Cosmetics Tested on Animals Are Now Prohibited to Sell in California — With a Few Exceptions

California's Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act just went into effect.

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Jan. 16 2020, Updated 12:35 p.m. ET

california animal testing

Remember when 2020 felt like lightyears away, and it seemed like all the legislation set go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020 would never actually happen? Well, now that 2020 is actually here, a few exciting and progressive bills have finally become law. One such bill is the California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act, which prohibits the sale of cosmetics and personal hygiene products that are tested on animals after Jan. 1, 2020. As it usually goes with animal protection bills, there are a slew of exceptions to the law — but it's still a big step towards protecting animals.

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Former California Gov. Jerry Brown actually signed the bill into law in September 2018, after the California State Assembly unanimously voted to pass it. The law, which was introduced as Senate Bill No. 1249, makes it "unlawful for a manufacturer to import for profit, sell, or offer for sale in this state, any cosmetic, as defined, if the cosmetic was developed or manufactured using an animal test that was conducted or contracted by the manufacturer, or any supplier of the manufacturer, on or after January 1, 2020, except as specified."

Basically, California retailers can no longer sell any cosmetic (from shampoo to deodorant to makeup) that is currently being tested on animals, or has been tested on animals anytime after Jan. 1, 2020. That also applies to cosmetics containing ingredients that are currently being tested on animals, or have been tested on animals sometime after Jan. 1, 2020.

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Any California companies found in violation of the law will be fined $5,000, plus an additional $1,000 for every day they continue to violate the law.

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Exceptions to the law include: ingredients that are used widely and cannot be replaced by any other ingredients; animal testing is the only way to test the ingredient; and if the animal test was "conducted to comply with [the] requirement of a foreign regulatory authority." That last exception is likely referring to the regulatory authority of China — the only country where animal testing is required on all imported non-special use cosmetics. 

As explained by PETA, all companies that want to sell their products in China (where there is a huge cosmetics market) must pay for their products to be tested on animals, meaning those companies cannot be certified cruelty-free. (Cruelty-free certification is awarded by a few different organizations to cosmetics companies who do not test their products or ingredients on animals.) It seems that non-cruelty free companies will be able to skirt around California's new law based on the exception that they only conduct animal tests so that they can sell their products in China.

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As explained by the Humane Society of the United States, cosmetics are tested on animals — including bunnies, mice, rats, guinea pigs, and dogs — in a variety of cruel ways. Common tests include pouring chemicals into animals' eyes, rubbing chemicals into animals' skin, and "lethal dose" tests, in which animals are fed the same chemical repeatedly until it kills them. The millions of animals who are subjected to cosmetic and medical tests every year are killed after the test is complete, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Fortunately, there are plenty of non-animal tests that are effective in analyzing the safety of cosmetics and medications. California's new law shows that the future of cosmetics is cruelty-free, and hopefully it will inspire companies to stop testing their products and ingredients on animals.

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