As one of the most popular and highly recommended toothpaste brands in the world, Sensodyne offers solid protection from bacteria, a good defence against plaque, and the promise of a long-lasting, perfect smile.
But just how ethical is the company, and are their products cruelty-free?
Originally sold by Block Drug in 1907 – a Brooklyn-based company started by pharmacist Alexander Block – Sensodyne was first marketed as a desensitizing toothpaste in 1961, based on the now commonplace strontium chloride formulation.
In 1980, the company released a new formula containing potassium nitrate, which acted as a very mild local numbing agent, helping to rid sufferers of their sensitivity.
In 2000, Block Drug was purchased by SmithKline Beecham PLC, changing its name to GlaxoSmithKline. As of 2022, GlaxoSmithKline rebranded itself as Haleon PLC, employs over 22,000 employees, and recorded a net income of £1,439 million pounds in 2021.
What Does ‘Cruelty-Free’ Mean?
The term ‘cruelty-free’ refers to a company or product’s relationship to animal testing.
The testing of cosmetics on animals is banned in India, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Israel, and Norway, with the United States and Brazil looking at legislation to establish similar bans.
However, this controversial practice still occurs in many countries around the world, including the US, and often includes tests for toxicity, eye and skin irritancy, phototoxicity (triggered by ultraviolet light sources – such as the sun), and mutagenicity – that is, genetic mutations forming on previously healthy tissue.
Despite this, the United States is still one of the largest employers of this tactic, with an estimated 20 million animals being used annually in classroom dissections, live-animal surgeries, and drug testing.
Specific species include frogs, fetal pigs, perch, cats, earworms, grasshoppers, crayfish, and starfish – all of which are predominantly used in classroom dissections.
Common animals for drug and cosmetics testing generally include rabbits, white mice, rats, guinea pigs, and in the case of toothpaste, even dogs.
The Criteria For ‘Cruelty-Free’
For a company to be considered cruelty free, it must abide by three distinct criteria:
- Do not test any products or ingredients on animals.
- Do not allow other companies to test on their behalf.
- Do not sell their products in countries where animal testing is required.
There are many bodies which review the ethics of companies. However, only three possess the power to publicly state whether a company qualifies as cruelty-free or not: PETA, Leaping Bunny, and Choose Cruelty-Free.
Is Sensodyne Cruelty-Free?
Despite being so popular in a global market, quite shockingly, the toothpaste brand is not considered cruelty free, despite their claims to the contrary.
Sensodyne might not personally test their products on animals, nor do they officially get other companies to test their products on their behalf.
However, they do continue to sell and market their products to countless countries that still require products to be tested on animals, and as a result, they are not considered cruelty free.
The Classification Of Sensodyne
Throughout the three certification bodies listed above, Sensodyne doesn’t appear on any of the lists of companies they have reviewed.
However, Sensodyne does appear on PETAs list of companies and products to avoid due to their continual marketing and selling of their toothpaste products to countries where rampant animal testing continues – such as Asia, Russia, South America, and many of the non-EU European countries.
Do They Test On Animals?
Within their official guidelines on animal testing, the company states that while they do not test medical products on animals, they will test non-medical products where there is a ‘specific legal or regulatory requirement to do so.
They also go on to say that any cosmetic products are not tested on animals, but when scientifically needed, animals will be used, however, they will use ‘as few animals as is scientifically feasible.
Do They Sell To China?
Yes, Sensodyne is incredibly popular in China, and the country is one of the biggest proponents of animal testing, requiring it on all foreign products coming into the country for sale and distribution.
Sensodyne even has a specifically targeted Chinese website to accommodate its large Asian customer base.
Modern Chinese Testing Laws
In 2021, China introduced some new animal testing laws, stating that general cosmetics such as shampoo, body wash, lipstick, lotion, and makeup can all be sold in the country without first being tested on animals.
However, the small print for this agreement requires companies to jump through hoops in order to opt out of animal testing, meaning that many companies, including Haleon (Sensodyne’s owners) have not yet changed their product testing status.
Even if a new piece of legislation comes into effect that makes it easier for companies to opt out of animal testing practices, they still run the risk of post-market testing – wherein products are tested after they have already hit the market.
Is Sensodyne Vegan?
No, Sensodyne is not considered vegan because they continue to associate with countries that require animal testing.
Sensodyne also contains some animal-derived ingredients in their products and as such, is not suitable for the vegan community.
Luckily, in contemporary society, there are several viable alternatives which not only contain no animal products but also comply with the cruelty-free mantra.
- Hello Sensitivity Relief & Whitening
- Tom’s of Maine Rapid Relief
- Jason Total Protection
- Kiss My Face Sensitive
- Green Beaver All Natural
And there we have it, everything you need to know about Sensodyne, their cruelty-free status, the qualifiers of such a status, and what viable alternatives are on the market.
Now more than ever, we have little need for animal testing, and for those companies who continue, there are countless competitors who not only produce great products but who conduct business in a way that is ethical and fair.