Vegan vs cruelty-free: What’s the difference?

24th January 2020 | Author: Libby Mewes

There was a time when vegan makeup brands were seen as anomalies; sitting on the fringes of mainstream cosmetics, but there’s been a seismic shift in recent years as people look to make more ethical and sustainable beauty choices.

Whether it’s opting for vegan brands, using reusable face cloths – Face Halo is a firm favourite at mamabella towers – or by making a conscious effort to shift away from plastic packaging – like switching to Lush’s shampoo and conditioner bars – this is not a fad. This is a trend that’s well and truly here to stay.

That said, it can be overwhelming. How do you know which brands are vegan? What’s the difference between vegan and cruelty-free makeup? And out of the many, many brands that make these claims, how do you know which is the best?

Below we’ve listed a selection of both 100% vegan and cruelty-free brands, as well as brands that offer both vegan and non-vegan products, and we explain more about navigating this particular minefield to help you make an as informed choice as possible.

Vegan vs cruelty-free: What’s the difference?

Before we start, it’s important to point out that vegan products can still legally claim to be vegan even if they’ve been tested on animals. At its most simple, for a product to be labelled as vegan it needs to be free from any animal by-products. This means that no animal by-products can be used in the production, packaging or distribution of a product.

Below we’ve listed a range of the best vegan makeup brands that are also cruelty-free. It’s not an exhaustive list and if a brand isn’t listed, it’s worth checking the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) free database.

PETA’s Beauty without Bunnies initiative shows you which brands test on animals, which brands don’t, and which brands are both vegan and cruelty-free.

Also, look out for certified logos on products.

The ‘leaping bunny’ logo suggests the product has been checked by several animal protection groups who have approved it as being cruelty-free. While the ‘Certified Vegan’ logo will show you which products don’t contain any animal by-products and are also cruelty-free. With all of that in mind, here is our pick of some notable cruelty-free and vegan makeup brands.

Dermablend and Vichy Dermablend

Dermablend (or its UK brand Vichy Dermablend) is an excellent place to start because the company partnered with PETA to ensure that by the end of 2019, all of its products not only had zero association with animal testing, but were also completely vegan. This included the removal of badger hair from brushes and the use of beeswax as a thickening agent from lipsticks. The company’s setting powder is a firm favourite with makeup gurus and everyday wearers-alike and the brand prides itself on its effectiveness at covering scars, dark circles, hard-to-hide blemishes and even tattoos.

Shop Dermablend's vegan makeup range


UK cosmetics retailer Superdrug is a great advocate for vegan and cruelty-free brands and champions the likes of NYX, Barry M, and Revolution as well as its own brand B.Makeup. Superdrug also promotes vegan shampoos, the best vegan moisturisers, and its website even has helpful guides on starting with vegan makeup, tips and tricks and simple but delicious vegan recipes; covering all the bases.

Shop Sainsbury's vegan makeup range

Avon’s Distillery brand

Avon is another well-established brand that recently released a full vegan range. Despite still selling some non-vegan products, its Distillery range includes skincare pieces such as night cream, Vitamin C powder and SPF 25 day cream, as well as mascara, lipstick and eyeshadow products. The packaging for these products has also been made sustainably with recycled glass and paper compacts, instead of plastics and mirrors. All products in this range are affordable, too.

Shop Avon's vegan makeup range

Smith England

Smith England, the haircare brand from celebrity stylist Phil Smith, is a collection of 12 products inspired by the countryside and nature. They are predominately vegan-friendly (with the exception of two products which are vegetarian-friendly) and the range carries the Leaping Bunny Logo.

Included in the Smith England range are shampoos, conditioners, a hair mask and hair oil that are all free from sulphates, parabens, colourants, mineral oils or genetically modified ingredients. What’s more, each of the bottles is recyclable and made using 100% recycled plastic and the products cost as little as £8.

Shop Phil Smith's vegan haircare range

Aldi Lacura

Somewhat leading the charge, long before the majority of retailers jumped on the vegan bandwagon, Aldi’s entire own-label household and beauty range has been certified as cruelty-free since January 2018.

This makes it one of only for UK retailers to have been awarded the gold standard leaping bunny certification the entire collection and it recently launched its first Lacura vegan skincare range.

Shop Aldi's Lacura vegan beauty range

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