Is Shea Moisture Vegan or Cruelty Free?

Shea Moisture is an American company owned by Unilever. It offers personal care products such as shampoos and body washes. 

It caused controversy back in 2017 when it ran a commercial that featured mainly white women. There was an outpouring of disappointment on social media as the ad included only one African-American female.

Shea Moisture’s customer base is made up mainly of African-American women.

The products are all-natural and cruelty-free.

Let’s look closer at Shea Moisture.

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Inspired by a grandmother

It was back in 1912 in Sierra Leone when Sofi Tucker had an idea. Sell shea butter, African Black Soap, and other homemade beauty items in Bonne’s village market. 

Fast forward to 1991. In Harlem, New York, Shea Moisture is started by Sofi’s daughter (Mary Dennis) and grandchild (Richelieu Dennis) who were touched by Sofi’s pioneering spirit.

Mary and Richelieu were joined by Nyema Tubman as the founding members of the brand. 

It seeks to celebrate the vision of Sofi and all hard working African women.

The company is certified as a brand that promotes environmental sustainability, fair trade where employees working in third world countries are treated with fairness and empathy and is cruelty-free.

Shea Moisture and animal testing 

When it comes to animal testing Shea Moisture has this to say:

“We are natural, organic, sustainably-produced goodness. Made with love for you and your body.

Pioneering fair trade through Community Commerce at home and abroad. We strive to be sulfate free, paraben free and more, whenever possible.

Tested on our family for four generations. Never on animals.”

Look at that last part. The company only tests on people (family members) and never on animals.

Talk about being cruelty-free

Yet, we know that it’s easy to make a cruelty-free claim and still know that animal testing is done. It may not be done directly by the brand but by third parties. 

Vy, who runs the cruelty-free website Ethical Elephant, wasn’t satisfied by the above statement from Shea Moisture. She writes:

“However, this was not enough information for us to classify any brand as being cruelty-free to our standards.”

Ethical Elephant’s standards are:

  • The brand does not test its finished products on animals.
  • The brand does not test its ingredients on animals.
  • The brand does not allow or ask a third party to test its ingredients, formulations, or finished products on animals on its behalf.
  • All of the brand’s ingredient suppliers & manufacturers also do not test on animals, and they verify this with documents or certifications.
  • The brand does not allow its products or ingredients to be tested on animals when required by law.
  • The brand does not sell its cosmetics in China under current conditions that may require animal tests. This includes brands must not be willing to allow the Chinese government to test its products or ingredients on animals.

Sending an email to Shea Moisture, Vy received this reply:

“We appreciate the opportunity to respond. SheaMoisture is a cruelty free company.

For over four generations, SheaMoisture has been tested on our family and friends, never on animals. We do not conduct animal testing nor do we ask others to do it on our behalf.

We support suppliers and organizations that are developing alternative methods of testing without using animals.

We do not test on animals, we are not affiliated with any companies which test on animals, and we do not sell in parts of the world that require animal testing.

In fact, in most parts of the world there is a trend towards the banning of animal testing, so savvy ingredient suppliers have provided cruelty-free ingredients for many years now.”

That puts the matter to rest regarding third parties. Shea Moisture doesn’t advocate animal testing. 

Shea Moisture seems to be sold in China 

Shea Moisture says that it doesn’t sell in countries that require animal testing. But, jump onto your favorite search engine and you will see that Shea Moisture is available in China.

Try it, type in: “Shea Moisture in China”. Then look at the results that come back.

Hang on, now we have a contradiction. That is because at first glance you will see Shea Moisture products. 

The issue with the products that you are looking at is that they aren’t from Shea Moisture. They are just using the name as keywords in the title of the products. 

So, there is no issue with the real Shea Moisture selling in China, because it doesn’t. 

You can’t even ship to China through their online shop. They only allow shipping within the US. 

Does that mean that Shea Moisture is no longer cruelty-free? After all, the products can be bought in China. 

China’s new animal testing laws don’t apply to B2C companies that sell directly to the customer. So buying Shea Moisture products through sites like doesn’t mean that the brand has to have its products tested on animals. 

It’s only if the products are sold through retail shops in China that there is a requirement to test on animals. Shea Moisture doesn’t allow its products to be sold in such a way. 

That means that Shea Moisture is cruelty-free. 

But Shea Moisture is owned by Unilever

bath products by the swimming pool

Unilever bought Shea Moisture back in 2017. Some animal welfare sites express concern that Shea Moisture is owned by a company that isn’t cruelty-free. 

PETA lists Unilever as a company that is working toward changing animal testing policies, yet doesn’t say that Unilever is cruelty-free. 

Unilever’s approach to animal testing is that it is working on alternative methods:

“We use a wide range of non-animal approaches to assess the safety of our products. Since the 1980s, our scientists have been developing and using alternatives to animal tests, e.g. computer modelling and cell culture-based experiments.

We regularly present and publish our work, and continually collaborate with others to share our knowledge and apply exciting new science to assure product safety.

We also work closely with researchers in the EU ToxRisk programme, which is driving changes in safety science away from animal testing. Our scientists regularly participate in discussions with regulators and scientists in China to increase the use of non-animal approaches to safety.

In 2019, in recognition of our work on alternatives to animal testing we received the Corporate Consciousness Award from the Humane Society of the United States.”

But just because the parent isn’t acting ethically, doesn’t mean a member of the family isn’t doing its part. 

Shea Moisture is recognised by PETA as being a member of the Beauty Without Bunnies program. There are two categories of this program that a company can apply for:

“Companies may be certified by PETA under one of two designations:

  • Global animal test–free recognizes companies and brands that have verified that they and their suppliers do not conduct, commission, pay for, or allow any tests on animals for their ingredients, formulations, or finished products anywhere in the world and that they will never do so in the future.
  • Global animal test–free and vegan recognizes companies and brands that meet the same requirements and whose entire product line is free of animal-derived ingredients. These companies are truly cruelty-free.”

Which one Shea Moisture falls under is uncertain. However, the certification means that the brand doesn’t test on animals.

Nor does it allow anyone in its supply chains to do so either. 

Are Shea Moisture’s products vegan?

Not all the products from Shea Moisture are vegan. Some contain animal derivatives. 

That may come as a surprise when you consider what ingredients the company uses. Looking on their ingredients list, everything appears to be plant-based.

Yet some products contain:

  • Beeswax
  • Collagen 
  • Conchiolin Protein 
  • Honey 
  • Keratin 
  • Lactose
  • Lanolin 
  • Milk
  • Pearl Protein
  • Silk 
  • Yogurt

Unfortunately, Shea Moisture doesn’t label which products are vegan. So, you’ll just have to go through the product you’re interested in and hopefully it’s vegan!

Shea Moisture is a B-Graded Fair Trade Organization

If you look at the bottom of Shea Moisture’s website, you will see a bunch of certification logos. One of those is that it is a “Certified B Corporation”.

What the heck does that mean?

The certification comes from “B Lab”, a non-profit organization. The purpose of B Lab is to change the way economies work.

It recognizes companies that are making a sustainable difference to the world and humanity. 

So, Shea Moisture is seen as a brand that meets B Lab’s strict standards of certification which are:

  • Demonstrate high social and environmental performance by achieving a B Impact Assessment score of 80 or above and passing our risk review. Multinational corporations must also meet baseline requirement standards. 
  • Make a legal commitment by changing their corporate governance structure to be accountable to all stakeholders, not just shareholders, and achieve benefit corporation status if available in their jurisdiction. 
  • Exhibit transparency by allowing information about their performance measured against B Lab’s standards to be publicly available on their B Corp profile on B Lab’s website.

One thing of concern is that Shea Moisture doesn’t appear in B Lab’s database of B Corporations. This could be that Shea Moisture, for some reason, hasn’t been recertified.

A roundup on Shea Moisture

Shea Moisture, though starting in 1991, has a legacy that can be traced back to 1912 in Sierra Leone. The company is dedicated to creating natural products that take care of your hair, skin, body, baby, and more. 

The company states that it doesn’t test on animals nor allows its vendors to do animal testing. PETA recognizes Shea Moisture as being cruelty-free.

There is no reason to doubt this even though the brand is now owned by Unilever (a company that isn’t completely cruelty-free).

Shea Moisture uses natural products but it isn’t a vegan company. To shop for personal care items that are vegan requires you to look at the ingredients.

The company don’t distinguish between vegan and non-vegan products. It would be so much easier if they did!

Shea Moisture is a company that is all about being sustainable and kind to animals and humanity. 

It’s a brand that Sofi Tucker would be proud of. It’s her legacy to the world.

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