Cosmetic products include make-up and skin-care products as well as soaps, shower gels, deodorants, shampoos, toothpastes, some sunscreens and similar products. Testing a finished cosmetic product on animals is not permitted in Australia. However, chemicals that are intended for use in cosmetics may still be tested on animals provided the purpose for the testing is justified by a non-cosmetic purpose.
For example, a chemical ingredient intended to be used in a lipstick product (cosmetic) and a clothes detergent (non-cosmetic), may be tested on animals provided the testing meets the requirements of the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes.
This also applies to imported cosmetics. Under the Industrial Chemicals Act 2019, animal testing data may still be used to support the introduction of new chemical ingredients for use in cosmetics provided the chemical will also be used in a non-cosmetic product.
This “multi-use” exception presents a significant loophole and allows ingredients tested on animals to continue to be used in Australian cosmetic products. This is despite a large database of over 20,000 chemical ingredients existing in Australia, so there is no longer a need to test new chemical ingredients on animals as companies can use existing formulations or combinations of ingredients that have already been assessed as safe to use.
The RSPCA is therefore opposed to the multi-use exception under Australian law and calls upon the Australian Government to close this loophole to ensure that chemical ingredients tested on animals can no longer be used in cosmetic products under any circumstances.
The majority of current cosmetic products sold in Australia will contain ingredients that have been tested on animals in another country at some point in time. As Australian law does not completely prevent animal-tested ingredients from being used in cosmetics, the Australian cosmetics industry has developed a voluntary code of practice to guide the industry on advertising claims relating to the animal testing status of cosmetic products.
The RSPCA recommends that consumers of cosmetics who wish to avoid purchasing products containing ingredients that have been tested on animals should only purchase products with the claim ‘Not tested on animals’ and avoid products without such claims or with qualified versions of this claim such as ‘We have not tested this on animals’ or ‘Not tested on animals by us’. For further certainty, the RSPCA encourages consumers to look for the ‘bunny’ logo of the established certification body Cruelty Free International as products with this logo will have been independently assessed.