Is dōTERRA cruelty-free?

Is dōTERRA cruelty-free?

If most of your vegan friends were supporting a brand, would you check whether it is cruelty-free before you start supporting it too? It rarely crosses my mind to do so. After finding out that dōTERRA sells in China, I have started checking every new brand that I discover. I am angry at myself for this till this day. The reason being that I checked the cruelty-free status of all brands that I have collaborated with for the cruelty-free kit. However, I did not think of checking the status of dōTERRA. My mind somehow assumed that since my vegan-friends use it, it has to be cruelty-free, when it seems that it’s not always the case. One always learns something new. So it is a new thing I learnt during my cruelty-free journey and it made me extra careful for any future brands I learn about.

As some of you might know dōTERRA is an MLM company. As Wikipedia describes it, Multi-level Marketing “is a controversial marketing strategy for the sale of products or services where the revenue of the MLM company is derived from a non-salaried workforce selling the company’s products/services, while the earnings of the participants are derived from a pyramid-shaped or binary compensation commission system”. In short, while other companies play the long game, MLM companies want to reach people faster.

Since many consider this strategy as unethical, many cruelty-free bloggers consider all MLM companies as not cruelty-free. They don’t bother to check on a brand level. On the other hand, since even some non-MLM strategies might be unethical too, I am currently opting to check on a brand level.

So now let’s go through the steps I take to find out whether dōTERRA and other brands are cruelty-free.

Does dōTERRA test on animals?

On their website, they claim that dōTERRA does not test on animals. However, then they go on about using results from independent animal tests which are certified by an organisation which makes sure that the animals are treated well, etc. Which made me wonder if they paid for these independent tests or not. So on one hand they don’t test on animals but they might be paying third parties to test for them? I did not really get it. However, the answer to this question on its own is not enough for me to decide whether a brand is cruelty-free. If you want to get your own opinion on this answer, you can read more about it on the dōTERRA website.

Is dōTERRA owned by a parent that is not cruelty-free?

dōTERRA is not owned by a parent company.

Is dōTERRA certified cruelty-free?

No dōTERRA is not certified cruelty-free.

Is dōTERRA cruelty-free?

My answer is that dōTERRA is not cruelty-free. However, as I do with other brands, and since I was told that I am being unfair for saying that dōTERRA is not cruelty-free, I will explain how I came for this conclusion.

Does dōTERRA sell in Mainland China?

A dōTERRA Malta representative who I collaborated with for a kit, shared on his stories that although dōTERRA sells in Mainland China it is still cruelty-free. “WHAAAT? dōTERRA sells in China” I told myself. Since I collaborated with him for the kit, the trust of my readers, customers, etc is at risk. I was hoping that dōTERRA really makes sure that it remains cruelty-free and that I am worrying for nothing.

So I contacted dōTERRA for additional information:

“Dear DoTerra,

Sadly, I have recently discovered that doTerra sells in China.

While I am happy that your products are exempt from animal testing, which I am assuming you are referring to routine tests, it is unclear what happens when the Chinese government suddenly pulls your products and test them on animals, without notifying you or asking your permission, as specified in this article:

I look forward to hearing a positive reply from you.

Thank you,
Fiona Vella”

The reply I received was a copy and paste of what the Malta representative already shared:

  • “Thank you for reaching out to us. We have been asked whether our business in China subjects us to its policy of requiring imported cosmetics to undergo animal testing in China. While dōTERRA complies with the laws of every country in which we operate, our products are not subject to that registration process. Specifically, dōTERRA’s essential oils need not be tested on animals because they are not imported as cosmetics, but rather are classified as aromatics or food additives. Also, dōTERRA locally manufactures its topical products, which exempts dōTERRA from China’s animal testing requirements for those items. Please let us know if you have any other questions, and have a wonderful day.”

This didn’t really answer my question as it was just a copy and paste of what I read on the stories posted by the Maltese representative.

Since they offered me the option ask further, I replied asked them again:

“Hi Dōterra,

I have read the exact same text on your website, that is why I contacted you earlier.

This text does not reply to my question. It does not clarify what happens during post-market non-routine tests, when the Chinese government suddenly pulls your topical products and test them on animals, without notifying you or asking your permission, as specified in this article:

I look forward to hearing a positive reply from you.

Thank you,
Fiona Vella”

I did not get any reply. They could have at least said, “this is our strategy for when this happens…” or “we are not aware of this” or “this is false information, it does not really happen”. Instead, I received no answer after my second email.

Are dōTERRA products in Mainland China are cosmetics?

It might not be a trick but now I am a bit biased and I see it as a trick. If you read well the reply from dōTERRA above, you notice that they did not mention cosmetics. They seem to have called their cosmetics “topical products”. At first, since “topical” many times means medicinal products, I was hoping that maybe topical products are not cosmetics. Since they sell supplements and oils which China considers as food additives, maybe topical products are just natural medicine products. In that case, there would be a big chance that they are cruelty-free after all.

So I visited the dōTERRA Mainland China website, to see what they sell apart from their essential oils. Under their “Personal and Health Care” category, I could find shampoo, skincare products, body care products, etc. So, in this case, by “topical products” they mean also cosmetics and yes dōTERRA sells cosmetics in Mainland China.

If they are selling just essential oils, or if they are selling their cosmetics without being in Mainland China, I would consider dōTERRA as cruelty-free. However, they chose to sell what the Chinese consider as cosmetics no matter what dōTERRA calls them, in China. Although producing cosmetics in Mainland China exempts dōTERRA from China’s animal testing requirements, it does not exempt their cosmetics from being tested by the authorities on animals during post-market non-routine tests. Also, dōTERRA did not claim that these non-routine tests do not exist. Which makes me think that they might know about them and are trying to as much as possible get away with it, especially since they just copied and pasted from a reply template without really replying to my question.

Which brands should I support instead?

If you are looking for a brand who is serious about its cruelty-free status. Check my list of brands that are against animal testing.

Am I being unfair?

When last weekend I posted a teaser for this post the dōTERRA Malta representative whom I collaborated with replied to my story. I told him straight that I will have to say that it is not cruelty-free since they sell cosmetics in China. However, he told me that I am being unfair that I am basing the status on China, as dōTERRA is a wellness company and not just a cosmetics company.

I think with this logic, then I should say that all brands are cruelty-free as right now the main thing that separates a cruelty-free brand from the rest is selling cosmetics in China. Also, all brands would claim that they are “not just a cosmetics company”. So am I being unfair? Should I close one eye about their China market since dōTERRA “are helping with people’s health”? As a person who’s main value is to support brands that are cruelty-free, I don’t think this is a solid argument to convince me to move dōTERRA to the cruelty-free list. However, I look forward to your feedback.

Source: dōTERRA Mainland China Website at 11.7.2020 


(a.k.a. Fiona Vella) Malta-born blogger. I have been blogging during these last 6 years on my cruelty-free lifestyle including recipes, beauty and makeup products that I discover, receive, buy and try.