“Beauty without cruelty” is the outcry that can be heard from animal right activists around
the world. The FDA does not require companies to perform tests on animals but if the cosmetic
product contains chemicals that can be seen as toxins, testing becomes a necessity. There are
currently thirteen safety tests that are performed on animals. Anti-testing activists deem these
unnecessary and consider them to be cruel. “Fourteen million animals are used currently in the
U.S. to test toxicity and irritancy of cosmetics and household products” (Hannah). Many new
forms of safety tests are being developed by companies to save money along with the lives of
There are three common safety test that are in use and considered to be the most
controversial. Among these are the Draize, LD50, and the skin irritancy test. The Draize test is a
test of how a chemical effects irritation in the eye. This test is performed on rabbits who under
controlled supervision have a chemical force into one of their eyes. The eyelid is then held shut
to prevent the chemical from being flushed out. For the next couple of weeks the rabbits are
tested for blindness and other damages that result. Besides being abusive, the test is imprecise
given the fact that a rabbit eye is unlike the human eye in physical makeup. A rabbit eye lacks
tear ducts to flush out foreign objects unlike humans who can produce tears to protect the eye.
The cornea in a rabbit eye is also much thinner and sensitive than a humans.
The LD50 is short for “lethal dose in 50 percent”. In this test the chemical being tested if
force fed to rats or mice in small amounts until the dosage is in excess. This is continued until at
least 50% of the test subjects die. Although the test rodent may not die right away, it may
experience seizures and internal damage. This test is considered to be the most cruel of the tests
and can only determine how much of a chemical substance is needed to kill a small animal not a
In the skin irritancy test the chemical is applied directly onto the shaved skin of a animal.
The skin is then monitored for irritation. This test is also inconclusive in the skin makeup of an
animal differs greatly from that of a human. The amount of absorption between the two different
skin types will have an influence on how the chemical will react once it comes in contact with
human skin tissue.
Many companies such as Avon, Revlon, and Estee Lauder have completely stopped the
use of animals in testing their products. Over 250 companies are also following in their footsteps
and seeking new methods to generate the same effect. One company has gone as far as
performing tests on nuns who have sympathized with those against animal testing. “None of the
nuns died.” “For the first time in their lives, the nuns wore lipstick.” (Penders2)
Using computer generated models is one example where researchers can predict the how
the skin will respond to the chemicals using cloned human tissue cells. The use of egg membrane
has also replaced the Draize test. The membrane is removed from fresh eggs and then exposed to
a small amount of a chemical. Researchers can then observe the reaction by noticing the
breakdown of blood vessels within the membrane. Although these methods are not considered to
be as good as testing on actual living animals they have greatly reduced the number of animals
being killed in the name of science. They have provided the consumer with a product they can be
assured has not been tested on animals.
On the plus side animal testing has reduced and eliminated the use of dangerous toxins
from cosmetics. The fight to completely end the use of animal testing has not ended for animal
activists. Until definite methods can be developed to accurately test chemicals, many companies
will refuse to abandon their traditional forms of testing.
Animal Testing & environmental protection. Environmental Action, May/Jun90, Vol.21 Issue 6,
Holmes, Hannah Cruelty-free cosmetics. Garbage, Jul/Aug90, Vol.2 Issue 4, p59
Maier, Karyn Cruelty-free beauty. Better Nutrition, Apr99, Vol. 61 Issue 4, p64
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