The Humane Society of the United States
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Cosmetics Tests That Use Animals

Animals are still used to assess the safety of cosmetics and personal care products — such as lipstick, mascara, shampoo, and cologne. It's estimated that 500,000 mice, guinea pigs, rats, and rabbits suffer and die in these tests every year throughout the world. Each ingredient in a cosmetic or personal care product that needs to be tested can be run through the tests listed below. Pain relief is rarely provided and the animals used are always killed at the end of each test.

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Skin sensitization

  32 guinea pigs or 16 mice

The test substance is applied to the surface of the skin or injected under the skin of a guinea pig, or applied to the ear of a mouse. Their skin may show signs of redness, ulcers, scaling, inflammation, and itchiness.
Tests for allergic reaction on skin. Included in Draize tests.
Skin irritation/ corrosion

 1-3 rabbits

The test substance is applied to the shaved skin of a rabbit. Their skin may show signs of redness, rash, lesions, scaling, inflammation, and/or other signs of damage.
Tests for skin irritation (reversible skin damage) and skin corrosion (severe and irreversible skin damage). Included in Draize tests.
 Eye irritation/corrosion

1-3 rabbits

The test substance is applied to a rabbit’s eye(s). Their eye(s) may show signs of redness, bleeding, ulcers, blindness, and/or other signs of damage
Tests for eye irritation (reversible eye damage) and eye corrosion (severe and irreversible eye damage). Included in Draize tests.
  Acute oral toxicity

7 rats

The test substance is forced down a rat’s throat using a feeding tube. They may experience diarrhea, convulsions, bleeding from the mouth, seizures, paralysis, and/or death.
Determines the amount of a substance that causes half of the exposed animals to die within 14 days of exposure when the substance is swallowed.
Acute dermal toxicity

20 rats, rabbits or guinea pigs

The test substance is applied to the shaved skin of the rat, guinea pig, or rabbit and covered with a patch to keep them from licking or otherwise removing the substance.
Determines the amount of a substance that causes half of the exposed animals to die within 14 days of exposure when the substance is applied to the skin for 24 hours.
 Acute inhalation toxicity

20 rats

A rat is placed into a tube and forced to inhale the test substance. They may experience bleeding of the nose, convulsions, paralysis, seizures, and/or death.
Determines the amount of a substance that causes half of the exposed animals to die within 14 days of exposure when the substance is inhaled.
 Repeat dose (28 day) and subchronic (90 day) toxicity

40 rats (28 day) or 80 rats (90 day)

A rat is force-fed a substance, is forced to breathe in a substance, or has a substance applied to their skin daily for 28 or 90 days. At the end of the exposure period they are killed and their organs are examined.
Tests for changes in the cells or organs caused by repeat exposure.
Carcinogenicity or combined carcinogenicity/ chronic toxicity

400 mice or rats

A mouse is exposed to a substance either by being fed the substance through their food or water, being force-fed the substance, having it rubbed on their skin, or being forced to inhale the substance. After two years of daily exposure, they are killed so their tissues can be examined for signs of cancer (or other signs of toxicity).

Tests for cancer and other long-term effects of exposure.

Toxicokinetics

4-12 rats

A rat is exposed to a substance either by being fed the substance through their food or water, being force-fed the substance, having it rubbed on their skin, or being forced to inhale the substance. They may be exposed once or multiple times depending on the substance. Blood is drawn at daily intervals to determine the peak concentration of substance in the blood. They are then killed at a specific time-point; different animals are killed at different times to obtain a record of how the substance moves through their body over time.
Measures the absorption, distribution, and metabolism of a substance throughout the tissues and organs following exposure.
 Reproductive/ developmental screen

675 rats

Male and female adult rats are exposed to the test substance, usually by force-feeding, for two to four weeks and then mated. The pregnant mother is then exposed daily throughout pregnancy and for four days after their pups are born. Four days after birth, they and their pups are killed and their tissues examined.
Tests for effects on fertility, ability to reproduce, and birth defects.
Reproductive toxicity in two generations

2,600 rats

Male and female adult rats are exposed, usually by force-feeding, for at least two weeks and then mated. The pregnant mothers are then exposed daily throughout pregnancy and breast-feeding and are then killed. After weaning, the pups are force-fed throughout their lifetimes, sometimes experiencing symptoms of chronic poisoning such as weight loss or convulsions. Pups that survive until puberty are then mated, and force-feeding continues through the second generation's pregnancy and breast feeding. At the time of weaning of the second generation, mothers and pups are all killed and their tissues examined.
Tests for effects on fertility, ability to reproduce, and birth defects.
Developmental toxicity

480 rabbits (100 adult females and 480 pups) or 1,300 rats (100 adult females and 1,200 pups)

A pregnant female is exposed, usually by force-feeding, starting at the initiation of pregnancy (through implantation) and contiuing throughout the pregnancy. They are then killed on the day before they are expected to give birth (on average, 22 days for rats or 31 days for rabbits). Their pups are extracted and evaluated for signs of developmental abnormalities.
Tests for birth defects.
Genotoxicity/ mutagenicity*

12-500 mice or rats

There are several different tests for genetic alterations that use mice or rats. In a common test, a mouse or rat is force-fed the substance on a daily basis for at least 14 days. Samples of their bone marrow and/or blood are taken to look for genetic changes.
Tests for the beginning stages of cancer.

* Depending on level of concern and tests performed, mutagenicity testing is usually a battery of in vitro (non-animal) and in vivo (animal) tests.

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