Cosmetics and cages

It can be easy to forget the story behind a makeup brand. Here is a handy guide to help you avoid companies that test on animals with some cheap alternatives

Of all outdated cultural and scientific practices, the testing of makeup on animals has remained intact despite intermittent bouts of uproar of protest and controversy. The taboo subject tends to involve the use of forced oral feeding, skin tests and eye tests, mostly upon rabbits, rodents, insects and primates. Research undertaken by the Humane Society International estimates that up to 200,000 animals are killed in these procedures yearly. Animals are bred solely for the purpose of pleasing an egoistic industry. Many companies deny their involvement in the industry – although are we, as student consumers drawn to the shops of Grafton Street, any less blameless? If you’re looking to steer clear of corporate cruelty, here are the brands to watch out for.


Founded in 1994, Nars Cosmetics shocked the world in 2017, upon announcing an end to what was once a cruelty free brand. This controversy arose following the company’s decision to make their product available in China, one of the only countries in the world that legally requires cosmetics undergo testing on animals. Facing numerous boycotts and rising criticism, the brand has remained steadfast in their economic advancement, outlining that they are “actively working with industry and other partners to eliminate animal testing globally and is committed to the development and acceptance of alternative methods”.


In contrast to the opening lines of their FAQ, Benefit cosmetics certainly does not benefit all. Whilst adhering to EU policy on animal testing, which bans the practice entirely within EU boundaries, Benefit also sells on the Chinese market, essentially marking their claims of progress as ineffective and stagnant.


L’Oréal is a parent company, meaning that aside from their own brand, they also control other brands including Urban Decay, Nyx, Lancôme, and Maybelline. By extension, these brands may all be considered as engaging in animal testing due to their involvement in the Chinese markets, which L’Oréal believes is a step needed to evolve and eventually end animal testing within the country. However, as of March 2013, the company has continued to fund and use products tested on animals by other companies, in order to retain the ingredient for their own purposes.

Estée Lauder

Like L’Oréal, Estée Lauder is the parent company of numerous subsidiaries; notably MAC, Bobbi Brown, La Mer, and Clinique, all brands that are available in Grafton Street shops. Estée Lauder’s choice to sell within markets that advocate testing, and subsequently fund animal testing, ultimately led to the company forfeiting their place on PETA’s cruelty free list – a position the company held for more than two decades.

Fighting to promote a cruelty free lifestyle however, can be an expensive battle – both for consumers and producers, moreover if you’re a student on a budget. Fortunately, those willing to pursue such a path are plentiful and initiatives taken by both PETA and The Leaping Bunny ensure that those merciful brands receive the recognition they deserve – here’s a list of those available on a student budget.


The token Lush bag, inscribed with the motto “fighting animal testing” is a staple item for any fan of the compassionate brand. Formed in 1995, the brands strict policy against animal testing has enabled rather than limited their global success. Continuous refusal to use animals or sell to those countries that engage in the practice, Lush have also introduced a global funding prize, awarded to those most opportunistic in their efforts to eliminate the role of animals in the cosmetics industry.


Although produced in America, E.L.F. products may be ordered online. To tempt you further, the company offers a generous student discount and a promise that no animals were harmed in the process. Taking a firm stance on the topic, E.L.F. not only refuse to endorse animal testing but also refuse to use animal derived ingredients, including beeswax.


Morphe are the perfect alternative to Urban Decay palettes, and at a much better price! Morphe is not available in countries that require testing on legal grounds, nor are they owned by a parent company that uses tested ingredients. It is still a growing company, and Morphe products are only available online, but a guaranteed lack of cruelty makes the end purchase so much more worth it.

Mairéad McCarthy

Mairéad McCarthy is a former Deputy Life Editor for Trinity News.