Kiehl’s is a skin and hair care product company, which was founded in Manhattan, but has expanded rapidly and now serves a global consumer base.

They have a number of progressive aims, such as reducing their environmental impacts and supporting social enterprises.  

Yet despite their modern look, efforts to be more sustainable and use natural ingredients there’s still a fly in their ethical ointment. 

Despite not testing their UK products on animals Kiehl’s is not cruelty-free. 

So why is this? 

Vegomm score: 50%

– Brand is certified vegan: NO
– Brand offers a selection of vegan products: YES
– Brand tests on animals: NO
– Brand is sold in mainland China: YES
– Parent company tests other brands on animals: NO
– Parent company sells other cosmetic brands in China: YES

What is Kiehl’s?

kiehls product

Kiehl’s has grown in popularity since starting out as a small cosmetics and skincare products American company in 1851. This is in part because Kiehl’s products attract a younger clientele, and particularly appeal to men. 

Kiehl’s cosmetics and skincare products, including face creams, lip balms and scrubs, all use natural ingredients such as essential oils, white clay and cocoa butter.

They are open about their ingredients, making it easy to view what they include in their products on their website. 

The company aims to reduce its impact on the environment by sourcing sustainable ingredients, reducing its packaging and lowering its water consumption. 

They also support a number of charities, in particular, focused on combating AIDs, helping the environment and supporting children.  

Does Kiehl’s test on animals?

Like many international brands, Keihl’s has compromised its ethics to expand its customer base. 

The companies animal testing policy states that they do not test their products on animals, or pay others to test them unless required by the law. 

This caveat has been put in place because in order to sell to mainland China products legally need to be tested on animals. 

Though this is not carried out directly by Kiehl’s, it does mean they are not cruelty-free.

In May 2021 the Chinese government changed their policy on animal testing, meaning that with the proper permits foreign corporations can sell certain products there without them needing to be tested on animals. 

However, many items are not exempt, such as sunscreen, which Kiehl’s does produce.

Since the change, neither Kiehl’s nor their parent company L’Oreal, have updated their policy to state they no longer indirectly test on animals to sell products to China. 

It may be that this is just the early days of the new system and that Kiehl’s will make the jump to entirely cruelty-free. But until this transition is officially made we can only assume they are continuing as before. 

Kiehl’s animal testing policy means that while you are able to buy Kiehl’s products in the UK without them having been tested on animals, the brand as a whole does allow animal testing of their products. 

Is Kiehl’s vegan?

Kiehl’s is not a vegan brand, as they do use a number of animal products within their range, such as honey.

They do offer some vegan products, though, but it is fairly difficult to ascertain which these are without getting a degree in chemistry. 

Kiehl’s vegan products are well hidden, with their website not allowing searches based on whether a product is vegan, and no obvious labelling to state which products are vegan.

midnight recovery vegan concealer by kiehl's

The only product within their range that is currently certified vegan, and therefore labelled as such, is their Midnight Recovery Concentrate. Though even this is not stated on their website. 

This is slightly frustrating…

So we contacted them, trying to get more information on that matter. And their answer, even though positive, was even more frustrating! 

kiehl's answer to our request

They told us that 64% of their product portfolio is actually vegan, but at the moment, our only option to find out whether a product is vegan or not is scrolling through the ingredients list on their website.

The good news is that they also let us know that they are actively looking for ways to swap out more of their non-vegan ingredients for vegan ones, and are aware of the growing desire by consumers for vegan products. 

Perhaps soon they will see the value in properly labeling their products and assist consumers in making an informed choice.   

Anyway, thanks Kiehl’s, we always appreciate it when brands take time to answer!

Cruelty-free alternatives 

In the meantime, if you don’t feel like going through the whole list of ingredients of Kiehl’s products and assess whether a specific ingredient is vegan or not, we’ve selected a few skincare brands that are vegan and cruelty-free. 

You can’t go wrong with these!

white rabbit skincare

White Rabbit Skincare

Made in Britain and carrying PETAs cruelty-free and vegan logo, this skincare brand ticks all the boxes. It’s relatively early days for this company, but they certainly seem to be headed in the right direction. They offer a range of handcrafted moisturisers, toner and cleansers

esse sunscreen

Esse Skincare

Probiotics might be something you think of more from yoghurt adverts, but Esse skincare believes in the benefits these microbes can have to your skin. Not only are they vegan and cruelty-free, but this brand also uses organic fairtrade ingredients and is a carbon-neutral company. 

Dafna skincare products

Dafna’s skincare

Winner of the best vegan skincare brand in Europe, Dafna’s Skincare certainly has a lot to brag about. Not only are they vegan and cruelty-free, but they also aim to reduce their environmental impact through recyclable packing and organic ingredients. They offer a range of products including cleansers and moisturisers.  

embalm skincare products

Embalm skincare

Embalm skincare certainly seems to be raking in the awards across its range of products. This Australian company is vegan and cruelty-free and believes in a simplistic skincare regime. Their range includes scrubs, toners and moisturisers. 

Final thoughts

Kiehl’s are an innovative and processive brand, looking at how they can reduce their impacts environmentally and contribute to the society around them. 

They have a clear vision on how to be a modern socially conscious business, adding to the world around them rather than simply taking from it. 

It’s, therefore, even more of a shame that they seem to be stumbling at the last block. 

L’Oreal, Kiehl’s parent company, argues on their website that their presence in China allows them to influence the countries policies on animal testing.

While they have campaigned for the Chinese government to lessen their animal-testing requirements, the ethical choice is undoubtedly to refuse to take part in a system that requires such measures to take place. 

Their lack of transparency, too, is another fall from grace. While having a high number of vegan products is commendable, not making them easy to find seems to indicate a lack of engagement with the vegan community or those who wish to buy vegan products.

As with many international companies, you can certainly do your research and buy a vegan, cruelty-free product from Kiehl’s. However, not every product they produce is as consciously made.

Other skincare brands we’ve reviewed







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