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Ethical brand ratings and accreditation since 2001

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Is Kiehl’s an ethical brand?

Kiehl’s does not receive a high Good Shopping Guide in our Ethical Skincare Ratings Table. Kiehl’s was founded as a Manhattan health and beauty store and homoeopathy pharmacy in 1851. The family who had run Kiehl’s until 2000 sold the brand to L’Oréal during that year. Unfortunately, L’Oréal is a hugely controversial parent company and currently does not adhere to basic ethical standards. For this Kiehl’s to qualify for our Ethical Accreditation, it must make a number of changes, as must its parent company, L’Oréal.

The Good Shopping Guide encourages all brands in the Skincare sector to reach for a higher ethical standard of business practice.

Skincare and the COVID-19 pandemic

Skincare has recently taken off in a big way, and is now widely advertised on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. Over the pandemic, we were all confronted with our skin every day, sometimes spending hours on Zoom calls, where all we did was check ourselves every five minutes to see if we looked ok. Our sense of ‘hygiene’ changed.* We now wear masks that can cause irritation and acne outbreaks. Hyper-realistic filters now airbrush influencers’ skin, so we think that flawless skin is the norm. The skincare sector and large conglomerates saw this consumer interest in skincare, and have launched celebrity skincare lines and pushed skincare lines like never before.

L’Oréal is no different from these other huge multinational companies. This is a sector with huge wealth and influence, so it’s vital that ethical consumers choose carefully who we support with our money, time and attention. Read on to find out if L’Oréal’s Kiehl’s deserves yours.

*Skincare is often nothing to do with ‘hygiene’ and it is not unhygienic or abnormal to have acne, dry skin or wrinkles. 

Is Kiehl’s Cruelty-Free?

Our team of independent researchers could not find evidence anywhere of Kiehl’s being a Cruelty-Free brand. Additionally, its parent firm, L’Oréal is certainly not Cruelty-Free, and many of the products of its other subsidiary brands are tested on animals.

The Good Shopping Guide considers the activities of the parent firm when evaluating the animal welfare standards of various brands because we believe that customers should be made aware of this information. If parent companies own the majority or a sizable portion of the company, it may be assumed that they will profit greatly from the sales of the brands they own. The Good Shopping Guide looks at a brand’s ethics as well as the activities of the parent corporation.

It is entirely up to you as a customer to decide if you want to buy from particular brands that don’t test on animals but whose parent companies do. Customers ought to be as informed as possible about the products they buy.

Is Kiehl’s vegan? 

No Kiehl’s products have currently obtained Vegan-accreditation, and Kiehl’s is not Cruelty-Free, therefore, its products can not be Vegan. Vegans should be aware that certain Kiehl’s products contain honey.

The beauty industry and colourism

As recently as 2020, giants in the cosmetics sector such as Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, and Beiersdorf have come under fire for marketing skin-lightening items that support colourism in the cosmetics sector. Any cosmetic product should never attempt to achieve lighter, whiter, or fairer skin; promoting such a product is Irresponsible Marketing.

Other Human Rights criticisms of L’Oréal

Consumers should be aware that Nestlé, a global powerhouse, owns a large proportion of L’Oréal’s shares. Nestlé brands receive a very bad rating from The Good Shopping Guide due to the company’s involvement in a variety of unethical business practises in all of our research categories.

One of the most significant ethical issues L’Oréal is linked to was brought to light by the Associated Press. Violence against women has not only been allowed but is frequent in several Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil plantations. Women were subjected to dangerous chemicals and assaulted physically and sexually. Some of the victims of abuse and assault were as young as 16 years old.

Please be aware that the article from The Associated Press contains some very upsetting details.

In what areas does Kiehl’s perform well ethically?

The Good Shopping Guide carefully researches a brand’s Environmental Report since a brand or company’s documents relating to environmental issues frequently provide a good indication of that brand or company’s awareness of its impact on our planet. L’Oréal has released an Environmental Report with satisfactory record keeping of goals and progress made so far.

How can Kiehl’s improve its ethical rating?

The Good Shopping Guide uses 15 ethical criteria to establish Kiehl’s score. Kiehl’s needs to explain and address a number of ethical issues, such as its position on GMOs, Animal Welfare, and its complicity in the unethical production of palm oil.

Ethical performance in category


GSG score


GSG category benchmark


Ethical Rating


  • Environmental Report


  • Genetic Modification


  • Organic


  • Nuclear Power


  • Fossil Fuels



  • Animal Welfare


  • Vegetarian/Vegan Verified



  • Armaments


  • Irresponsible Marketing


  • Political Donations



  • Ethical Accreditation


  • Public Record Criticisms


  • Public Record Criticisms+


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