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Is Beauty of Joseon Cruelty-Free? The Answer Is Surprising

by Yu-Jun Park 25 Jun 2024

The Claims: Cruelty-Free or Smoke and Mirrors?

First things first.

Beauty of Joseon, a brand that prides itself on using traditional Korean ingredients to revitalize your skin, claims to be cruelty-free. 

But here's where the plot thickens: scratching beneath the surface reveals complexities that deserve our attention. 

While the brand champions its clean slate of not testing on animals, there's a small yet significant hiccup: Beauty of Joseon’s bee venom serum.

Yep, you heard it right. Let’s unpack what’s really going on here.

What Exactly is Cruelty-Free?

Before we journey any further, let's demystify "cruelty-free." 

At its core, a product wears the cruelty-free badge if it hasn’t met a lab animal at any stage—from the first ingredient mix to the final polished product. 

This golden rule covers:

  • Every ingredient used
  • The eventual final product
  • Every animal-derived ingredient sourced, ensuring ethical treatment and processes

Yet, there's a catch. Simply because a brand pins a "cruelty-free" label on its premium packaging doesn’t assure transparency or ethical rigor. 

Say hello to the intricate dance of beauty marketing.

The Bee Venom Dilemma: Is It Ethical?

Bee venom potentially sits at the heart of an ethical storm. 

Esteemed for its supposed anti-inflammatory properties and enviable skin-plumping prowess, it's also questioned for the way it's procured.

The Dirty Secret

Capturing bee venom isn't a piece of honey cake. It involves an extraction process that many consumers aren't aware of. 

Here's the lowdown: bees are maneuvered into stinging a glass pane that's gently electrified. 

Visualize it—their venom is harvested without direct harm, but there's undeniable stress and strain. Think of it as a bee's version of a high-stress scenario.

Here's what's buzzing under the surface:

  • Strain on Bee Population: Bees are cardinal players in our ecosystem as pollinators. Any stress – physical or emotional – can ripple through their colonies.
  • Questionable Ethics: Technically, bees might not perish in the process, but the stress they endure could hardly align with a cruelty-free landscape. It's a gray zone we can't ignore.

But Wait, There's More—The Science Stuff!

You didn’t think we’d leave you hanging there, did you? Let’s get scientific.

Understanding Bee Venom

Welcome to the chemical underbelly of bee venom (apitoxin). 

Imagine a cocktail mix that nature’s tiniest warriors concoct, filled with peptides, enzymes, and acids, all shaking up an anti-inflammatory storm on your skin. 

Tempted? Sure. But remember, our ethical dilemma isn’t just buzzing around aimlessly.

The Chemistry

Let's break down the main players:

  • Melittin: This is the headliner, the Beyoncé of bee venom. With powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, melittin is like the magic serum that encourages localized blood flow, giving you that Insta-worthy plumpness. But ask yourself—do we really need to coerce these hard-working bees for a boost that plants can provide?
  • Adolapin: Think of this as nature's Benadryl. It provides pain relief, which might sound enticing if your skin's feeling a bit too Kanye (irritable and unpredictable). 
  • Apamin: A bit of a mixed bag. It aids neurological functions, but in high doses, it can be toxic. It’s like a frenemy—useful but potentially harmful.

So sure, these components can make a case for bee venom’s luminosity boost, but let's not forget—there are plant-based alternatives making waves without stressing our tiny friends.

Let's Break It Down: What Does This Mean For You?

Balancing a desire for radiant skin with a compassionate ethos isn't an overnight task. Here’s your navigational compass:

1. Do Your Research

Don't just seat yourself in the front row at the "cruelty-free" parade without questioning the floats. Put your investigative nature to work:

  • Verify with third-party cruelty-free authorities, like the steadfast Leaping Bunny or PETA.
  • Engage with genuine reviews from the consumer ground to find authentic experiences.

2. Know Your Ingredients

Arm yourself with knowledge to spot other animal-derived ingredients masquerading in your products:

  • Lanolin: Distilled from sheep’s wool, lanolin is a common cosmetic hydrator.
  • Carmine: Luscious red? It's often coaxed from crushed insect shells.
  • Collagen: Often sourced from cows, collagen is a star ingredient but an ethical red flag.

3. Spot Greenwashing Tactics

Don't let radiant ads or eco-friendly packaging fool you. Greenwashing is a go-to PR tactic for many brands.

  • Inspect the brand’s complete product range and past history.
  • Cross-check brand claims with actual policies and initiatives—do they truly support cruelty-free practices or is it just a marketing veneer?

4. Support Brands You Trust

The marketplace has no shortage of truly cruelty-free options. Prioritize brands that wear their ethics transparently and walk the talk.

  • Brands like Lush and The Ordinary are celebrated for their strong stance on ethical production.
  • Discover smaller, indie brands that resonate with your values and ethics.

5. Emerging Alternatives to Animal-Derived Ingredients

Thanks to innovations in the beauty world, synthetic and plant-based ingredients are refining themselves:

  • Plant Collagen: Crafted without animal involvement, shoots up as a stellar alternative.
  • Synthetic Lanolin: Emulates the moisturizing heroics without the shearing.
  • Beetroot Pigments: A rising star in achieving vibrant reds, sans insects.

And you know what? Animal-derived doesn’t have to mean cruel.

Our famous snail mucin is a next-level glow-booster — and is collected with absolutely zero harm or distress to our snails. 

The DIY Approach

Envision a DIY beauty regimen. Here are a couple of mindful recipes to kickstart your regime:

DIY Vegan Face Mask

  • Ingredients: 2 tbsp mashed banana, 1 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tbsp ground oatmeal
  • Steps: Mix into a smooth paste, apply generously, and leave for 15-20 minutes before rinsing.

The banana nourishes, coconut oil moisturizes, and oatmeal exfoliates without distressing any animal.

DIY Plant-Based Serum

  • Ingredients: 1 tbsp Aloe Vera gel, 1 tsp rosehip oil, a few drops of lavender essential oil
  • Steps: Blend well, store in a glass dropper bottle, and apply nightly for serene skin repair.

Aloe soothes, rosehip rejuvenates, and lavender calms, working like a charm.

Dialogue with Brands

Engage directly with brands. Customer inquiries can prompt more transparency and even shifts in policies.

  • Email brands with your cruelty-free concerns.
  • Use social media platforms to voice your ethics and standards.

Wondering about Beauty of Joseon’s authenticity on its cruelty-free claim isn’t just your prerogative; it’s a stepping stone for collective awareness. 

Ask questions, make evocative choices, and own your skincare saga with integrity.

So, Is Beauty of Joseon Truly Cruelty-Free?

In essence, the beauty landscape will often present ethical complexities—just like the bee venom dispute. 

While Beauty of Joseon might check some cruelty-free boxes, the nuances, particularly concerning bee venom, beckon a closer look.

Equip yourself with information, unearth transparent brands, and sync your skincare regime with your compassionate code. 

Every mindful choice tips the balance towards a more ethical, kinder beauty industry.

Compassionate Beauty: Your New Go-To Lifestyle

Feeling good and doing good? The dream combo can be your reality. Let’s recap how you can seamlessly integrate conscious beauty choices into your life.

Adopt a Conscious Beauty Routine

Transforming your beauty routine is easier than breaking a New Year’s resolution—and infinitely more gratifying.

  • Start Small: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your beauty routine doesn’t need an overnight makeover. Begin by switching out your products one at a time. Maybe start with that morning moisturizer or sheet mask. 
  • DIY Options: Tap into your inner alchemist. Create your own luxurious face masks using cruelty-free ingredients like creamy avocados, soothing oatmeal, and nourishing coconut oil. Slather it on, snap a few selfies, and relish in the knowledge you’re pampering your skin without harming a soul.
  • Support Ethical Brands: It’s a jungle out there, but brands waving the cruelty-free flag proudly do exist (just look at us!). Look for those that are not just hopping on the bandwagon, but have rooted commitments to ethical practices. Extra points if they’re eco-friendly—cause why not help the planet while you’re at it?

Stay Informed and Spread the Word

Empower yourself and others—knowledge is power, after all.

  • Be An Advocate: You’ve done the research, and now it’s time to be the Gandalf of your beauty circle—lead the way! Share your insights with friends, family, and social media followers. Your voice can inspire others to make compassionate choices too.
  • Demand Transparency: Brands have ears, and they’re attuned to consumer voices. By asking questions and demanding complete transparency, you play a crucial role in steering the beauty industry towards better, kinder practices.

You've Got This

At the end of the day, your choices have a ripple effect. Scrutinizing claims and making informed decisions turn you into both a savvy shopper and a compassionate being. Not only will your skin thank you, but the planet and its inhabitants will too.

Remember, beauty should never come at the cost of another living being's suffering. 

So next time you’re eyeing a new serum or moisturizer, take a moment to consider what’s in it and how it’s made. Cruelty-free beauty isn’t just a trend—it’s a movement. And you, my friend, are at the forefront of it.

Ready to make compassionate choices without compromising on your skincare goals? Research, choose wisely, and flaunt that ethical glow!

Stay beautiful, stay kind.


And that’s your ultimate guide! Now that you’ve got the knowledge to make better choices in the beauty aisle, it’s time to act. Keep questioning, keep researching—after all, you deserve to know the truth behind what you put on your skin.

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