In recent years, celebrities such as actress Natalie Portman and designer Stella McCartney have helped vegetarianism to rise above its associations with ugly sandals and a complete lack of humor. In Milan, where I’ve lived for five years, McCartney’s Falabella bags—100 percent polyester—are as common a sight as skinny jeans and nerd glasses. Sensing a marketing opportunity, many fashion and beauty companies have begun touting their green credentials.

Understanding beauty product packaging has posed a challenge for consumers: Which products have truly not been tested on animals? How can the caring consumer pick her lipstick? I decided to visit two major Italian retailers—the new department store Excelsior, owned by Gruppo Coin, and the historic beauty emporium Mazzolari—to find out.

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