The Draize eye test was developed way back in the 40s as a way to ensure that consumer products (especially cosmetics like mascara) are gentle enough and won't irritate or cause any damage to human eyes. But not only does this process subject our furry friends to unnecessary harm, it's also time-consuming and expensive. Both animals and humans alike benefit from better testing methods that cut critters out of the equation.
And now for the good news: A new test is being developed right now that's effective in vetting mascara, but cuts the animals out of the equation, and is more efficient and less expensive. Win, win, triple win.
Scientists at the University of Liverpool are developing a method to test mascara for potential irritation sans animal subjects. The test uses tiny organisms, or protozoa, called slipper ciliate and eyelash ciliate. These organisms have genetic similarities to humans and are large enough to see under a miscroscope. Researchers tested the mascaras by painting each on a small glass plate and placing them into an experimental chamber. They then added the protozoa and their food. After some time, the scientists were able to measure population growth on each glass plate, and they found that it varied by mascara—some brands killed the protozoa, while others didn’t harm them at all.
"This test has great potential for reducing the use of rabbits as it is both cheap and reliable, and while the protozoa have a similar metabolism to animals they are not classed as such,” notes Dr. David Montagnes, who supervised the project. "When you can develop a simpler and cheaper alternative, there is really no need to test cosmetics on animals," he adds. We agree wholeheartedly.
Another success in the fight against animal cruelty, Ipsen, the Paris-based pharmaceutical company that makes Dysport and Azzalure (both botulinum products that work similarly to Botox), has announced it will end animal testing by the end of 2014. (Allergan, which manufactures Botox, already has an alternative testing method approved and has pledged to reduce animal testing by at least 95 percent.)
Hopefully, new research and action by big companies like Ipsen and Allergan will pave the way for others in the cosmetic industry to follow suit and become more animal-friendly too.