vegan and cruelty free perfumes
The truth about the perfume industry’s use of animals, and how you can smell good without hurting innocent creatures.
I’m very emotional about this article. Even though I am quite aware of animal cruelty in cosmetics, it was still a real punch in the gut to research, read and write about cruelty free perfume.
In this guide, I’ll examine the (unfortunately) dirty truth about the perfume industry’s use of animals.
Then, I’ll give you some ways you can help, and some lists of vegan and cruelty free perfume so you can smell good without hurting innocent creatures.
Ok? Let’s dive in.
The beauty industry: What’s the deal with vegan and cruelty free perfume?
It’s a difficult truth to talk about, but an important one: the vast majority of the day-to-day personal care and beauty products that we use contain ingredients that in one way or another have harmed innocent animals.
For a long time it wasn’t spoken of, and many consumers weren’t even aware of it; but products from shampoos to lipsticks to perfumes often contain ingredients that are sourced from animals, or are tested on animals to prove they are safe for use on humans.
Over the past couple of decades awareness has grown, yet to this day these cruel practices continue.
And it’s not just a few rare ‘bad guys’ or unethical companies that do it.
On the contrary: PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) list of companies that do test on animals> confirmed that over 340 cosmetic mega-brands were testing on animals, or using ingredients that had been tested on animals.
Here are some of the brands that DO test on animals:
Many of the brands listed were household names like Dove, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Avon, Johnson&Johnson… the list goes on.
And the list below, although far from complete, contains regrettably many of the who’s who in the perfume industry. I was quite disappointed to find some of the perfumers whose work I really admire on the list.
What is the impact of this? Well, to put it into numbers, Humane Society International (HSI) cosmetic testing alone accounts for the suffering and death of 100,000–200,000 innocent animals each year.
What’s the difference between vegan and cruelty free?
But let’s back up a little. When we talk about ‘vegan’ and ‘cruelty free’ products, what exactly do these terms actually mean, and why are they so important?
Vegan refers to products that do not contain any ingredients derived from animals. This includes animal parts, of course, but also animal products, such as dairy, honey, even beeswax. It can be tricky to determine sometimes whether a product contains animal products, as many industries are not required to publish their ingredient lists, and even when they do, it isn’t always obvious that certain substances come from animals.
Cruelty-free, meanwhile, is a term designed to include any commercial product that is ‘manufactured or developed by methods that do not involve animal cruelty.” This may seem straightforward, but it can sometimes get a little complicated. For example, a company may avoid testing on animals itself, but be buying ingredients from a supplier that does.
The fact that animals suffer needlessly is a good enough reason for many people to choose vegan and cruelty-free when they shop. But if that’s not enough to tip the scale for you, here’s another thing to consider: there’s also a huge environmental impact.
These outdated practices require raising hundreds of thousands of animals just so they can be used, and then usually killed and disposed, for our beauty products and perfumes. With animal testing, it also often involves extensive use of toxic chemicals in the tests themselves, to try and get them into the market.
How does this all apply to perfumes and colognes?
Today, an estimated 83 per cent of women wear scent, and men aren’t that far behind, at 63 per cent. When you consider this huge number of people buying fragrances, and add the fact that many of the biggest perfume manufacturers are using ingredients that harm animals… well, it starts to really add up.
The market share for cruelty free perfume, by comparison, doesn’t even show up on the radar. And try searching for, say, vegan cologne in any major department store. You’ll struggle to find a single label with that commitment on it.
Unfortunately, most of the price you pay for a typical bottle of scent goes into marketing, profit, overheads, the bottle… did we mention marketing? Procuring high-quality, trustworthy, animal-friendly ingredients just isn’t the priority for most mainstream fragrance brands. If you want to read more about the cost structure of commercial perfumes, read this article on why perfume is so expensive.
By the way, don’t be mistaken if the label says “pure perfume” or “non toxic perfume”. These terminologies have nothing to do with whether the ingredients have been sourced from, or tested on, animals.
How exactly do perfume companies harm animals?
The vast majority of big perfume producers, both high-end and low-end, are using ingredients that are either derived from animals or tested on animals. Let’s take a closer look at what that actually entails.
While some animal ingredients have become too rare and endangered for practical use on a large scale, they can still be found in high-end perfumes, and others are still produced in fairly large volume for the global fragrance industry. A few of the most well known ones among perfumers include:
Ambergris: This waxy substance is actually a waste product from a sperm whale’s digestive system (yes, whale vomit). It has a very distinctive, refined smell and is used as a fixative, to keep the fragrance from fading when applied. Not all sperm whales produce ambergris, it is estimated that only a 3,500 do, scattered throughout the oceans. It is mostly illegal to hunt whales for their ambergris, but still happens, for example in Indonesia, as reported by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) organization.
Castoreum: Beavers produce this secretion from their anal sacs, and use it to mark their territory. The popularity of the leathery-smelling substance almost wiped out Sweden’s beaver population in the 19th century.
Civet: This is a musk produced by the African civet cat. To get it, the cats are bred in tiny cages and either killed or subjected to a painful process to harvest the secretion from their anal glands. The perfume industry has largely switched to synthetic civet, but there is a thriving black market in the homeland of civet production in Ethiopia. Civet cats are not only caged for perfume, civet coffee is another product for which these unfortunate animals are caged and mistreated (Read the article from the World Animal Protection organization).
Musk: Traditional musk comes from male musk deer or gazelle. The animals are hunted and killed so that the substance can be harvested. Fortunately most, though not all, musk fragrances these days use a synthetic version.
Animal testing in the fragrance world, just like with other cosmetics and household products, often involves truly inhumane procedures using harsh, or even toxic, chemicals.
Some of the most common procedures include:
Acute Toxicity Testing: The animal is given an extremely high dose of the substance, usually by force-feeding, inhalation or skin contact. Its reactions are monitored, and can range from diarrhea to bleeding and death. These tests, which have been around since WW1, have been shown to be appallingly useless in accurately predicting toxicity in humans.
Eye and Skin Irritation Testing: Also known as the Draize test, this is the famous one where a substance is dripped into a rabbit’s eyes or applied to their shaven skin. Not only is this type of testing intolerably cruel, but it’s also proven to be flawed due to the physiological differences between rabbits and humans.
Skin Sensitivity Testing: This involves injecting or applying a substance multiple times into the animal, after which it is either monitored for reactions or killed so that its immune response can be measured in a lab. There is no excuse for this outdated practice with modern human skin-cell tests available.
Carcinogenicity Testing: The animal is kept in a cage and forced to take a substance repeatedly over time, while being watched for signs of cancer. As far back as 2002, it was already proven that these tests are not dependable for predicting carcinogenicity in humans.
Reproductive and Developmental Toxicity Testing: The substance is forcibly administered to mating animals, sometimes over two generations, and then the mother is killed and she and her foetus are examined for toxicity. The very different reproductive cycle and lifespan of animals makes it hard to extract results useful to humans from these cruel tests.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the limited usefulness of animal tests like these, yet they continue – even though in most countries, including the US, the law doesn’t require fragrance and cosmetics companies to do it.
Perversely, even if a substance is found to be safe on animals, it doesn’t mean it will be approved for use in human products, and on the other hand even if it harms animals, it can still be marketed to humans! So, not only is animal testing cruel and inhumane, it doesn’t even provide the type of guarantee that might make it justifiable for some people. It’s a senseless practice.
Are you hurting animals with your fragrance choices?
So now that you know about the sad things that can lurk behind a designer fragrance label, how can you check whether your own signature scent is an offender?
Unfortunately, many of the biggest offenders are also the biggest brands. Just look at last year’s top 5 bestselling perfumes – Coco Mademoiselle, Marc Jacobs Daisy, Chanel No. 5, Chanel Chance Eau Tendre, and Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue. All of these are made by companies that test on animals.
One easy way to find out if your fragrance is cruelty-free or vegan is to check the label. Some perfume houses these days are choosing to work with third-party certifiers, like PETA or Leaping Bunny. If you see one of those iconic logos – both of which feature bunnies on them – on your bottle, then breathe easy. You’ve already got an animal-friendly fragrance in your hands.
There is some good news
It’s pretty disheartening once you start looking at the scale upon which animal testing and exploitation is still practised in the cosmetic and fragrance industries. But take heart; there are small signs of progress, and even within the industry there are players who want to see things change.
More and more countries are banning animal testing.
In terms of regulations, some countries have already banned animal testing for cosmetics. The EU was one of the first regions to do so in 2013, followed by India, Israel, and Norway. Many other countries are starting to introduce laws that will eventually eliminate animal testing. For a compete and up-to-date global overview on the national bans on animal testing, you can check Cruelty Free International!
There are valid alternatives to live animal testing.
And if companies still need or want to test their products? They certainly don’t need to harm innocent animals to do so! There ARE alternatives. Tests done in vitro have been shown to be very effective, and new high-tech methods are being developed every day, from using MRI-imaging to testing on 3D-printed human skin made from donated cells!
Why is this progress finally happening? Because more consumers are demanding it. Times are changing, and consumer awareness is at an all-time high. A survey by Nielsen in 2015 revealed that “not tested on animals” was the most important packaging claim for beauty consumers. Meanwhile, a recent study in the UK showed that the number of vegans there has increased by more than 36 per cent in the past decade.
The demand for cruelty-free and vegan products has reached the perfume world, too; according to recent market research, one of the hottest fragrance trends of 2018 is… drum roll please: vegan perfumes! So if you are already considering buying a vegan and cruelty free perfume, consider yourself a trendsetter.
How can you make a positive change?
It’s absolutely true that the market will supply whatever consumers demand. So why not help make a real difference to animals by making your voice heard? There are a number of ways you can help end animal abuse in the fragrance and cosmetic industry:
Vote with your wallet: Every purchase you make counts. Stop buying from brands that are exploiting animals. Choose cruelty-free or vegan, and check for certification labels to back up the claims.
Have your say: Contact your local US representative and ask them to show support for the Humane Cosmetics Act (HCA), which would make it illegal “to conduct or contract for cosmetic animal testing…for the purpose of developing a cosmetic for sale.” By the US definition, fragrances and perfumes are considered cosmetics and the passage of the Humane Cosmetics Act would end the involvement of animals in the testing of perfumes and fragrances in the US. Read more on the site of The Humane Society, and/or fill out this form on the Humane Society site to send a message to your US Representative.
Ready for some cruelty-free fragrance? Start here.
At this point you are likely wondering which perfumes are vegan. Well, if you enjoy wearing fragrance and want to smell good, yet do so in a way that is ethical and animal-friendly, don’t worry. Just ten years ago it would have been hard to find, say, a high-end cruelty-free perfume… but with increasing consumer demand, these days there are plenty of options out there, and the list is growing.
To help you get started, here’s a list of five indie perfume companies that are not only vegan and cruelty-free, but also sufficiently cool and niche that any fragrance aficionado would be impressed!
Splash of Scent: Our passion is creating fabulous scents using pure ingredients, and we offer them at honest prices. We’re a family-owned business based in California, and our perfumes are handmade in small batches.
Looking for more choices? Cruelty Free Kitty, one of the most trusted sources on the web for information on cruelty-free cosmetics, has a great Cruelty-Free Perfume Guide, including both indie and mainstream brands. Tashina at Logical Harmony publishes a cruelty-free brand list which is updated weekly. For vegan options, check out Vegan Beauty Review’s Ultimate Vegan Perfume Guide.
Our commitment to animals
Everything we make at Splash of Scent is vegan & cruelty-free. We are certified by PETA and Leaping Bunny because they are the gold standards in vegan and cruelty-free product certification, and it is important to us that our customers can trust our products 100 per cent.
These are our commitments:
Splash of Scent Cruelty-Free Policy
We don’t think smelling great should come at the expense of other living creatures. Splash of Scent is a cruelty-free brand.
We do not sell our products in other countries that require us to test our products on animals by law, such as China.
We do not test our products on animals, nor do we allow others to test on our behalf. We never have and never will pay outside organizations to test our products on animals.
Additionally, we require our suppliers to certify that the raw materials used in the manufacture of our products are not tested on animals.
We are an independent company, which means we do not have a parent or sister company that tests on animals.
Splash of Scent Vegan Policy
Splash of Scent products do not contain any animal-derived ingredients. From our inception, we have been committed to creating our fragrances using only 100 per cent vegan ingredients.
Please take a stand for animals by choosing cruelty-free and vegan when you shop for fragrances and cosmetics.
I hope you found this overview informative and useful – I certainly put a ton of work in researching and writing it! If you think there is something I missed, let me know please.
It would be tremendous if after reading this guide, you feel more compelled to buy cruelty free products. What do you think?
Are you going to buy cruelty free perfumes? Maybe even support the Humane Cosmetics Act?
Let me know by leaving a comment below!