Over the past 20 years, hundreds of cosmetics companies have voluntarily sworn off animal testing, and for good reason: animal testing is deeply unpopular among consumers. Images of restrained rabbits having chemicals dripped in their eyes and guinea pigs with chemical burns on their skin, have made it difficult for most consumers to reconcile such suffering for the pursuit of a new mascara or beauty cream. But by going cruelty free, companies are doing more than placating consumers and protecting bunnies: they are also doing good science and good business.
Alternative methods are tests that use tissues and cells from humans (so-called "in vitro tests"), and sophisticated computer models or chemical methods (so called "in silico" and "in chemico tests"). Such tests are usually cheaper, faster and more predictive for humans than the now antiquated animal tests that were first developed over 70 years ago when product testing was in its infancy.
Modern alternatives are also required to undergo "validation" - a process to scientifically demonstrate that they are as or more "effective" than the animal tests they replace. In contrast, animal tests have never been "validated" for their use in reliably predicting human responses. The validity of animal tests is assumed based on length of use, rather than their ability to correctly screen for cosmetic safety. In other words, animal tests have effectively been granted tenure simply because they've been around so long, not because they do a good job.