Historically, animal testing has been a regular practice during the development of skin care products. The most common tests were the ocular irritation test and the skin sensitivity test typically performed on rabbits. The ocular sensitivity test involved placing a small amount of the test material in the eye then looking for signs of redness or swelling which indicated the product was irritating.
The skin test was performed by applying the test material to an area of shaved skin then, after a period of time, examining the area for signs of irritation. These tests were not only cruel, but they often did not accurately predict if the product had the potential to be irritating when used on people. The lack of accuracy is due to two factors. First, the methods do not represent how the products are used in the real world. Second, rabbit, as well as other animals, skin is very different from human skin and does not respond the same.
Because of growing awareness regarding animal welfare and the questionable value of these tests many skin care manufacturers have moved away from using them. There are highly accurate and predictive alternatives to animal testing. One of the most commonly employed tests is the Human Repeat Insult Patch Test which is conducted on human volunteers. The test involves placing test material on a small area of skin then examining the area for signs of redness or irritation. The test is usually repeated several times on the same individuals to see if sensitivity develops. This test is safe, only conducted on consenting adult volunteers and is very predictive of any potential for skin irritation.
Another group of tests conducted in the laboratory do not involve animals or people. Referred to as “in vitro” tests they are becoming increasingly sophisticated and allow manufactures to look at a wide variety of safety and efficacy factors without harming any animals.
Over the years there have been very few safety problems with topical skin products. This is the main reason there are no regulatory requirements in the U.S. to conduct animal testing on cosmetic products or on most Over The Counter (OTC) drug products. There are a few countries, most notably China, which do mandate animal testing, but again in the U.S. the FDA does not require animal testing. Manufactures have a responsibility to produce safe and effective products. They also have a responsibility to not exploit the welfare of animals in the name of product development.
By using ingredients with good safety histories, working with qualified professional formulators, and employing alternative testing methods there are no good reasons to use animal testing. The movement away from animal testing, and the increasing numbers of cruelty free products entering the market is encouraging. It is our hope this trend will continue.