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Animal testing for cosmetics


Over 5 billion cosmetic products are sold in the European Union every year. The term ‘cosmetic’ covers a wide range of products including:

• Soaps and bath/shower products
• Hair care products
• Shaving products
• Toothpastes and mouthwash
• Deodorants and antiperspirants
• Perfumes
• Make-up
• Face packs, moisturisers and hand/body lotions
• Sun creams and anti-wrinkle creams

All new substances used in these products are tested for harmful effects on human health and the environment. These tests often involve the use of live animals, including mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits, to test whether a substance will cause irritation or sensitisation of the skin or eyes, be harmful if swallowed or be likely to cause cancer or birth defects. There are many thousands of existing ingredients approved for use in cosmetic products, but the drive by cosmetics companies to find ‘new and improved’ ingredients means that animals continue to be used to test new substances.

Number of animals used in cosmetics testing
Figures for 2005, published by the European Commission in 2007, show that over 5000 animals were used for testing cosmetics and toiletries in the EU (see Table 1). Although this represents a very small proportion (less than 1%) of the total number of animals used in experiments in the EU, the number of animals used in cosmetics testing has increased by 50% since the European Commission last published figures for 2002. Only two EU countries reported using animals in cosmetics testing, and the vast majority of cosmetics tests on animals are carried out in France. 
You can download our 'Animal Testing for Cosmetics' factsheet here.