In the German Pharmacy: Cruelty-free German cosmetics
I’m taking a break from travel! Only a short one, and nothing coronavirus -related (yet). I still hope to stick to all my travel plans, applying my watchful waiting policy to travel-related things. I occasionally write about subjects loosely related with travel, which err on the green side, and have compiled a little health and beauty souvenir guide of cruelty-free German cosmetics for you.
If you are on a holiday in Germany and are looking for a beautiful, sustainable and cruelty-free gift, look no further!
If you are simply interested in new cruelty-free quality products to try from the land of the pretzel and a motherly Eastern German leader, please read on! Here comes my guide to cruelty-free German cosmetics!
According to PETA, a company is certified as cruelty-free if it has “either signed PETA’s statement of assurance or provided a statement verifying that they do not conduct or commission any animal tests on ingredients, formulations, or finished products and that they pledge not to do so in the future.” These products can then display the PETA bunny certification mark.
Another prominent cruelty-free certification is the the “Leaping Bunny” from the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC). Put simply, the Leaping Bunny Corporate standard states that companies must not be party, conduct or commission animal testing for ingredient or finished product and have a monitoring system in place. You can read the entire standard here.
What if a company states they are cruelty-free but sell in mainland China?
Then chances are they are not a cruelty-free company. At the time of writing, animal testing is still mandatory on any cosmetic products that are sold in mainland China.
What “cruelty free” means to me
My interpretation of cruelty-free is when neither the brand nor the owner or parent company of a brand conduct or commission animal testing on any of its ingredients or the finished product. For me, Aveda is a case in point. And Bare Minerals. Both were cruelty-free as standalone companies. I loved and used them. However, Aveda is now owned by Estee Lauder and Bare Minerals is owned by Shiseido. Both parent companies are not cruelty-free, so I personally have stopped buying and using them.
I’m less fussed about whether ingredients are vegan and will use anything that contains ethically harvested ingredients from living animals, such as beeswax or ewes milk.
I avoid leather and haven’t really bought any new leather items since 2018, although I barely bought leather before, maybe one item per year at the most, and always quality pieces from small artisans or quality brands like Margaret Howell, where I expect to last the item for ages. I do wear wool, but again mostly quality knitwear that I look after and repair if necessary.
Where to buy cruelty-free German cosmetics
Actually, the blog post title is a bit of a misnomer. You do not find the best choice of cruelty-free cosmetics in a German pharmacy. But after checking our the French pharmacies for cruelty-free cosmetics, and researching cruelty-free perfumes after a visit to that famous ancient Florentine pharmacy, I keep the title in the same line.
German cruelty-free cosmetics brands I have tried and recommend
PETA has a list of PETA-certified cruelty-free products available in Germany if you wish to check on a certain product. I have noted that it is not up to date as far as parent companies are concerned -some are stated, some not. I noticed it when checking Burts Bees (owned by Clorox) and Hawaiian Tropics (owned by Edgewell), so take this list with a grain of salt.
My overall favourite German cruelty-free cosmetics brand. Effective, simple, and scientific, the parent company Wala goes back to the 1930’s when they produced mostly natural remedies for anthroposophic medical practice. After being banned under the national socialists and the company owner Dr Rudolf Hauschka arrested, they continued after World War II and launched their first cosmetic products in the 1960’s. From facial care through make-up and body care, they got most needs covered!
Where to buy?
In Germany, you find Dr Hauschka products in many organic supermarkets, some pharmacies and perfumery stores. Unless you go to a smaller store, unfortunately you will rarely get advice on which products will be good for your skin. However, not all is lost! Dr Hauschka actually trains and certifies cosmetologists and you can search them online !
They are Swiss, not German. But there had to be a good perfume-blender in this list! They are a family-run company that produces their perfume blends in Switzerland from organic raw materials from exclusive collaborating growers. They have were founded in 1982, and have recently handed over the reigns to the second generation. At the same time, they have made quite radical changes to their packaging and marketing in the past few years to make them more “contemporary” but the quality ingredients have remained the same.
Where to buy?
Here’s the sticking point, because I have barely seen these out in the wild. After trying and not liking at all the natural perfume offerings from Weleda, I am definitely gonna buy scent online without trying, so no try no buy! If you have been lucky enough to try their products, you can buy them on the company website. If you are in Europe, you can look up sales points, most of which are cosmetologists – time to book a treatment or two, perhaps?
They have a huge range, from decorative cosmetics to everyday essentials like deodorant and shower gel. You can buy Lavera products almost anywhere, and I’d rate them as mid-price. I have used a shower gel which was fine and smelled nice but nothing where I’d say amazing! I must have that again!
My only fail in the cruelty-free league, the deodorant, came after trying some very forgettable organic antiperspirants and eventually settling on Lavera 24h-natural deodorant which worked… for a little while. So I’m back on something I would rather replace, but body odour is a big no no. If you can recommend a gooood cruelty-free deodorant, please let me know!
Where to buy?
Almost anywhere! Like Weleda products, they are ubiquitous in chain drugstores and organic supermarkets. I have yet to find a product that is so amazing that I would mail order it, but you can buy a large range of their products on Amazon (at somewhat higher prices than in Germany
Here’s an interesting one, and I admit I have not tried it – yet! They received such good press and are a small company truly dedicated to quality organic skincare and sustainability, I couldn’t not include them. They have their headquarters and production facilities in a former monastery which they lovingly restored and recently acquired land in the US to grow their organic ingredients. Their products are all Demeter certified and come in minimal packaging, many of them in reuseable opaline glass containers.
Also, check out their really cool website full of stories and how they came to be the company they are today. And what’s really amazing, 5 Euros will buy you 15 testers of your choice – unfortunately only available in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Where to buy?
Sadly, this might be strictly a Germany trip souvenir or international buy. In Germany, you find them in many places. I have spotted them in major organic supermarkets like Alnatura. You can buy some of their popular products like the Eye Care Cream on Amazon, but prices are much higher. I tried to assess my skin but really got confused by all the product. I kinda think the neroli cream for “tired” skin might be good for me, but then so might be the rose, aloe ver and “happy aging”line! Before I shoot 30 Euros in the sand, I think for me, this means a trip to a certified cosmetologist that sells their products! At about 20-30Euro for 50ml, their moisturizers appear extremely well-priced for such a quality product.
Here’s another good one for smelling good! If you look for a good quality organic essential oil, Primavera is a renowned name in Germany. Compared to, say France, which is essential oil paradise, the offerings in Germany are a bit dire, and aromatherapy does not have the same status as it has in France or the UK. One can safely say Primavera is the market leader in Germany in aromatherapy, but there mostly known in the German market and not so much outside Germany, and this shows in their somewhat slim English website. Do trust me in that they’re really good! Since they were founded 30 years ago, they have always used organic ingredients when the res tof the world was still using cheap perfume oil. They make mostly essential oils, with the majority of them certified organic, some even under stricter Demeter certification.
They now also have a range of room sprays, relaxation sprays, sprays to clean your yoga mat and facial and massage oils. I have only used the essential oils, and I will continue using them although they are somewhat more expensive than organic essential oils in France.
Where to buy?
Another souvenir shopping item! You will find Primavera in organic supermarkets in Germany. Amazon has some of their classics like the Moisturizing Multi-Purpose face oil, but their large range of essential oils is best bought in Germany or from specialist retailers or on the Primavera website.
THE star coiffeur of Germany, a hairdo at his Berlin or Mallorca salons might be a bit on the pricey side. He is one of a very few that have bought out an entirely cruelty-free hair care line, though! And at prices that will not diminish your budget, in fact, I’d call them bloody cheap!
Where to buy?
Buy fabulously low priced hair care on the Udo Walz website, a German drugstore chain called Rossmann, or a chain perfumery called Douglas.
And where’s Weleda?
Weleda, one of the longest-established organic cosmetics brands, does not appear on the cruelty-free PETA list below. And strictly speaking, they are Swiss. According to Cruelty-free Kitty, Weleda is a cruelty-free company but they are not certified. Weleda also states they do not sell in Mainland China except toothpaste and bar soap, which apparently do not require animal testing. A lot of other websites on cruelty-free cosmetics also state that Weleda is indeed cruelty-free.
Weleda is now a multinational company which was sounded in 1920’s by two anthroposophic medicine pioneers: the philosopher Rudolf Steiner and gynaecologist Ita Wegmann. They also made ( and still make) homoeopathic and anthroposophic medicines, which I have very limited personal experience with. So this recommendation is for their cosmetics and body care products only.
My favourite? The Skin food cream. The best cruelty-free universal moisturizer. I also like their facial creams. Depending on skin type, they have different lines. I used the Iris line when I was pre-40. My mother has had lots of skin reactions to all sorts of facial creams (including Dr. Hauschka) but she uses the pomegranate and rose series without problems. I’ve been less lucky with the hair care products, but this might just be my fussy hair!
Where to buy?
Weleda is one of the most ubiquitous natural cosmetics brands around and available in chain drugstores, pharmacies, orgnaic supermarkets and some perfumeries. Sometimes even standard supermarkets will have Weleda products.
Organic drugstore brands
I have tried the lime showergel from the Alterra brand of the Rossmann chain of German drugstores. It is cheap, great on skin and smells great. There is some discussion on PETA2 on whether they are truly cruelty-free over disclosure statements, and at present they are not on the cruelty-free of PETA2. The jury is still out on that one.
Essence, Catrice and L.O.V. (owned by Cosnova)
All three brands are PETA-certified cruelty- free and Cosnova, according to information available on their website, has no other brands. I would therefore assume they are cruelty-free.
Other cruelty-free German cosmetics I have tried but weren’t that impressed
Benecos: Cruelty-free, vegan, and affordable! What’s not to like? Their nail colours looked great. The bottle cap broke after two uses, which meant I could pretty much forget about the rest of the bottle. The colour looked great onmy nails, but chipped badly after just one days light use, so definitely a bit of a waste for me. And I stayed away from the rest of the range.
Logona: In search of a shampoo that I could actually buy easily in Germany, I tried a Logona Shampoo. At 10 Euro a bottle it certainly wasn’t cheap but my hair felt dull and greasy at the same time with it. Logona and another organic cosmetics brand, Sante, are now owned by L’Oreal and in my eyes are therefore no longer cruelty-free, as L’Oreal is not certified cruelty-free.
My current routine
I admit that I use very few of the German brands stated at present. The reason? Well, I still have a good cruelty-free haul from France, and I discovered Aesop.
For me, some of Aesop’s stuff is the bees knees. Unfortunately, it is also very expensive. I do, however, like their philosophy of using plant-based ingredients, their minimalist recyclable packaging and the possibility to buy in large containers and reduce waste. The service in the stores is pretty good, too, and they are very generous with their testers to try our a product to ensure it is right for you.
My skin is on the dry, stressed side, with a tendency to couperosis. In the winter, I use Aesop Elemental facial barrier cream and rind concentrate lotion. For the precious Aesop not to be used up or when I travel and dont want to take loads of pots, I alternate with Weleda Skin Food which is a great all-round moisturizer. IN the summer months, I use a Weleda moisturizer. Weleda Iris day cream and night cream were my usual for the past ten years, although I think I switch to either Weleda Wild Rose or Weleda Pomegranate cream – you know, getting on a bit! I also consider Dr Hauschka Rose Day Cream. Cost is similar, more trial and error to come.
For cleansing, I use a castile soap, usually Aleppo or Nablus soap. I am currently using up my Dr Bronner soap which I found a little harsh. Definitely no hair washing with that one. I’ve experimented with Aleppo Soap for hair as well, and I am still trying to get used to that! So I use mostly shampoo form Alba Botanica or Korres.
As a fairly low-maintenance person, I look after my skin but barely use decorative cosmetics.
I have a couple of Korres lipsticks and fabulous Dr Hauschka Colour Correcting Powder. When I got married a year ago, I used a little more! I wanted my wedding makeup to be completely cruelty-free and knowing that I rarely use any eye make-up I bought a e.l.f. eye shadow which did a grand job. So I bought their eyebrow kit too! Nail polish goes on toenails only. I have some old bottles on nail polish hanging around from when I didn’t look so critically from L’Oreal, Chanel and the usual mainstream suspects. I bought one bottle of vegan cruelty- free Kure Bazaar nail polish and I adore the beautiful lasting colours of Deborah Lippmann, but to be honest, for something that goes on my toe nails Essence does a good enough job if I fancy trying out a new colour.
Last not least: scent! I spend more money on perfume than on all cosmetics altogether. My last buy was Azemour Les Orangers from Parfum d’Empire. I wrote to them a while ago and they confirmed that they do not test on animals nor do they sell in Mainland China and are therefore cruelty-free. I’ve also written a blog post about finding cruelty-free scent.
Sadly, I am not entirely cruelty-free, but I am working on it! I continue to use a toothpaste made my GlaxoSmithKline which my dentist recommended for my teeth. I have tried several cruelty-free options and the first problem I have, they rarely contain fluoride, and secondly, my dental issues crept up so I reverted to tried and tested. If you have recommendations for a cruelty-free fluoridated tooth paste/dental powder, please let me know!
Same goes for deodorant, or, I better say, antiperspirant. I went through at least five and will continue trying. The one that worked for a while was a deodorant by Lavera. I work in public and I’m pretty particular about smelling nice.
Where to find more advice on cruelty-free German cosmetics
I regularly check the cruelty- free lists of Cruelty-free Kitty and Ethical Elephant. They state clearly when a cruelty-free brand is owned by a larger company that ist not cruelty-free. PLease note that company policies change and a formerly cruelty-free company might now start selling in mainland China, or vice versa!
The small print cruelty-free German cosmetics
I have bought all products I use. No one has approached me to include certain brands and products in this review. Everyone’s skin is different! I strongly advise to test any products on a small patch of skin before using them.
Update 23.5.2020: I stopped using Amazon as a customer and as a consequence, for affiliate marketing, too. I have made several donations to cat shelters during COVID-19 which were much higher than any income from this blog. I don’t care about income from this blog as much as I care about supporting companies that pay a fair wage, pay taxes and provide good customer service. If you want to know where to buy a product, I suggest you search for it – I use duckduckgo on the Firefox browser which sees off most paid ads. I had some good experience with iherb for US and Indian products, otherwise I buy my cruelty-free German cosmetics locally.
Please refer to my Terms and Conditions for further information.
2 thoughts on “In the German Pharmacy: Cruelty-free German cosmetics”
Well, if you do not want to support companies that still do animal testing then Dr Hauschka and Weleda are not the right brands for you. This is why I do not use their products anymore. They still produce things for your health, I don’t know the English word (Arzneimittel), but something like organic medicine. And for these products they still test on animals.
Hi Hanne, there is the dilemma when the parent company tests on animals… with many cosmetic companies. Wala Arzneimittel (parent company of Dr Hauschka) makes naturopathy and anthroposophic medicines, so some animal testing, like with medicines, may be required by law, but is minimal. Animals testing on cosmetics has is banned in Europe since 2013, and the only animal testing takes place if the brands sell in China, which neither Wala, Dr Hauschka or Weleda do, and there is even progress in China on the topic. Its important to communicate openly about the issue with animal testing, and I thank you for your thoughtful comment. It is better to double check, especially with so much greenwashing going on with cosmetics PR, you wouldn’t know from their web site if they ar ecruelty free or not, and then there is the parent company issue too. If you read German, this short article about the certifications is a recommendation: https://www.aerzte-gegen-tierversuche.de/de/tierversuche/kosmetik/118-kosmetik-ohne-tierversuche?mtm_campaign=ads_kamp_tvallg.