo all this writing just to make sense anymore. It doesn’t make sense to me to use any creature for any experiment it doesnt volunteer for. Really wish the bunny logo meant something, but it’s senseless if you can’t trust it in the 1st place.
    Blahblahblah……

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