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How safe are your cosmetics?

When you buy cosmetics, you do so trusting they’re safe for your use. But what’s the story behind the safety checks? What journey has your shampoo, nail varnish, or eyeshadow made before it’s deemed as safe?

There are numerous safety tests that need to be conducted not only on finished products, but also on individual ingredients. Testing for skin and eye irritation, toxicity, etc. are all common tests. Sadly, animals are still part of this testing routine in many parts of the world. There is concern that animal tests are not a reliable way to prove safety for human use, as animals may respond differently to tests from humans. The Humane Society International outlines some of those tests, and the consequences for the animals involved.

Every year, the Lush Prize focuses on an important issue around animal testing. This year’s theme will be the future of animal use in regulating chemical safety. With Europe's REACH regulations in operation, this discussion is as important as ever. Craig Redmond is part of the Lush Prize Management Team. He says: “This year is particularly exciting as we have established new prize categories for young scientists in Asia and the Americas, supporting those researchers who may traditionally not have had such good access to resources to replace animal use.”

Animal testing for cosmetics remains legal and commonplace in many parts of the world, including North America. In some countries it is a legal requirement, such as in China, where cosmetics made or sold there have to be tested on animals by law. The good news is that the Cosmetics Directive in Europe means that no finished cosmetics products can be tested on animals, no cosmetics ingredients can be tested on animals, and no animal-tested cosmetics products may be marketed or sold anywhere in Europe, wherever those products have been tested in the world.

However, whilst the Cosmetics Directive gives hope for less animal testing both in Europe and worldwide, other legislation like The European Chemical Agency’s REACH legislation introduced increased safety assessment testing for large quantities of chemical ingredients either manufactured or imported into the EU zone.  This testing can involve some animal testing.  Alternatives to all forms of animal tests are urgently needed.  The process of developing animal free tests, getting them validated and accepted by the science community and finally getting these new non-animal methods written into regulations and legislation needs to be encouraged and sped up.  The Lush Prize was introduced to further all these aims.

The 2016 Lush Prize Conference will discuss how campaigners, industry, scientists and regulators are responding to this issue.

The Lush Prize brings together people from all around the world, from the fields of research, science, training, lobbying, and awareness raising. In that space, they can work together towards the same goal. More than that, the prize gives important funding opportunities, to the tune of £342,000 for 2016, to projects and campaigns that are focused on removing animals from the testing process. The largest prize fund of its kind, the Lush Prize has now provided £1.5 million to scientists and campaigners in 27 countries (including 2016 prize winners), to end animal testing. Lush Ethics Director Hilary Jones says: “There needs to be stuff like the Lush Prize to add some incentive, to give some reward, and to push the issue forward.”

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