Physicians Formula

Last Updated: February 3, 2023

How Ethical Is Physicians Formula?

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 Physicians Formula's ethics and initiatives.

Ethical Analysis

Is Physicians Formula cruelty-free or vegan? Here’s what we know! Read below for more details on Physicians Formula’s policies.
It is currently unclear whether Physicians Formula is truly cruelty-free.
Physicians Formula does sell some of its products in mainland China stores. But Physicians Formula claims these products are domestically manufactured and not required to be tested on animals.
Because Physicians Formula’s cruelty-free status is unclear, we would not consider any of their products vegan at this time.

About Physicians Formula

Since 1937, Physicians Formula has produced products that are hypoallergenic and great for sensitive skin.

Physicians Formula

This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.

Is Physicians Formula Cruelty-Free?

❓We cannot classify Physicians Formula as a truly cruelty-free brand until they are more transparent with their animal testing policy while selling in China. Therefore, Physicians Formula is listed as Grey AreaBrands with Unclear Policies.

To be a truly cruelty-free brand, companies must meet ALL of the following:

  • Company does not test its products or ingredients on animals or ask others to test on its behalf
  • Company can ensure none of its ingredient suppliers test on animals
  • Company does not allow or sell its products under conditions where animal testing is required by law

Based on our research, it is not clear if Physicians Formula has met all of the above cruelty-free criteria. For those reasons, we are unable to classify Physicians Formula as a truly cruelty-free brand.

Learn more below about our findings and why Physicians Formula’s cruelty-free policy is unclear.

Physicians Formula’s Animal Testing Policy

When asking, does Physicians Formula test on animals? We must look beyond to ensure none of Physicians Formula’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 its website.

Physicians Formula claims on its website that they are cruelty-free and “Physicians Formula does not conduct tests or commission any outside facility to conduct tests that involve the use of animals.”

Below is a screenshot of what’s currently stated on Physicians Formula’s website about its animal testing policy:

However, animal testing for cosmetics can happen at various stages of product development, including at the ingredient level, and is often done by others and not the cosmetic company itself.

This is why we always assess a company’s cruelty-free policy using our Cruelty-Free Checklist. This ensures no animal testing was performed by the brand, its suppliers, or any third parties.

Physicians Formula’s statement that they do not conduct or commission animal testing is not enough information for us to classify them or any other brand as being cruelty-free according to our standards.

So I reached out to Physicians Formula to ask for more information about their animal testing policy. More specifically, I wanted to know if they commission or allow others to test, not just their finished products but their ingredients on animals, including when selling in countries that require animal testing (like mainland China).

And Physicians Formula responded by saying,

“Thank you for contacting us! Our products are manufactured in various countries, including the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan. Physicians Formula does not conduct tests or commission any outside facility to conduct tests that involve the use of animals. The safety of our products is determined using clinical evaluations and human use-trials under the supervision of a Board Certified Dermatologist.”

Unfortunately, Physicians Formula responded back to me with the same copy found on their website’s FAQ.

Cruelty-Free Policies

Just because a brand claims they are ‘Cruelty-Free,’ doesn’t always mean that’s the case.

That’s because there is no legal definition for the label ‘Cruelty-Free.’ It can mean different things to different people. But Cruelty-Free is generally used to imply no animal testing. More specifically, the ingredients, formulation, or finished product are not tested on animals at any stage of product development.

Then, there’s the issue of cosmetic companies selling in China, where animal testing is required by law for some cosmetics sold in stores in China.

Is Physicians Formula Sold in China?

In 2019, pictures of what appeared to be in-store displays in China of Physicians Formula makeup products started circulating online in the beauty community.

A few cruelty-free content creators (like My Beauty Bunny and Logical Harmony) asked Physicians Formula for an explanation and to clarify whether they are selling in China, But the brand either denied its presence in China or ignored and never responded to any of the emails or comments on their social media.

After My Beauty Bunny broke the news about Physicians Formula selling in China to her thousands of followers and readers, Physicians Formula finally responded back to her with a statement. Physicians Formula confirmed to her that their products are indeed sold in stores in China.

“Physicians Formula product sold in China are domestically produced—they are not the same product sold in North America, have no special use ingredients, and we are currently working with Leaping Bunny and their certification program. We have also remained cruelty-free according to Peta, as our products are domestically manufactured non-special use cosmetics. We are committed to not introducing any products that would require tests on animals, commit to withdrawing products from any region rather than allowing any tests on animals should they become required, and will inform Chinese authorities of this policy to ensure that they are notified and can withdraw from the market in the unlikely event that tests on animals become required for our product.” (Source)

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

Based on the statement Physicians Formula sent to My Beauty Bunny, the brand claims that they only sell domestically manufactured ‘general’ cosmetics in China which do NOT require animal testing.

Physicians Formula also states it is committed to withdrawing its products in the unlikely event that animal tests are required as they continue to sell in China.

My Thoughts:

It doesn’t sit well with me how Physicians Formula sneakily started selling in China without addressing it. Even after pictures of its Chinese store displays started circulating, the brand remained silent on the matter.

It wasn’t until popular cruelty-free blogger, My Beauty Bunny, announced that she was removing Physicians Formula from her cruelty-free brand list that the brand finally responded back to her.

The statement Physicians Formula provided was sent privately to My Beauty Bunny in 2020. Three years later, and Physicians Formula still does not have an official statement on its website about selling in China. Nor has Physicians Formula issued an official statement on its social media.

I tried, on multiple attempts, asking Physicians Formula about its animal testing policy while selling in China. However, I would always get the same canned response and copy found on their website’s FAQ. And never once has Physicians Formula mentioned selling in China in the few responses I’ve received from the brand.

Physicians Formula can’t even be bothered to provide their customer service team with any statements or a template response when their customers email them asking if they sell in China and how they can remain to be cruelty-free.

It’s 2023, and conscious consumers expect brands, especially those that claim to be “100% Cruelty-Free” to be more transparent about how they are conducting business around the world. And the level of transparency can be the deciding factor on whether we choose to support and buy from them.

Because of Physicians Formula’s shady past and lack of transparency to this day about selling in China and its cruelty-free commitments, I am unable to consider Physicians Formula as a truly cruelty-free.

Is Physicians Formula Certified Cruelty-Free?

Physicians Formula is certified cruelty-free by PETA, but NOT certified by Leaping Bunny.

PETA also has not released any statements about Physicians Formula selling in China.

The issue I have with PETA’s cruelty-free program is the lack of transparency in its formal auditing and vetting process of brands.

Did PETA know from the start that Physicians Formula was about to sell in China before the pictures started circulating?

If so, why hasn’t PETA released an official statement to explain to us how Physicians Formula is allowed to sell in China while remaining cruelty-free to its standards?

It’s also unclear how closely PETA is continuing to work with Physicians Formula, or if there’s any type of post-market auditing that PETA does to ensure Physicians Formula products are still not being subjected to animal tests while selling in China years later.

I would feel more comfortable if Physicians Formula was part of Leaping Bunny’s China Qualification Program. Where brands will need to complete both a Pre-Market Audit and a series of Post-Market Audits to meet Leaping Bunny’s extensive criteria and standards.

In the statement Physicians Formula provided to My Beauty Bunny, the brand claimed they “are currently working with Leaping Bunny and their certification program.” However, Jen from My Beauty Bunny reached out to her contact at Leaping Bunny, and they told her that they have NOT been in talks with Physicians Formula.

Who Owns Physicians Formula?

Physicians Formula is owned by Markwins Beauty Brands, Inc.

Markwins also owns Wet n Wild.

And Wet n Wild also pulled the same stunt a few months earlier and started selling some of its domestically manufactured ‘general’ cosmetics in China without telling anyone.

Does Physicians Formula Test on Animals?

Unfortunately, Physicians Formula failed to clarify how they are currently able to sell in China while remaining truly cruelty-free.

As a result, we cannot classify Physicians Formula as a truly cruelty-free brand until they are more transparent with their animal testing policy.

Currently, Physicians Formula is on our Grey Area Brands List – Brands with Unclear Policies.

Is Physicians Formula Vegan?

Physicians Formula is NOT vegan. Physicians Formula claims to offer some “vegan” options that are free of animal-derived ingredients, but because Physicians Formula’s cruelty-free status is unclear, we wouldn’t consider anything sold or produced by Physicians Formula to be vegan at this time.

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.

Vegan Policies

Similar to ‘Cruelty-Free,’ there is no standard or legal definition for the label ‘Vegan.’ But Vegan is generally used to mean formulated without animal-derived ingredients or animal by-products.

Some common animal products in cosmetics include carmine, lanolin, snail mucus, beeswax, honey, pearl or silk-derived ingredients, animal-based glycerin, keratin, and squalene.

There are plant-based and synthetic alternatives to animal-derived ingredients. But unless a brand explicitly labels its ingredients or product as Vegan, it’s often difficult to know with certainty whether a product is vegan just by reading the ingredient list.

So it’s best to ask the company and manufacturers to ensure the ingredients they chose were from non-animal sources.

Cruelty-Free Alternatives to Physicians Formula:

Looking to switch to cruelty-free products? Here are some cruelty-free brands to check out:

And check out our Guide to Affordable & Drugstore Cruelty-Free Makeup Brands!

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What do you think

5 thoughts on “Physicians Formula”

  1. Very disappointment in the company. Used to like their lipsticks, they were one of the very few that really worked for me :/.

    1. If you actually go on the PETA website itself and type Physicians Formula it states that it is cruelty free. 🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️

      1. PETA isn’t the most reliable cruelty-free resource. Many of the brands they certify sell in China where animal testing is required by law. I’ve also contacted a few of the brands they have certified as being “cruelty-free” and some of them weren’t able to verify that their ingredient suppliers test on animals or not. So, I’ve found that PETA isn’t as thorough as other third-party organizations like Leaping Bunny or Choose Cruelty Free (CCF).

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