Beginning January 1, 2020, California, Illinois, and Nevada became the first states to ban the sale of cosmetic products and ingredients that have been tested on animals.

On September 28, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act (SB 1259), which became the first state law to prohibit the sale of any cosmetic or ingredient tested on animals.

The California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act prohibits manufacturers from profiting, selling, or offering for sale “any cosmetic, 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” after January 1, 2020. Violators will face initial fines of $5,000, with another $1,000 added for each day the violation continues.

Critically, the final law does not prohibit the sale of cosmetics or ingredients tested overseas to comply with a requirement of a foreign regulatory authority, or for non-cosmetic purposes pursuant to federal, state or foreign regulatory requirements.

The law also exempts cosmetics or ingredients tested prior to the January 1, 2020 deadline, even if the product or ingredient was manufactured after January 1, 2020.

Finally, the law permits animal testing on cosmetic ingredients required by existing federal or state regulatory authority in the following circumstances:

  • The ingredient is in wide use and cannot be replaced by another ingredient capable of performing a similar function;
  • A specific human health problem is substantiated and the need to conduct animal tests is justified and is supported by a detailed research protocol; or
  • There is no non-animal alternative method accepted for the relevant safety requirement.

Since California enacted the California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act, Illinois and Nevada have passed similar legislation prohibiting the sale of cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients tested on animals.

These prohibitions reflect a broader regulatory trend to prohibit animal testing for cosmetic purposes in the United States. On November 18, 2019, Sens. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Humane Cosmetics Act, which would federally ban animal testing on cosmetic products produced and sold in the United States. The proposed legislation would:

  • Prohibit new animal testing of cosmetics and their ingredients, and the sale in the United States of cosmetics that have been tested on animals one year after the date of enactment of the Act;
  • Preempt existing state laws regulating cosmetic animal testing, and create a uniform standard for all 50 states;
  • Prohibit companies from using data generated by animal testing conducted overseas to substantiate the safety of a cosmetic sold in the United States;
  • Require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to promote scientific development and implementation of alternative test methods and strategies to replace animal testing for assessing the safety of cosmetics.
  • Bans cosmetics manufacturers from including “cruelty free” claims on their packaging if animal testing data was used to establish the safety of the product or any of its ingredients.

The proposed bill exempts regulated by the FDA as over-the-counter drugs such as sunscreens, anti-dandruff shampoos or antiperspirants. The bill also provides a limited exemption for testing specifically requested by the FDA in response to potential safety issues, and where there is no alternative testing method.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

If passed, the United Stated would join Australia, India, New Zealand, Israel, Turkey, and over forty countries worldwide have banned or restricted animal testing on cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients.

In 2013, the EU became the first major economic region to ban the import and sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals, irrespective of the availability of alternative testing methods.