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Is Olay a good brand of skincare? Compare the ethics of this skincare company.

Olay (formerly known as Oil of Olay, Oil of Olaz, Oil of Ulan, or Oil of Ulay) is a Procter & Gamble-owned American skin care company. Olay receives a low score on The Good Shopping Guide’s Ethical Skincare Ratings Table. Founded by a South-African Unilever chemist, Olay has been a popular skincare brand for over fifty years. But how ethical is Olay? And how ethical is its parent company, P&G?

The Good Shopping Guide encourages all Skincare brands and companies to keep pushing for higher ethical standards. We encourage Olay and P&G to change their business activities. Ethical changes to business activity can push a brand higher up our Ethical Ratings Tables.

Is Olay Cruelty-Free?

Olay is not Cruelty-Free. On the Olay website, the brand states that,

“We do not test our products on animals. Olay is working closely with governments around the world to provide alternative research methods to eliminate testing on animals, enabling cruelty-free skin care in the beauty industry. For example, in a few countries where Olay is sold, governments still mandate animal tests. In those cases, Olay can be required by law to submit our products to labs where we know animal tests are happening.

This is why we do not claim cruelty-free on our packaging. We do not believe these tests are necessary to evaluate safety or performance. But today, they won’t accept alternative non-animal testing methods. We remain steadfast and will continue to advocate for alternative methods to end animal tests in the industry.”

From this statement, it is clear that Olay does allow animal testing to be carried out on its products, in certain situations (such as where products are sold in-store in mainland China).

Is Olay Vegan?

As Olay is not a Cruelty-Free brand, this skincare company can not be truly Vegan. Olay products contain lanolin (a chemical secreted by sheep that gives their wool its slightly waxy texture).

Olay also contains retinol (an over-the-counter type of retinoid).

Is retinol Vegan?

There is often some confusion about retinols and retinoids, and whether these chemicals are made with animal products and by-products. Retinol is a vitamin (a type of Vitamin A) that is commonly used in skincare to encourage normal skin cell turnover. Vitamin A is important in our diets too, in the formation of embryos and foetuses during pregnancy, for our immune system and bone formation, and also aids our eyesight at night. Retinols are a type of retinoid, and retinoids are a form of Vitamin A. Whilst some retinol is derived from animals, retinol in skincare can come from synthetic, lab-made retinol.

Olay does not make it clear if its retinol is synthetic or from animal sources.

In a balanced diet, Vitamin A mostly comes from fatty animal products, such as eggs, whole dairy products, oily fish and beef. Vegans or Vegetarians may take Vitamin A supplements to make up for this in their diets. (Check out our Vitamins Ethical Ratings Table to find Vegan vitamins.)

Criticisms of Procter & Gamble

On the P & G company website, there is a section dedicated to its political involvement, which includes aspects like lobbying work, financial backing for state ballot initiatives, and the P&G Political Action Committee (which allows employees to pool personal, voluntary financial contributions to support candidates in the federal state).

Political involvement affects democracy. The Good Shopping Guide does not believe that huge corporations should be able to buy policy or put pressure on politicians to act in their favour.

P & G are infamous users and buyers of palm oil, one of the ‘dirtiest’ crops in the world. Palm oil causes mass deforestation, drives species to the brink of extinction and often exploits some of the most vulnerable people.

Companies involved in land disputes with rural communities in Indonesia have come under fire from activists. Recent land disputes in Sumatra and Kalimantan have resulted in the deaths of two native land defenders, four arrests, and at least two significant injuries. Both the mining firm Merdeka Copper Gold and the palm oil firm PT Bukit Barisan Indah Permai have been implicated in the recent killings and detentions of land rights advocates. Procter & Gamble and Mondelez International purchase palm oil from PT Bukit Barisan Indah Permai.

Read more about these land disputes here.

Is Olay an ethical brand?

Unfortunately, due to the unethical practices of P&G, and the continuation of animal testing and the use of animal products, Olay does not score well on our Ethical Skincare Ratings Table. Olay still has a long way to go if it wants to gain Ethical Accreditation.

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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