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Committed to Compassion

Published 03/15/05
Source: Animal Issues, Volume 36 Number 1, Spring 2005

As headquarters for the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), API was thrilled to learn about Jean Knight, and her company, White Rabbit Beauty.

White Rabbit Beauty is an online cosmetics shop that differs from its competitors in a significant way: It only sells products certified by CCIC! This means that every single product available through White Rabbit Beauty is certified to be truly free from animal testing.

Companies certified by CCIC have signed the Corporate Standard for Compassion for Animals, a pledge that they must:

  • No longer conduct or commission animal tests
  • Not purchase from suppliers ingredients that have been tested on animals after a fixed cut-off date
  • Verify the strict implementation of their fixed cut-off date with supplier assurances.

CCIC’s program is the only program of its kind, and is the Standard that consumers can truly trust when they want to shop with compassion.

API’s Consumer Affairs Coordinator recently spoke with Jean Knight, founder and CEO of White Rabbit Beauty, about her company and her commitment to animal protection:

API: What motivated you to form White Rabbit Beauty?

JK: A small battered red tabby cat from Plano, Texas. I brought him home to Oregon, named him Plano, and he’s doing just fine now, but that was the tipping point for me. I’d always been troubled by animal testing, and when I consciously thought about it, I would look for cosmetics that hadn’t been tested on animals. But that "consciously" part was inconsistent. ... I didn’t always think about it, especially when I didn’t see products in the stores.

Plano wasn’t a laboratory animal, but meeting him forced me to confront animal cruelty head-on. As part of that, I wanted to buy only cruelty-free products. That was easier said than done, because I didn’t want just any products, I wanted good products, and that took some effort to find. In talking with other women, I discovered that we all would prefer to buy cruelty-free, assuming the products are good. That’s why I created White Rabbit Beauty, to make it much easier for women to find great cruelty-free products. The overarching hope is that this will send a message to cosmetics companies about what women really want.

API: What are your reasons for carrying only products certified by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC)?

JK: I discovered that the "no animal testing" label on products was meaningless. Many brands state this in good faith, but others use it as a marketing gimmick when they actually do test. For example, they really mean "we don’t test, but our suppliers do" or "we didn’t test this particular formulation, but we tested individual ingredients." CCIC certification was the only way I could be sure a product was truly cruelty-free.

API: You have a strong science background as a civil engineer for environmental engineering and water resources, coupled with a BSCE from MIT and MSCE from Stanford. How has your experience and educational background shaped the development of White Rabbit Beauty?

JK: In many ways, at many different levels. At the highest level, it taught me how to think about problems and how to carry through to a solution even when it takes years. Civil engineering projects don’t happen overnight ... for example, building a water system takes years from planning to operation.

But probably more importantly for my customers, my chemistry background helped me sort through the many conflicting claims about ingredients, both the miraculous and the dire claims. Some claims are clearly urban myths and some are clearly warranted, but many have no clear-cut answer. For those, my chemistry knowledge and experience definitely informed my decisions. Especially for safety issues, my experience working for the EPA and cleaning up hazardous waste sites was helpful, not only from a chemistry standpoint, but in understanding public concerns.

API: Do you believe ethics and effective cosmetics can go hand in hand?

JK: Absolutely! Animal testing has nothing to do with effective (or safe) cosmetics. All brands, whether they test on animals or not, have good, mediocre, and occasionally bad products. The trick is to sort through the ingredients and find the good ones. I found really excellent products among brands that don’t test.

API: Do you see consumer awareness of animal testing for the beauty industry changing?

JK: I don’t know. I haven’t been in this field long enough to have a feel for that. But I hope that White Rabbit Beauty will help build that awareness. I do know that every woman I asked when I first considered this store expressed real excitement at the idea ... and this was across-the-board from women with many different viewpoints about animals. Not one woman wanted animal testing if it could be avoided.

API: What makes White Rabbit Beauty different from other cosmetic distributors?

JK: It sells only CCIC-certified products, and every product has been vetted for effective ingredients. We also don’t carry products that have a higher risk of causing problems. For example, we don’t carry products with formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, because they are the number-one cause of contact dermatitis from cosmetics. Every person is different, and every ingredient can cause a problem for some people, but some ingredients bring a higher risk and those we’ve chosen not to carry. That’s a big difference between us and most retailers, who tend to carry the entire line from a brand, or those products that they’ve found are their bestsellers. We also discount everything at least 10–30% to encourage buying cruelty free, plus we have no sales tax, because this is an Oregon company.

API: Some consumers find that it takes a bit of extra effort to identify and locate non-animal tested products. How does White Rabbit Beauty help respond to this need?

JK: By eliminating that effort! I know just how they feel, because that’s what prompted the creation of this store.

API: What is a favorite product that White Rabbit Beauty carries right now?

JK: It’s very tough to pick just one. All Gabriel makeup is popular; the Beauty without Cruelty full-volume mascara is the best mascara I’ve ever used; the Alba sea mineral skin care products are very popular, as are the Avalon CoQ10 wrinkle serum and creme, Beauty Without Cruelty’s Green Tea Eye Nourishing Gel, and all the JASON vitamin C skin care products. For hair care, the entire Alba line and the JASON hemp shampoo are very popular. We’re also adding some new products shortly as the CCIC list grows to include more approved companies.

API: I noticed on your web site that your Board consists of some unique members, such as a rescued shelter kitty, Jennycat; Fiona, the cantaloupe-loving terrier; and Pete, the cat-herding border collie. Do you see your Board expanding as White Rabbit Beauty grows to include more companion animal contributors?

JK: We currently have two prospects, Melee and Nitro, who are 7-month-old shelter kitties. They’ve been angling for board membership but we’ve explained that they can’t join until they stop stealing everyone else’s toys.

API: How can consumers learn more and view the products you carry?

JK: The best way is to visit the web site at www.whiterabbitbeauty.com. You can also call us toll free at 888-312-3266.

API is pleased to include in Animal Issues information about companies that sell CCIC-approved products; however, such inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by API.

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