If you buy something through the links, I may earn an affiliate commission (at no cost to you). Read the full disclosure here.
I independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you buy something through the links on the site, I may earn an affiliate commission (at no cost to you). For more information, read the full disclosure here.
Cruelty-free Makeup, Clean Skincare, Vegan Beauty… so many terms are used nowadays, and I get it; it’s overwhelming. Because what does it all mean? How can we all be more conscious? How to switch to cruelty-free? What to look for?
I understand this is quite a lot, and you have many questions. In this post, I’m going to explain everything about cruelty-free beauty, what vegan & clean beauty are, how you can switch to cruelty-free, and I’m going to answer your questions about specific brands: are they cruelty-free or not?
Mind that this guide isn’t written to make you feel bad about yourself. Even though I think cruelty-free products are very important, my collection is definitely not 100% cruelty-free.
This post is here to give you more knowledge about cruelty-free, clean and vegan beauty and what you can change as an individual only if you want to make a change. Every decision and every purchase can make a difference, so even baby steps or small adjustments are totally fine.
This guide is full of helpful information about everything you want to know about cruelty-free makeup and skincare.
Just here to know which brands are cruelty-free? No problem, just click here to jump to the list immediately ↓
The Basics About Cruelty-Free Makeup & Skincare
Cruelty-free refers to the movement that seeks companies and governments to stop experimental animal testing. Not just for finished products but any part of the production process of a product. That includes third parties and suppliers as well.
The industries that are most exposed to this subject are beauty, fashion, personal hygiene, and cleaning products. If a living animal is experiencing pain in the name of manufacturing something, suffers, or has permanent damage — it usually ends up being killed at the end of the test. For this reason, a lot of consumers turn against brands that still participate in these practices.
Not only is going cruelty-free, vegan, and/or clean for ethics or the love for animals, but it is also because people realize more and more that beauty products that aren’t in the cruelty-free/vegan/clean range can include harmful ingredients for our health and the earth. Although some recognized brands explain that the percentage of toxic substances that some of their creams and makeup have is minimal, if you put it on every day, it becomes a poison, which can produce allergies and skin alterations.
Warning: Terms Are Not Regulated (Yet)
For some reason, brands can easily throw terms like “cruelty-free,” “clean,” “vegan,” and “non-toxic” around but these terms are not regulated by the FDA, meaning any company can claim to be “cruelty-free” or any of the above terms, regardless of their (animal testing) policies. This means blatantly trusting the brand promises isn’t the way to go cruelty-free/vegan/clean anymore.
How Do You Know If A Product Is Really Cruelty-Free?
So as I said, unfortunately, any product can bear the “cruelty-free” stamp without actually being one. In this way, some companies confuse consumers by making them believe that they are buying a product sensitized to animal cruelty. I follow the “rules” that Cruelty-Free Kitty has stated on their website and which they use if they do research. A brand is only cruelty-free if:
- The brand itself doesn’t test finished products or ingredients on animals
- The brand’s suppliers don’t test finished products or ingredients on animals
- No third parties test the finished products or ingredients on animals
- The brand doesn’t test on animals where required by law
You always have to do your research. The best way to do this is to check brand visions, policies, cruelty-free labels, and ingredient lists or use websites like Cruelty-Free Kitty or Ethical Elephant. These websites feature a database of cruelty-free companies. Simply type in your brand’s name, and you will discover whether they are or aren’t dedicated to the cause.
The Differences Between A Vegan And A Cruelty-Free Product
The terms vegan and cruelty-free have different meanings, so it is not the same and can’t be used interchangeably. It is possible that a product is cruelty-free and not vegan or, the other way around, vegan and not cruelty-free.
When the product indicates that it is vegan, it means that it does not contain ingredients of animal origin or derivatives thereof. For example, it does not feature collagen, wax, milk, carmine, glycerin, squalene, lanoline, and biotin that are extracted from animals.
When you meet a product that is marked as cruelty-free, it means that the product is not been tested on animals, but it can have ingredients that are not vegan.
- Cruelty-Free: Not tested on animals.
- Vegan: Does not contain animal-derived ingredients.
So are there any products that are both? Yes. Thankfully, in recent years, several cosmetics brands have been launched that commit to both being cruelty-free and vegan. Often in addition to being free of parabens or sulfates, considered harmful ingredients.
Some of the most common components of animal cosmetics are honey or beeswax, lanolin from wool fat, carmine made from insects such as shredded cochineal, squalene that can come from shark liver oil, dairy products, the gelatin of the tendons or ligaments of the cow or pig, biotin, and also some forms of hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and retinol.
Vegan products are those that do not contain animal-derived ingredients in their formulation and in their result. Happy to say that nowadays, many companies have dedicated themselves to reformulating their products from scratch. An example is Kylie Cosmetics, which was rebranded into a completely cruelty-free, vegan, and clean brand.
But please be aware of the fact that if a product is listed as vegan, it does not automatically mean that it has not been tested on animals during its manufacture. To recap one more time, if a product is vegan, it does NOT guarantee that it is also cruelty-free.
The Differences Between A Clean Product And A Cruelty-Free Product
Clean Beauty is also known as Non-Toxic Beauty, which means that the products do not contain certain ingredients that are bad for you and the environment or harsh for the skin.
Some examples of the ingredients that don’t make the cut in clean beauty products are sulfates, silicones, phthalates, parabens, pesticides, petroleum derivatives, artificial coloring, and synthetic fragrances.
However, I need to warn about the terms “clean” and “non-toxic.” This is another term that is not regulated, and since it has become increasingly popular, many brands will just put ‘clean’ on their products to gain sales because of the increased clean beauty popularity.
You have to be careful! Thankfully shops like Sephora and Cult Beauty have a special section (Sephora even has its stamp) for real clean/non-toxic products, which makes it easier for us to shop the clean products truly.
- Cruelty-Free: Not tested on animals.
- Vegan: Does not contain animal-derived ingredients.
- Clean/Non-toxic: Do not contain certain ingredients that are bad for you and the environment.
Just like how vegan and cruelty-free have a different meaning, that goes with clean too. Clean or non-toxic products could still be tested on animals and cruelty-free products don’t have to be clean/non-toxic. Clean beauty is centered on creating safe, organic, and natural products that don’t contain harsh chemicals, fragrances, talc, parabens, or dyes. However, clean does not mean chemical-free.
If you do have sensitive skin, neither cruelty-free, vegan nor clean beauty necessarily means that these products will be better for you, and although the ingredients have not been tested on animals and are marketed as more natural/non-toxic, they can still contain irritants that cause contact dermatitis or allergic reactions on the skin.
Meaning Of Certificates
Over the last couple of years, several certificates/stamps are used on brands’ websites and their products. This makes it seem like a product is really cruelty-free, vegan, or clean. But this is another way some brands try to gain trust, sadly. There are some fake versions out there so please be careful and look out for logos that you can actually trust.
Certified Cruelty-Free Logos
There are currently three organizations issuing cruelty-free certifications, and they are:
- PETA’S Beauty Without Bunnies Program
- Leaping Bunny Certification via CCIC
- Leaping Bunny Certification via Cruelty-Free International
- Choose Cruelty-Free (CCF) which as of June 1, 2021, merged with Cruelty-Free International
If you find “Vegan and Cruelty-free” certificates on a product, it means that:
- It is an ethical product.
- During none of the manufacturing processes and/or product development and/or ingredients, animal products, by-products, or derivatives were used.
- No animal tests were used for the product or any ingredient.
- There is no risk of contamination. During its production hygiene rules must be used that prevent the manufacture of non-vegan products in the same space.
Other stamps certifying vegan products are as follows:
- Vegetarianos Hoy (Latin America),
- Vegan Action, The Vegan Society (USA, Canada, and Oceanía),
- Brazilian Vegetarian Society (Brazil),
- European Vegetarian Union (Europe).
Personally, I never trust these certificates or logos. Some brands can make it look so similar to a real certificate that I preferably do research first through Ethical Elephant or Cruelty-Free Kitty. I also check the ingredients list to see if I can spot any non-vegan or toxic ingredients.
How To Support The Cruelty-Free Movement?
If you’re ready to join the cruelty-free movement but don’t know what to do or how to start, you could take one of the following actions:
- Replace the use of products that are not cruelty-free in your home;
- Donate money to organizations that fight animal testing;
- Give your signature and support legal actions for the enactment of laws in your country;
- Make the problem visible to your relatives (or followers, if you’re an influencer/content creator/blogger) without judging;
- Report irregular cases (if already a prohibited topic in your country);
- Volunteer in a problem visualization program;
- Surround yourself with people who support this movement too;
Keep in mind that any action you choose will require time, constant updating, and character. Therefore, it might not be easy to transition to a lifestyle that supports cruelty-free products. However, you don’t have to change in 1 day. It’s fine if it takes you months or even years. It’s okay if you want to finish products first now that you’ve already bought them. Rome wasn’t built in one day either. Take the time you need!
On top of that, there are also different categories in the cruelty-free movement and you can decide for yourself how far you would like to go and what is achievable for you. If a brand is cruelty-free in your country, and that’s enough for you, that’s fine. If you don’t want to support brands that still sell in China or who have an animal testing parent company, do you! There’s no right or wrong! We’re trying to better ourselves, save animal lives, and reduce our environmental impact. Trying and not being perfect at it is better than not trying at all.
You don’t have to do everything. It’s not bad if sometimes your actions contradict each other. We tend to be inconsistent at the beginning. Despite this typical human nature, the most important step is to start. If not today, when do you think you could? The moment is always now.
Why Switching Is Critical To The Environment
Not only is switching to cruelty-free makeup and skincare, vegan, and/or clean beauty important for animal and human health, but it is also very critical for the environment. Some of these critical reasons are:
Fewer Chemicals In Production
In general, the chemicals in the products such as parabens and sulfates are harmful. And not only for applying to your skin, but also for the whole planet’s health. And the company’s cruelty-free production doesn’t include them. Also, animal cruelty-free cosmetics reduce outbreaks, allergies, and inflammation.
They Use Natural Ingredients And Materials
Many companies or brands that are committed to cruelty-free/vegan/clean production use natural and more sustainable ingredients and materials. All those products include makeup, skincare, and home cleaners, as well as their packaging. The use of more environmentally friendly materials leads the company to a better choice for the environment.
Experimenting With Animals Is A Very Cruel Process
Animals used in experiments are not only confined to very small cages that limit the ability to move but are also subjected to tests that are more than cruel. They are tortured, mutilated, drowned, and finally killed. The animals are raised to live a life of fear and suffering. This is in no way environmental-friendly as it can even cause the extinction of animal races.
Allows You To Reduce Exposure To Toxic Products
Switching to cruelty-free makeup and skincare brings you to products that are healthier for you. Many of the most common brands are filled with aggressive or toxic chemicals that don’t bring anything good to your body. Using lotions filled with kinds of paraffin, fragrances and harmful chemicals is not a healthy habit, so make sure your skin absorbs those that are healthier.
You’ll Feel Good
When you vote with your dollar and choose with your conscience, it automatically feels good. Choosing not to purchase such products will lead to a decrease in production — thus to less animal testing. Even if you are just alone, you will know that by being resilient, you won’t have your hands in the torture of animals. It is a very good feeling to know that your purchase of cruelty-free products is supporting the greatest good of our planet. Whether you spend a dollar or a thousand, it doesn’t matter. When everyone adds up, our individual actions create positive change in the world. Your shopping is part of it.
So, What Can We Do As Consumers?
Switching to a cruelty-free. vegan and/or non-toxic environment will lead to a more minimalist lifestyle. Cruelty-free Kitty says it is “a great excuse to think more about your purchases” and reminds us to be more aware and less wasteful. And also encourages us to be better for the environment and our wallets. In addition, your purchase will help the organization that is helping many other companies. Biofriendly Planet described:
What To Do With Your Old Products Tested On Animals?
In many cases, when you decide to go cruelty-free, quite a few of your old beauty products are probably tested on animals. You already feel guilty about purchasing those products without even knowing and want to throw them away. Still, the best thing to do at that moment is to:
Finish Them Up
You have already spent money on the products, it would be even more wasteful to throw these products out. Instead, use the products until you finish them and just decide to not repurchase that product and from that brand anymore. If you really don’t want to finish those products anymore, you might be able to sell unused makeup and/or unopened skincare items. If you have already used it, try the next tip below.
Give Your Products To Your Friends Or Family
Not everyone is going to participate in the cruelty-free, vegan, and/or clean movement, it’s a sad fact but it’s the truth. You may have friends or family around you whom you can give those products to. Make sure to explain why you went cruelty-free, you might inspire them to at least think about it themselves too.
Are These Brands Cruelty-Free?
If you want to see a list of cruelty-free makeup brands, please check out these 30+ Amazing High-End Cruelty-Free Makeup Brands. I’m going a little further into this list (adding some more brands here) + answer if a specific brand is cruelty-free or not.
Is CeraVe Cruelty-Free?
CeraVe is not cruelty-free. They claim that they are on their website but they sell their products in China, where animal testing is still required by law. Moreover, their parent company is L’Oreal, a company that tests on animals.
Read more on Is CeraVe Cruelty-Free here.
Is Benefit Cruelty-Free?
Benefit is not cruelty-free. Benefit claims that they do not test on animals, but it is uncertain if their suppliers and third parties do not engage in animal testing. Moreover, Benefit is sold in China, where animal testing is still required by law. Benefit does test on animals where required by law (they’ve committed this) and is therefore not a cruelty-free company.
Read more on Is Benefit Cruelty-Free here.
Is Elf Cruelty-Free?
Elf is cruelty-free. They have confirmed that they don’t test finished products or ingredients on animals, nor do their suppliers or third parties. They also don’t sell their products where animal testing is required by law. Moreover, Elf is not owned by any parent company that tests on animals and is 100% vegan.
Read more on Is Elf Cruelty-Free here.
Is Cetaphil Cruelty-Free?
Cetaphil is not cruelty-free. The brand is owned by Galderma, a company that tests on animals, stating that they test on animals when required by law. “Specifically, we are required by law to submit Cetaphil products for animal testing to import Cetaphil into the People’s Republic of China” is what Galderma said about Cetaphil products.
Read more on Is Cetaphil Cruelty-Free here.
Is Dior Cruelty-Free?
Dior is not cruelty-free. Although Dior as a company does not test their finished products on animals, they nevertheless pay others to test its products on animals where required by law. They sell their products in mainland China, so they’re not cruelty-free. On top of that, Dior is owned by LVMH, a company that tests on animals.
Read more on Is Dior Cruelty-Free here.
Is Smashbox Cruelty-Free?
Smashbox is cruelty-free. They have confirmed that they don’t test finished products or ingredients on animals, nor do their suppliers or third parties. They also don’t sell their products where animal testing is required by law. However, remember that Smashbox is owned by Estee Lauder, a company that tests on animals. If you prefer avoiding brands owned by a company that tests on animals, avoiding Smashbox is better.
Read more on Is Smashbox Cruelty-Free here.
Is Glossier Cruelty-Free?
Glossier is cruelty-free. They have confirmed that they don’t test finished products or ingredients on animals, nor do their suppliers or third parties. They also don’t sell their products where animal testing is required by law. Moreover, Glossier is not owned by any parent company that tests on animals.
Read more on Is Glossier Cruelty-Free here.
Is IT Cosmetics Cruelty-Free?
IT Cosmetics is cruelty-free. They have confirmed that they don’t test finished products or ingredients on animals, nor do their suppliers or third parties. They also don’t sell their products where animal testing is required by law. However, keep in mind that IT Cosmetics is owned by L’Oreal, a company that tests on animals. If you prefer avoiding brands owned by a company that tests on animals, avoiding IT Cosmetics is better.
Read more on Is IT Cosmetics Cruelty-Free here.
Is Laneige Cruelty-Free?
Laneige is not cruelty-free. The brand is owned by AmorePacific, a company that tests on animals, and states that they do tests on animals when required by law. Laneige is available for sale in countries with mandatory animal testing. This means that their products were likely tested on animals.
Read more on Is Laneige Cruelty-Free here.
Is Anastasia Beverly Hills Cruelty-Free?
Anastasia Beverly Hills is cruelty-free. The brand has confirmed that they don’t test finished products or ingredients on animals, nor do their suppliers or third parties. They also don’t sell their products where animal testing is required by law.
Is Elemis Cruelty-Free?
Elemis is not cruelty-free. Elemis is available for sale in countries (Mainland China) with mandatory animal testing. This means that their products were likely tested on animals. Elemis is not owned by a parent company that tests on animals.
Is Huda Beauty Cruelty-Free?
Huda Beauty is cruelty-free. Huda Beauty has confirmed that it is truly cruelty-free. They don’t test finished products or ingredients on animals, nor do their suppliers or third parties. They also don’t sell their products where animal testing is required by law. On top of that, Huda Beauty is not owned by any parent company that tests on animals.
Is Innisfree Cruelty-Free?
Innisfree is not cruelty-free. The brand is owned by AmorePacific, a company that tests on animals and they state that they do test on animals when required by law. Innisfree is available for sale in countries with mandatory animal testing. This means that their products were likely tested on animals.
Is Tatcha Cruelty-Free?
Tatcha is cruelty-free. Tatcha has confirmed that it is truly cruelty-free. They don’t test finished products or ingredients on animals, nor do their suppliers or third parties. They also don’t sell their products where animal testing is required by law. However, remember that Tatcha is owned by Unilever, a company that tests on animals. If you prefer avoiding brands owned by a company that tests on animals, it’s better to avoid Tatcha.
Read more on Is Tatcha Cruelty-Free here.
Is The Inkey List Cruelty-Free?
The Inkey List is cruelty-free. The Inkey List has confirmed that it is truly cruelty-free. They don’t test finished products or ingredients on animals, nor do their suppliers or third parties. They also don’t sell their products where animal testing is required by law. Although The Inkey List is not owned by a parent company that tests on animals, Unilever Ventures and John Mills Limited have invested in the brand. This means that they each own a percentage of The Inkey List.
I hope this post gave you new insides into cruelty-free makeup & skincare, vegan and clean beauty. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments below! Let me know in the comment as well if you shop cruelty-free, vegan, and/or clean.