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As we try to steer towards a kinder and more conscientious world there has never before been a greater focus on where our products come from. We now ask ourselves whether they are ethically sourced or cruelty free. The fact that these terms have become buzz words is promising and serves to fill us with hope for a future where we will hopefully be more compassionate to our planet as a whole.

Today more than ever we see more and more people opting to go vegan; a lifestyle with a focus on cruelty free consumerism. Traditionally we may have thought of the term ‘vegan’ as relating mainly to one’s diet. However true, veganism goes well beyond that with a commitment to excluding any animal products from our lives completely. This of course relates to cosmetics also and vegan beauty has made serious waves in the beauty world in recent years.

But as consumers, how can we ensure that we are making informed choices when trying to buy vegan or cruelty-free cosmetics?

There are a number of certifications to provide guidance on this. One of the most recognisable will undoubtedly be the leaping bunny symbol – the marker that a product is cruelty free – meaning that it has not been tested on animals.

There is also a separate certification for vegan products, the symbol for this takes the form of a sunflower with the word ‘vegan’ literally written below it.

Perhaps less well known is the certification for organic products, this being the Soil Association certification which is the leading farming and organic certification in the UK. It takes the form of a triangle with swirly points and is an indicator that products have been ethically sourced and grown.

“THERE HAS NEVER BEFORE BEEN A GREATER FOCUS ON WHERE OUR PRODUCTS COME FROM.”

But it is important to remember that these certifications mean different things, and that the very symbols that have been introduced to help us make informed decisions can sometimes be easily misinterpreted.

For example, just because a product may be labelled ‘cruelty-free or feature the leaping bunny symbol, this does not necessarily mean that it is vegan. The leaping bunny symbol only relates to products or ingredients which have not been tested on animals.

Perhaps more confusingly, by the same token some products which may be vegan are not necessarily cruelty-free, although it is easy to see why you might make that connection. This means that those with a desire to opt for compassionate and ethical products will be encountering a bit of a minefield of labelling jargon.

Thankfully there are many websites that offer guidance on this, most notably PETA. The well-known animal protection activist keeps lists of approved brands on their website which is reviewed and updated regularly as they keep a close watch on the changing policies of many companies. They take things one step further by also publishing specific lists such as ‘Vegan companies that don’t test on animals’ and ‘Companies working for regulatory change’ which make it easy to see how committed particular brands are to this cause.

Many think that animal testing is a thing of the past, or not a problem associated with the developed world. Sadly, this is not completely true, although admittedly serious headway has been made in the past couple of decades. Cosmetic testing on animals was banned in the UK in 1998 whereas shockingly the EU implemented this much later, as recently as 2013 in fact. The US followed in 2014 when congress passed the Humane Cosmetics Act which not only banned the testing of cosmetics on animals in the US but the selling of any cosmetics which had been tested on animals.

So with most of the western world having committed to end animal testing this could lull us into a sense of security and into thinking that most, if not all of the cosmetic brands we buy do not test on animals. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true and the reason why is strongly linked to the laws of countries which have not yet followed suit.

Most notably, laws in China require that all imported cosmetics be tested on animals, regardless of where they are manufactured. This means that many global brands – unless they choose to exclude the selling of their products in China altogether – will have tested on animals on some scale.

The sheer size of the country and the scale of consumerism means that tapping into the Chinese market can be very lucrative indeed. But at what cost?

As consumers we collectively hold the power and by choosing cruelty free brands we can do our bit and support companies that are truly against animal testing. A quick glance for the certifications on products can help you do this. If a brand is silent about their animal testing policies then chances are that they haven’t eradicated this altogether. If you’re not sure then do a quick Google search on a brands anti-cruelty policy. As always research is key and we are fortunate to be empowered by the accessibility of information nowadays which makes it that bit easier to make more informed decisions.

Best for a full skincare routine: Pai

Pai skincare ticks all the boxes. This brand is organic, cruelty free and vegan. All three certifications are proudly displayed on their high quality and effective products.

Light Work Rose Hip Cleansing Oil 145ml £36

Best for make up: Milk

This trendy American brand has taken the beauty industry by storm, not only because of its sleek and beautifully packaged products (most notably their multifunctional colour sticks) but because of its ethical approach.

Glow Oil Lip & Cheek in shade Astro £19.00

Best for body care: The Body Shop

A high street giant who has been against animal testing from the very beginning.

Strawberry Softening Body Butter 200ml £16

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