Understanding Cruelty-Free Shampoo - Public Goods Blog

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Understanding Cruelty-Free Shampoo

When we head to the shampoo aisle, we’re completely flooded with choices.

bottle of public goods shampoo, cinnamon stick, white flower

Cruelty-free shampoo, vegan shampoo, not tested on animals, and Leaping Bunny Certified are just some of the claims you might see gracing the labels of hundreds of hair products. But what do they mean?

Vegan shampoo is pretty cut and dry. It means that there aren’t any ingredients derived from animal products or animal byproducts. So you would think that would mean there was no cruelty involved.

Cruelty-free means that the final product you’re purchasing was not tested on animals.

However, without any exact wording around animal testing, it’s possible for vegan shampoo to not be cruelty-free. On the flip side, not all cruelty-free shampoo is vegan.

So how can we make ethical choices as consumers? To protect our furry friends, it’s best to look for both vegan and cruelty-free hair products.

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What Makes a Shampoo Cruelty-Free?

Labels and wording can get convoluted quickly. And unfortunately, lots of companies prey on your good nature. They use sustainability initiatives and animal testing as marketing techniques instead of doing good just for the sake of it. That’s what we call ‘greenwashing.’

Here’s a clear breakdown of each animal-related term you might see and how exactly companies are allowed to use them.

What is Vegan Shampoo?

A “vegan” label on cosmetics simply means that the finished product doesn’t have any animal-derived ingredients or byproducts such as lanolin, honey, or wax.

However, without a verified certification, these products still may have had animal products involved in processing along the supply chain. Without a certification, virtually anyone can label a product as “vegan” or “100% vegan.”

The Certified Vegan sticker from Vegan.org also includes no animal testing. So in addition to not using animal products or byproducts, companies must provide proof that neither the ingredients used to make their products nor the final product has been tested on animals. The same goes for the Vegan Society label.

vegan org certified vegan logo

What Does “Not Tested on Animals” Mean?

The phrase “Not Tested On Animals” without any official certification likely means that the final product wasn’t tested on animals, but doesn’t necessarily mean the raw ingredients weren’t.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), these terms are unregulated and undefined, which leaves the responsibility of transparency up to the producers.

Out of all the options, this language without any certification or further backup is the weakest in terms of evidence for the actual safety of animals.

What Does Cruelty-Free Mean?

The label “Cruelty-Free” without verification is pretty much in the same boat as “not tested on animals.” As the FDA explicitly states, many of the ingredients used in cosmetics today were tested on animals when they came onto the market, so companies launching products today that are “cruelty-free” can still be using ingredients that were once tested on animals but aren’t currently.

Cruelty-free products don’t have to be vegan and can still have controversial ingredients like parabens unless otherwise stated.

The Takeaway: Be Sure You’re Buying Cruelty-Free Shampoo

To be absolutely sure that your vegan shampoo or cruelty-free hair products aren’t harming animals, it’s best to double-check the labels and verify those claims.

The internationally recognized Leaping Bunny Certification is the gold standard for ensuring animal safety. This is a pledge that companies and their suppliers take to not conduct new animal testing for the sake of the product. And yes, those companies are rigorously evaluated and pay a whole lot of money to achieve the Leaping Bunny Cruelty-Free designation.

If you’re unsure about a particular company’s stance on animal testing or what’s really in their cruelty-free shampoo, check out their website or write to them. Many companies are eager to hear what consumers are putting value on and that way you have all the information to make an informed decision. While you’re at it, ask why they haven’t pursued cruelty-free certifications!

The Benefits of Using Cruelty-Free Shampoo

The benefits of cruelty-free shampoo far outweigh any costs. As animal advocates justly seek alternatives for animal-derived ingredients, they have found creative upgrades with scientific backing for their earth-loving solutions (pun intended!).

Cruelty free shampoo and conditioner is healthier for your hair because it tends to contain plant-based ingredients.

girl running her hands through colored hair

Typically, shampoo contains sodium lauryl sulfate, a surfactant that strips your hair and scalp of its natural oils and can even lead to hair loss. If you’re purchasing from a vegan and cruelty-free company, it’s likely that they’re using plant-based versions of SLS, like gentle aloe vera gel, to have a similar effect, without the chemicals.

Parabens and sulfates are also commonly used as preservatives and to enhance the feeling and lather of your shampoo or conditioner. Hair care brands that avoid animal cruelty practices also tend to recognize that humans shouldn’t be treated with cruelty either. therefore, you won’t find parabens or sulfates in Public Goods’ moisturizing shampoo and conditioner (which is for all hair types).

The sudsy, foamy shampoo that we’ve become used to is actually not so healthy for our hair. Essential oils and plant-derived ingredients like coconut oil, tea tree oil, and eucalyptus essential oil (for hair growth) can safely nourish and hydrate hair, instead of resorting to the harsh chemicals used in traditional hair care products.

Lastly, cruelty-free shampoo and conditioner are often marketed to specific hair types. Animal-friendly companies are less likely to use parabens or sulfates, whether it’s for thick or fine hair. They also tend to be phthalate-free, silicone-free, and non-plastic. Instead, they look for all-natural moisturizing anti-dandruff ingredients like avocado oil to help manage scalp health for people with dry hair, or bentonite clay to control oily hair.

Cruelty-free hair care is better for the planet.

fields of grass

All those chemicals in traditional non-vegan shampoo aren’t only bad for your hair, they’re pretty nasty for the environment, too.

Once you wash and rinse, you might think your shampoo and conditioner’s lifecycle is over, but as it washes down the drain, it enters the water supply and persists in the environment. Plant-based ingredients are more likely to biodegrade, making them safer for the planet.

Companies that use plant-based ingredients, fewer chemicals, and don’t test on animals are more likely to have other values and initiatives around sustainability. For example, they might sell shampoo refills instead of encouraging the consumption of virgin plastic for each new bottle of shampoo. Check their websites for more information to see how they’re leaving the planet better than they found it.

Cruelty-free shampoo and conditioner are better for animals.

white rabbit feature image

Animal testing accounts for a portion of the 100 million deaths suffered by animals in laboratories each year. No animal is safe from animal testing and they suffer unspeakable offenses during their short lives in laboratories. More often than not, animals that have been tested on are euthanized instead of being released.

By choosing cruelty-free and vegan products, you’re ensuring that animals stay safe and never suffer the many tortures inflicted by animal testing.

How to Know if Your Shampoo is Cruelty-Free

Verify a brand’s claims on the Beauty Without Bunnies database or shop from the Leaping Bunny Certification website. Many companies don’t have these certifications and still say they’re cruelty-free, so do your own research to keep your purchases aligned with your values.
Here are some questions to consider asking:

  • Is this product sent for third-party testing that uses animals?
  • Do your suppliers test on animals?
  • Have these ingredients been tested on animals?
  • Do you sell products in China? (This could mean they’re required by law to conduct animal testing)

At Public Goods, we simply don’t believe in animal testing. Cruelty has no place in our products. You’ll find that our shampoo, conditioner, and shampoo bar are vegan-friendly and cruelty-free, like almost all of our personal care products.

When you double-check that label and choose cruelty-free hair products, you’re reducing the demand for products that use animal testing. Although picking a shampoo is a seemingly small choice, every time you make a purchase you’re voting with your dollar.

By supporting businesses that prioritize healthy, vegan, and cruelty-free products, you’re making it more mainstream to have an ethical lifestyle and self-care routine that puts the planet, people, and animals first.

Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.

From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.

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