Humane Cosmetics Act

The Humane Cosmetics Act - Photo by Grigorenko

Cosmetics testing on animals is inhumane, untrustworthy, not cost effective, and at odds with the laws and regulations of many countries throughout the world. The Humane Cosmetics Act would phase out animal-based testing for cosmetic products in the United States in favor of cutting-edge testing methods, and eventually prohibit the sale in the United States of cosmetics tested on animals in other countries, making sure that only safe and humane products enter the American market.

What is a cosmetic?

A cosmetic is defined by the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) as any product “intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed, or introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body … for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.”1 Examples of cosmetics are lotions, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail polishes, eye and facial makeup, cleansing shampoos, deodorants, and any product intended for use as a component of a cosmetic product.

Required testing and oversight

Manufacturers and marketers of cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products.2 No laws or FDA regulations, however, require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients of a cosmetic. The FDA currently advises manufacturers to use whatever testing they deem necessary to ensure the safety of their products.

Safety testing has traditionally been conducted using animals. Ingredients are force-fed to rats, dripped into the eyes of rabbits, or rubbed onto bare skin patches of animals for extended periods of time to determine potential human hazards. These methods are inhumane, outdated, potentially misleading, and are no longer accepted in many countries in the world, including those in the European Union, which recently voted to ban the sale of cosmetics tested on animals.


The FDA and international regulatory agencies currently accept over a dozen different alternatives to animal testing (see Table 1). These alternatives can be used to replace ocular sensitivity and skin irritation animal tests. They are more effective, as they do not have issues of variability or difficulties of interpretation found in animal tests. Alternatives are also more cost effective, as they do not require large investments in animals, animal care, and infrastructure to support animal testing. The alternatives also allow companies to obtain safety information sooner.

The Solution

Support passage of the Humane Cosmetics Act. Over 500 cosmetics brands are already using alternatives to animal testing. Nearly three-quarters of the American public favor such a law and would feel more comfortable with alternative testing of cosmetics. Passage of this Act will allow the United States to return to the forefront of cosmetic safety testing. It will provide incentives for companies to invest in non-animal alternatives that will help them remain competitive in a changing global market.

Table 1: FDA and internationally accepted alternatives to live animal testing of cosmetics3

Method Replaces
CORROSITEX Skin Corrosivity test Dermal corrosion tests in rabbits

In vitro reconstructed human epidermis test methods for skin corrosivity (i.e. EpiSkin, EpiDerm, SkinEthic, and EpiCS)

Dermal corrosion and dermal irritation tests in rabbits
Rat TER Skin Corrosivity test Dermal corrosion tests in rabbits
3T3 NRU Phototoxicity Test Phototoxicity tests in rats and rabbits

Bovine corneal opacity and permeability test methods

Ocular toxicity tests in rabbits
Isolated chicken eye test method Ocular toxicity tests in rabbits
Fluorescein leakage test method Ocular toxicity tests in rabbits
In vitro cytotoxicity test methods Acute toxicity tests in rabbits and rodents

Stably transfected human estrogen receptor-a transcriptional activation assay

Endocrine disrupter tests in mice, rats, fish, and amphibians
BG1Luc Estrogen reception transactivation test method Endocrine disrupter tests in mice, rats, fish, and amphibians
In vitro micronucleus test Genetic toxicity tests in mice and rats


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