Are Korean Skin-Care Products Cruelty-Free?

Korean beauty, or K-beauty, integrates the Korean cultural ideology of naturally smooth, perfect skin and minimal makeup with the best of Western ingredients.

When it comes to being cruelty-free, the allegiance of some of these skincare products is questionable. As of 2018, animal testing in Korea was banned. So, considering it's 2020, that means all Korean products are cruelty-free, right? Not necessarily.

Are Korean Skin-Care Products Cruelty-Free?

Many Korean skincare products are not cruelty-free. This is because the skincare companies profit in the Chinese market, which requires animal testing of imported products. The ban also has numerous exemptions that skincare companies will exploit so that they may use animal testing.

Although many Korean companies that sell skincare products are not cruelty-free, this does not include all companies and products on the market.

To sell products in the European Union (EU), the product nor its ingredients can ever be tested on animals. We’re going to share a list of reputable cruelty-free Korean companies with skincare products in just a little bit.

Why Korean Skin-Care Products are Not Cruelty-Free

One of the most significant contributing factors in determining if a Korean product company creates cruelty-free or animal-tested products is whether they sell their products in the EU or China.

If you are ever uncertain about whether a Korean skincare product is cruelty-free, searching whether the product is available in one of these markets or the other tends to be the most straightforward indicator.

Why the Chinese Market Plays an Important Role?

As it stands, the Chinese government requires that any foreign company that wishes to sell ordinary cosmetic products in China must first subject their products to animal testing.

Due to the sheer size and overall success of the Chinese market, Korean skincare companies find it highly profitable to sell their products in China. So, they will adhere to the requirements of animal testing to access their business.

Despite the ban on animal testing in Korea, these companies will often exploit the exemption stated in the ban that companies exporting their products are permitted to perform animal testing.

Fortunately, the Chinese government does not require domestic cosmetics, either for sale in China or for export, for animal testing. Additionally, on July 3, 2020, the Chinese government announced that by 2021 new legislation will take effect that will end their previous pre-market animal testing policy on ordinary imported cosmetics.

Hopefully, this step in a cruelty-free Chinese market will significantly affect the testing methods of countries selling in their market.

So if you want to find out how to get cruelty-free products in China, you can read on here: Are Cosmetics Made In China Cruelty-Free in 2021?

Where the EU Market Fits In

The EU has a very different stance on animal testing than the Chinese market. On September 11, 2004, the 6th Amendment to EU Directive 76/768/EEC went into effect, which bans the following:

  • Animal testing on finished products;
  • Animal testing on cosmetic ingredients;
  • The marketing of finished products tested on animals; and
  • The marketing of cosmetic ingredients tested on animals.

Therefore, any skincare or cosmetics company that wishes to export their goods to the EU and participate in their market is legally prohibited from selling inhumane products.

Many Korean skincare companies will opt to sell their products and adhere to the EU's laws over the Chinese market. So, if you find that your favorite Korean skincare product is sold around the EU, then rest easy. It is guaranteed to be cruelty-free.

How to Find Cruelty-Free Korean Skin-Care Products

Researching which markets your favorite Korean skincare products are sold in can be a simple way to tell if they are cruelty-free but be careful. It is not uncommon for Korean cosmetic companies to have two lines of the same product.

One that has been animal tested and legally permitted to be exported to China, and one that is cruelty-free and legally permitted to be shipped to the EU.

By selling in both markets, these companies increase their potential profits exponentially. Therefore, when searching for any Korean beauty products, explore the brand itself, and see if they play both sides of the coin. If they do, you might want to look for an alternative skincare product. 

What to Look For

Researching to see which markets a particular skincare product is sold on can be a fantastic way to determine if the product is cruelty-free or not. However, this method can be a bit time-consuming. Here are a few alternative methods to help you ascertain if your favorite cosmetics are cruelty-free.

Certifications and Logos

Four significant animal rights organizations will provide certification to a company that fulfills their strict requirements deeming them to be cruelty-free.

Leaping Bunny, PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies, and Choose Cruelty-Free (CCF) are all globally renowned organizations that might have given your favorite skincare company their stamp of approval.

To determine if a skincare is certified by these organizations, check the product packaging for their distinct trademark bunny logo. And if you want to do your homework, we can give you the full breakdown here: Which Cruelty-Free Logos Can You Trust in 2021?

We did say there are four organizations. The final certification program is by Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA). As a non-profit organization dedicated to animal rights and welfare, it is not uncommon for Korean skincare products to seek and advertise that it has received certification and approval of this organization.

Research the Company Site

It is important to note that although a skincare brand might be certified as cruelty-free – they are not the only cruelty-free brands out there.

There are actually many unregistered cruelty-free brands out there who simply haven’t gone through the certification process.

After a brand has qualified to receive certification from these non-profit organizations, they must pay a fee to be officially registered and permitted to place the organization's logo on their products.

Certain cruelty free companies” don't want to pay this fee to prove they support animal rights and sell cruelty-free products.

Therefore, if you are ever uncertain whether a skincare product is genuinely cruelty-free as the packaging claims, visit the company website to verify their claims.

It is likely that if they are claiming to be cruelty-free, they are proud of this commitment to animal rights and will speak on it on their website. If the information on this matter is not founded, perhaps call the customer service number and inquire with an employee about the brand's testing methods. 

Use a Mobile App

You've got to love modern technology. If you are in the store holding a particular skincare product in your hand and want to know then and there if it is cruelty-free without the research hoops, download one of these mobile apps.

  • Cruelty-Free by Leaping Bunny
  • Bunny Free by PETA
  • Cruelty-Cutter by the Beagle Freedom Project

All of these apps will allow you to search or scan your product quickly, and the app will search through a list of either certified or credited cruelty-free brands to provide you with a definitive answer.

Some will even allow you to search by category so you can find the perfect skincare product on your phone before you even walk into the store.

Companies that are Cruelty-Free

When in doubt, these companies listed here are guaranteed Korean beauty brands that are cruelty-free, and some are even vegan-friendly.

This list is by no means all-inclusive, but it is an easy start for those of you looking to buy some new Korean beauty products without the concerns of the products' testing origins.
Cruelty-free Korean beauty brands:

  • Aromatic
  • Klairs
  • Neogen
  • Cosrx
  • Whanisa
  • Re:p
  • A True
  • With My
  • Dear, Klairs
  • Benton
  • By Wishtredn
  • Glow Recipe
  • E Nature
  • Purito
  • L.O.C.K Color
  • Hip Chic
  • Soo’AE
  • Mamonde
  • Saturday Skin
  • Thank You Farmer

Final Thoughts

Some die-hard consumers will swear by Korean beauty products but don't purchase a fantastic skincare set at the cost of its creation due to cruel animal testing.

You want to exfoliate and rejuvenate your delicate skin every night, knowing that no animals were harmed in the process of its creation. You can easily sort the Korean skincare do's and don'ts for your next shopping trip with the simple steps mentioned here.

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