The ban, announced yesterday by Lord Williams, the Home Office minister, will at this stage only cover the testing of finished products, rather than the ingredients that make up the vast bulk of the experiments.
The decision, which was first revealed in The Independent on Wednesday, follows a dramatic about-turn by the Government who just two weeks ago said that cosmetic testing would have to continue, despite giving an election pledge to outlaw it.
Lord Williams said yesterday that his officials had contacted the three research companies carrying out cosmetic testing and they had agreed to stop. They will now examine which ingredients used exclusively in cosmetics can also be banned.
In addition, 19,300 mice could be saved next year when the Government intends to ban them from being infected with diseases to produce vaccines.
Cosmetic testing only makes up a tiny fraction of the 2.7 million animal experiments carried out for medical reasons each year.
Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, said: "At last we can celebrate a great first step after 21 years of campaigning."