Cosmetic Testing

Last updated 24 November 2017

Summary of Cosmetic Testing on Rabbits

Cosmetics are generally not tested on animals in Australia unless a new chemical ingredient is proposed to be used in a cosmetic product. In this case, new chemicals are tested on animals within Australia subject to the requirements of the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (the ICNA Act), and are regulated under The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS).

There are no laws in Australia banning the use of animals for testing of chemical ingredients used in cosmetics, even those which have already been tested. As of October 2017, the importation and sale of cosmetics tested on animals have not been banned in Australia.

Below is a summary of the most common tests performed in cosmetic testing; the Draize Eye test and the Skin Irritation tests which were developed in the 1940s.

In most cases of cosmetic testing, the animals—usually albino rabbits, are bred for the lab in factory farms. They are then sold to labs, where they are often housed in isolation, in bare, wire cages without sufficient space to move or environmental enrichment.

  • Draize Test


The Draize test involves applying an amount of the substance under study to an animal’s eye or skin for several hours, and then observing whether or not irritation occurs over the following week or two. Test animals are then put to death in a brutal manner of cervical dislocation after the sometimes maiming and often painful test.

These tests cause extreme discomfort and pain to the animals involved. Rabbits are very fragile animals and usually live in groups. Under stress they seek comfort in one another. This is however not permitted in labs where they are all individually isolated for testing.

In the eye version of the Draize test, rabbits are placed in restraining stocks and their eyelids are held open with clips—in some cases for days at a time—to keep them from blinking away the test solutions.

Rabbits have no tear ducts so, unlike humans, they can’t cry out harmful substances from their eye. This means that in the Draize eye test the rabbit’s eye is exposed to more of the test chemical for longer periods, which is one of the main reasons why rabbits are chosen for this procedure.

  • Skin Irritation Test


The skin test involves shaving a part of the rabbit’s body and applying a test substance to their skin. The site is covered with a gauze patch for up to four hours, after which the patch is removed and the remaining substance wiped away. A wound is allowed to develop at the site for up to 14 days, and the degree of skin damage is then assessed. A chemical is considered to be an irritant if it causes reversible skin lesions, such as inflammation, that heal partially or totally by the end of the observation period.

The test may cause rabbits to suffer from inflamed skin, ulcers, bleeding, and bloody scabs. There is no requirement that animals be provided with pain-relieving drugs during this prolonged process.

Animal-based skin irritation studies have never been properly validated.

Summary taken from

Ethical Vegan Earth Research Inc. Campaign: Down the Rabbit Holes