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When looking for cruelty free products, what is the first thing that pops to mind when you read “this product has not been tested on animals”? That sounds awesome, right?
But, have you ever wondered:
If the products haven’t been tested on animals, then what were they tested on? Are they even safe? If you’ve been wondering whether cruelty free products are safe, and how they are tested – you’re not alone!
Of course, cruelty free products are tested for human safety. The difference is, however, that no animals have been used (and harmed!) for the purposes of those tests.
So, what kind of tests are performed on cruelty free products?
Cruelty free products are tested using different alternative methods to animal testing. These include: in vitro human tissue models, computer predictions, organs-on-chips, research on human volunteers, and more.
But wait, let me tell you something.
These alternatives are not just more ethical, but are also cheaper, and more accurate than tests that are performed on animals.
Think about it:
Animals are different from humans in all kinds of aspects.
Let’s take the common eye irritation test – the Draize eye test, which is usually performed on rabbits. There are major differences between the eye structure in rabbits and in humans, as well as differences in volume of tears, variations in response to different chemicals, etc.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that tests that are performed on animals are really inaccurate and unreliable.
To solve all of these issues and help save animal lives, several organizations have invested huge amounts of money into development of alternatives to animal testing.
Cruelty free companies use these alternatives to ensure that their products are safe for human use.
Let’s look at each of these alternatives that cruelty free brands use to test their products.
#1: In vitro human tissue models
Scientists have been researching reconstructing human tissue for decades with the intent to put an end to animal testing and create more accurate cosmetics and medication safety tests.
Although there are various human tissue models for different organs, the most relevant for cosmetics is, of course, that of human skin.
Scientists usually use human skin recovered from plastic surgery to isolate cells and grow them to entire skin tissues in laboratory conditions. This effectively becomes artificially created living skin which mimics all properties of “regular” human skin.
These skin models enable scientists to test the efficacy and safety of all kinds of ingredients and finished cruelty free products without animal testing.
An example of a company that creates such skin tissue models is EpiSkin. They’ve been around since the 1990s, and have developed several human skin models for different skin types and colors.
Their models have world-wide safety approval for skin irritation, corrosion and eye irritation, and cruelty free products are tested using this approach around the entire world.
Check out this video which explains how they do it.
#2: Computer predictions
Scientists have been using similarities between different chemicals to predict their toxicity for a while now.
There are hundreds of thousands known chemicals that have already undergone animal testing in the past. So, when a new ingredient needs to be tested, its toxicity can be predicted by using information we already have.
To do that, scientists perform a technique known as read-across. This technique basically means that they manually check the properties of the chemical and compare them to other chemicals whose toxicity is already known, based on their mutual similarities.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have collected information about 10,000 chemicals and assembled a machine-readable database. They performed a study where a computer algorithm mined this large database and mapped relationships between similar ingredients. When they tested these maps, they found that the computer predictions about toxicity of different chemicals were more accurate than animal tests.
Such databases of known ingredients can be compiled and processed by computer algorithms to quickly give an accurate prediction about the toxicity of different ingredients, based on what we already know.
This could make animal testing obsolete, and result in more cruelty free and safer cosmetic products.
#3: Human Organs-on-Chips
Organs-on-chips are basically artificial organs, which are smaller, 3D microfluidic cell culture versions of human organs.
These “microchip organs” are based on human cells that are grown to mimic human organs. Because they are very similar to actual human organs both structurally and functionally, they’re great for reliable and accurate testing.
Several organs have been simulated by these microfluidic devices. These include the heart, lungs, kidneys, bones and skin, to name a few.
Research is still in progress, and more advancements in the field of organs-on-chips are expected in the near future, which hopefully will replace animal testing.
#4: Human volunteers
In the advanced stages of cosmetics testing, human volunteers can be used to replace animal testing.
These types of testing are mostly used for skin sensitivity and toxicity tests.
You might be wondering: how is it even safe to test toxicity of chemicals on humans?
Scientists are using a technique called microdosing, where extremely small doses of an ingredient are observed and the effects on the human body are measured precisely and safely.
Companies are investing huge amounts of money recently into developing new and improving existing cruelty free testing methods. Hopefully, these alternatives will make animal testing a thing of the past.
With so many ethical, cheaper and more accurate alternatives to animal testing, there’s really no excuse to animal testing.
Do you think animal testing alternatives will soon become even more widely used? Tell us in the comments below!