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Fighting animal testing a thousand times over: Lush and XCellR8 continue to champion safe, humane testing

Lush is against animal testing and actively fights to eradicate it across the globe. One way it does so is by investing in vital research into safe, humane testing methods and working closely with the cell culture testing company XCellR8.

XCellR8 is a company dedicated to providing groundbreaking in-vitro safety and efficacy tests for cosmetics. Their relationship with Lush goes back to 2013 when the cell testing company won £25,000 at the Lush Prize, a global prize fund that supports initiatives to end or replace animal testing.

After learning of their work, Lush commissioned XCellR8 to carry out safety testing. Since then, they have won global recognition for their work pioneering new approaches to animal-free safety testing for cosmetics.

Throughout the partnership, XCellR8 have learned a lot about the existing tests, developed new ones, and gained recognition for their completely animal-product-free testing methods by global regulators.

Although cosmetic ingredients can no longer be tested on animals in Europe, most safety data sheets from cosmetic ingredient suppliers still depend on old data using historical animal tests. Lush is leading the way by testing ingredients using scientifically advanced tests based on human cell cultures and reconstructed models of the skin and eye. As well as being cruelty-free, these tests provide a much more accurate prediction of human health effects than the old animal-based methods.

Lush director Karl Bygrave explains: “In the 70s there was concern about the way animals in laboratories were treated before they were used for testing. Since then, it has moved through campaigning for an end to animal testing, public awareness, public outcry and the introduction of legislation banning animal testing. This has led to the development of alternative tests, their validation and regulatory acceptance. What we haven’t seen is a widespread use of alternatives in the cosmetic industry and this was highlighted to us when in 2013 XCellR8 won a Lush Prize for Training. They were training because there was not enough testing work. However, it’s been great to watch their testing division grow rapidly since then.”

He continues, “One of the frustrations for us is that whenever we receive a Material Safety Data Sheet from an ingredient supplier it always contains animal test data - usually downloaded from the internet. We have to do better than that."

“So we decided that we would test all our ingredients using a range of alternative tests so that we could build up our experience of alternatives, learn more about our ingredients and encourage our suppliers to use alternatives from a position of knowledge. Our ambition is to test all of our ingredients using completely animal-free tests. We would like others to do the same so that we never have to see another Material Safety Data Sheets which contains historic animal test results instead of more accurate and acceptable information.”

XCellR8’s completely animal-product-free approach was a key driver for the partnership with Lush. This approach is unique as many “non-animal” tests still use animal cell lines and animal-related products and therefore Lush and XCellR8 do not consider them truly cruelty-free. XCellR8’s pioneering approach to using human cell lines has enabled significant progress to be made in the everyday use of a variety of non-animal tests, moving the methods away from the research bench and into “real-life” applications. The experience and knowledge gained along the way bring benefits for the whole industry.

XCellR8 and Lush have also run an outreach programme to encourage suppliers to undertake their own non-animal safety testing using up-to-date methods so that over time, safety data sheets will show human-based safety information in line with modern science.  

Find out more about Lush’s non-animal testing policy and the Lush Prize.

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