Help! I Accidentally Bought a Product Tested on Animals!

Header image that reads "Going cruelty-Free? What to do with old products that were tested on animals!"
Or, what to do if you accidentally bought from a non-cruelty-free brand!

So you’ve been trying to go cruelty-free, or maybe you’ve been cruelty-free for a while.

You’ve read all the articles, thought you checked the cruelty-free brand lists, and could’ve swore this brand was cruelty-free!

But, you’ve either accidentally bought something from a brand that tests on animals, or don’t know what to do with those non-cruelty-free products lingering in your collection.


I’m going to talk (well, write) you through what you should do next. Unfortunately, this happens a lot – brands suddenly are no longer cruelty-free, and you’re stuck with products tested on animals.

For more information on what exactly “cruelty-free” means – check out this post.

First things first.

The first thing you shouldn’t do is stress. I know that the subject of animal testing can cause an emotional response and we can sometimes feel like we have failed the animals.

It’s okay, I promise.

As long as you’re doing your best to stay informed and buy mostly cruelty-free products, that’s better than doing nothing! One tube of lipstick or bottle of laundry detergent is just a drop in the ocean.

Should I return the item to the store?

Thankfully, here in America at least, most stores have a no questions asked return policy. Well… they ask questions but still take the item back regardless of what you say.

Un-thankfully, if you return a cosmetic product – it’s getting thrown in the trash. For sanitary reasons of course.

This would just create wasted product, most of the time.

Mainly, this is a judgment call. If you cannot bring yourself to use the item, return it – especially if it’s still sealed. Then maybe use the refund to purchase from a cruelty-free brand.

Other options for non cruelty-free makeup.

You can, of course, just keep the product and use it up.

Another option would be to donate the item to a women’s shelter. Check to see if there are any shelters in your area that accept unopened or gently used cosmetics, and maybe clean out your closet and donate some extras while you’re at it!

You could also gift it to a friend who may like the product. I mean, I tend to overthink but this may be a last resort for me because I would feel weird gifting a non cruelty-free product. Because what if they fall in love with it and repurchase? I’m sure I’m overthinking that.

What happens when a brand used to be cruelty-free, but isn’t any more?

This makes me so sad.

In the past few years, some of my favorite brands have flip-flopped. Some of them, actually, were lying about their status the entire time which sucks even more. (This is why you shouldn’t trust brands at their word and always use a brand list – again, more info in this post! But even then, these brands were on brand lists. Ugh.)

To be honest, this part is really up to the individual.

There are several things you could do that really are the same as I suggested earlier.

Some people you ask will say to keep the items and use them all up, because you don’t want to waste the product.

On a few occasions, I’ve just flat out trashed some of the products that I either didn’t care to use up or were inexpensive.

Can I be completely honest here?

I don’t see a problem with throwing these products away, if they can’t be given to a friend or donated in good condition.

The amount of “waste” that comes from the actual makeup is minimal. The biggest “waste” is the packaging, which is going to be trashed no matter if you use the product or not.

Of course, if you have access to Terracycling or can take the packaging to a store that offers recycling, then by all means, do that. (Makeup/cosmetic packaging generally is not curbside recyclable because it’s too small for their machines – anything smaller than an index card gets thrown away anyways.)

You’re also not going to recoup your money, since it’s already been spent. (This is known as the “sunk cost fallacy.”)

Something fun you could do, though…

Say you have a color cosmetic product like a lipstick or a mascara.

You could do a little DIY project with it! That would be perfect for an abstract art piece.

So what should you do with products that were tested on animals?

Summary graphic of the article. It reads" Going cruelty-free? Still have some products, or accidentally bought new ones, that are not cruelty-free? Return if still sealed, pass it to a friend, keep it and use it up, make an art project, donate to a women's shelter, trash/recycle if all else fails!"
Share this graphic on Instagram and tag me @azkaland!

The simple answer is that there is no simple answer.

It’s really up to you.

The difficult part for me is keeping things to use up, and being able to do so without mentioning them on my YouTube channel or on Instagram. At this point, I only have a small handful of products from brands that are no longer cruelty-free, and only mention them in project pan videos or empties.

I just find that using them takes my energy away from using the other amazing cruelty-free products in my collection, so I’ll probably declutter them soon.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you accidentally bought anything from a non cruelty-free brand? What did you do with it? (Or what would you do if this happened?)

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