Sorry it’s late…

I wish I had posted this in December, before the Xmas shopping spree – but I didn’t. My health kind of dictates how prolific my posts are – which is a shame because I may have missed the chance to influence you against a bad shopping decision. But maybe I can make up for it now.

Lots of the big stores – Walmart, Walgreens, Rite Aid etc – sell lovely sets of eye shadows, lotions, lipsticks, nail varnishes which all look wonderful and seem like perfect gift choices, especially given the price point, which is usually very low.

That should be your first warning sign. When something looks too good to be true, it usually is. Most of these gift sets are made in China – I have already posted about China and it’s relationship with cruelty free beauty, but suffice it to say that China has a horrendous record on animal cruelty in cosmetics.

So, before buying these sets, check the back and see where they were made. If it’s China, and there is no leaping bunny symbol, you should be take your business elsewhere.

And if you get given one of these sets, what do you do? My best advice is to break the news gently to the giver, after a little time has passed, that you only use cruelty free beauty products, and you heard or read that these products are surprisingly not cruelty free. Surprisingly, because not many people realize the reality behind beauty products and animal cruelty. Let the person know that you are telling them so that they are educated in the future – you are passing on what you just learned. You are assuming that the person would want to shop cruelty free if given the choice – if they do or not, you have sewn the seed and also let them know your own preferences.

So, go tell Aunt Mary that the 100 shimmering eye shadow collection she gave you for Christmas is actually made in China and is not cruelty free – it may be hard, but you will be doing Aunt Mary, yourself, and especially the animals, a great favor.

Looking for the cheapest Opium perfume? Jo Malone?

Find your designer perfumes here – cruelty free!

Image result for essential oils

Most big designer fragrance brands test on animals. Period. They also contain 80% to 94% alcohol, which is why the scents don’t last (and why they can make you sneeze and cause other allergic reactions). The commercial fragrance industry is MASSIVE – a massive rip-off! Sorry to be so blunt, but when you realize what goes into a $60 – $120 bottle of perfume (including the animal testing), that’s the only words for it.

Now, there are more and more cruelty free companies out there (which is a good thing) and many have their own fragrance lines. But what do you do if you just can’t identify with anything other than your signature scent – Opium, Chanel No 5, Jo Malone etc? For years I just went without – until I discovered the Nantucket Perfume Company in 2008. Owner and master perfumier John Harding has the olfactory equivalent of perfect pitch – he can recreate a fragrance just by smelling it. He then sets about making a “pure” version of the scent – using only essential and natural oils.

My own, small bottle of “Opium” has been with me since 2008. Admittedly I only wear it on special occasions; but it still smells as good as the day I bought it, and exactly like the original (only better). A small 0.25 oz bottle of pure perfume or cologne costs about $45 – but is the equivalent of 3, 4 oz sprays. That makes it easily the most cost effective way to buy your favorite perfume – not to mention that it also lasts much longer because the scent doesn’t evaporate like it does with store-bought versions.

John has a vast supply of fragrances available, including his own signature lines – and he even carries some perfumes that are no longer available commercially.

Nantucket Perfume Company

I would love to hear from you if you have discovered any other companies that make cruelty free versions of designer fragrances, or if you have tried this company yourself – please leave your comments below!

USDA ditches animal welfare?

In a perplexing move, the government shut down the Animal Care Information System in February this year without warning. The database, which was accessible to the public, documented how animals are used in the country’s laboratories and whether these institutions are working within federal law. No reason was given for the shutdown, which makes it even more frustrating for the many animal welfare organizations that relied upon the database in their investigations into animal cruelty. Documents can still be made available through a process of request, but that can take months or longer – too long for animal welfare charities to be effective. Now the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, the PCRM, is leading a lawsuit against the USDA to get the database back on line.

Beagle Rescue Project

Gentle Beagles

What’s the beagle rescue project, and how is it relevant here?

Well, from time to time I will publish blogs and links to organizations that I feel strongly about in relation to animal cruelty in cosmetics. There are currently about 70,000 dogs used in experimental labs each year in the US. Of these, the vast majority are beagles, because of their relatively small size and trusting and docile nature (they are bred specifically for the labs). Although a lot of the experiments are on household products or drugs, they are also used by some cosmetics companies.

I have never owned a beagle myself (although I have owned dogs and cats my whole life), but I do have a soft spot for them. In this post I want to draw attention to the Beagle Freedom Project, a US non-profit that works to educate people about the use of animals in experimentation (especially beagles), and has an innovative program where you can adopt or foster an animal currently in an experimental facility. They have had some success in getting a law passed in some states mandating that animals that are no longer of “experimental use” be re-homed, and you can contact your representatives through the site to encourage them to support the bill in your area.

The Beagle Freedom project also has a cruelty-free app (another reason I like them), that claims to have the most robust list of companies and products tested on animals.

Cruelty cutter app
Beagle Freedom Project cruelty free app

Please leave your comments on this topic below – did you contact your representative? Sponsor an animal? Start a fundraiser? I would love to hear what you think about this issue!



Where to buy Lush products – cruelty free

A LUSH Beauty Bar – buy your soap by weight!

My introduction to LUSH products

While working for a non-profit in Sri Lanka, some years ago, one of the favorite places for expats to hang out was a shop called Odel in Columbo, the nation’s capital. As you went through the doors you were greeted by two things: the AC (people would go there just for that), and the delicious smell of LUSH soaps and other cosmetic goodies from the beauty bar.

LUSH cosmetics locations

This is not a widely available brand in the US, and I do get asked where to buy Lush products here. At the time of writing the company has 182 shops in the USA, with higher concentrations in California (38), New York (15) and Texas (13). Products ordered online are sent from Vancouver or Toronto, via UPS. Shipping costs start at $6 for less than 3kg (by ground to 48 states), and $8 by air to 50 states. They pay all import charges to the US.

Why do I recommend LUSH?

1/ The company is listed as “cruelty free” on  They are not listed in the Leaping Bunny program, however; I have read that they believe there is a loop hole in the Leaping Bunny program that would technically allow them to buy cruelty free ingredients from a company that does test on animals. That sounds a bit confusing, and I think in this case it’s down to trust – I do believe that LUSH has a very strong ethic against animal cruelty in the cosmetics industry, and personally, I do trust them. They are very active in the anti cruelty arena.

2/ LUSH is privately owned, and is not part of a bigger corporation that might not have the same cruelty free credentials as its individual brands.

3/ It has a LOT of ethical credentials – not just cruelty free. It advertises “Against animal testing”, “Freshest cosmetics”, “Ethical buying”, “100% vegetarian”, “Handmade” and “Naked packaging”. Pretty impressive.

4/ I like their innovation. They offer “knot-wraps”, like colorful scarves instead of traditional gift wrapping – it’s like giving two gifts instead of one, and they are made from plastic bottles or organic cotton.

5/ They have a great website – it’s easy to order, there are plenty of “how to” videos, and you can “auto-reorder” for some products. Shop here: LUSH USA

Brand criticism

Image result for LUSH





The LUSH brand has generated some criticism, but on a pretty small scale. I provide these simply for your information:

  • the brand is not shy about supporting political issues that it believes in, which may not always be in line with your own, personal views. In particular, LUSH UK has been criticized for supporting an independent Palestinian state.
  • Some people don’t like the smell of its products, which can be over powering.
  • in early years the company was criticized for poor wages – I don’t know if this is still the case or not; but they do advertise a “Best Employer 2015” Canadian award on their website.
  • it is not 100% vegan.

LUSH Products


Product selection: LUSH has a pretty wide selection of goodies, but doesn’t offer nail polish (which is a common trait with greener brands), and it’s selection of makeup is limited (particularly the eye shadows, which tend to be bright colors).

Bath & shower

Bath bombs – one of their signature products, LUSH bath bombs range in price from $4.95 to $12.95, for one. They come in bright, fun colors with and include ingredients such as  sodium bicarbonate, rosewood oil, orange oil, rose absolute (“Ups-a-daisy” ingredients). Image result for lush

Solid bath oils start at $3.50 for a single use bar.





Solid soaps – another signature product (imagine choosing a slab of brightly colored, ideally scented soap and getting a slice cut off to your requirements – like buying fudge!). These come in a multitude of colors and scents – try “Honey, I washed the kids” for a honey, coconut & orange solid bar; or “Sea vegetable” for ingredients such as seaweed, coconut and lavender oils. “Respect your elders” is a deep purple combination featuring elderflower infusion, elderberries and bergamot oil. When buying online you buy set sizes – a 3.5 oz bar starts at $5.95.

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Shower gels cost $19.95 to $26.95 for 8.4 fl oz. Try “Dirty springwash” with a focus on fine sea salt and spearmint oil – or “It’s raining men” for a honey, rosehip, lotus flower and tiger lily infusion.

Shampoo and conditioners

Shampoos and conditioners come in bar and liquid form, and range in price from $19.95 to $26.95 for 8.4 fl oz. They each feature a key ingredient – “Daddy-O” comes in a bottle and focuses on violet leaf to brighten grey and blonde hair; “Jungle” is a solid conditioner costing $11.95 for 1.7 oz, featuring organic, fair trade bananas, organic cocoa butter and ylang ylang oil. Their richest conditioner, “Retread”, costs $31.95 for just under 8 fl oz, and ingredients include seaweed gel, avocado oil and organic yogurt.

Hair colors

LUSH hair colors are henna based, and come in solid form in four different colors (black to red). The cost is $27.95 for 11.4 oz, which I believe is a 6 block like the picture. You melt the cubes of henna with warm water to form a paste (some people use strong black tea and add a cap full of apple cider vinegar, which may help the color to color grey hairs better). There is a helpful “how to” video on the LUSH website.


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Skin care

Image result for lush cosmeticsLUSH offers a full range of cleansers, toners and moisturizers, as well as face masks and even solid toothpaste! My favorite cleanser is “9 to 5” (almond oil, fresh clove and orchid extract, $22.95 for 8.5 fl oz). If you don’t mind the color, and want a cleanser that you can use all over your body as well as your face, you could try “Dark Angels” – its a black, solid cleanser containing powdered charcoal, avocado oil and rhassoul mud. I would only try this in the shower though!

They have a fair selection of moisturizers too; try “Full of Grace” serum ($15.95 for 0.7 fl oz) for an infusion of portobello mushrooms, murmuru butter and calamine powder; or top of the range “Gorgeous”, which focuses on the highest quality ingredients including fresh orange blossom honey, wheatgerm oil, pineapple, lemon and orange juices ($87.95 for 1.5 oz).


A variety of perfumes are available, from a small solid perfume (try “Dirty”, with spearmint, thyme, tarragon and sandalwood tones; $10.95 for 0.4 oz) to “Imogen Rose”, a pure liquid perfume focusing on real rose oil and rose absolute, $69.95 for 1 fl oz).

I hope you enjoyed this post – let me know your thoughts and reviews below, good or bad, about LUSH!

Is The Body Shop cruelty free? Yes! And no…

Years ago I worked for a non-profit international development agency in the UK. We had meetings with Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, as a potential funder of our work. It didn’t pan out, but it made me aware of The Body Shop and what it stood for: a one stop shop for cruelty free, ethically sourced skin care and makeup. Not to mention wonderful scents (EVERYONE wore White Musk in the ’80’s!), bath products, makeup brushes, gifts – it represented guilt free shopping and an excuse to stock up on wonderful goodies whenever I came across one of their stores (usually in an airport terminal). So I have always believed that The Body Shop was probably THE safest place to shop for cruelty free beauty products.

What happened?

The Body Shop was wildly successful, and went public in the 1990’s. In 2006, it was sold out to cosmetic giant L’Oréal – which was still testing its products on animals at the time. In response to protests that Anita was betraying the very ideals that she had built her business empire upon, she was reported to have said that she hoped the acquisition of The Body Shop would lure L’Oréal towards the virtues of cruelty free beauty. Whatever the case, the fact is that today The Body Shop is owned by L’Oréal.

What’s up with L’Oréal anyway?

It’s Big Business…

It depends on how far you want to go “down the rabbit hole”. They sell their products in China, which legally requires that they be tested on animals. L’Oréal USA appears on the PETA list of companies that DO test on animals. Other common brands that L’Oréal owns include: Kiehl’s, Maybelline and Lancôme, among others. All of these still test on animals.

So, Is The Body Shop cruelty free…or not?

The Body Shop stuck to its guns when it was bought out – i.e. they still adhere to their no testing, cruelty free credentials. The Body Shop IS listed on PETA’s cruelty free cosmetics list.

However, when you buy from The Body Shop just be aware that you are lining the pockets of a huge cosmetics corporation that supports and carries out animal testing (L’Oréal).

It’s up to you – where do you want to draw the line?

The many shades of “cruelty free”…


The war of hotel bathroom beauty – who knew?

OK, I admit it. I am that person who takes home all the unused bathroom products from a hotel stay – not the towels you understand, but the “free” soaps, shampoos, conditioners and body lotions (actually 73% of travelers do the same thing, so I guess I won’t feel too guilty about it!) My justification is that they will be handy to take on a future trip – but of course, the “future trip” provides its own treasure chest of these lovely little take-aways, and my hoard just keeps growing.

Recently I was staying at a hotel in Arizona, and had occasion to use the free body lotion. It actually smelt really good, and did a good job of moisturizing my skin too. It used to be that bathroom freebies were really basic – kind of an after thought. But with the stiff competition in hotel bookings that now exists, hoteliers are now taking these amenities a LOT more seriously. In December 2015, an article in USA Today stated that a Comfort brand hotel can typically spend up to $13,000 per year on bathroom products; and that Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites looked at 20-30 different brands before deciding to start their own brand. Some high end hotels have even partnered with perfumers to create their own, signature scent for their products.

A few top chains and the verdict on their bathroom toiletries

  1. Hilton Hotels & Resorts uses PeterThomasRoth. This brand DOES test on animals!
  2. Joie de Vivre uses Lather. This brand does NOT test on animals.
  3. Fairmont uses Le Labo. This brand does NOT test on animals.
  4. Sheraton uses Shine by Bliss. Bliss DOES test on animals!

Leaping Bunnies everywhere!

If you already shop cruelty free you will probably see the leaping bunny logo on many of your products. This is an international symbol used by companies who have been certified as cruelty free – in other words, you can buy these products with confidence that they really are animal friendly. Certification standards were set back in the 1990’s by a group of organizations fighting for animal welfare in the cosmetic, personal care and home cleaning products industries. Cruelty free international is based in London, UK, but it’s program is also managed in the USA and Canada by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC). But look closely at that tiny bunny on your new lip gloss – its easy to copy. To be doubly sure, check out the brand at Cruelty Free International.

Cruelty Free International

Searchable list of cruelty free companies and products

If I have sparked your interest in cruelty free beauty products, you might be wondering where your “go to” brand sits on the subject. Luckily, there is an easy way to find out. The PETA website (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has a searchable database of companies that do and don’t test on animals. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a vegan activist to use the site – the organization promotes all types of animal welfare (which I encourage you to think about), and the database is available to anyone. They also have a free app, so you can check out a company’s credentials when you are out and about and get tempted by that blue, sparkly eye shadow…

PETA cruelty free list