Vegan makeup and cosmetics guide

Vegan guide to makeup and cruelty-free cosmetics

Cruelty-free vegan makeup is easy to find. There is no reason to buy cosmetics that contain animal by-products, or are associated with animal testing when superior cruelty-free brands are widely available. Check out our guide below to every explore vegan suppliers of conceivable sort of cosmetic, plus soaps, bath products, deodorants, and shampoos.

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This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.

Vegan vs. cruelty-free

Vegan beauty products are defined as products that don’t contain animal ingredients, animal by-products, or other animal-derived ingredients. This even includes honey and beeswax. Unfortunately, plenty of animal-derived elements are commonly used in the production of cosmetics. Furthermore, such products may be labeled organic or natural without necessarily being more ethical. For example, beeswax is a natural ingredient, but it is certainly not vegan; palm oil, even certified organic, is still a highly debated ingredient.

Veganism is all about preventing and eradicating cruelty to animals, so a vegan beauty product shouldn’t be tested on animals. However, this isn’t always the case. The term “vegan” is often used to mean only “plant-based”. Likewise, numerous beauty products are labeled vegan because they contain only plant-based ingredients. This is true even for some that have been tested on animals. “Vegan” products, therefore, aren’t necessarily cruelty-free. You need to research a particular product well to be sure you’re buying what you’re looking for.

Cruelty-free beauty products haven’t been tested on animals. Nor have their ingredients been tested on animals by another party. Also, they must not be sold in mainland China. The Chinese market requires animal testing on all cosmetic products imported into the country by law. If you’re unsure whether a company is cruelty-free, you should always check their FAQ section. Suppose they mention that they don’t test their products on animals, except where required by law. In that case, it means that they actually do tests on animals, and they can’t be considered cruelty-free.

Cruelty-free certification requirements

For a company to be cruelty-free, it needs to meet the following criteria:

However, if a product is cruelty-free, it doesn’t mean that it’s automatically vegan. Since the term “cruelty-free” only refers to animal testing, a cruelty-free product may still contain animal-derived ingredients. For example, Milani Cosmetics launched a lipstick that’s cruelty-free but not vegan. This means that Milani lipstick hasn’t been tested on animals. However, it still contains animal-derived ingredients such as carmine, the red pigment created from crushed insects.

There are also some cruelty-free brands but are owned by some other company that performs animal testing. One such example is Urban Decay, a brand that’s certified cruelty-free by PETA. Still, its parent company is L’Oreal, which is known to test animals when required by law.

Vegan vs. vegan-friendly – Is there a difference?

“Vegan” and “vegan-friendly” refer to products that don’t contain animal ingredients, animal by-products, or any animal-derived ingredients. But which term will be used on a specific product? That will depend on whether a product is officially certified by an organization. If a product is labeled “vegan” with a logo or trademark, it has been approved by the Vegan Society. If a product is labeled “vegan-friendly”, it has no such official certification. In this case, the company itself is making a claim on veganism. This doesn’t necessarily mean the product is less vegan. It simply means that an external organization hasn’t been certified to make sure it meets its standards. Still, you should always be careful with brands that don’t have official logos or trademarks. Reach out to them for information if necessary.

Vegetarian beauty products

If you see a product labeled vegetarian, you may assume that it doesn’t contain animal ingredients. Unfortunately, things are not that simple. As we mentioned before, vegan products don’t have anything that came from animals or was produced by them. On the other hand, vegetarian beauty products don’t contain animals, such as meat or fat. But they contain ingredients produced by animals, such as milk, egg whites, honey, and beeswax. Vegetarian products are not vegan, and they aren’t necessarily cruelty-free.

Animal ingredients to look out for

It may be tedious, but you’ll need to get accustomed to reading labels to ensure your chosen product doesn’t contain animal ingredients. They are listed under different names. While you can’t memorize all of them, several animal ingredients are commonly used, so you’ll be able to spot them right away.

Here are some of the ingredients to look out for:

Face

This section is dedicated to vegan makeup and cosmetics for your face.

Vegan blush

Rosy cheeks are adorable when they’re cruelty-free. Unfortunately, many blush products are tested on animals. Occasionally, animal ingredients such as carmine (crushed up bugs) and pearl powder can make their way to the ingredient list.

To help you stay utterly cruelty-free from cheek to cheek, we’ve compiled this list of several vegan and cruelty-free blush options:

  1. 100% Pure
  2. Beauty Without Cruelty
  3. Everyday Minerals
  4. OFRA
  5. Physicians Formula
  6. Tarte Cosmetics

Vegan makeup brushes

When it comes to applying makeup, it’s imperative to use high-quality brushes. A good brush can mean the difference between streaky and flawless results. Makeup brushes were traditionally made from animal hair (taken from squirrels, minks, and horses, to name just a few). Still, these days synthetic brushes are easy to find.

Synthetic brushes are typically made of Taklon fibers or nylon and are hypoallergenic. They also hold powders better and are easier to clean and maintain than non-vegan brushes.

Many cosmetic companies have committed to using only synthetic brushes. Below are some top brands that offer vegan brushes and makeup applicators:

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  1. 100% Pure
  2. Bdellium
  3. Beauty Blender
  4. EcoTools
  5. Emani
  6. Furless Makeup Brushes
  7. Missame
  8. Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics
  9. Sigma (their vegan collection only)
  10. The Body Shop

Vegan concealer

A touch of concealer can work miracles, hiding everything from dark circles to blemishes, burns, and tattoos. Many of the large cosmetic companies that sell concealer still test on animals. Still, cruelty-free concealer is rising in popularity and becoming relatively easy to find.

Here are several companies that produce vegan concealers:

  1. 100% Pure
  2. Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC)
  3. Gabriel Cosmetics
  4. ZuZu Luxe
  5. Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics
  6. Tarte
  7. ZuZu Luxe

Vegan eyeliner

Nothing can draw attention to your eyes like beautifully applied eyeliner. Eyeliner enables you to define your eyes while also creating virtually any eye shape you can imagine. Whether you prefer liquid, gel, or pencil liners, we’re here to help you find a vegan and cruelty-free liner that’s perfect for you.

Cruelty-free eyeliner brands:

  1. 100% Pure
  2. Beauty Without Cruelty
  3. Ecco Bella
  4. e.l.f.
  5. Manic Panic
  6. Pacifica
  7. Tarte
  8. Zuzu Luxe

Vegan eye shadow

Nobody wants bug eyes, but that’s just what you’ll get if you reach for many traditional eye shadows. Crushed-up beetles can create a magnificent shimmer, but let’s face it, we can look just as glamorous without harming our bug friends.

Vegan eye shadow comes in every shade, sparkle, and texture. From loose mineral powders to creamy paint pots, you can find it all cruelty-free if you simply take the time to look.

Here are some of the top vegan eye shadow brands:

  1. 100% Pure
  2. Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC)
  3. e.l.f.
  4. Manic Panic
  5. No Miss

Vegan facial moisturizer

If you want radiant, nourished, and wrinkle-free skin, keeping your face moisturized is critical. To ensure that no bunnies (or other animals) were harmed in the making of your lotion, check to see that the package is clearly labeled as “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals,” and that the ingredients do not contain any animal derivatives.

You are likely to find a wide selection of vegan lotions at your local natural food store.

Here are some excellent vegan facial moisturizer options:

  1. Earth Science
  2. Alba Botanica
  3. 100% Pure
  4. Derma E
  5. Jason
  6. The Body Shop
  7. Yes to Carrots
  8. Trader Joe’s

Vegan foundation makeup

When it comes to a product you’ll be applying on your face every day, you want to be sure that it’s healthy, cruelty-free, and of course, vegan!

In ancient times, women used a mixture of animal fat, starch, and even white lead (yes, the toxic heavy metal) as an early form of “foundation” to create a desired complexion. While foundations are no longer made primarily of animal fats, modern-day foundations often involve animal ingredients and animal testing.

Here are some great cruelty-free brands that make vegan foundation:

  1. 100% Pure
  2. Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC)
  3. Ecco Bella
  4. Gabriel Cosmetics
  5. Tarte
  6. ZuZu Luxe
  7. e.l.f. Cosmetics
  8. Emani Minerals (100% vegan company)
  9. Flower

Vegan lipsticks

If you want to pucker those cruelty-free lips of yours in style, you’re likely to want some vegan lipstick. But watch out! Animal ingredients can be discreetly hidden on lipstick labels under thousands of names. Some key animal ingredients to watch out for are beeswax, carmine, lanolin, tallow, and collagen—but again, there are too many to list here.

If label-reading and ingredient investigation isn’t your forte, just go for the companies that pride themselves in being totally cruelty-free and vegan. More and more products clearly labeled “Not Tested on Animals” and “Vegan” are entering the marketplace. Several of our favorites are listed below.

Vegan-friendly cosmetic companies that offer vegan lipsticks:

  1. 100% Pure
  2. Beauty Without Cruelty
  3. e.l.f. Studio Cosmetics
  4. Gabriel Cosmetics
  5. Manic Panic
  6. Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics
  7. Pacifica
  8. Zuzu Luxe

Vegan lip balm

If you turn to lip balm to get super-soft and kissable lips, beware! Most lip balm contains beeswax, and some also contain other nasty ingredients such as lanolin, honey, and carmine.

Lucky for us, it’s effortless to find completely vegan lip balm, and there are several brands out there that you are sure to love.

Here are some companies that produce vegan lip balms:

  1. Hurraw!
  2. Crazy Rumors
  3. Ellovi Lip Butter
  4. Fanciful Fox
  5. LUSH
  6. Surya Brasil

Vegan mascara

Most mascara contains some sort of animal ingredient, such as beeswax. But ladies, get ready to bat those eyelashes because cruelty-free and vegan mascara is becoming increasingly easy to find!

Here are some of our favorite brands:

  1. Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC)
  2. Bodisafe
  3. Gabriel Cosmetics
  4. Lavera
  5. LUSH
  6. Manic Panic
  7. Tarte Cosmetics
  8. Wet ‘n’ Wild
  9. Zuzu Luxe

Hair

This section is dedicated to vegan products for your hair.

Vegan shampoo

Several companies produce cruelty-free vegan shampoo. Unfortunately, though, most shampoos still contain animal products. What’s more, many top brands are tested on animals.

What shampoos are vegan?

Many companies make vegan shampoo. These brands often carry seals attesting to their refusal to use animal testing or ingredients. Despite what marketers would have you believe, there’s generally little difference in quality from one brand to the next. So what you probably want is a big cheap bottle of vegan shampoo, ideally without the need to visit three different stores to find it.

Some well-known cosmetics companies, including Acure, Avalon Organics, and 100% Pure oppose animal testing and label all their products as vegan.

Here are the bestselling vegan shampoos:

  1. 100% PURE
  2. Acure
  3. Aubrey Organics
  4. Avalon Organics
  5. Beauty Without Cruelty
  6. Desert Essence
  7. Giovanni
  8. Kiss My Face
  9. Love Beauty & Planet
  10. Mineral Fusion
  11. Pacifica
  12. Paul Mitchell

Not so long ago, finding vegan shampoo took lots of time and effort. But now, you’ve got so many terrific options. It’s great to see more and more companies using exclusively vegan ingredients. No doubt our above product list will be twice as long in a few years.

Vegan hair conditioner

You’ll have no problem finding an excellent cruelty-free brand of vegan hair conditioner. Several companies make vegan conditioners that sell at every price point.

Shampoos and conditioners contain mostly the same ingredients. The one notable difference is that conditioners swap in oils in place of detergents since conditioners replace the natural oils that shampoos strip from the hair. These oils can be either plant or animal-based. If they’re plant-based, they typically come from coconuts or oilseeds. If they’re animal-based, they are almost invariably rendered fats taken from slaughterhouses.

Animal fats are in no way superior to plant oils when it comes to conditioning hair, but they are much cheaper. That’s why non-premium conditioners are rarely vegan.

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Here are the best vegan hair conditioners:

  1. Acure
  2. Aubrey Organics
  3. Avalon Organics
  4. Beauty Without Cruelty
  5. Desert Essence
  6. Garnier
  7. Giovanni
  8. Love Beauty & Planet
  9. Mineral Fusion
  10. Pacifica
  11. Paul Mitchell

Vegan hair spray

Hair spray, mousse, and styling gels are used to hold hairstyles in place and reduce frizz. These products may contain harmful chemicals and animal by-products and are also often tested on animals.

There are fortunately several cruelty-free options for hair spray and styling gel. Here are some vegan choices:

  1. Aveda
  2. Aubrey Organics
  3. Beauty Without Cruelty
  4. Carina
  5. Giovanni
  6. Jason
  7. Pureology

Vegan hair dye

Since ancient times, people have used dyes to color their hair. Despite often being costly and frequently toxic, many women in Western countries choose to color their hair. Due to the harsh nature of hair dyes, these products are highly regulated and are generally tested on animals.

Fortunately, there are a few hair coloring products that are free of animal ingredients and testing:

  1. LUSH
  2. Manic Panic
  3. Morrocco Method
  4. Surya Brasil

Skin care

This section is dedicated to vegan products for your skin.

Vegan deodorant

Finding a cruelty-free vegan deodorant that actually works was once a challenge. But today, there are so many brands and varieties on the market that you are bound to find one that works for you.

But first, it’s vital to distinguish deodorants from antiperspirants. Human sweat is odorless until it is fermented by bacteria. Deodorants inhibit bacterial growth and mask the smell, ensuring that you don’t stink. At the same time, antiperspirants use chemical agents to constrict sweat ducts and block perspiration altogether.

There are unsubstantiated claims that blocking sweat glands antiperspirants are associated with cancer. This is currently a sketchy claim, but regardless, intuitively, it would seem for most people that deodorants are a more prudent choice.

Here are several highly rated vegan deodorant brands:

  1. LaVanila
  2. Crystal Deodorant Stick
  3. Herban Cowboy
  4. North Coast Organics
  5. Primal Pit Paste
  6. Schmidt’s Organic Deodorant
  7. Tea Tree Oil

Vegan lotions

There are a great many vegan lotions on the market that are perfect for moisturizing dry skin.

The ingredient list on lotions can be lengthy and virtually impossible to decipher. Many ingredients could be either animal or plant-derived. Depending on where the raw materials are sourced, there is no way to know which it is without asking the company directly. With that in mind, you’re best off looking for seals that indicate that the product is free of animal products and testing.

Here’s our list of companies that produce or distribute vegan lotions:

  1. ShiKai
  2. 100% Pure
  3. Ayushi
  4. Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC)
  5. Boodah Butter
  6. DermaE
  7. Desert Essence
  8. Earth Science
  9. Ellovi
  10. Jason
  11. LUSH
  12. Mineral Fusion
  13. Nature’s Gate
  14. Pangea Organics
  15. Trader Joes

Vegan tanning products

If you’re seeking a golden tan without exposing your skin to the sun, you’ll likely turn to self-tanning products. Self-tanning works by rubbing or spraying chemicals on the skin to darken its color. In all probability, spray-tans are less dangerous than achieving a natural tan through the sun, mainly since it’s easy to overdo your exposure and end up with a sunburn. It’s essential to keep in mind that every sunburn causes irreversible damage to the skin. Your skin never quite heals from a sunburn, and repeated burns lead to leathery-looking skin and a significantly increased risk of skin cancer years or decades in the future.

Unlike natural tanning in the sun, spray tans have the advantage of producing instant results (if only for a few days).

The bad news is that spray tans can look fake, giving the skin an unnatural orange hue. Worse, most self-tanning products are tested on animals. But fortunately, there are a few vegan products:

  1. MyChelle
  2. Nature’s Gate Glow Lotion
  3. Paula’s Choice

Nails

This section is dedicated to vegan products for your nails.

Vegan nail polish

Nail polish can be a fun way to dress up your nails or cover up any imperfections. Unfortunately, most nail polish brands are tested on animals and contain harsh chemical ingredients. Despite being banned for cosmetics use in several countries, formaldehyde is commonly used in nail polish.

To the great benefit of animals and people, several companies have started nail polish lines that are cruelty-free and vegan.

Here are the top vegan nail polish brands:

  1. 100% Pure
  2. 1143 H20 Nail Polish
  3. A•dorn
  4. Beauty Without Cruelty
  5. Butter London vegan nail polish
  6. Ella + Mila
  7. Flower Beauty
  8. LVX
  9. NCLA
  10. Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics
  11. Pacifica
  12. Scotch Naturals
  13. SpaRitual
  14. Stylush
  15. Zoya

Vegan nail polish remover

When the time comes to remove your nail polish, you likely turn to store-bought nail polish remover. The active ingredient in nail polish remover is either acetone or ethyl acetate, mixed with oils, color, fragrance, and vitamin E to make it more pleasant. While the ingredients in nail polish remover are generally animal-free, many companies make nail polish remover test on animals. So it’s essential to look for the “cruelty-free” label.

Here are some cruelty-free vegan brands of nail polish remover:

  1. Honeybee Gardens
  2. No Miss
  3. Sparitual

You can also buy 100% acetone from any drug store, which will be very effective at removing your polish but can be harsh on your nails.

Bath

This section is dedicated to general vegan products in your bath.

Vegan bubble bath

If you enjoy sinking into a hot bath brimming with bubbles after a stressful day, you’re in luck. Several premium-quality vegan bubble bath products will whisk your tension away. And there’s also a vegan bubble bath made just for children.

All of the products listed below are not only free of animal derivatives, but they contain natural and healthy ingredients that are just fine for your body to soak up.

  1. LUSH
  2. 100% Pure
  3. Deep Steep
  4. EO

Vegan bath bombs

Bath bombs take the luxury and relaxation of a bath to an entirely new level, rendering your bath water a swirl of beautiful colors and floral aromas. They are typically made from natural ingredients and sold without any packaging. Always check the ingredients label since some contain honey, but most bath bombs are vegan.

Most bath bombs contain sodium bicarbonate and citric acid (which combine to create a fun fizz that makes the bath bomb twirl around your bath like it’s dancing). They also generally contain propylene glycol (which helps the skin absorb moisture), corn starch, coloring, and aromatic ingredients like essential oils, flowers, and herbs.

The best bath bombs are made by LUSH, which has stores worldwide and an online shop. LUSH makes fresh handmade cosmetics and bath products, and all of their vegan products are labeled with a “V.” If you’ve never been to a LUSH store, find one and treat yourself to a bath bomb!

Vegan shaving creams and gels

Suppose you’re in the market for vegan shaving supplies. In that case, the prominent place to start with is shaving cream — since the bestselling commercial brands invariably contain a slew of substances that are likely slaughterhouse by-products. If there is a mass-market shaving cream in a pressurized can that’s vegan, we haven’t yet heard about it. But several premium shaving gels are vegan, that work every bit as well as conventional creams:

  1. Dr. Bronner’s Organic Shaving Gel
  2. Earth Science 145 Smooth Start Shave Cream
  3. Herban Cowboy Dusk Premium Shave Cream

Vegan soap

Vegan soap is easy to find. But you should always that assume soap contains animal-based ingredients unless the label says otherwise.

Many bar soaps contain animal fat derivatives as their primary ingredients. Don’t expect soap companies to be forthcoming about their use of animal fats. Bars of Ivory Soap, for instance, carry the phrase “99.44% pure” on its label. Yet, it’s primarily made from rendered animal fat obtained from slaughterhouses. Soap made from animal fat often has “sodium tallowate” listed on its label — which is a tip-off since tallow is a fancy word for beef fat.

Similarly, common vegan soap ingredients include sodium cocoate (as in coconuts) or sodium palm kernelate (derived from palm kernels). Olive oil can undergo processing to make excellent bar soap. Basically, if it’s a vegetable fat, companies can find a way to turn it into cruelty-free soap.

Luckily, given the unprecedented demand for cruelty-free personal care products, you can now find vegan soap almost anyplace you shop.

Vegan soap brands:

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  1. Mrs. Meyers
  2. 100% Pure
  3. Dr. Bronner’s
  4. Herban Cowboy
  5. Kiss My Face
  6. LUSH
  7. Pacifica
  8. Pangea Organics

Last updated on July 24, 2021, and last reviewed by an expert on April 26, 2021.
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