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Cruelty-free​ vs. vegan.

Cruelty-free​ vs. vegan.

As a ‘seasoned’ vegan I should have my vegan makeup game down, but I don’t. So I am doing my research today and sharing it with the handful of readers I have.

cruelty-free: (adj.) (of cosmetics or other commercial products) manufactured or developed by methods which do not involve cruelty to animals.
A product that is vegan does not contain any animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients. To many the term “vegan” also means that a product is free from animal testing as well. – Source

What is the difference?

When a cosmetics company takes a pledge to avoid unnecessarily product or ingredient testing on animals the products then become cruelty-free, however, this does not automatically make these products vegan as these products can still contain animal derived ingredients. However, all proclaimed vegan products should be cruelty-free. A simple example is Lush’s washing cream it’s cruelty-free, however, one of the ingredients is honey, therefore, it is not a vegan-friendly product (it is, of course, vegetarian-friendly).


The best way to spot a cruelty-free product is to look for the bunny symbol or check the available online databases to be sure.  As far as I am aware it is free for companies to join leaping bunny and other databases, however, they do have to pay money to display the cruelty-free symbol. Also, even though not likely, some companies can be displaying similar dogy logos or unlawfully using the bunny logos without being certificated by the regulating bodies

The 3 bunny logos you can trust are the following: the Leaping Bunny logoPETA’s cruelty-free logo, and the Choose Cruelty-Free logo. – Source

Treat with caution any products that don’t display one of the three trustworthy logos and check against the available online databases:

Another useful source (one of my personal favorites) is crueltyfreekitty.

Sometimes it is also worthwhile checking for confirmation from the brand directly, however, be cautious of some of the wording some brands will use. For example, Mac Cosmetics animal policy states: “We do not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to test on our behalf, except where required by law. We evaluate our finished products in clinical tests on volunteer panels.” Here’s a pro tip: any product sold in China means that this company is not cruelty-free as by law to sell a product in China it is required for that product to be tested on animals either by the company or by the third party.


I’ve been vegan for two years now (with the exception of 3 months that I spent on camp and due to the circumstances and food available to me went veggie), I am yet to 100% master the vegan cosmetics and household products game. This year I have pledged to myself that I will no longer allow myself to think it’s sufficient to purchase a product that’s only cruelty-free.  Ladies and gents, my makeup drawer is going 100% vegan!

Similarly, to cruelty-free products, it is useful to look for vegan symbols on the products, such as Vegan Action or The Vegan Society. In my experience, if a brand is committed to cruelty-free product testing they will either have a vegan product selection or will disclose which specific shades and products are vegan-friendly. If that fails a very useful tool I have found for confirming whether a product is vegan is doublecheckvegan as most retailers these days will have full ingredient lists available online on their websites.

What to look out for?

Here’s a list of shady and commonly used ingredients tout for out for that most likely means the product is not vegan or sometimes even veggie friendly:

  • beeswax: produced by working bees and is used to build a honeycomb;
  • lanolin: excreted most commonly from sheep oil glands;
  • carmine: red pigment obtained from crushed insects;
  • ambergris: found in the waxy lining of whales stomach ( the main ingredient in most perfumes not being vegan-friendly as this ingredient ‘sets in’ the scent);
  • collagen: ground up animal horns and chicken feet;
  • keratin: extracted from ground-up hooves, horns, nails, feather, quills etc.;
  • guanine: taken from dead fish scales, soaked in alcohol to give products iridescent finish;
  • glycerine: usually comes from animal fats of sorts;
  • squalene: obtained from the oil found in a shark’s liver.

There are many, many, many more ingredients often present in make-up products, therefore I suggest before making any purchases treat products with caution and avoid hasty purchases without checking first. New life motto maybe?

There you go, fellow compassionate creatures, go buy vegan products and spread some kindness alongside that.



  1. July 9, 2018 / 6:34 pm

    I applaud you making this step however some of the info is wrong. You would imagine vegan products would be cruelty free but sadly that isn’t the case. E.g. Loreal have been making some “vegan” products of late but we all know they aren’t cruelty free so avoid like the plague. Annoying as a well meaning friend or family member who isn’t vegan may buy these for us as gifts 🙈. Also glycerine can be from animal sources but more often than not it is plant based, the same with squalene and collagen. It’s why it’s so important to check individual brands stance in these ingredients and not just assume the worst. Lush use glycerine in lots of stuff and it’s 100% not animal based 😁 good luck veganising your makeup xx

    • S
      November 24, 2018 / 1:01 am

      Thanks so much for this! I genuinely know very little about all these chemically names, hahah.
      I know I’ve had an issue with L’Oreal for so long! Some brands do my head in, where they claim to be vegan and/or cruelty-free but really are owned by a parent company that’s malicious for testing on animals. 🙁

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