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”…


14 thoughts on “Is The Body Shop cruelty free? Yes! And no…

  1. What is PETA? I could not find the explanation in this article yet ( or I made a mistake ). And this post is still uncategorized, you should put it in its category. This is a good info for me that Bodyshop is cruelty free, thank you.

    1. Hi Melani, PETA is “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals”. It is considered the biggest animal rights organization in the world, with about 6.5 million members. They advocate that ‘Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way”. I am not a member myself because I still eat meat – but I agree with all their principles. They publish an online database of companies that are and are not “cruelty free”. Check out the “organizatoins” page on my website for links to all three major organizations that monitor cruelty free makeup and other products. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Wow, this really opened my eyes to how much more complicated this issue truly is. I do remember them advertising being cruelty-free back in the 90s, but now I suppose it makes sense that that’s only “technically” true – as in most things, you’ve gotta follow the money.

    1. Hi Penny, yes, I was quite shocked myself when I read that The Body Shop is now owned by such a huge organization that is well documented for its animal testing. My view is “knowledge is power” – I want people to know the truth about what they are buying, so they can make their own decisions. This is a tough one though, I do love their products! Thanks for your comment.

  3. Thanks for clearing this up. I knew the Body Shop campaigned on this but was not aware they were bought out by L’Oreal.

    1. Hi CW, yes, I was pretty shocked myself when I found this out. I have been an avid supporter of The Body Shop for years, I love their products. I’m still undecided where I stand now. I might feel better about it if L’Oreal has made some commitment to going cruelty free, but they are far from that. It’s interesting that folks in this comments thread seem to be falling into the two different camps – those that will still buy from TBS and those that won’t. It’s all about personal choice and decisions – hopefully, providing clear information will give people the knowledge they need to make informed decisions based on their own principles. Thanks for your comment!

  4. That is a very hard ethically line. I personally do not know where to draw it. I am happy the body shop stuck to their guns becuase I too adore their products. Thank you for that information. I guess it is difficult to “make it big,” and not sell out to major corporations. Which cruelty free company do you recommend or use?

    1. Hi Kristina, thanks for your comment! I agree, it’s a tough call. Even PETA lists them as cruelty free, so they don’t seem to make any link between the company itself and its ownership. In my former life in a non-profit, we were once offered a large donation from a tobacco company – do you turn it down because of where it has come from/ Or do you take it so that it can do some good in the world? Difficult one. With The Body Shop, I was especially surprised that Anita Roddick sold out herself – she was the founder. I thought perhaps it might have happened after she passed away, but not the case it seems. In terms of which company to use – since people have such different tastes in beauty products its difficult to recommend one particular brand. Also some brands have makeup, but not nail polish – or skin care, but not makeup. So I have a bit of a collection depending on what it is. I do like Beauty Without Cruelty, (where it is available – its more available in Europe than the US) and Pacifica. But I will be trying other brands adding my reviews to the website – so stay in touch!

  5. That’s a pretty awkward situation to be in! Although The Body Shop is cruelty-free, the money goes to the pockets of those who support animal testing. Not sure what customers will do, is it fair to just stop buying from The Body Shop? Not sure.

    1. Good point – I expect a lot of the people who work for The Body Shop really bought into their cruelty free aspect, and I wonder how much they are told about the ownership of the organization when they join. So I agree, I don’t know if it is fair to stop buying from them or not. I guess the question people have to ask themselves is “which is stronger, by determination not to buy cruelty free or my love of these products?” Thanks for your comment!

  6. They should mark on all packaging if they use animals for testing. Unfortunately the big corporations know how to hide most of these operations.

    Great info and thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Vince,
      Thanks for your comment, sorry I didn’t respond sooner. As always, it seems like the big corporations know how to get around anything that people might find “uncomfortable” about their product or service, and they can be very clever in the way they package the animal testing issue. It just means that we as consumers have to be even more diligent, and avoid products that are questionable. Not always easy though!

  7. I heard that Body Shop profits have diminished in the last few years. Do you think the reason is that people consciously stopped using their cosmetics knowing about the owner being the cosmetic giant Loreal whose main business principal is $$$?

    1. Hi Lina! Yes, Bloomberg reported back in April 2016 that The Body Shop was the least successful of L’Oreal’s businesses, with ever decreasing sales margins, despite various attempts to revamp the brand. I don’t know if people are consciously moving away from The Body Shop because of its ownership though – another element to consider is that the “green” cosmetics environment is growing a lot more competitive in general – when The Body Shop started out, it was really a pioneer in the cruelty free arena. There is now much more awareness about the cruelty in cosmetics, thankfully, and more brands to choose from, which has to be a good thing. Thanks for your comment!

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