Demystifying Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

Going vegan is very daunting for most people, and it’s often forgotten that going vegan isn’t just about your diet. If you are really behind the vegan message, you will most likely want to cut out products that aren’t vegan and those tested on animals. Unfortunately, the truth is that virtually every ingredient has been tested on animals at some point and time, even water, so labels can only demonstrate a companies’ desire not test in the future.

Why go vegan and cruelty-free?

For vegans, this question is a simple one to answer. However, you may not be vegan, and want to know the benefits this would have for you. One reason is to cut out harmful chemicals from your daily beauty routine. Many skincare products contain toxic chemicals that can affect fertility and even cause birth defects. Parabens, lead and formaldehyde are just some of the dangerous ingredients that can be found in your everyday products. Generally vegan means more naturally based products, and moving in a more natural direction can help remove a lot of harmful chemicals from your everyday regime. However, if you care for the welfare of animals and the environment, switching to vegan, cruelty, organic and natural cosmetics will have a lasting affect on your planet as well as your body.


Why do we test on animals?

Animals share similar DNA to humans; chimpanzees share 99% of their DNA with humans and mice 98%. Some would use this as an argument NOT to test on these animals, but it’s often presented as a an argument for animal testing. Other than the ethical issues surrounding using humans for testing, animals are seen as beneficial for testing because of their shorter life-spans in comparison to humans. They suffer the same diseases and issues as humans, and a mice that lives two to three years allows scientists to study certain affects over a lifespan in a much shorter time than a human. says 26 million animals are used for scientific and commercial testing each year. Peta estimates the figure at 100 million. The reality is, both figures are scary and colossal. These animals include mice and rats to monkeys and pigs, and anything in between; birds, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats, fish, etc. They experience being restrained, put in cages, burns, cuts, holes drilled in their skulls, crushed bones and spinal cords, forced inhalation of toxic fumes, and the list sadly goes on. Noted, not all of these injuries for just the cosmetics industry.

The reality is that the majority of animal testing that is currently done isn’t applicable to humans or even useful, as animals are so vastly different to humans. Drugs that have passed animal testing, have still been found to be harmful to humans in the past. 95% of the animals that are used in testing are not protected by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), leaving birds, mice, rats, reptiles and fish vulnerable to abuse, however I think it’s undeniably that any animal being used in animal testing, protected or not, is being both used and abused.

So as you can see, the reason for animal testing is not clear and arguably not in anyway necessary for something as trivial as cosmetics, particularly if we have alternatives. If you would like to research the topic further, I’d advise reading’s pro and con list.

What do the different symbols mean?

An important thing to remember is that just because a product is marked “Vegan” does not mean that isn’t tested on animals. Furthermore, virtually any company can label their products “vegan” or “cruelty-free”, but sadly this might not consider beeswax or commissioning animal testing to a third party. Also some of the certifications, do not test or probe into the companies’ statements about their products, so they cannot be fully relied upon unfortunately.


The most reliable is the leaping bunny surrounded by a blue circle. It does not mean the product is vegan, however companies that have the leaping bunny on their products have to agree to be audited every three years, it is internationally recognised, and seemingly the most rigorous for following up with companies to stick to their promises. So, the best way to go is to team this symbol with a vegan symbol when buying skincare products.

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 20.42.55.pngUnfortunately many well-known brands that produce potentially vegan products end up being testing on animals by selling products in China. China requires all products manufactured outside of China to be tested on animals.

So where can I shop?

The truth is that in the world we live in, it is a bit of a minefield. Lines offer cruelty-free, but use animal products, so labels and ingredients have to be scrutinised if you want to get it 100% right. However, it is a worthy cause to work towards, and joining locally based vegan facebook groups will help you and others share information about the newest and best products.



The body shop is not exclusively vegan, but they are committed to cruelty-free products. Furthermore, the brand is committed to high quality that is both sustainable and ethically produced. They test by computer data, on human subjects or lab produced tissue. Currently they are leading a global campaign to bring 8 million signatures to ban animal testing to the UN, you can read more about their mission and sign the petition on their website.

animal testing banned.jpg
Map of countries that have currently banned animal testing.



There’s not much to say other than Superdrug’s vegan and cruelty-free products have gone from strength to strength. Their skincare range was always strong, but they’ve recently launched a vegan and cruelty-free make-up line called B., offering everything from foundations and powders to lipsticks and mascara, and it has a men’s skincare range too.



Readily available, reasonably priced, and regularly offering special offers like, buy one get one half price or the one cent sale, Holland & Barrett’s Dr. Organic range is worth the visit alone. The range offers; toothpaste, moisturisers, face wash, toner, lip balms, shampoos, deodorants, soaps, and much more. Not all their line is vegan, also offering beeswax, honey and snail slime, but most of their line is in fact vegan friendly, tested on humans and organically produced.



Elf is a reasonably priced cosmetics line on Peta’s cruelty-free list. All their products are vegan friendly, including their brushes. You can find them in Boots and Sam McCauley’s stores around the country.

The last word…

It isn’t easy changing everything in your makeup bag and bathroom shelf, however it’s also never been easier than it is now. More and more companies are heeding to the demand from consumers to supply vegan friendly and cruelty-free products, so the more we buy and vote with our dollar, the more we’ll see on our shop shelves. Happy shopping!

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