Is Neutrogena Cruelty-Free and Vegan in 2023?

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.
When Neutrogena was founded in 1930 by Emanuel Stolaroff, it was originally named Natone and was a supplier of film-industry beauty salons.

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 product shot

Neutrogena Ethical Overview

Cruelty-free: No

Vegan: No (Neutrogena cannot be considered vegan if it is not cruelty-free)

Clean ingredients: Yes

Sustainable & Ethical: Moderate efforts

Mica Mining Policy: No

RSPO Palm Oil Certified: Yes

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 cruelty free policy

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:

  • 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, is considered and evaluated.

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.

Neutrogena's most common animal-derived ingredients are beeswaxlanolin, collagen, carmine, and glucosamine.

Vegan Alternatives to Neutrogena


price range

100% vegan


$5 - $15



$3 - $24


Leaping Bunny

$20 - $80


PETA, Leaping Bunny

$30 - $80


PETA, Leaping Bunny

$20 - $60


Leaping Bunny

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:

  • Ethoxylated ingredients (PPG, PEG, and polysorbate)
  • Ethanolamine compounds (DEA, MEA, and TEA)
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, aka teflon®)
  • Propylene glycol (pg) & butylene glycol
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Triclosan

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:

  • Working on sustainable packaging developments like using 30% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic.
  • Ensuring that almost 75% of Neutrogena bottles are recyclable.
  • Using Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil (RSPO certified) through the parent company.
  • Using sustainably sourced paper (FSC certified) to create some product packaging.
  • Developing some refillable, long-lasting packaging and reduced plastic refills.
  • Creating home-compostable makeup removal wipes with 100% plant-based fabric.

Most of Neutrogena’s sustainability initiatives are just goals at this point. They include:

  • Aiming to increase post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials in packaging
  • Eliminating unnecessary cartons and plastic windows
  • Reducing their use of virgin plastic in their product and shipping packaging by having 100% recyclability for all plastic packaging by 2025

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:

  • Beach Defense aerosol sunscreen
  • Cool Dry Sport aerosol sunscreen
  • Invisible Daily™ defense aerosol sunscreen
  • Ultra Sheer aerosol sunscreen

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.

Final Thoughts

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.