Cruelty-Free Products: What to Expect When Making the Switch

By Bethany Johnson in Thinking Sustainably

If you've ever seen the term "cruelty-free," you may have wondered what exactly it means and if it's a label you should support with your purchasing power. And more importantly, you're probably curious about what to expect when making the switch to cruelty-free products.

Any good conversation about labels must start at the beginning. And for the bunny symbol representing humane trials and assessments, that means a quick definition of animal testing.

Whole Other Animal

Rationally, the best way to see if a potential ingredient will pose a threat to you (the end user) is to simply try it out. But as you can imagine, volunteers for these kinds of experiments are scant. No company wants to manufacture a product that causes skin or eye irritation—and to some, the logical way to test potential irritants is to expose rats, mice, rabbits, or guinea pigs to the ingredients being considered.

The Food and Drug Administration acknowledges the unsavory practice as such, but primarily has consumer safety in mind when deciding how best to regulate animal testing.

What Does Cruelty-Free Mean?

Fortunately, you have a choice, and the trick is to realize which product labels mean what. In 1996, the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, a group of eight national animal protection agencies, banded together to bring cohesion to the many animal-friendly standards being used at the time. The result is the simple leaping bunny logo that marks something as free from animal testing and cruelty. Now it's easier for you to identify which brands source these ingredients.

What You Can Expect

I have been steering my family toward cruelty-free products one item at a time. There are details I wish I'd known when we first started making the switch. Here are a few things you can expect as a result of your changes:

  • Relief: I used to think that by ignoring the rumors about animal cruelty, I could avoid the responsibility of using "any old product." But when I made my first switch to cruelty-free shampoo, I experienced a sense of relief. Turns out it feels good to support humane practices, even if you didn't feel "bad" before.
  • You'll encourage innovation: When you vote with your dollar, researchers respond with creativity. There are already about 50 alternative tests that are just as effective as animal testing, according to the Humane Society of the United States. When you join the ranks of silent voters by going cruelty-free, you encourage innovators to get creative in developing even more new testing methods.
  • You spend more time reading labels (at first): When you make the switch to cruelty-free products, you need to slow down when you shop. There are no shortcuts to responsible consumption. The good news is that like any new skill, you'll get good at spotting smart claims, and you'll be back to your speedy shopping routine in no time.
  • There's an app for that: You can streamline your shopping experience by downloading the Leaping Bunny Program's mobile smartphone app to check brands on the go. It's searchable, so instead of picking up every product in the aisle, you can verify a particular product's cruelty-free status on your phone.
    When making the switch to cruelty free products, look for The Leaping Bunny Program's mobile app.
    I do most of my shopping online and pick up my family's groceries the next day, so finding cruelty-free products with the mobile app is even faster.
    When shopping for cruelty free products online, use The Leaping Bunny Program's mobile app.
  • Gratitude: When you know what a producer risks (or even sacrifices) to offer that leaping-bunny certified merchandise, you may feel grateful. I'm thankful for what a responsible business goes through so that I have a choice.
  • New shelf life for makeup: I've found that cruelty-free eyeliners and brow pencils need to be used (or tossed) within the recommended guidelines or else they start to behave differently. Some get goopy while others smell funny. I'm actually glad for this change because when conventional cosmetics stay stable for years, I'm tempted to keep using them long after I should.
  • You're not alone: A surprising benefit of reading labels and looking for bunny logos is a new awareness of the whopping number of consumers who, like you, care. You're inquisitive. You're compassionate. You're conscientious, and now, you can see you're not alone. Follow the Leaping Bunny Instagram feed to see how others are going cruelty-free, and check out this list of compassionate celebrities who espouse animal-friendly lifestyles.

What other changes can you expect when you start making the switch? Share your own observations with us on Twitter today, and use the hashtag #WhyISwitched.

Image sources: Flickr | Bethany Johnson

This article was brought to you by Tom's of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom's of Maine.

Why It’s Good

Every consumer can agree that knowledge is power, and knowing how your personal care products are developed is empowering. Once you know what goes into a product, you can freely choose healthy, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free products for yourself and your family. What could feel better?