EU & UK cosmetic
Testing cosmetic products, or their ingredients, on animals is banned in the European Union. This means that it is illegal to sell or market a cosmetic product if animal testing has taken place on the finished cosmetic, or its ingredients, before being sold in the EU.
What is a cosmetic product?
The EU defines a cosmetic product as the following:
“any substance or preparation intended to be placed in contact with the various external parts of the human body (epidermis, hair system, nails, lips and external genital organs) or with the teeth and the mucous membranes of the oral cavity with a view exclusively or mainly to cleaning them, perfuming them, changing their appearance and/or correcting body odours and/or protecting them or keeping them in good condition”
Therefore everyday hygiene products, such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste, as well as luxury beauty items, including perfumes and makeup, are classified as cosmetic products.
Why was a ban on animal testing for cosmetic products imposed?
Cosmetic products for sale in the EU (and the UK) must be deemed safe and it is the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure that they (and their ingredients) undergo scientific safety assessments to prove that they are not toxic to human health.
Before the ban on animal tested cosmetics was implemented, safety assessments involved the use of animal studies to determine if they were safe for humans (toxicology endpoints). The results gathered from these studies measured the effects the cosmetic and its ingredients had on human health and mainly involved the use of rodents and rabbits. When a safety assessment already existed for an ingredient in a new cosmetic product the animal study for the ingredient would not have to be repeated (the animal study for the finished cosmetic would still be required). However, for a new ingredient where a safety assessment did not previously exist, animal studies had to be conducted.
Due to the development of non-animal techniques it became apparent that these animal studies were no longer required and a ban on animal tested cosmetics and their ingredients was introduced.
The EU ban on animal-tested cosmetic products was first passed in 1993 with the full ban taking effect in 2013, as part of EU Regulation 1223/2009. A ban on animal-tested cosmetic products was first implemented in the UK in 1998 for finished cosmetic products and ‘ingredients intended primarily for "vanity” products’.
However, as well as being subject to the EU Cosmetic Regulation, chemicals used in cosmetics and their ingredients are also subject to the REACH Regulation. This regulation requires companies who make and supply chemical substances to provide information about the properties of substances, to control the risks they may pose to humans (primarily industrial workers) and environmental health.