A guide to cruelty-free vs vegan cosmetics. Animal testing and animal ingredients are the ugly sides of the beauty industry. Even nowadays there are big brands that still test on animals, and/or use animal-derived ingredients. This vegan guide will make shopping for cosmetics easier for you!
First of all, it's important to understand the general difference between the terminations. Generally, look out for both terminations. I also recommend looking for companies committed to transparent labor standards. As well as fair-trade certification, and use sustainable methods.
What are 'cruelty-free' products?
Cruelty-free means that neither the product, nor the ingredients or components have been tested on animals. Keep in mind, that some companies may falsely claim their product to be cruelty free. Meaning some of the individual ingredients may have been tested on animals. But the final product hasn't. Look for accreditation by respected organizations such as Choose Cruelty-Free, The Vegan Society, PETA, or Leaping Bunny.
Sidenote on cruelty free cosmetics
China remains one of the few countries that require animal tests for beauty products. This brought up some controversies about brands that sell their products in China. Beauty products that are sold in China are also at risk of post-market animal testing!
Sometimes Chinese government removes products from the shelves to test them on animals. In my personal opinion, it is quite hypocritical for a company to call itself cruelty-free, while willingly selling products in China. Thus I try to avoid buying products from these brands.
Some brands in question are Dove, Herbal Essences, Garnier, and Aussie. Learn more about brands that sell products in China here.
However, a beauty product made in China is not necessarily tested on animals. Products only require testing if sold in Chinese stores.
What are 'vegan' products?
Vegan products don’t contain any animal ingredients. It’s common to find animal-derived components like lanolin (wool wax) or shellac (a resin from the female lac bug) in toiletries and makeup. However, a vegan product excludes all animal-derived ingredients. It describes the ingredients, rather than the production process.
What is the difference between cruelty-free and vegan?
Simply put: a vegan product isn’t necessarily cruelty-free and vice versa. Vegan products may be tested on animals. Cruelty-free products may contain animal-derived ingredients such as wool wax, honey, beeswax etcetera.
Trustworthy 'cruelty-free' symbols
There are three trustworthy certification symbols. They are given by different established organizations. Click the links to see certification requirements.
Choose Cruelty-Free (CCF)
Beauty Without Bunnies
Caution! PETA’s Bunnies without beauty program is not the most reliable source. Even though their cause is ambitious, their certification requirements are not as stringent as Leaping Bunny or CCF.
They recently certified Dove as a cruelty-free brand. Even though Dove is still testing for the China market. Research their database with caution.
How do I spot a fake cruelty-free logo?
If the logo on the packaging is not Leaping Bunny, PETA, or CCF, then it is a fake.
If unsure check the organization's database. It is also a fake, if you can't find the company in the official database.
Lastly, keep in mind that a company can be cruelty-free without displaying a logo!
Trustworthy 'vegan' symbols
There are three trustworthy vegan certifications. Click the links for details on certification requirements.
Vegan-friendly and cruelty-free cosmetic brands
There are many brands out there! To name just a few:
crueltyfreekitty.com — database of 700+ brands and cruelty-free guides for all kinds of products, list of companies that test on animals
ethicalelephant.com — cruelty-free and vegan lifestyle blog with many guides and tips, also concentrate on vegan fashion
For more vegan tips browse our lifestyle page.