Kiehl’s (L’Oreal)

Last Updated: March 1, 2024

How Ethical Is Kiehl’s (L’Oreal)?

Make a positive impact by supporting companies with the same values and ethics as what matters most to you. To navigate and find ethical brands, here’s a summary of Kiehl's ethics and initiatives.

Ethical Analysis

Is Kiehl’s cruelty-free or vegan? We’ve got the answers here! Read below for more details on Kiehl’s policies.
Kiehl’s is NOT Cruelty-Free. Kiehl’s engages in animal testing by allowing its products to be animal-tested.

Kiehl’s is also owned by L’Oreal, a parent corporation that does engage in animal testing.
Yes, Kiehl’s sells its products in stores in mainland China under conditions where animal testing is still legally required.
Kiehl’s claims some of their products are “vegan” and don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients, however, since we do not consider Kiehl’s to be cruelty-free as their products are tested on animals when required by law, we also wouldn’t consider anything sold or manufactured by Kiehl’s to be vegan.

Kiehl’s (L’Oreal)

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Is Kiehl’s Cruelty-Free?

☠️ Kiehl’s is NOT cruelty-free in 2023. Kiehl’s allows its products to be tested on animals when required by law, including when selling in stores in mainland China.

Kiehl’s’s Animal Testing Policy

When asking, does Kiehl’s test on animals? We must look beyond to ensure none of Kiehl’s ingredients or suppliers test on animals. And they don’t sell in any country or under conditions that may require animal testing by law.

To assess whether brands are cruelty-free, I always start with the company’s official animal testing policy on their website.

Kiehl’s recently updated their animal testing statement on their website’s FAQ page. It used to say, “We at Kiehl’s do not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to test on our behalf, except when required by law. As we continue to expand globally and reach our customers around the world, it is our practice to do our part towards advancing the science of safety and validated alternative methods that eliminate the need or requirement for any animal testing globally.”

See below of a screenshot I took of Kiehl’s animal testing policy in 2017:

Kiehl's Cruelty-Free Claims
Screenshot of Kiehl’s Animal Testing Statement in 2017

But now, on Kiehl’s FAQ page, they’ve removed that entire section. It now only states their parent company’s, L’Oreal’s animal testing policy.

See below for a screenshot of what’s currently stated on Kiehl’s website in 2023:

Because Kiehl’s states L’Oreal’s animal testing policy on their website, we’re taking it that they have the same policy then. Both L’Oreal and Kiehl’s state they don’t test their products on animals but then state China’s animal testing regulations.

Policies stating China’s animal testing laws usually imply the company is selling its products in mainland China. That’s because cosmetics sold in stores in mainland China are required by law to be tested on animals.

Is Kiehl’s Sold in China?

In my research, I discovered that Kiehl’s products are indeed sold in stores in mainland China.

Below is a screenshot of Kiehl’s store locator showing results in mainland China:

Kiehl's Sold in China; Cannot be Cruelty-Free

But Doesn’t China No Longer Test on Animals?

With the recent changes to China’s animal testing laws, cosmetic companies can now export and sell some of their cosmetics in China without animal testing only if they meet ALL of the following preconditions first.

  • ONLY sell ‘general’ cosmetics (like makeup, skincare, haircare, nail polish, and perfumes)
  • must NOT sell any ‘special’ cosmetics like sunscreens, hair dye, hair perming, or other cosmetics claiming new efficacy
  • must NOT sell products designed for infants or children
  • must NOT sell products that contain a ‘New Cosmetic Ingredient’
  • AND if post-market testing is required, then the company must have a policy in place where it will RECALL its products rather than allow its products to be tested on animals

Also, products must meet ONE of the following in order to avoid animal testing in China:

  • manufactured in China, or the final assembly is in China
  • if manufactured outside of China and then exported to China, companies must obtain the proper product safety certificates and documents

However, it’s not explicitly stated that Kiehl’s meets all of the above conditions in order to avoid animal testing while selling in China.

L’Oreal and Kiehl’s mention the new changes to China’s animal testing laws in their animal testing policy but it’s unclear if the company meets any of the qualifications to be exempt from animal testing while selling in China.

Follow the highlighted lines in the graphic below to see why most cosmetics sold in China (like Kiehl’s) are still required by law to be tested on animals in 2023.

Because Kiehl’s has decided to sell in mainland China stores, they must consent and pay to have their products tested on animals. That’s why most cosmetics brands selling in mainland China cannot be considered cruelty-free in 2023.

Although Kiehl’s may not be conducting these animal tests themselves, they knowingly allow Chinese authorities to test their products on animals in order to sell in China.

For those reasons, we would not consider Kiehl’s to be cruelty-free by our standards.

☕️ Every week, I continue to reach out to new brands while trying my best to keep current brands updated. If you found any of my posts or guides helpful, consider Buying Me A Coffee! I would greatly appreciate it! ❤️

Cruelty-Free Policies

Many truly cruelty-free brands have chosen not to sell their products in China under conditions where animal tests may be required. Unfortunately, Kiehl’s refuses to do the same and therefore cannot be considered cruelty-free.

At ethical elephant, we always assess a company’s cruelty-free policy using our Cruelty-Free Checklist. This ensures no animal testing was performed by the brand itself, its suppliers, or by any third parties, including when required by law.

See below for our complete cruelty-free checklist. Since Kiehl’s already does not meet the last two, we cannot classify the brand as being cruelty-free.

Complete Cruelty-Free Checklist

Is Kiehl’s Certified Cruelty-Free?

Kiehl’s is not certified cruelty-free by any third-party cruelty-free certifications like Leaping Bunny or PETA.

Since Kiehl’s is not certified cruelty-free by a third party, no one is substantiating or auditing Kiehl’s cruelty-free commitments and claims.

Is Kiehl’s Owned By A Non-Cruelty-Free Parent Company?

Yes. Kiehl’s is owned by L’Oreal, parent corporation that still engages in animal testing in 2023.

Some cruelty-free consumers may choose to purchase and support cruelty-free brands owned by animal-tested parent corporations as they hope it will convince the parent company to become cruelty-free.

But in this case, Kiehl’s is NOT cruelty-free, and neither is its parent corporation, L’Oreal.

Does Kiehl’s Test on Animals?

To wrap up, Kiehl’s allows its products to be tested on animals when required by law, like when selling in China. Therefore, we would NOT consider Kiehl’s to be a cruelty-free brand.

Currently, Kiehl’s is on our List of Brands to Avoid – Animal Tested.

Is Kiehl’s Vegan?

Kiehl’s is NOT vegan. Kiehl’s claims to offer some “vegan” options that are free of animal-derived ingredients, but Kiehl’s engages in animal testing in some capacity, so we wouldn’t consider any Kiehl’s products vegan at this time.

Below is a screenshot of what was stated on Kiehl’s website about their “vegan” product claims:

In order for products to be considered vegan by ethical elephant’s standards, the products and their ingredients must not be tested on animals anywhere in the world. Also, they must not contain any animal-derived ingredients or by-products.

Cruelty-Free Alternatives:

For cruelty-free alternatives to Kiehl’s skincare products, we recommend the following cruelty-free skincare brands:

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