What's the Difference Between Vegan and Cruelty-Free Cosmetics?

A product that's guaranteed cruelty-free isn't always vegan. There are three ways animals can become involved in the manufacture of your cosmetics, and 'cruelty-free' eliminates only one.

Just a few decades ago, it was commonplace for cosmetics companies to test their products on animals. With the help of furry-friend organisations, animal testing on cosmetics is now banned in the EU and frowned upon in many countries. No animal's life is worth sacrificing in the name of beauty.

It might surprise you to know that even if cosmetics aren't tested on animals, the products aren't necessarily vegan. There's three ways animals can be involved in the creation of your cosmetics:

  1. Cosmetics are tested on animals.
  2. Cosmetics contain animal products, such as honey or beeswax.
  3. Cosmetics contain animal-based ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid.


This three-step ladder illustrates the difference between vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics. Cruelty-free products eliminate the first step only. Vegan products eliminate all three.


What's the difference between vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics?


What are cruelty-free cosmetics?

Cosmetics companies can and have used animals to test their products for skin and eye reactions. Claims like 'hypoallergenic', often found on mascaras for sensitive eyes, were once mostly confirmed by animal testing.

When you buy products with a 'cruelty-free' certification, you buy products that haven't been tested on animals.

There are three types of certifications that guarantee a cruelty-free product:

  1. Leaping Bunny (international)
  2. PETA (US-based)
  3. Choose Cruelty Free (Australian-based)


When you see one of these three bunny logos, you're looking at a cosmetic that's committed publicly against animal testing.


What's the difference between vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics?


What are vegan cosmetics?

Vegan cosmetics abide by the same rules as a vegan diet. That means animals have absolutely no relation to what you're buying (or eating).

A true vegan lifestyle involves much more than food. You might be surprised just how many animal products can be found in mainstream cosmetics.

Cosmetic ingredients derived from animals

Animal-derived ingredients are made from part of an animal's body and usually involve the death of the animal. Even vegetarians will want to avoid such ingredients. Examples include:

  1. Hyaluronic acid
  2. Squalene
  3. Collagen
  4. Keratin
  5. Stearic acid


Hyaluronic acid, for instance, is derived from the comb of a rooster. Squalene is commonly harvested from shark liver. Collagen mostly comes from chicken feet.

2. Cosmetic ingredients produced by animals

Animal products include things like dairy, eggs, and honey. The animal may not be killed for the product, but it's hard to know how the animals are living and how they're treated when the products are obtained. Common examples of animal products in cosmetics are:

  1. Lanolin
  2. Beeswax
  3. Honey
  4. Milk protein
  5. Bee pollen

Lanolin is the natural wax found in the wool of sheep. Bee products are very common in cosmetics and range from beeswax and honey to royal jelly and propolis.

Vegan cosmetics use plant, mineral, and synthetic ingredients—and there are plenty of each to choose from. These alternatives are just as effective as animal ingredients and don't bother our friends.

For example, if you're vegan, you'd switch Burt's Bees Ultra-Conditioning Lip Balm, which contains beeswax, for Hurraw! Coconut Lip Balm, which uses plant-based candelilla wax instead.

It can be a hassle to find vegan cosmetics. We're very proud to stock the Inika Organic cosmetics range, which is committed to vegan ethics and validated by The Vegan Society.


What's the difference between vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics?