The Dark Side of the Cosmetic Industry.

Australian society has become a lot more conscious about what they are eating, which from an (almost) nutritionist’s perspective is wonderful. As a whole, we are more inquisitive about how and where our produce is coming from, particularly when ensuring that our meats and animal products are ethically sourced. Now I absolutely love animals and would never do anything to actively hurt them, however I still enjoy tucking into a piece of juicy chicken. You feel me?

So the other day I was reading through the back of one of my moisturiser bottles, as you do, and it had in big letters that it was ORGANIC. Now cosmetics aren’t something that commonly comes to mind when you hear this word. I feel like you picture a local farmers market, with little farmer Joe who’s been there for 40 years selling his award winning pumpkins. However, when you delve into what organic goods actually are, it all starts to make sense. This got me looking at all my other cosmetic packages, and I was presented with more “organic”, “vegan”, and “cruelty free” labels – but what does this all mean?

Cruelty-free: products that are developed by methods that do not involve cruelty to animals.

Vegan: products that do not contain animal or animal products.

Organic: products that have not been treated with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals, while taking into consideration the factors of animal welfare, ecological balance and the conservation of biodiversity.

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The current dietary trends are leaning towards a vegetarian, vegan and organic origin – and these dietary choices are exactly that, a choice. However, some individuals that identify as one of the above don’t understand that this is an entire lifestyle transformation, not just simply that of their diet. With the current popularity of online beauty gurus and the continuous makeup videos that keep appearing on my Facebook and Instagram feeds (or maybe that’s just me), why is there not the same ethical focus on how our makeup and skincare products are manufactured?


This is because the world of fast-fashion has begun to translate into the cosmetic industry, and everyone seems to be driven by Barney Stinson’s golden rule…

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Therefore every new ingredient that is incorporated into a product to make it “better” needs to be tested before it is ready for human use, which is the same method as medical research. However, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals are in two different ballparks. The cosmetic industry is purely driven by consumer desires and wants, resulting in the continuous evolution of products. So just like with fast-fashion, people have become oblivious to the consequences of their purchasing behaviours.

The double-edged sword of cruelty-free innovation versus consumer safety.

This leads to my theory about the general misconception that animal testing is a thing of the past, which sadly just isn’t true. There are over 27,000 animals worldwide that are still being used for cosmetic testing – mainly being conducted on mice, rats and rabbits. Now I’ll be the first to say that rats aren’t the most adorable of animals, but these poor little creatures are put under immense pain and distress. And for what? Just to ensure that your highlighter can be seen from outer space – now that’s unacceptable! No makeup is worth the suffering of an innocent animal.


Just to clarify, there is no animal testing that is actually undertaken in Australia – the real issue lies with other countries laws. For instance, in China, their law requires all cosmetic products that are manufactured outside of the country to be tested on animals. Now last year alone, the Chinese cosmetic industry had a growth of 10.9% and was worth the equivalent of over $40 billion Australian dollars. Our domestic market is only valued at $4 billion with an annual growth of 3%. This makes the Chinese market very attractive for cosmetic companies, and forces them to conform to the countries animal testing practices.


However, there is a glimmer of hope. After the Australian RSPCA partnered with it’s UK counterpart to protest the end of testing on animals, the government has actually heard our cries for once. As of 3rd June 2016, a legislation was introduced whereby testing on animals for cosmetic purposes would be banned within Australia, in addition to the sale of cosmetics that have undergone this practice.

What a huge win for animal rights activists, and just generally humans with a soul!


While writing this article, I had a look to see if all the brands that I used were cruelty-free. I was horrified to discover that unfortunately my treasured Giorgio Armani foundation was not. It’s not like I’m never going to use this foundation again, because it cost me a goddamn arm and a leg. But I can say with complete confidence that I will never re-purchase from that brand until they are deemed cruelty-free. Writing this article has really made me question and re-think my own cosmetic collection, and has made me a lot more conscious about what cosmetics I will purchase in the future.

For me, cosmetics are a really easy lifestyle compromise than diet. The stigma surrounding vegan and organic foods is usually related to dietary limitation and the increased cost of goods. However, so many makeup brands are beginning to identify as being one of the two, making it a much easier lifestyle adjustment – and who knows, most of what you buy may already be a vegan or organic brand. There are also heaps of cruelty-free, vegan and organic makeup tutorials on YouTube, ensuring that your makeup continues to look on fleek (and yes I hate myself for saying that word, but how could make it through an entire article about makeup without it). So if you do want to do your part and make a difference, below is a list of all the wonderful brands that are cruelty-free, with more companies being added to the list all the time. Just keep an eye out for the “cruelty-free” bunny logo.

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Also published on Medium.

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