It’s not as simple as I would have believed to transition to a cruelty-free household. There are just so many companies and so many products that conduct animal testing…. things you’d never think about….such as garbage bags and ink pens. When I first resolved to stop supporting products tested on animals, then looked at the seemingly endless changes we would have to make, I quickly became overwhelmed. I’m going to begin sharing my journey with some practical tips I learned:
- Buyer-Beware…. Do your homework before you buy…. (I’ve messed this up a few times.) There are some famous brands out there touted as ‘cruelty-free’ that are actually owned by larger non-cruelty free companies, such as Tom’s of Maine or Burt’s Bees, or Bare Minerals. There are a couple different schools of thought on this. Here is a quote from the popular beauty and fashion blog mybeautybunny.com:
“What about cruelty free brands owned by companies who DO test?
We believe that supporting animal-friendly companies goes a long way toward the eventual elimination of animal testing. If the parent companies see the successes of their brands who do not test, it’s a win. It’s also a win for the animal-friendly companies to get larger distribution in mass channels by being involved with huge companies. That’s our personal opinion here at My Beauty Bunny™ and we invite you to make up your own mind on the matter!” 
I’d never considered the issue from that standpoint, so I must confess that I am still in the process of following the above advice…. making up my own mind on the matter. Before looking at it from this angle, my personal stance was that these companies purchased the cruelty-free companies simply to supplement their sales from a source they’d otherwise be denied. I regarded this as trickery and avoided their products. Or they are tricky about their wording saying things such as ‘final product not tested on animals’ or ‘tested on people’ or ‘not tested on animals unless required by law’. This is code for ‘we test on animals to sell to other countries’. Obviously they are free to do as they please… it’s legal… but their stance differs from mine and I choose not to support them with my money…. A few examples are Aveda and Avon. (I still haven’t found an acceptable cruelty-free shampoo because I am still trying to get through the remainder of the Aveda I have on hand. See next section)
- Don’t try to change everything at once.
- This means don’t throw away unused products…. being kind to the animals and earth go hand-in-hand, and wanton wastefulness helps neither.
- Focus on one product change at at a time and do your homework. I love reading product reviews written by other consumers…. Many times when you choose more natural products, especially in the health and beauty categories, they are not one-size-fits all. I found this to be especially true when it comes to deodorant. As I said in previous posts, I’m not a scientist, but I think most of us understand that we each possess unique body chemistries. I believe (and again this is just speculation, I don’t pretend to possess infallible knowledge here) that the reason mass-produced, chemically-laden deodorants work pretty much the same for everyone is that they overpower your body’s natural processes. Finding a natural deodorant that works well with your particular chemistry is a matter of trial-and-error. I found while reading so many natural deodorant reviews that most of the highly-rated reviews included the phrase “I tried so many other deodorants without success until I found this one….”
- There are apps that can help make the processes easier…. The app ‘cruelty cutter’ which can be found for both iphone and android contains a barcode scanner that will tell you on the spot if the product you wish to buy is tested on animals. In the app there is also an option to send notice to the company that you chose not to support their product because of their stance on animal-testing. This app is 2.99, but there are free options as well such as ‘cruelty-free’.
- Cruelty-free generally goes hand-in-hand with more natural and earth friendly options. Sometimes this makes items more costly and less-accessible if you are on a tight budget. If that describes you, that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do…. you can still let companies know how you feel about their practices. With that being said, there are many budget-friendly options, and some areas where I’ve even saved money by making changes.
- A word of caution about the DIY movement. There are recipes all over Pinterest for health and beauty products that you can make yourself, most touting savings and safety. I’ve tried many DIY options and here is some of what I learned (the hard way)
- Be cautious about anything that suggests applying baking soda anywhere on your body. I’ve tried deodorant recipes that have set my armpits ablaze with rashes and left them feeling like sandpaper. There is also something called ‘no poo’ which suggests washing your hair with a solution of baking soda and water, and rinsing with apple cider vinegar and water. This seems to have a cult following, but left my scalp welty and rashy. (Not to mention the time I forgot to rinse out the apple cider vinegar and was left with a raised fire-breathing rash wherever my hair touched my skin.) Shortly after switching to a therapeutic shampoo to correct the problem I began seeing a new hair stylist. Embarrassed at the state of my scalp, I confessed what I’d done before she began working on me. With her experience she shared that she’d seen no good come from the ‘no poo’ crowd, and that she would refuse to color anyone’s hair who went that route because it made the results unpredictable.
- I know people who have had great results making their own laundry detergent and such, but it wasn’t for me…. I didn’t like grating bar soap and Bernard-man-feet need something strong to get socks clean. Eventually I found a DIY deodorant recipe that worked for me, but decided against using it long term because the shelf life was VERY short. A new batch would work well for a couple of weeks before declining in effectiveness, and I simply didn’t want to make deodorant that often.
- Essential oils are very popular right now but they must be handled with caution. They are not perfume. In many cases they are medicinal and need to be researched and treated as such. One of my more memorable DIY fails came from a homemade bug spray containing cinnamon essential oil…. again with the painful, red, raised welts!
While reading through my list of cautions you may have picked up on an important fact…. I have EXTREMELY sensitive skin. With that being said, if I found options that worked for me, I believe that anyone can. I think in a work like this I’m meant to include a disclaimer saying something like ‘this is meant for entertainment purposes only’, or ‘kids, don’t try this at home’. Only I hope that you do try this at home…. but I am merely sharing my own experiences not recommending anyone duplicate them exactly. You’re journey is your own responsibility. : ) Without further ado, here are some things I’ve found that worked for me:
I LOVE Dr. Bronner’s products. Here are a few of the ways I’ve incorporated them in our home.
- Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps
- I use this one as foaming hand soap. Price varies widely depending on where you purchase the soap…. At Kroger the 32 oz. bottle sells for $9.99…..on the official website, the same bottle is $17.99, and you can find prices ranging anywhere between on sites such as Amazon. The only upside to purchasing somewhere other than Kroger is a larger selection of scents.
- To make foaming hand soap, you need an empty foaming dispenser, such as this:
Measure 1 – 2 TBSP of the soap into the bottom of an empty dispenser, then SLOWLY fill the remaining space with warm water. It’s possible to replace 64 bottles of hand soap with one bottle of Dr Bronner’s. This morning as I write this, Bath and Body Works sells a container of foaming soap for $3…. 64 of those will end up costing you nearly $200 as opposed to $9.99; not to mention the reduction in plastic consumption.
- For showering and shaving I prefer the Dr. Bronner’s Shikakai Tea Tree pump soap. The formula has more to offer in terms of moisturization, and I love the tea tree for my sensitive skin. If caught quickly I’ve been able to stifle welting bug bites simply by washing them with this soap.
- Dr. Bronner’s makes tasty and moisturizing lip balms. They also produce lotion, but I’ve yet to try them.
- There are up to 18 different uses for the Dr Bronner’s soaps, and some people use them for shampoo…. this did not work well for me. (My hair is an unusual hybrid of fine and curly, so shampoos are tricky.) They also market a conditioner, which worked fine, but I found it messy…. it’s concentrated and you are supposed to dilute it yourself and pour it over your head…. perhaps my natural clumsiness is to blame here, but my shower was left covered in mysterious dark brown splotches.
The Honest Company
I respect what the Honest Company stands for and was excited to try their line. Though I found that some of their options are pricey with small sizes, and I personally don’t care for their bundling options….. with that being said, I have found some great products at (sometimes) competitive prices.
- Laundry Detergent – This is my favorite item I’ve found from this company. At $12.99 for up to 70 HE loads, the value is not bad. My only criticism is that I wish they offered a larger bottle….we do a lot of laundry in this house and we run through detergent pretty quickly.
- Oxy-Boost packs – A nice alternative for whitening and added stain-fighting if you want to avoid bleach.
- Training pants – These are expensive…. to be honest, (ha ha…. OK, bad joke) their whole diapering and wipes line is expensive…. (they have a bundle where you can order ONE MONTH’S worth of diapers and wipes for $72!) However, Carter only needs training pants overnight, so the $13 for 19 pants is not so overwhelming.
- Toothpaste – a bit pricey at $5.99…. but worth it (to me) for the safe formulation.
- Hand sanitizer – Though more expensive than grocery store options, at $6.95 for an 8 oz. bottle, it’s not far out of line with what you would pay at a specialty store. I use the large bottle to fill smaller empty bottles that fit into my Bath and Body Works bottle carriers.
- Toilet paper / paper towels – though unavailable through the company’s official site, I found these at our local Target. They are created with recycled paper. This is the only recycled paper towel I’ve tried with the ‘select-a-size’ option, and I like that. The toilet paper is not as cushy as more traditional brands, but it gets the job done. There is actually a cost savings compared to the traditional brands with $6.99 for a 12 pack of double roll toilet paper and $7.99 for an 8 pack of paper towels.
I learned of this natural cleaning company through “Shark Tank”. While pitching his product, the developer sprayed the cleaning solution into his mouth. Though I’ve never done that (and don’t recommend that ANYONE do that) it gave me confidence to try their products. I like their dish detergent, which is called ‘Dish it out’ and their multi-purpose cleaner, called what-EVER!
- Sunscreen – I like their ‘Very emollient sunscreen for kids’ for Carter, and their Hawaiian sunscreen for me. The children’s sunscreen contains mostly zinc and titanium dioxide, which is thick and white (and safer than traditional sunscreens.) I like the Hawaiian for adults as it does not turn you pasty white. Price varies widely, but is inline with traditional sunscreens.
- Very emollient body lotion – I confess I was at first greatly excited by the large 32 oz. bottle. The value is good (I got this on sale for around $14) and the product works nicely.
- Acne-dote facial care – The facial and body scrub plus the oil control lotion calmed my breakout-prone skin in a matter of days.
- even advanced CC cream – I use this in place of foundation and like the smooth and creamy finish.
This is the natural deodorant I found that FINALLY worked for me. However, there are some ‘cons’, and I’m going to get those out of the way first: It took a while to get used to…. there is the ‘bad-1980’s-romance novel-cover’ style photo on the label which seems to indicate that seductively applying deodorant to another person is cool, (in my opinion, it’s NEVER cool); then there is the fact that you have to wet it, and finally… it has no scent. (Not because it’s needed, but for my personal sensibilities, I also spritz a small amount of natural spray as well…. this is just because I’m used to having a product with scent, and I found that I missed it.) I need to stress that this is a deodorant, not an antiperspirant. You will sweat if you use this product. After some internal debate, I decided I was OK with that. We were created to sweat… it’s healthy. I saw just how bad it could be a few weeks ago when I went for a 4 mile walk in 85 degree heat. When I arrived home and raised my arms to show my husband…. let’s just say it wasn’t desire I saw shining in his eyes…. but to be fair… how often do you get that hot and deliberately show someone your armpits?
OK, now for the ‘pros’. This is a natural and healthy product. There’s a lot of debate over whether or not our modern antiperspirants cause breast cancer, and the truth is, I just don’t know. As I said in the ‘cons’ section, I know we were created to sweat, and I’m not sure how stifling that natural process affects the body. What I do know that that there is a lot of money riding on the public continuing the believe their antiperspirant is safe… and there would be massive blowback if proof was presented that clearly showed otherwise. So once again I will state… I just don’t know. I have to admit that it raised questions in my mind when I purchased this deodorant and found a seal stating that it was endorsed by The Cancer Treatment Centers…. It just made me wonder why they would feel the need to endorse a deodorant. Another pro is that this truly works. Even on the hottest and sweatiest days I can go for 24 hours without getting stinky. And finally, there is the price. I purchased a stick at Meijer for $3.99 which is advertised to last for an entire year! I’ve been using the same stick for 5 months now and have barely used a fraction of the container, so I’m guessing it will actually last longer than that.
One of the toughest things for me to give up was my Venus razor…. but it had to be done. I am so, so clumsy, and before Venus I nicked myself incessantly. Venus put a stop to that. In terms of safety, switching to Preserve was a step backwards for me. I had to SLOW DOWN. I find it cool that the handles are made from recycled yogurt containers, and must admit that the product does an overall nice job. The blades are much cheaper than the Venus at $8.50 for a four pack as opposed to nearly $20 for the same amount of the Venus.
Method offers a large variety of products, but I’ve tried only a small amount. They are my favorite for dishwasher detergent packs; outperforming the other cruelty-free, earth-conscious brands.
For our family, there are still changes to come. Conscious-consumerism takes some effort… but for me, it’ worth the effort. During my years working in retail I gleaned an important truth… people can complain about nearly anything but in the end, you ‘vote’ with your money. A company may listen to the concerns of their customers, but they become important to them when their bottom-lines end up taking a hit. Let’s use our ‘votes’ to inspire positive change.