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Everything You Need To Know About Cruelty Free Korean Beauty Products

February 05, 2021 Charlotte Cho

Cruelty free K beauty brands


A common question we get at Soko Glam is this: “Are there any cruelty free Korean brands?” A big animal lover myself, I made it a point in 2015 to curate the first Cruelty Free certified brand in Korea, RE:P. Since then Neogen has also received Cruelty Free certification as well.

When I first started to dive deep into cruelty free beauty products late last year, I realized I frankly didn’t know much about it. To get the facts straight, I reached out to Cruelty Free International, the largest globally recognized non-profit organization that has standardized cruelty free certification with their Leaping Bunny program. Here is what I learned.

Cruelty free Korean beauty certification

The Leaping Bunny Standard is a voluntary pledge from cosmetic companies that promise to avoid animal testing for all stages of product development. You may have seen the iconic bunny logo on some beauty products. In order to get this certification, even the cosmetic company’s ingredient suppliers must make the same pledge. After the company provides documents proving that they do not use animal testing, they will be subject to independent audits yearly if they want to get their certification renewed.

What was the most interesting to me about the world of animal testing is that the US government actually does not require animal testing because virtually every ingredient, including water, has already been tested in the past!

If companies develop an entirely new ingredient, that is when testing is needed. The good news is that there are alternatives to animal testing such as donated human tissue testing and even computer simulations, which are actually far more accurate and reliable than animal testing.

In a nutshell, to be a part of the Leaping Bunny Standard, you’re really pledging that no animal testing will be done for any NEW ingredients. Also, just because a company does not have cruelty free certification, it does not automatically mean they test on animals. They just may not have gotten around to the certification process!

South Korea’s stance on animal testing

I was thrilled to find out that South Korea had already decided to phase out animal testing for cosmetics by 2018. The bill entered into law early 2016 and had apparently been in the works for quite some time.

According to Martin Mallon of Cruelty International, “In the discussions leading up to the current law which phases out animal tests, we found Korean companies very supportive. This reflects strong feelings among many Korean consumers that they want to use cosmetics which have not involved animal suffering.”

China’s Stance on Animal Testing

I know many of you are curious about cosmetic companies who sell beauty products in China. China does have a requirement to animal test before it is sold in the local market, but in my investigation I have found that cosmetic companies can have ingredients listed on a “whitelist” that allows the product to be sold without animal testing. That’s how brands such as RE:P and Neogen are able to be sold in China without animal testing.

Mallon shared some interesting and notable developments for China and animal testing. “For cosmetics, China seems to be moving towards the US position, which is to require proof of safety and to leave it to companies to decide whether they wish to use animals or not. We do not expect them to follow Korea with a ban any time soon, but we do expect them to complete the process of removing the requirement to do animal testing for cosmetics. While we would of course prefer a ban, the cosmetics industry is moving away from animal testing so the removal of the requirement to do it in China will eliminate one of the last major hurdles to phasing out animal suffering for cosmetics.”

So there you have it— cruelty free cosmetics demystified! Since RE:P announced their cruelty free certification, I was thrilled to hear that now other Korean brands are now taking the steps to pledge cruelty free. It’s a great step in the right direction for all beauty brands in Korea and the rest of the world. I'm glad we got to talk about it— as you can see we make any excuse to include our cutie Rambo in a Klog post!

So which Korean beauty brands are actually cruelty-free?

Unfortunately, not every South Korean product is cruelty-free yet. Brands that sell in brick-and-mortar stores in China must test on animals by Chinese law, meaning that brands like Etude House and Laneige are out. On the other hand, brands like Neogen, Klairs, and CosRX are all in the clear!

—Charlotte Cho


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About Charlotte

Soko Glam co-founder and chief curator. Licensed esthetician sharing the love of all things K-beauty.

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