Picking Up Cruelty-Free Products: Is Urban Decay An Ethical Brand?

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While it is easy for us to pick up a bunch of high-end cosmetics, it is hard to find truly cruelty-free brands. While some brands build their image on the cruelty-free platform, we remain in the dark about many leading brands. Urban Decay has always had a clear policy on being cruelty-free ever since its inception in 1996, though the American cosmetics company briefly ran into some issues in 2012.

Urban Decay products received a cruelty-free certificate from PETA. An overwhelming number of Urban Decay products are manufactured following a strict vegan formula. But this isn’t true of the entire product range. Some contain ingredients that include beeswax, lanolin, and carmine. These are sourced from insects and animals and cannot be deemed vegan by themselves.

Read: Fake Animal Rescue Videos Still Plague Video Sharing Platforms: The New Frontier In Animal Cruelty

Other ordinary ingredients that are used in Urban Decay products include glycerin, hyaluronic acid, guanine, retinol, lactic acid, stearic acid, and squalene, all of which are non-vegan.

But products from the Urban Decay brand are undergoing a steady transition to turning fully vegan. Shortly, all products from Urban Decay and also product development processes will be vegan, with the company setting its sights firmly on going vegan soon.

Urban Decay is currently working on transforming the non-vegan product formulas and replacing them with plant-derived or synthetic alternatives.

Guaranteeing A Product As Cruelty-Free

For numerous cosmetic brands flooding the market, a PETA label is the basic guarantee that the customer is looking at a product that has been manufactured following the parameter required to retain the label.

Read: Artist’s Heartbreaking Short Comics About Animal Abuse Shows Our Cruelty

To be designated ‘cruelty-free’ by PETA is to mean that a brand or company has banned all tests on animals for making their formulas, ingredients, and finished products. This includes their supply chain.

To be certified cruelty-free. No testing on animals is allowed anywhere, for any reason. Consumers mustn’t be duped by companies that choose to continue in this reprehensible practice to make a quick buck.

While animal testing has been banned for cosmetic companies in the UK as far back as 1998, with global companies producing overseas, it is difficult to keep track.

While companies may claim not to test their products on animals unless required by law. But this indicates that such companies are exporting their products to China, where such tests are legally mandated.

Urban Decay And The Chinese Market

Products that are to be exported to, or manufactured in, China is legally mandated to be tested on animals. But as Urban Decay products are not sold in mainland China, they are not required to test their products on animals.

Urban Decay had in 2012 announced its intention of selling on the Chinese market. That would have required them to test their cosmetics on animals as mandated by the Chinese government.

Read: Eating Live Octopus: Where Do We Draw The Line Against Cruelty To Animals?

But this decision was revoked after its existing customer base reacted negatively and PETA too objected to such a move. The company declared that none of its products would be sold in the Chinese market.

This bold move was commended by PETA and they awarded Urban Decay a Courage in Commerce prize for putting their concern for animals ahead of garnering a substantial market share.

But Urban Decay products are available on the island of Hong Kong, which reverted from British to Chinese control in 1997. The Chinese have a firm legal hold over the neighboring island and have trashed much of the island’s British laws. It remains to be seen if Hong Kong also implements Chinese laws when it comes to animal tests on cosmetic products.

Certifying Urban Decay Brands As Ethical And Sustainable

Urban Decay’s ownership lies in the hands of cosmetics giant L’Oréal. And therein lays the catch. While Urban Decay has managed to retain its cruelty-free and ethical tag, its parent company is none but those.

L’Oréal regularly tests its brands on animals and insects at places where it is legally mandated. So it becomes a personal choice if you want to continue believing that Urban Decay is an ethical and cruelty-free brand and align with their products.

Most people would not want to be associated with a brand that is linked with animal testing of products, knowing how horrendous the practice is. Backing Urban Decay would mean indirectly supporting L’Oréal which is openly testing its products on animals.


PETA has said in a statement that supporting companies like Urban Decay sends out a clear message about the popularity of compassionate cosmetics, and companies like its parent, L’Oréal should consider pursuing cruelty-free methods of testing for its total range of products.

Company representatives say that it is difficult for a standalone cosmetic company to survive without the marketing and financial support of multinational firms. They say that Urban Decay hasn’t swayed from its ethical position after being taken over by L’Oréal and had assured customers and associates that this business philosophy will not change in the future.

Urban Decay launched the Ultraviolet Edge crusade in 2015. It is an international initiative that has its target of empowering women. They do this with the backing of women’s organizations. Urban Decay has always been clear about empowerment and acceptance and this campaign aligns with the company’s brand values.

Coming Clean On Its Ingredients: Urban Decay Sources From Certified Companies

While Urban Decay is both PETA certified for being vegan and also cruelty-free for a wide range of its products, it also is an ethical company. Its use of controversial products like palm oil and mica comes with clear transparency on its source of these ingredients.

L’Oréal is part of the Responsible Mica Initiative. This coalition works to put a stop to child labor in the mica mines in India. L’Oréal is also among the 12 major brands named by Greenpeace that source its palm oil from companies that are associated with deforestation in the rainforests of the world. But the company has released reports stating that it is now totally acquiescent to the standards of RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). Related Site

Urban Decay also supports charity work that includes a global initiative aimed at the empowerment of women. Proceeds from several of its limited-edition cosmetics were contributed to organizations that support women’s initiatives in developing nations.

While Urban Decay is not the most sustainable and ethical brand in the market, it meets the minimum requirement of the Green Beuty Standards of TreeHugger. 

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