Cruelty Free Beauty Guide


By Hanna Lynn Gentile

Author’s Note: This article focuses primarily on issues pertaining to animal testing and non-vegan ingredients. Many large corporations violate a multitude of other ethical guidelines, including unfair treatment of workers and production practices that are not environmentally friendly. Before you give your money to ANY organization, please do your research and consider whether you stand with the company’s values or not!


What’s going on?

In the United States and many other countries worldwide, it is still legal for industries to test their products on animals. Countless animals are sentenced to horrendous conditions in captivity, tested upon, and tossed to the wayside by researchers for popular makeup and household brands like L’Oreal, MAC Cosmetics, and Clorox. The same goes for non-vegan products; animals are being exploited and killed for the ingredients in your makeup bag. Animal testing does not yield accurate results for humans, and there are already thousands of ingredients on the market that have been approved for human use over the years. Thinking about the logistics makes my stomach churn, but if you’re looking for the gory proof behind these assertions, it’s certainly available online.

Holy s*!t. What can I do?

Your money is your vote. We live in a capitalist society where brands typically make moves based on whether they’re gaining or losing cash.

So, the first step is to stop buying products that are not cruelty-free and vegan.

Aren’t they the same thing?

Not in the world of cosmetics!

  • CRUELTY-FREE: No animal testing was conducted on the ingredients or finished product by the brand, its suppliers, or by a third party on behalf of the brand. Also, the brand does not sell to countries that require animal testing by law.
  • VEGAN: The product contains no animal ingredients and no animal-derived ingredients.

Don’t panic if you’ve never heard about any of this before! By the end of this post, hopefully you’ll have a confident starting point.

So, how can I tell if a brand is cruelty-free?

Companies use loopholes to avoid stating outright that they test on animals, so this part is trickier than it needs to be. Here is an example of a fully cruelty-free statement taken from Kat Von D Beauty’s FAQ page:



Absolutely not! Kat Von D Beauty has, (and always will be) 100% cruelty-free. And this is something Kat has always been extremely proud of!”

Statements by companies that are truly cruelty-free should be short, sweet, and to the point. Corporations should be proud that their products are CF! Steer away from anything shady or unclear, as this may mean the company has unethical testing practices. Here is an example of an unclear, not cruelty-free statement taken from the customer service page on the NARS website:



NARS does not test on animals nor do we ask others to test on our behalf, except where required by law. NARS is actively working with industry and other partners to eliminate animal testing globally and is committed to the development and acceptance of alternative methods. We are equally dedicated to the health and safety of our consumers ensuring we meet the highest in quality standards. We remain committed to bringing our vision of beauty and artistry to more fans around the globe, as part of our long-held commitment to empower women everywhere.”


This sounds promising, but NARS is a company that sells in China, where animal testing on cosmetics is legally required. Most companies that test on animals have blanket statements similar to this one, so watch out for this deceiving phrasing.

Another issue with cruelty-free categorization is ownership by a “parent company.” Sometimes brands buy other brands, and the cruelty-free status of the brand and its parent company differ (a la cruelty-free Too Faced, owned by not cruelty-free parent company Estee Lauder). This is when it is up to you as a consumer to decide whether you would like to purchase from this company! Some consumers like the message it sends to corporations when they refuse to purchase from their brands that test on animals but purchase from their cruelty-free companies. Others prefer to steer clear entirely of parent companies that test on animals and are afraid of risking their money funneling into an organization that condones animal testing.

There are a few different logos that can also assist in determining whether a brand is cruelty-free, and the most accurate is the “Leaping Bunny.” However, this only certifies that the “cosmetics” the brand sells are cruelty-free. If the company sells anything under the category of “drugs” (i.e. dietary supplements or anything of the like), these items may be tested on animals, making the brand not cruelty-free. It is also worth noting that not every cruelty-free brand sports the Leaping Bunny logo; it is a voluntary program that not all CF companies choose to join.

These moving parts can be incredibly frustrating to decipher, but it is worthwhile to research and invest in brands you can trust with your dollar. When in doubt, and are extremely helpful for brand questions and problem-solving. When all else fails, email the company yourself to get the scoop!

Now, how can I tell if a product is vegan?

This step is much easier! Read the ingredients listed on the back of the product, and search online for any you don’t recognize. There is no set standard for what constitutes “vegan” products on the market, but most brands define it as having no animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients. I prefer to search a company’s website before shopping; most brands with vegan options will list them in the FAQ section. If you still can’t find what you need, email the company directly and ask them to send you a list of their products that contain no animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients.

What do I do if my favorite brand isn’t cruelty-free?

That’s a total bummer, but you should consider not buying their products. If you want to make your stance more obvious, shoot the company an email stating why! Here’s the blanket format I use:

Dear (company name),

I have been a loyal customer of yours for many years, but due to my newfound knowledge of your company’s perpetuation of animal testing, I will be taking my business elsewhere. I directly oppose animal testing in any form, including selling to countries that require animal testing by law. I ask that you take a closer look at your company’s ethics and genuinely hope your organization will recognize the industry’s changing tides in the near future.


(your name)

Feel free to copy and paste!

What do I do with my products that aren’t cruelty-free?

Again, this is up to you! When I made this transition, I chose to finish my non-cruelty-free products so they wouldn’t create unnecessary waste. However, if you are uncomfortable using products that are non-vegan or have been tested on animals, give them to a friend or donate them to a local shelter that accepts used, sanitized products.

Help! What do I use now?

Here’s the fun part: now you can support innovative cruelty-free brands with tons of vegan goodies to choose from! Here are a few of my favorite brands and products:



COLOURPOP – With tons of fun and inexpensive vegan shades to choose from, there is never a shortage of looks to explore. I love the Super Shock Shadows; they’re portable, pigmented, and are best used with your fingers. I like to swirl a glittery pastel on my lid and lower lash line for a middle-school-but-hotter look.

KAT VON D BEAUTY – KVD Beauty is a vibrant brand owned by the vegan tattoo guru herself! All of Kat’s new releases are vegan, and her team is currently re-formulating the existing line to be fully vegan, too. Shop the #VeganAlert section on the KVD Beauty website to check out all they have to offer; the Tattoo Liner in Trooper is my personal favorite for the perfect ‘60s graphic liner.

LUSH – This brand is the eco-friendly, vegan line of your dreams! They have vegan toiletries covered, and many of their items come “naked” without wasteful packaging. Great vegan haircare can be tricky to find, but the Veganese conditioner totally rocks.

MILK MAKEUP – MILK is a fairly new cosmetics brand, but they’ve already made their passion for animal rights clear. Shop their site with the “vegan” filter, and you’ll catch over 60% of their products! The solid Matcha Cleanser is my best bud for on-the-go; it’s totally portable and TSA-friendly.



BRONNER’S – This company has been around for decades, and most of their products are vegan, including the 18-in-1 Pure-Castille Soaps. Pick your favorite scent, and use it for household cleaning, laundry detergent, washing dishes, or even as body wash! The link to a dilution cheat sheet is available on their website. Note: Dr. Bronner’s does use fair-trade palm oil; a more in-depth explanation is available online as well.

HELLO – I recently discovered this toothpaste brand, and I’ll never use anything else! Their products are 100% vegan, and they have tons of great fluoride and fluoride-free varieties for adults and kids. Snag a “kids” flavor for the same formula and way more fun.

METHOD – Method offers a fully vegan line of products, including household cleaners, hand soap, dish soap, and laundry detergent. They are super upfront about their ingredients online, and their products smell delicious! I like their natural hand soap because it’s safe to wash down the drain, and the bottles are made of 100% recycled plastic that you can recycle again.

Am I a pro now?

Pretty much. The transition to fully cruelty-free and vegan products has taken over a year for me, so don’t sweat it if it takes you a little time! This is all information I have collected from countless hours of research and personally trying out these products, so I hope that it encourages you to make steps toward a more ethical lifestyle. Remember that your dollar is your vote, so be a mindful consumer and only back the brands you can confidently support!

how toHanna GentileComment