Is Herbal Essences Really Cruelty Free?

Is Herbal Essences really cruelty free?

Is Herbal Essences Really Cruelty Free?

As usual, when a press release comes out announcing that a brand that has been historically NOT cruelty free, I have a lot of questions! You guys have also been asking me if Herbal Essences hair products are really cruelty free, so I reached out to my sources for more information. Of course I want this to be true, but I have to investigate before I make a decision. Everything below that is italicized is directly quoted from PETA or Leaping Bunny.

The original press release announcing that Herbal Essences is cruelty free was sent out by PETA. Here is the original announcement:


Iconic Procter & Gamble Brand Earns Spot on PETA’s ‘Beauty Without Bunnies’ ListCincinnati, Ohio — Procter & Gamble’s Herbal Essences brand has joined PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program. The well-known brand has been added to PETA’s list of companies and brands that don’t test on animals and will soon feature PETA’s cruelty-free bunny logo on its packaging.

Herbal Essences’ parent company, Procter & Gamble, has partnered with PETA for many years to end animal testing in the beauty industry across the world, with notable changes in regions such as China. The company is also collaborating with PETA scientists on a variety of efforts to replace the use of animals in deadly toxicitytesting. Both PETA and Herbal Essences will continue to work together to ban animal testing globally.

“For years, we have been a pioneer in animal testing alternatives,” says Lisa Jennings, Vice President, Global Herbal Essences. “PETA’s cruelty-free credential and logo provide consumers with the assurance they are looking for as they choose their shampoos and conditioners. We’re proud to have passed PETA’s stringent verification process to join their trusted list of cruelty-free brands.”

“Procter & Gamble has shown a commitment to ending the use of animals in tests wherever and whenever possible and has worked for years to develop and promote non-animal methods,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “PETA is pleased to collaborate with P&G scientists to spare animals from deadly tests, and we’re delighted to welcome Herbal Essences to our cruelty-free list.”

Procter & Gamble’s work with the PETA International Science Consortium includes co-authoring a paper describing non-animal approaches to assess respiratory toxicity and participating in a consortium that works with the Food & Drug Administration to gain regulatory acceptance for non-animal tests.

I followed up with PETA to ask if Herbal Essences is selling in China and if their ingredient suppliers are cruelty free. This was the response, from Amanda Nordstrom, Company Liaison for PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies Program:

Herbal Essences, like all of the other companies on our cruelty-free list, has agreements in place with all of their ingredient suppliers that they do not test on animals for any of the ingredients they supply to Herbal Essences.  Herbal Essences does not and will not conduct, fund or allow any test on animals for its ingredients, formulations, or products anywhere in the world, including China.

It was PETA that first exposed China’s requirement that imported products be tested on animals. PETA funded the scientists who trained Chinese scientists in the non-animal methods and set up the first completely animal-free cosmetics laboratory. This is an issue we know very well and feel strongly about. 

Herbal Essences worked closely with PETA and within regulations in China to avoid tests on animals. Thanks to all the work we’ve supported in the last seven years and to Herbal Essences’ commitment, this is now possible. Specifically, companies that manufacture in China and produce only non-special use products, such as soaps, shampoos and conditioners, are now exempt from animal tests in China. Further, we have confirmed that post-market testing in China does not involve animals. That allegation was made in a single report, which was initially credible, but which we now know to be false. Herbal Essences has committed to withdrawing their products from the region rather than allow any tests on animals. This is all something to celebrate!

Most of the resources are in Chinese, but check out these links.: and

I had some follow up questions. I was confused about the statement that post market testing didn’t involve animal testing (it’s the first time I’ve heard about this). And I was confused about the statement saying they were withdrawing from China (turns out they are saying they WOULD pull out if necessary to test on animals in the future).

Amanda Nordstrom responded:

To my knowledge [avoiding animal testing] can only be done in certain provinces, and only when the brand has a factory IN China. Does Herbal Essences have a manufacturing facility in China? 

Yes, as stated in the news release, Herbal Essences manufactures in China, sells only domestic non-special use products there, and have worked within the Chinese government’s regulations to ensure that none of their products will be tested on animals.

This is the first time I’ve heard [about post market testing not involving animals] from any source. Where is there evidence? The article you linked is based on one person’s account and says post market tests are “rarely” done on animals, which is not the same as “never” done on animals.

We previously announced this milestone development that post-market surveillance testing does not include tests on animals after confirming it with many government, policy, and scientific experts.  The information we received from multiple reliable sources confirms that post-market surveillance for cosmetics “never” includes tests on animals, not “rarely.”  Because our talks with companies are confidential, I am unable to share the detailed content of those discussions, beyond what we’ve already released to the public.  Unfortunately, most of the publicly-available resources detailing the Chinese government’s requirements for tests on animals for cosmetics are not translated into English.

I’m confused. You said animal testing was not happening on non-special use products in China, but now you’re saying Herbal Essences is withdrawing from China?

Herbal Essences products are not tested on animals anywhere in the world, including China, and the company has committed not to introduce any new products that could be required to be tested on animals.  The company has further committed to withdraw from the Chinese market in the event that tests on animals become required for any of their products in the future – so that’s a forward-looking statement that solidifies their commitment to never allowing tests on animals for their products.

So all of that sounds great, but my concern is that PETA is the only organization that I’m aware of who is saying post market animal testing is no longer an issue (for non-special use products sold by brands who manufacture IN China). And unfortunately all of their sources are confidential, so I cannot verify them.

I discussed this with my fellow cruelty free blogger, Courtney Nawara of, and she reached out to our contact at Leaping Bunny, Kim Paschen for further comment.

Paschen said, “The Leaping Bunny Program continues to have concerns about post-market testing on animals in Mainland China. They are constantly monitoring the situation there so if there are any progressive developments, compassionate consumers can be sure the Leaping Bunny Program will let them know. In the meantime, the Leaping Bunny Program continues to provide the best assurance that no animal testing is involved at any stage of product development with its certified companies.”

So what is the verdict – is Herbal Essences cruelty free? Well, I wish I had a black and white answer for you. But, unfortunately based on the information I have (and the difficulty with getting information from China), I can only say that this is going to be a grey area brand for me, for now. It sounds like Herbal Essences has a lot of cruelty free boxes checked off and are not involved in animal testing on their end, but at the end of the day, I cannot verify that post market animal testing is not happening in China, and therefore, (even though very unlikely) I can’t verify that Herbal Essences products will never be tested on animals by Chinese officials. The only source saying that post market testing will never involve animals is PETA, and THEIR sources are confidential, so I cannot confirm or deny. I look forward to the day when I am sure that post market testing is not an issue, because this would open up the Chinese market to many large brands (well – the ones who can afford to manufacture in China that is!).

I will say one last thing though. Due to the lack of affordable, cruelty free hair products available at most drugstores, I think it makes sense to buy Herbal Essences if the only alternative is a brand that is actively testing on animals. Herbal Essences MAY be 100% cruelty free, or they may be 99% cruelty free, but either way that’s better than zero.

One more item to add to the mix – Herbal Essences is owned by Procter & Gamble. They are NOT a cruelty free brand, and while I do support cruelty free brands owned by non-cruelty free companies, I know some of you do not. You can see a list of cruelty free brands here. The ones with non-cruelty free parent companies are noted.

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