Is Bath & Body Works Cruelty-Free and Vegan? (Bring Back Y2K)

September 29, 2022

Bath & Body Works takes us back to a simpler time with its nostalgic 90s scents, lotions, soaps, and candles. But we can’t help but feel concerned – are its cruelty-free and vegan policies stuck in the past too?

Bath & Body Works is not cruelty-free as it distributes its cosmetics where animal testing is required by law. While Bath & Body Works has products free of animal-derived ingredients, it is not considered a vegan brand.

We understand that you may have an emotional attachment to this brand. You can almost smell the Plumeria Fine Fragrance Mist as you reminisce about your middle school dances and memories from the good ol’ days.

But for anyone who cares about animals and the planet, we have disappointing news. You need to understand what you’re buying into (and it’s not always so pretty).

We are about to look at how safe the brand's ingredient choices are, what to avoid, and whether you can confidently spend your money knowing animal welfare and the environment are considered too.

In the end, you'll know whether to click "add to cart" for your next Bath & Body Works purchase or if you need to fill out a feedback form with the words, " we think you can do better."

Is Bath & Body Works Cruelty-Free and Vegan?

Bath and Body Works

Bath & Body Works is NOT Cruelty-Free

It does not:

  • Test any of its products or ingredients on animals.

It may: 

  • Purchase any ingredients tested on animals within its supply chain.

It does: 

  • Distribute its products to any countries that require animal testing by law.

While Bath & Body Works B&BW claim they personally do not test their products or ingredients on animals, that doesn’t mean they don’t pay for third-party testing.

It’s also unclear if B&BW purchases ingredients tested on animals within its supply chain, but it is possible.

Here’s what we do know:

The brand has distributed its products in China since 2019.

Even if it manufactures all its Chinese products in China and does not have to undergo pre-market testing. (This law only applies to international cosmetics arriving at China’s borders). 

It could still be subject to post-market animal testing once the items are stocked on the shelves.

This brings us to the next point:

Bath & Body Works is Not Vegan

Although B&BW has vegetarian and vegan ranges, it’s hard to consider any of its products free of animal-derived ingredients as “vegan” because it’s not 100% cruelty-free.

Does it have products that are free of animal-derived ingredients? Yes.

Are these products considered holistically vegan? Not in our opinion.

It’s a bit unclear what animal-derived ingredients Bath & Body Works uses because none of its products are clearly labelled. It also does not specify which products are "vegan" either. 

In general, here are common animal-derived ingredients to keep an eye out for:

  • Honey & beeswax – these ingredients pose many health benefits to your skin and wellbeing. They have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and are loaded with essential vitamins.

    Just because beeswax isn't vegan, it doesn't mean it can't be cruelty-free. Find out more here: Can Beeswax Be Cruelty-Free
  • Lanolin – this ingredient, like honey and beeswax, is used in skincare and cosmetics because it is incredibly hydrating. It is basically the waxy oil that comes from sheep wool. Lanolin can be cruelty-free – follow this link for more details.
  • Collagen – is an essential protein that plays an integral role in strengthening skin, as well as in elasticity and hydration.

    Naturally, collagen can only be found in connective animal tissue. But today, it's possible to make vegan collagen by genetically modifying yeast and bacteria.
  • Carmine – this ingredient is the red pigment made from the crushed female cochineal insect. A little gross, no? But it is completely harmless and is used in makeup to get those rouge tones.

    To find out why carmine is so cruel and the shocking amount of products that use it, you need to read this: Is Carmine Cruelty-Free and Vegan?
  • Squalane – is a cosmetic ingredient predominantly harvested from sharks' livers but can also be derived from plant sources. (Find the best vegan squalane products here.)

    Squalane is an excellent ingredient because it mimics your skin's natural oils. It's anti-inflammatory, packed with antioxidants, and non-comedogenic.

If you're interested in  finding vegan brand alternatives – keep reading or click on this link: Vegan Alternatives to Bath & Body Works

Animal Testing Policy and History

Let’s get one thing straight – although Bath & Body Works may not conduct animal testing, it is still NOT a cruelty-free brand.

What’s scary is that B&BW used to be a cruelty-free brand and could even be found on PETA’s approved vegan list!

Unfortunately, they were removed from PETA’s list a few years ago when they decided to sell in mainland China where animal testing is required by law.

While B&BW may carefully word each statement, they make (or strategically leave information out). But that doesn’t change the fact that they are actively involved in animal testing and have no intention to stop soon.

Cruelty-Free Status in 2022

Here is a screenshot of Bath and Body Works' official statement regarding its cruelty-free policies and vegan products, taken from its website:

Bath & Body Works cruelty-free website claim


Bath and Body Works has no cruelty-free certification anymore.

It would be nice to see cruelty-free certification. But it cannot happen as long as the brand continues with its current animal-testing policies.

Besides PETA, a far more reputable organization you can trust is the Leaping Bunny association, which has rigid (but excellent) standards.

Leaping Bunny is the only internationally recognized certification that ensures a brand adheres to the following strict criteria:

  • No animal testing is conducted on the ingredients, formulas, or final products they sell.
  • No animal testing is conducted by the brand suppliers or on their ingredients or formulas.
  • No animal testing is done by someone else that the company itself paid for.
  • Any other form of testing (beyond ingredient and consumer safety), such as worker safety and environmental health, are considered and evaluated.

If you want to support a brand that doesn’t conduct animal testing – ensure that they have the cruelty-free symbol at the back of their products, usually marked by a rabbit.

If you see a bunny stamp on the back of your product bottle – that's a good sign. But don't be fooled by the image itself.

A lot of brands are using fake logos to fool consumers.

Do your homework and see which products are genuinely cruelty-free first. This article will help you: Which Cruelty-Free Logos Can You Trust?

Is Bath & Body Works Sold Where Animal Testing is Required By Law? 

Yes, Bath and Body Works distributes its products in China, where animal testing on cosmetics is required as products arrive at the border.

B&BW produces all the merchandise it sells to China within the country itself. While this eliminates the need for premarket testing, it could still be subject to post-market testing if necessary. 

China has a shocking track record. It is the country with the most animal testing globally, with over 20 million animals used per year.

However, if you live in China or are concerned about its cruel beauty policies, there are a couple of loopholes.

Here's how to find cruelty-free cosmetics in China: Are Cosmetics Made in China Cruelty-Free?

What Bath & Body Works Products Are Vegan?

Bath & Body Works does not have any products marked as vegan or vegetarian on their website.

The brand also doesn’t write out its ingredient lists clearly, making it difficult to guarantee any claims.

Even if some products are accidentally free of animal-derived ingredients. We cannot call them as holistically “vegan” because the brand is not 100% cruelty-free.

If you’re interested in seeing what the brand offers, you can find a complete list of Bath & Body Works products on its website. Otherwise, read on for some fantastic vegan alternatives.

Vegan Alternatives to Bath & Body Works

If you are vegan or are a strong advocate of cruelty-free cosmetics – Bath & Body Works is not the right brand for you.

Their complicated cruelty-free policies, animal testing clauses, and limited ingredient lists make it a frustrating brand to work with or trust.

Luckily, there are many alternatives you can find that are certified cruelty-free and vegan to choose from. 

Where you don’t have to sacrifice quality for the price!

Here are some nature-inspired skincare brands within the same price range that are 100% vegan and cruelty-free.

Is Bath & Body Works Natural and Organic? 

Bath & Body Works doesn’t claim to be a natural or organic brand.

It includes the words “infused with the good stuff” if a product is filled with natural ingredients like aloe, shea, or cocoa butter.

And if this is the case, it’ll also include that the natural ingredients can cause color variations.

However, with what we do know, it’s safe to say the product formulas are primarily synthetic.

Clean vs. Natural Ingredients

The term "natural" is not regulated for cosmetics and skincare. In other words, it doesn't hold one specific meaning.

Usually, it means a product is free of certain more toxic synthetic ingredients, including parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and more. But people also interpret "natural" to mean ingredients of immediate plant origin.

Here's the thing: "natural" is not necessarily good. Just because an ingredient is natural (take olive oil, for example) doesn't mean you should rub it on your skin and sit in the sun so you fry like a chicken breast!

All products use a certain amount of synthetic ingredients in their formulas. Bath & Body Works is no exception – but it does try to use safer synthetics.

If a synthetic ingredient is "clean," it means it is safe and non-toxic for us. Its purpose is to preserve the stability of a beauty formulation.

Would be consider B&BW clean?

Not quite, no.

Here’s why.

Does Bath & Body Works Use Safe Ingredients?

According to Skin Safe, Bath & Body Works has a 73-100% allergen-free ranking for each product.

Many B&BW products are free of allergens such as gluten, nickel, lanolin, parabens, soy, MCI/MI, Propylene Glycol, dye, and oil.

One thing to note is that they’ve made it so difficult to find their ingredient lists. So you’ll have to do quite a bit of digging to see what’s in each product.

The EU/UK Have Stricter Ingredient Regulations

We don’t want to scare you, but you HAVE to read up on any product’s ingredient list before you make a purchase – especially if you live within the United States. The reason why will shock you.

The FDA has only banned or restricted 11 harmful chemicals from cosmetics within the country. Europe and the UK, on the other hand, have banned 1,328!

Unfortunately, Bath & Body Works doesn’t set the best example of what true clean beauty is meant to be.

While you shouldn’t have to worry about any serious hidden nasties in your products, you will still find toxins in its products that you may want to avoid, such as:

We don’t want to scare you, but you HAVE to read up on any product’s ingredient list before you make a purchase – especially if you live within the United States. The reason why will shock you.

The FDA has only banned or restricted 11 harmful chemicals from cosmetics within the country. Europe and the UK, on the other hand, have banned 1,328!

Unfortunately, Bath & Body Works doesn’t set the best example of what true clean beauty is meant to be.

While you shouldn’t have to worry about any serious hidden nasties here, you will still find toxins in its personal hygiene items that you may want to avoid, such as:

  • PPG, PEG, and polysorbate
  • Ethanolamine compounds (DEA, MEA, and TEA)
  • Butylated compounds (BHA, BHT)
  • Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
  • Coal tar and benzene
  • Propylene glycol (pg) & butylene glycol
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Homosalate
  • Hydroquinone

With fragrance, you should also avoid:

  • Benzophenone, oxybenzone, and other related compounds
  • Butylated compounds (BHA, BHT)
  • Ethanolamine compounds (DEA, MEA, and TEA)
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Quaternium-15
  • Formaldehyde
  • Phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP
  • Musk ketone, musk xylene, galaxolide, tonalide

Are Cruelty-Free Ingredients Safe?

If you’re worried about how safe it is to use cosmetics not tested on animals – please relax and take a sigh of relief.

There is no reason why cruelty-free products shouldn’t be as safe as anything tested on animals.

Not only is it easy to test ingredients without using animals altogether, but there are so many pre-approved ingredients you can use to make cosmetics that there is no need.

If you’re interested, here’s more on the subject: Are Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Safe?

Is Bath & Body Works Sustainable and Ethical? 

Once again – Bath & Body Works has left us in serious doubt.

It talks a big talk, but we cannot see much evidence to back up its sustainable and ethical drives.

Unfortunately, its product website has nothing to say about its sustainability or ethical initiatives. And their corporate website has more to say but little evidence to back it up.

We can see that through the Bath & Body Works Foundation, the brand has invested more than $22 million into non-profits in 2021 alone.  

They also share the names of non-profits they’ve partnered with, including American Red Cross, Children's Hunger Alliance, YWCA USA, and many more. If you’d like to see a complete list, you can find it on their corporate website.

The brand claims that they’re implementing programs to reduce its carbon footprint through recycling, reducing, and reusing materials.

But right now, the only evidence we can find is that sometimes you’ll find in the product description if the bottle is made up of a percentage of recycled plastic.

It's no secret that the world has a huge waste problem, and cosmetic brands only make it worse by using unsustainable packaging and harmful ingredients.

Some of the ways Bath & Body Works could take strong environmental accountability is by:

  • Working on sustainable packaging developments.
  • Ensuring that the plastic containers they use are recyclable.
  • Encouraging consumers to recycle their products.
  • Reducing their use of virgin plastic in their product and shipping packaging.
  • Avoiding extra packaging and only using sustainable or recycled materials (paper) when needed.
  • Using Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil (RSPO certified).
  • Using sustainably sourced paper (FSC certified) to create its packaging.
  • Developing some refillable, long-lasting packaging and reduced plastic refills.

Final Thoughts

Although the brand is still trendy – we can’t understand why it’s not keeping up with the times.

In our opinion, the lack of transparency is a huge red flag. It comes across that their ethical and social initiatives are more about marketing than actually putting in the work to be a better brand.

We want to be wrong about this – so, please! Prove us wrong, Bath & Body Works!

Vague statements just won’t cut it anymore. We would like to see a more transparent supply chain open to the public about its testing, purchasing, and distribution policies.

We also cannot forget that Bath & Body Works is not cruelty-free anymore, which means it takes a step in the wrong direction.

As much as they claim to be actively against animal testing, they choose to distribute to China, which is a direct conflict of interest.

For this reason, we cannot consider its products free of animal-derived ingredients as holistically vegan either.

We hope to see a real change. As consumers, it is up to us to stand for what we will and won't accept from our cosmetics. This is something we cannot accept.

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