Animal Testing, Chinese Markets, Reconstructed Skin & L’Oreal Paris

Despite a change in legislation in March 2013 that made it illegal to
sell animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, even if the testing was
conducted outside Europe, animal testing remains one of the hottest topics in beauty. With so many grey areas, confusing loopholes and different legalities surrounding practices outside of the EU, it’s no surprise that it remains one of the issues my readers are most concerned with. The 2013 ban was the culmination of a vigorous and long-standing public
campaign against animal-tested cosmetics (critically not just for
finished products but also for their ingredients.) Until this point
(after a 2009 update to the law) tests were banned in Europe, but
products tested elsewhere could still be imported; from 2013 onwards no product or ingredient that has been tested on animals will be able to be sold in the UK, but crucially those developed before 2013 could still have been tested on animals at some point. Further confusion erupts around the fact that although companies can’t sell
animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, they can continue to test cosmetics
on animals outside Europe and sell them in other markets. Many large
emerging territories, including the hugely controversial Chinese market,
are still demanding that cosmetics be tested on animals in the
‘interests of safety’. So your favourite lipstick brand may be refusing
to test their ingredients or finished products on animals within the
European Union, but if they want to sell in China their products will have to be tested before they’re able to be put on sale.

L’Oreal Paris is one of the biggest players in the beauty arena
worldwide; they hold a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, but
they also have the ability to make a real difference. On a recent trip
to Paris I was given the opportunity to pose questions to those at the
top, getting responses to our concerns from the horse’s mouth. It was a
real learning experience, but it also proved that a few grey areas still
remain… Myself and a few other bloggers had the opportunity to talk to Patricia Pineau (Communications Director Research & Innovation) and Ivan Rodriguez (International Raw Material Department Director) about the position of L’Oreal Paris when it comes to animal testing, how they are helping to remove the need altogether and what alternative options exist. Here’s what they had to say.

Patricia provided a bit of background on the history of L’Oreal and their relationship with animal testing: “We sell products worldwide; they’re all manufactured locally or imported, so if they’re safe in one territory they’re safe everywhere. L’Oreal started 15 years before the European regulations to eliminate animal testing. In fact, L’Oreal committed nearly 45 years ago to phase out animal testing, way before many other companies.” When asked about animal testing in Chinese markets, she continued: “Because we operate worldwide we need to respect the regulations of where
we operate, otherwise you cannot sell. We really try to accompany them
in order to have the same evolution that we did in Europe; it took 25
years to achieve the ban in Europe, and it will probably take
significant time to achieve the ban globally. Few people in China are
trained, but we’re investing in that. Europe is the start and we hope other countries will follow.”
We pushed her further to explain how the tests actually work and whether or not they are funded or conducted by L’Oreal: “Nothing is tested on animals at L’Oreal. Countries have their own
toxicology procedures; we don’t want to do it, but the best way to avoid
it is to share our technology (including reconstructed skin) and help
them evolve with us. We don’t fund any tests; they do it – it’s separate
from us. Step by step
they are evolving and shifting towards the same attitudes, but we have
to work with them.” 

One of the major pieces of technology that L’Oreal Paris are focusing on is ‘reconstructed skin’. They’ve become a pioneer in this area, having been perfecting their expertise in the reconstruction of human skin for over 30 years. With reconstructed skin models (by reproducing the structure and by optimally imitating the conditions for application of products,) it is possible to ‘predict’ certain human physiological reactions; this has removed the need for animal testing, whilst still ensuring absolutely reliable results. L’Oreal have used this technology to stop testing finished product on animals since 1989, with their dedicated lab producing 130,000 units of reconstructed tissue every year. Not only are they able to replicate different skin ages, but also skin tones and colours. While in Paris we were able to see samples of this ‘skin’ (which looks and feels like the top of a blister,) as it’s a huge part of the L’Oreal operation. (Read more here if you’re interested!) Most importantly, this technology is helping to battle the fight against animal testing around the globe as L’Oreal are able to prove to other markets the alternatives to animal testing are potentially even more reliable. Patricia explained: “L’Oreal have built Chinese reconstructed skin and we have trained
scientists in China to operate the way in which we do, so we can
encourage their evolution and help them. This will be the future and
eliminate the need to test on animals.”
So put simply, L’Oreal are helping to change the attitudes and provide technology that will help the Chinese market move quicker towards the ban on animal testing.

When asked why L’Oreal (as an absolute powerhouse and a business that has the potential to negatively impact a country’s economy by not being there,) doesn’t simply remove themselves from the market until animal testing has been eliminated, there wasn’t really a good answer.  Patricia mentioned “offering beauty to all” and being a “global brand”, but to be honest the root of the issue is money; L’Oreal is a business and their decision is driven by finances, whether you like it or not. As a consumer I totally understand that and applaud them for trying to make a difference in a positive way, by investing in technology and ‘hand holding’ the Chinese, rather than putting their heads in the sand and thinking it’s just not their problem – like the majority of other brands. In an ideal world the Chinese would be forced into banning animal testing completely, but the impact that pressure would have not only politically, but economically, on brands and companies across the globe is unknown. For me, the important issue is that change is happening and brands like L’Oreal are actively encouraging it. An open forum with bloggers in this way would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, so it’s also great to see some of the ‘top bods’ taking the time out of their day to be as transparent and honest as possible. Although I do still have some questions around the speed of which this is likely to happen, and the products that are available in Boots right now, it’s good to get even a little bit of clarity around an incredibly confusing and divisive issue.

To sum up, essentially L’Oreal haven’t tested their finished products on animals since 1989. However, they did use ingredients that had been tested on animals by third parties up until the legislation change of 2013. They can’t change the past, but they are making positive steps towards the future. If you went into Boots today, that face cream you’ve known and loved for years may have been tested somewhere along the line; however, the brand new one that everyone is raving about won’t have been near a fluffy bunny at all. There’s no right or wrong viewpoint when it comes to animal testing, it’s about understanding the issues at hand and making a decision that’s right for you. I hope this has helped.

To find out more on the ‘truth of animal testing’ read my previous post here. If you want to know the ‘official’ line from L’Oreal, you can read it here on their website.

Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  




  1. Pam Scalfi
    April 11, 2016 / 10:22 am

    thanks for sharing this! I agree, at least they are trying to make things right currently! I'd love to know about other drugstore brands too!Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

  2. Hannah Williams
    April 11, 2016 / 11:04 am

    Quite a few brands 'don't test on animals" but some of their ingredients are tested on animals, sadly. It's hard for the cruelty free bloggers to make decisions about products. Great insight from Patricia here, interesting post xxBlog:: Hannah Rose

    • Hayley Carr
      April 13, 2016 / 9:45 am

      Just to clarify – ingredients are no longer able to be tested on animals and used in cosmetic products sold in the UK. It was banned in 2013. It's only in China where anything is tested.

  3. Rebecca PurleyGirly
    April 11, 2016 / 11:26 am

    Such a great article, it's always been such a minefield of information (and withholding information) so this is so refreshing to read.

  4. Hello Jennifer Helen
    April 11, 2016 / 11:44 am

    This was really interesting. There is a long way still to go before products aren't tested on animals at any stage of their creation process (rather than just the finished product) but I do find it hard to avoid products that aren't cruelty free. For me, it's becoming a much more important part of my decision-making process when picking make up and skincare and I hope it will for others!JH |

    • Hayley Carr
      April 13, 2016 / 9:45 am

      I definitely think it is – I get asked questions a lot more about the ethics behind a brand and whether or not they sell in China. As a society we're increasingly concerned, which is only a good thing.

  5. Claudia
    April 11, 2016 / 1:05 pm

    I really appreciate you writing this, Hayley. I still don't want anything to do with L'Oreal and their products, simply because I want nothing to do with the Chinese animal testing regulations. I won't buy form Body Shop or any other L'Oreal company, either. Finding products I like, that work and are inexpensive is time consuming, but so worth it. L'Oreal has a long way to go, despite the effort they've already made. Claudia // Lipstick Theory // Lifestyle Blog

    • Hayley Carr
      April 13, 2016 / 9:46 am

      Agreed – but hopefully sooner rather than later!

  6. RobynLouise
    April 11, 2016 / 2:39 pm

    Thank you for this post, it was such an informarive read. There are so many loopholes around animal testing that make it so confusing for both consumers and those working in the industry. The thing about reconstructed skin sounds amazing!Robyn |

  7. Abigail Alice x
    April 11, 2016 / 5:32 pm

    This was a really insightful and informative post, thank you for sharing.Abigail Alice x | Check out my Carli Bybel Giveaway!

  8. Jess | The Indigo Hours
    April 11, 2016 / 5:59 pm

    Such an interesting post, and I definitely appreciate that they're trying to help make changes in the global market – not an easy thing to do by any stretch of the imagination!Jess xo | The Indigo Hours

    • Hayley Carr
      April 13, 2016 / 9:46 am

      It's very tricky and much more complex than 'just don't sell', which is the argument of many. They're investment now will pay off in the future.

  9. Leanne Marshall
    April 12, 2016 / 1:12 pm

    Hey Heyley!! Great post! I wish a ban on animal testing would come quicker, I it such a shame that L'oreal are more focused on becoming a 'global brand' rather than being focused on their financial aspect! I have a Beagle (dog) which are really well know for being lab dogs due to their good nature! I support the Beagle Freedom Foundation which helps beagles escape the awful testing labs across the world. Its so difficult to know what you are using and where it has been, I myself try my best not to use products from companies that sell to china but everything you seem to touch has been tested! If there was a global ban then it would be so much easier to know where you stand! love Leanne

    • Hayley Carr
      April 13, 2016 / 9:48 am

      I absolutely agree – and hopefully that ban isn't too far away. I do understand they're a business and need to make money, but equally I respect their investment in making the Chinese aware of alternatives and education. It's a difficult one, but I think transparency on the issue is important.

  10. Anca
    April 13, 2016 / 7:24 am

    I wasn't aware of these kind of test until recently and I've decided not to but from L'Oreal. As you said, they are selling in China because they are making money, the rest is a marketing talk.

    • Hayley Carr
      April 13, 2016 / 9:48 am

      It's really not marketing talk. I think you've missed the point of my post – and all the time it took to research and put together!

  11. Vivi
    April 13, 2016 / 8:09 am

    Thanks for this Hayley!It was interesting to read what leading company execs say about the issue, but i'm sorry they didn't convince me.If they were seriously dedicated to not testing they would offer their technologies to China and refuse to sell there until all changes were implemented. L'Oreal isn't a small indie brand suffering for money, being saved only by the Chinese markets. They could stand the loss.And about concerns regarding the availability of non tested products – so many companies are pledging nowadays, it's not as difficult as it used to be. It takes an extra effort but it's definitely worth knowing no one hurt in the process.Vivi //

    • Hayley Carr
      April 13, 2016 / 9:50 am

      I totally get your viewpoint Vivi, but I also understand it would be practically impossible to convince the L'Oreal board to leave China and suffer a huge financial hit as one of their biggest markets. It's a really tricky one and I see both sides, but I just hope they end testing sooner rather than later.

    • Vivi
      April 16, 2016 / 8:45 pm

      I'm of course not naive about business and I get that they would never pull out of China because that's where a lot of money is at, but as someone dedicated to cruelty free cosmetics and the end of animal testing, I'm also many times disappointed when brands decide to take a step in the wrong direction. Just why? myself and a lot of others will give you our money if you stop! I swear…But here's to hoping animal testing ends in the coming years. Even China has been showing positive signs 🙂

  12. Hayley Daley-Hannibal
    April 15, 2016 / 5:09 am

    This is very interesting Hayley. I never knew it was still such a big thing, I sort of just assumed animal testing had stopped. Thanks for sharing this also it's great to see how L'Oréal are helping to stop the testing…

  13. Beekeyper
    April 23, 2016 / 5:46 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I think it'll always be a bit of a slippery answer to that question where money is concerned unfortunately! Nice to see they are being relatively open about it all though, and genuinely pioneering some alternative, sustainable, evidence based methods too.

  14. Anthy
    November 14, 2016 / 11:32 pm

    This is company-speak at its best. What on earth are the conditions in those Chinese labs, eh? What about the customers who are being misled into thinking that these big brands are still cruelty-free, when they have sneakily gone back to it? What about the losses they will sustain here in the Europe when customers (the ones with a conscience) decide to shop elsewhere?I suppose L'Oreal would not have allowed access to its top staff if the article had been designed to be more probing and hard-hitting. Their excuses and opaque explanations are entirely unconvincing.Since I found out about this new 21st century animal testing, I have switched to other brands. Vote with your purses, ladies. Choose brands with a valid cruelty-free logo, such as the Leaping Bunny scheme.

    • Hayley Carr
      November 15, 2016 / 9:08 am

      1. It's not company speak – it's direct from my mouth. 2. They've not 'gone back' to not being cruelty free. 3. They were not aware I was writing an article; 4 UK bloggers were given access to ask whatever questions they wanted. 4. You obviously feel very strongly about this issue, and that's admirable, but please don't come to my site with an agenda and undermine what I've written – nor insult my intelligence. Thank you.

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