It is extremely difficult to determine what brands are actually cruelty-free and to a large extent, it also depends on what level you, as an individual are satisfied.
For example, a brand that itself is cruelty-free might belong to a parent organisation that has other brands that are tested on animals. For example, Schmidt’s Naturals is a personal care brand that on the face of it is ethical and cruelty-free. However, it has recently purchased by conglomerate Unilever. Unilever in itself has hundreds of brands, many of which aren’t cruelty-free. So would you still consider Schmidt’s a cruelty-free brand or would you consider it a sell-out?
Other brands considered cruelty-free might not have tested in animals for products on sale in the UK. However, in other countries such as China animal testing is currently still a legal requirement, although China is in the process of changing that requirement. This means a company can claim to be cruelty-free in the UK, but if it is selling in China it’s likely those products have been tested on animals. As a consequence, there are some companies that refuse to sell to China. Innovaderma, a relatively new, but up and coming company, for example, has vowed not to sell any of its beauty brands, Skinny Tan, Roots Double Effect and Charles and Lee in China whilst the law requiring animal testing is in place.
Cruelty Free International is an organisation that certifies companies that are proven to be cruelty-free. One of the good things is that it quickly allows you to search for a brand and see if it meets their requirements. They also state when a brand has a parent company that is not certified cruelty-free. It is definitely worth checking out their database here.
In conclusion, it is worth researching brands you might be interested in to determine how cruelty-free they actually are.