Post — 15 Min Read

The Ethical Implications of Labskin and Cruelty-free Skin Testing

One of the most important ethical issues facing the skincare market in the 21st century is the overwhelming pressure being received from International Governments and animal-rights organisations to develop and test new cosmetics or skincare products that do not involve animal testing as part of any test procedures.

Since 2013 there has been an outright ban on the sale of or manufacturing of cosmetic products or their ingredients within the EU. This has meant that Cosmetic and Skincare companies and brand owners now require alternative skin testing methods and trials that do not involve animals. Cosmetic testing labs such as Labskin have been at the forefront of developing these new methods.

Animal Testing – A Step Back In Time

The history of animal-testing by humans can be traced back as far as Ancient Greece with the first experiments recorded in the 2nd and 4th centuries BCE. From the Roman Era came Galen the “Father of Vivisection”, known for his dissections of goats and sheep.

As centuries passed and new scientific breakthroughs were made, animal testing became common place in medicine and science. Louis Pasteur in the 19th century demonstrated the germ theory by infecting sheep with anthrax. In the 20th century vaccines were developed to prevent multiple diseases such as leprosy, polio, etc.

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Animal Testing – A Timeline

  • 1938 – The US FDA Drug & Cosmetic Act was signed into law.
  • 1944 – The Draize Eye and Skin irritancy tests were developed. In the following decades they were considered to be the “Gold Standard” in cosmetic testing around the world.
  • 1991 – The European Centre for Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) is established to oversee the development of new methods to Reduce, Refine and
  • Replace the number of animals used in cosmetic testing (more commonly referred to as the 3 R’s in cruelty-free animal testing).
  • 1998 – The United Kingdom becomes the first country to introduce a ban of animal-testing for cosmetic products and their ingredients.
  • 2000 – The Interagency Coordination Committee on Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) is established in the United States.
  • 2004 – The EU passes the Cosmetics Regulations 2004 which includes plans to phase out the production of and/or sale of animal-tested products and ingredients within all EU member states.
  • 2005 – The Japanese Centre for Validation of Alternative Methods (JaCVAM) is established.
  • 2007 – Israel bans the use of animals to test cosmetics.
  • 2010 – Israel passes a law to phase out the sale of animal-tested cosmetic products.
  • 2011 – The EU ban on animal testing of cosmetic ingredients comes into effect.
  • 2013 – The Full EU ban on all products and ingredients newly-tested on animals comes into effect.
  • 2014 – The Humane Cosmetics Act legislation is introduced in the United States. The End Cruel Cosmetics bill is introduced in Australia. India places a ban on the use of animals in cosmetic testing and China implements a new rule which removes mandatory animal testing for non-special use cosmetics manufactured in China.
  • 2015 – Various forms of anti-animal-testing legislation are introduced in South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan, Canada, Turkey and Russia.
  • 2016 – Switzerland brings its version of animal-testing legislation forward.
  • 2017 – South Africa and Guatemala introduce legislation preventing animal testing on cosmetic products.
  • 2018 – Present More countries are coming forward with enhanced or new legislation to ensure animal testing for cosmetics and skincare are prohibited. China, being the biggest market to still require animal testing for cosmetics manufactured outside of the country are now working with international agencies to make the move towards a complete ban.

Efficacy of Animal-Testing Is Questionable

Aside from the ethical considerations around animal testing, it is not foolproof or accurate enough to warrant being the “Gold Standard” anymore. The data collected from animal testing is not always reliable – An animals’ physicality and physiology are vastly different to that of a Human body. This leads to results being variable and lessens the safety assurance to the end-user.

Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, Rats and Mice were the most commonly used animals in cosmetic testing. It is widely accepted that results from animal testing can be as low as 25-40% accurate when comparing with other clinical data.

Two major instances of animal testing being incredibly wrong are the Thalidomide trials and Vioxx trials. Neither was cosmetic but both results show just how varied animal testing can be versus human trials. Thalidomide passed clinical testing with no adverse side effects noted yet produced debilitating birth defects in humans. Vioxx had a positive effect on the heart health of mice, but adversely caused heart attacks in humans.

In short, animal testing is unreliable, inaccurate, costly and in the long run can help to damage or destroy a company or brand’s reputation.

What Comes Next For Cruelty-free Testing?

The cruelty-free movement that gathered momentum during the latter half of the 20th century has been the driving force behind most countries move to animal-free cosmetic and skincare products. There are now almost 40 countries worldwide with a complete ban or various restrictions in place for animal testing.

Organisations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Humane Society International (HSI) and Cruelty-Free International (CFI) are working with the scientific community and international governments to bring about a global ban. In May of 2019, the European Parliament called for a worldwide ban to be implemented by 2023.

Companies such as Labskin are taking control of this change in worldwide views and offering a solution and an alternative to animal-testing by using 3-D human skin models to test new products and ingredients. These skin models are the most physiologically comparable to natural human skin and therefore offer the highest percentage of accuracy available to Skincare and Cosmetic manufacturers.

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