{This article is apart of our Around The Internet Series featuring articles from key news sources. Originally published September 4, 2014, Raconteur}

Animal testing in the world of beauty is a topic that engenders strong emotions. On the one hand, those in favor have argued that the health of consumers should come second to nothing and, on the other, campaigners lobby that human vanity should not necessitate the suffering of animals.

It’s an issue further confused by the misconception that animal testing is about performance, checking colors of lipsticks and lash-lengthening properties of mascara, when actually it’s entirely about safety.

However, in recent years, new technologies have been developed that satisfy both parties, allowing tests to be carried out without the use of animals. Not all countries have been so swift to adopt these alternatives. While using animals to test cosmetics has been banned in the European Union since 2009 and, for individual ingredients, since 2013, in China such tests are not only permitted, they are mandatory for any products sold in the country.

Because while the company, whose brands include household names L’Oréal Paris, Garnier, Maybelline, Lancôme and YSL, is widely acknowledged to be a power player in the cosmetic industry, many of those buying its products are unaware that L’Oréal has also been at the forefront of developing alternatives to animal testing, predominantly through the creation of a human skin model called Episkin.

Episkin, human skin grown in a laboratory from fragments of skin left over from cosmetic operations, might sound like science fiction, but since the late-1970s it’s been science fact. Originally developed to help burns victims, over the last four decades it has become instrumental in cosmetic testing, with a growing body of knowledge improving the sophistication of the product to such a point that it’s now possible to create skin which behaves like aged skin or even skin of different ethnicities.

Cosmetic products or ingredients can then be tested for safety and irritancy simply by adding them to the synthesized skin. Scientists assess their safety by checking the proportion of cells that have been killed off by adding another chemical which changes color in the presence of living tissue.

Through its commitment to alternative methods, such as Episkin, L’Oréal was able to end all product testing on animals in 1989. And, in March 2013, following the EU ban on ingredient testing, another decisive step was taken. It was decided that, from that point on, the company would not use any new ingredients that would require them to test on animals, nor would they delegate this task to others. An exception could only be made if regulatory authorities demanded it for safety or regulatory purposes.

For L’Oréal,  being “committed to working towards a world where animal testing will be entirely unnecessary – and obsolete” is a business priority,  not just a selling point.


1938 is the online magazine blog for Well-Kept Beauty, formally entitled Primer.

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