Neutrogena aims to give science-backed skincare at an affordable price. The brand claims to be moving towards a more sustainable and ethical future of skincare, but will this include cruelty-free and vegan policies we can trust? We doubt it.
Neutrogena is not 100% cruelty-free or vegan, as its products are sold where animal testing is required by law. It also cannot be considered vegan as it is not cruelty-free.
24 years later, when Stolaroff patented a clear liquid soap called Neutrogena and began the mission to make science-driven skincare for everyone, the brand really began shaping into what we know today.
After a rebrand, cementing a relationship with the dermatology community, and expanding into hair care, Neutrogena went on to create many innovative products that are still a staple for many today.
This dermatologist-recommended brand might have cleaned up its formulas in the past few years, but we’re still waiting on some kind of initiative when it comes to its cruelty-free and vegan policies.
However, if you are looking for alternatives to Neutrogena in the same price range with the same quality, click here.
Neutrogena Ethical Overview
Neutrogena is Not Cruelty-Free
Test any of its products or ingredients on animals
Purchase any ingredients tested on animals within its supply chain
Distribute its products to any countries that require animal testing by law.
Neutrogena might not be testing its products in its own labs, but this brand still allows others to do it by selling in mainland China.
The brand is also owned by Johnson & Johnson, which is well known to not be cruelty-free either for the same reason.
Does Neutrogena Test on Animals?
Neutrogena has never been considered cruelty-free. Today they don’t do any animal testing themselves, but that isn’t the problem.
For over two decades, the brand has been shipping to mainland China where animal testing is required by law.
Neutrogena is clear with its animal testing policy, and there is currently no talk about pulling out of China any time soon.
What Is Neutrogena’s Cruelty-Free Status in 2023?
Here is a screenshot of Neutrogena’s official statement regarding its cruelty-free policies and vegan products, taken from its website:
Neutrogena Has No Cruelty-Free Certification
The first step to getting cruelty-free certification is being 100% cruelty-free, and Neutrogena isn’t there yet.
Right now, the biggest thing holding Neutrogena back is the fact that they are still selling in mainland China.
While any brand can claim to be cruelty-free, we can only know if they have certification from a reliable organization to prove it.
Leaping Bunny certification proves that:
Neutrogena Is Sold Where Animal Testing is Required By Law
Yes, Neutrogena distributes its products in China, where animal testing on cosmetics is required as products arrive at the border.
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?
Neutrogena is Not Vegan
Neutrogena has been removing animal-derived ingredients from its formulas, but even if that is the case, the brand can’t be considered vegan.
Neutrogena is still not 100% cruelty-free and, therefore, not vegan.
Does it have products that are free of animal-derived ingredients? Yes.
Are these products considered holistically vegan? Not in our opinion.
Vegan Alternatives to Neutrogena
Neutrogena is Not Natural, and Organic
Neutrogena has made a name for itself as having science-driven formulas. Some formulas have a few naturally-derived ingredients, but most are synthetic-based.
There is one exception, though, with Neutrogena’s Naturals range.
This line is focused on creating skincare “from nature.” Neutrogena claims that the formulas average on being 94% natural.
This line is great in principle, but it is clearly an attempt to keep up with trends and stay relevant instead of making real changes to the whole brand.
All products use a certain amount of synthetic ingredients in their formulas. Neutrogena is no exception – but it does choose to use better or clean 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.
Neutrogena Has An 73 – 100% Allergen-Free Ranking.
Skin Safe says Neutrogena has a 73 – 100% allergen-free ranking for each product.
Many of Neutrogena’s products are free of allergens such as fragrance, gluten, coconut, nickel, top common allergy-causing preservatives, lanolin, paraben, topical antibiotic, MCI/MI, soy, propylene glycol, oil, irritant/acid, dye, and SLS.
Neutrogena has also leveled up its game by being completely hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic.
However, we recommend reading a product’s ingredient list before purchasing, as formulas can be subject to change.
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!
With skincare and cosmetics, you want to avoid these ingredients:
Neutrogena Is Moderately Sustainable and Ethical
In the past, Neutrogena has supported some social causes like disaster relief, education, and environmental charities.
The brand has done this through Neutrogena’s Wave for Change, partnership with IFundWomen, Buy 1 + Donate one sunscreen program, one time donations to causes.
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.
Neutrogena takes environmental accountability by:
Most of Neutrogena’s sustainability initiatives are just goals at this point. They include:
Neutrogena’s sunscreen recall
Neutrogena has been a popular choice for sunscreen for decades and is still a huge selling point for the brand. Still, in July 2021, Johnson & Johnson (Neutrogena’s parent company) announced a massive recall of several aerosol sunscreens.
Turns out that after some independent tests, Neutrogena and Aveeno had unsafe levels of benzene in their sunscreens.
Benzene is a well-known carcinogen that can increase the risk of many different types of blood cancers, including leukemia and other health concerns.
The Neutrogena products that were contaminated with benzene were:
As of 27 February 2023, the class action settlement was finally finalized, and this is the result:
Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay full refunds for the recalled benzene-contaminated products to class members and pay $1.75 million in vouchers to consumers of non-aerosol products that were not recalled.
Further, Johnson & Johnson had to remove any aerosol products that contained isobutane, which was found to be linked to the benzene contamination.
The company also had to ensure that better testing protocols were put in place to detect benzene.
But unsurprisingly, this is not where it ends. Lawsuits are still being pursued by consumers who have been diagnosed with cancer. We can expect many more developments as more people come forward.
And finally, Neutrogena and Aveeno aren’t the only culprits with sunscreens and after-sun care products being contaminated with benzene.
There are currently 78 different products that had levels of benzene found. These products came from Neutrogena and Aveeno and many others, including Banana Boat, Coppertone, CVS Health, Walgreens, La Roche-Posay, and many others.
Some manufacturers have silently recalled their sunscreens, whereas others have not.
Check out the full list of products containing benzene by the independent lab who found them here on pages 12 to 15.
Neutrogena is a popular choice for its effective formulas and affordability. The brand has had a solid mission for decades and is still delivering on it.
But Neutrogena is still not cruelty-free, and its sustainability initiatives are mostly based on goals with no guarantees.
For a brand this established, we expect more initiative to get things done and keep up with the times.
We objectively do not need animal testing anymore, and the only thing holding Neutrogena back at this point is the brand is still selling in China.