As fashion brands begin to take a sustainable approach, many beauty brands are following one close step behind, making sure to announce to their users that their products are cruelty-free. And taking a stand as young consumers and only purchasing ethical beauty can actually create a huge impact. As I’m brand new to this game, I decided to find out more about what going cruelty-free actually entails and learn how I can make more ethical choices. If you’re looking to incorporate more ethical brands into your life, keep reading for a comprehensive guide on how to get started.
What Does Cruelty-Free Really Mean?
Because the cruelty-free umbrella can cover so many different types of products, knowing how exactly brands follow certain guidelines can get confusing. Although cruelty-free simply means that no animal testing was involved, according to Tree Hugger, there are typically different levels of how cruelty-free a product is, ranging from how was made to its ingredients.
- No animal testing: This is the most common cruelty-free label. Tree Hugger states that it simply means that the ingredients and final product were not tested on animals; however, the ingredients may not be vegan or vegetarian.
- Vegetarian: This label indicates that the product has an ingredients list that does not contain anything directly from animals, according to Tree Hugger. Unfortunately, not all vegan products are cruelty-free, meaning some vegetarian brands do test on animals. Vegetarian products also might contain animal byproducts, like honey, according to Cruelty-Free Kitty.
- Vegan: Products with this label have ingredients that are neither animal products nor animal byproducts, according to Cruelty-Free Kitty. This means no animal fat, no honey, no beeswax, no dairy. However, these products also don’t have to be cruelty-free, so that’s something to keep in mind if that’s important to you.
So What Do I Look for When I’m Shopping?
With all these different terms in mind, it’s important to know what exactly to keep in mind and what to search for when purchasing beauty products. If you do the correct research, you can find most brands’ stances on vegan products and animal testing. However, since I know a lot of beauty purchases are impulse buys, it’s still important to be in the know about certain labels or signs.
- Leaping Bunny symbol: If you’re simply looking for products that are cruelty-free, search for this symbol, which is the most universal indication of an ethical product. Into the Gloss states that it means “no animals were harmed—in all stages of development and production.” According to Cruelty-Free Kitty, Leaping Bunny’s list of cruelty-free brands is highly selective, meaning a product with this symbol is guaranteed to be 100% cruelty-free.
- PETA logo: This logo also means cruelty-free and that no animals were harmed during the process. However, Cruelty-Free Kitty states that this company is less selective than Leaping Bunny, as less investigation is done to prove that the brands are actually cruelty-free. In a nutshell, PETA is safe but not your best bet to get the most ethical products.
- Vegan: A heart with a “V” inside means that the product is vegan and that no animal products are included in the ingredients, according to Into the Gloss.
- Made in China: If a product is sold in this country, you’re out of luck—Chinese law requires products sold in the country that are manufactured elsewhere to be tested on animals, according to Cruelty-Free Kitty. There are a few loopholes, like how products sold in Hong Kong do not abide to this rule; however, to be safe, stray away from brands that are sold there, which takes a little research to find out.
Okay, I’m Ready to Go Cruelty-Free! What Brands Should I Add to My Beauty Bag?
Many brands claim to be cruelty-free, so knowing which ones are ethical (and which ones that are unfortunately not) can make all your purchases worthwhile. I asked some fellow CF community members to share their favorite cruelty-free companies that they count on, ranging from drugstore to luxury.
The brand: Lush
Specialty: Nice-smelling skin-, body-, and haircare
Lush is a brand that focuses on a range of beauty products that almost all cruelty-free users love because of its affordable prices, all-natural ingredients, and cute packaging. You can grab anything from an aesthetically pleasing face mask, like its Rosy Cheeks Face Mask ($13) to a fragrant body wash, like its It’s Raining Men Shower Gel ($10).
Why we love it: “Lush is super transparent with its consumers and how they show how it’s made and what goes into their products. They also use stickers to show who exactly made the product, making me feel strongly connected to the brand.” — Sarah Carillo, Ithaca College, Class of 2019
The brand: Urban Decay
Specialty: Makeup that lasts all day
Urban Decay is known for its edgy take on high-quality beauty products. You might know it for its Naked Palette ($54), but it also sells other best-selling products, like its Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup ($40) and Vice Lipstick collection ($17).
Why we love it: “Urban Decay’s products are quality and last so long! They’re also cruelty-free, which is a huge plus for me.” — Aubrianna Layne, The George Washington University, Class of 2020
The brand: Glossier
Specialty: Skincare and minimalist makeup meant for people who “hate makeup”
Glossier is a millennial beauty company made for people who would rather focus on keeping their skin healthy than caking on products. While it’s entirely cruelty-free, only some of its products are vegan, including Milky Jelly Cleanser ($18) and Generation G Lip Color ($18).
Why we love it: “There are too few brands out there today that take ‘all-natural’ seriously. What I love about Glossier, in addition to being cruelty-free, is that the brand always celebrates the individual for their imperfections in a way that is, in fact, natural, transparent, and cool.” — Geordon Wollner, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Class of 2019
The brand: Too Faced
Specialty: Makeup with a touch of glamor
Too Faced is known for its glamorous take on high-quality products. Its packaging is also beautiful, and some of its must-haves even smell like sweet treats, including Peach Frost Melting Powder Highlighter ($30).
Why we love it: “Too Faced is the brand whose products work best for me, particularly their lip and complexion products. As someone who likes looks that are full coverage but still fresh-faced, I think they do natural glam really well. The brand has been cruelty-free for a long time (since 2001), and even when it got bought out by Estée Lauder, it promised not to compromise its ethics, which I really respect.” — Victoria Middleton, The George Washington University, Class of 2020
The brand: Lime Crime
Specialty: Bold makeup for the self-expressive type
Lime Crime was one of the first brands to hop on the cruelty-free train, and it’s known for its bold colors, highly pigmented products, and Gen Z take on beauty.
Why we love it: “Not only are Lime Crime’s products high-quality and affordably priced, but it’s nice to know I’m purchasing makeup that is cruelty-free. I don’t ever think that beauty products should come at the cost of animal testing, and it also makes me trust the brand for its transparency.” — Lexa Krajewski, Boston University, Class of 2019
The brand: Drunk Elephant
Specialty: Luxury skincare
Drunk Elephant is used by fashion and beauty editors everywhere, mostly due to their clean and highly effective products. College students are also quickly becoming aware of its benefits, mainly because products like its Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil ($40) leave skin looking flawless enough to go without makeup.
Why we love it: “Even though Drunk Elephant is a more high-end skincare brand, I love the company and its products. I trust the ingredients and production process and can visibly see the difference when compared to brands that put less emphasis on values like non-toxic ingredients and cruelty-free products.” — Nava Ahmadi, The George Washington University, Class of 2020
What are your favorite cruelty-free brands and products? Let us know in the comments below!