L'Oreal Paris is one of the biggest players in the beauty arena worldwide; they hold a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, but they also have the ability to make a real difference. On a recent trip to Paris I was given the opportunity to pose questions to those at the top, getting responses to our concerns from the horse's mouth. It was a real learning experience, but it also proved that a few grey areas still remain... Myself and a few other bloggers had the opportunity to talk to Patricia Pineau (Communications Director Research & Innovation) and Ivan Rodriguez (International Raw Material Department Director) about the position of L'Oreal Paris when it comes to animal testing, how they are helping to remove the need altogether and what alternative options exist. Here's what they had to say.
Patricia provided a bit of background on the history of L'Oreal and their relationship with animal testing: "We sell products worldwide; they’re all manufactured locally or imported, so if they’re safe in one territory they’re safe everywhere. L’Oreal started 15 years before the European regulations to eliminate animal testing. In fact, L’Oreal committed nearly 45 years ago to phase out animal testing, way before many other companies." When asked about animal testing in Chinese markets, she continued: "Because we operate worldwide we need to respect the regulations of where we operate, otherwise you cannot sell. We really try to accompany them in order to have the same evolution that we did in Europe; it took 25 years to achieve the ban in Europe, and it will probably take significant time to achieve the ban globally. Few people in China are trained, but we're investing in that. Europe is the start and we hope other countries will follow." We pushed her further to explain how the tests actually work and whether or not they are funded or conducted by L'Oreal: "Nothing is tested on animals at L’Oreal. Countries have their own toxicology procedures; we don’t want to do it, but the best way to avoid it is to share our technology (including reconstructed skin) and help them evolve with us. We don’t fund any tests; they do it - it’s separate from us. Step by step they are evolving and shifting towards the same attitudes, but we have to work with them."
One of the major pieces of technology that L'Oreal Paris are focusing on is 'reconstructed skin'. They've become a pioneer in this area, having been perfecting their expertise in the reconstruction of human skin for over 30 years. With reconstructed skin models (by reproducing the structure and by optimally imitating the conditions for application of products,) it is possible to ‘predict’ certain human physiological reactions; this has removed the need for animal testing, whilst still ensuring absolutely reliable results. L’Oreal have used this technology to stop testing finished product on animals since 1989, with their dedicated lab producing 130,000 units of reconstructed tissue every year. Not only are they able to replicate different skin ages, but also skin tones and colours. While in Paris we were able to see samples of this 'skin' (which looks and feels like the top of a blister,) as it's a huge part of the L'Oreal operation. (Read more here if you're interested!) Most importantly, this technology is helping to battle the fight against animal testing around the globe as L'Oreal are able to prove to other markets the alternatives to animal testing are potentially even more reliable. Patricia explained: "L’Oreal have built Chinese reconstructed skin and we have trained scientists in China to operate the way in which we do, so we can encourage their evolution and help them. This will be the future and eliminate the need to test on animals." So put simply, L'Oreal are helping to change the attitudes and provide technology that will help the Chinese market move quicker towards the ban on animal testing.
When asked why L'Oreal (as an absolute powerhouse and a business that has the potential to negatively impact a country's economy by not being there,) doesn't simply remove themselves from the market until animal testing has been eliminated, there wasn't really a good answer. Patricia mentioned "offering beauty to all" and being a "global brand", but to be honest the root of the issue is money; L'Oreal is a business and their decision is driven by finances, whether you like it or not. As a consumer I totally understand that and applaud them for trying to make a difference in a positive way, by investing in technology and 'hand holding' the Chinese, rather than putting their heads in the sand and thinking it's just not their problem - like the majority of other brands. In an ideal world the Chinese would be forced into banning animal testing completely, but the impact that pressure would have not only politically, but economically, on brands and companies across the globe is unknown. For me, the important issue is that change is happening and brands like L'Oreal are actively encouraging it. An open forum with bloggers in this way would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, so it's also great to see some of the 'top bods' taking the time out of their day to be as transparent and honest as possible. Although I do still have some questions around the speed of which this is likely to happen, and the products that are available in Boots right now, it's good to get even a little bit of clarity around an incredibly confusing and divisive issue.
To sum up, essentially L'Oreal haven't tested their finished products on animals since 1989. However, they did use ingredients that had been tested on animals by third parties up until the legislation change of 2013. They can't change the past, but they are making positive steps towards the future. If you went into Boots today, that face cream you've known and loved for years may have been tested somewhere along the line; however, the brand new one that everyone is raving about won't have been near a fluffy bunny at all. There's no right or wrong viewpoint when it comes to animal testing, it's about understanding the issues at hand and making a decision that's right for you. I hope this has helped.
To find out more on the 'truth of animal testing' read my previous post here. If you want to know the 'official' line from L'Oreal, you can read it here on their website.
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