@kesterblack, Australia's leading ethical beauty brand recently launched its 🆕 range of vegan liquid lipsticks! 💄 They currently have limited edition gift sets that include one of their environmentally-conscious lipsticks paired with a matching nail polish color! 💅🏻 Both beautifully packaged in a recycled gift box ready to be gifted to the beauty lover in your life this holiday season! 💝
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Kester Black's eco-friendly, cruelty-free + vegan liquid lipsticks are available in 6 matte shades. This is 'Never Nude' - a rose nude lipstick described as "Equal parts sweet and ‘Seen 1:04am’, Never Nude is the lipstick equivalent of ‘I woke up like this’. Flawless."
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All Kester Black products are cruelty-free, vegan and carbon neutral. 🌿✨
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@kesterblack, Australia's leading ethical beauty...

Hope you’re all staying warm and cozy this Sunday! 🥦✨ (📸 via @moomooi)

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(via @veganizedworld)

Sounds about right 😬🌿✨ ....

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Tired of hearing about how animal testing for cosmetics is STILL happening as we go into 2020? 🐇 choose cruelty-free and let your consumer dollars be a voice for the millions of innocent animals that are routinely blinded, poisoned, and killed each year for cosmetic testing! 💗 and be sure to tell brands that are still paying to have their products/ingredients tested on animals know that you won’t buy from them until they stop and go cruelty-free!! ✨(📸 via @rabbit.ins.gram)

Tired of hearing about how...

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Shop Cruelty-free this Black Friday and every other day of the year! 🐰 Want to know some of the best CF Black Friday Sales?💰 I got a list up on the blog, link in bio ⤴️
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💄 Cruelty-Free Makeup
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. . . and lots more! Check out the entire list + codes, link in bio 🌿

Shop Cruelty-free this Black Friday...

This is hands down my favorite nail polish collection by @siennabyronbay! 🌸 I've been wearing these pastel colors in rotation for the past month and I still can't get enough of them! 😍 SWIPE 👉🏻 To see each color on my nails 💅🏻
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🌿 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘳 - light lilac pastel crème
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All of Sienna Byron Bay nail polish is cruelty-free, 9-free, non-toxic, breathable, water-permeable + Wudu-friendly, and gender-inclusive! 🙌🏻 💞
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This is hands down my...

So thankful 🙏🏻✨🥔

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P.S. @ellovi is running a B1G1 Black Friday Sale! 💰  Everything is Buy-1 Get-1. No code needed - Free Shipping on All US Orders Over $15 🌸
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I'm in LOVE with @ellovi...

Cruelty-free vs. Vegan – What’s the Difference?

This post may contain affiliate links.

The terms “cruelty-free” and “vegan” have grown increasingly popular in just the last couple of years as consumer demand for animal cruelty-free cosmetics rises and the influx of new cosmetic products touting the “cruelty-free” and “vegan” labels from both indie and mainstream brands. But did you know there’s a difference between cruelty-free and vegan?

The two labels are often used interchangeably, by both companies and consumers, but they actually don’t mean the same thing.

It can be confusing trying to navigate through the cruelty-free and vegan beauty space but let me help break it down for you.

What’s the difference between cruelty-free vs vegan? Short Answer: “Cruelty-Free” generally implies no animal testing occurred whereas “Vegan” generally implies the products do not contain any animal-derived ingredients or by-products.

A product can be both, or one but not the other. This is a concept I’m going to dive in deeper with real-life examples down below.

Quick note, I’m using the term ‘generally’ here because this is generally how the beauty industry uses these two labels. If it was up to me and I got to make up the rules, I wouldn’t classify something as being vegan if it was tested on animals (cruelty-free). But unfortunately, I don’t make the rules so it’s important we learn and stay informed on how the industry and companies are using these labels today.

What’s the Difference: Cruelty-Free and Vegan?

Let’s start with some fun venn diagrams (remember those?)

Remember, the label “cruelty-free” means = this product and its ingredients were not tested on animals. And the label “vegan” means = this product does not contain animal products or ingredients.

We’ll start with the basics, when a product is labelled as both “cruelty-free and vegan”

Cosmetics claiming to be cruelty-free and vegan explained
Cosmetics claiming to be cruelty-free and vegan

Can something be called cruelty-free AND vegan

When a product claims to be both ‘cruelty-free and vegan’, it means it was not tested on animals and it does not contain animal products or ingredients.

Real life example: Pacifica Beauty has a cruelty-free and vegan lipstick. This means the lipstick from Pacifica was not tested on animals and does not contain any animal-derived ingredients or by-products.


Cosmetics claiming to be cruelty-free, but not vegan explained
Cosmetics claiming to be cruelty-free, but not vegan

Can something be cruelty-free but NOT vegan?

If a product claims to be ‘cruelty-free but not vegan’, it means the product was not tested on animals but it does contain some animal-derived ingredients or by-products.

Real life example: Milani Cosmetics has a cruelty-free lipstick but it is not vegan. This means the lipstick from Milani was not tested on animals, but it does contain some animal-derived ingredients or by-products like beeswax, carmine, or lanolin.


Now this leaves us with the last option,

Cosmetics that are vegan, but not cruelty-free explained
Cosmetics that are vegan, but not cruelty-free

Can something be vegan but NOT cruelty-free?

Here’s where it gets a little confusing and counter-intuitive. But bear with me.

Products that claim to be ‘vegan’ but may not be ‘cruelty-free’ means the product does not contain animal products or animal-derived ingredients but sadly, the products or its ingredients may have been tested on animals.

Real life example: Garnier claims their Ultimate Blends and new Fructis hair products are ‘vegan’, explaining how these products do not contain animal-derived ingredients or by-products. But Garnier is actually not a cruelty-free brand, as Garnier does test on animals when required by law¹.

Garnier claims their Ultimate Blends products are vegan, but Garnier is not cruelty-free
Garnier claims their Ultimate Blends products are vegan, but Garnier is not cruelty-free

Another real-life example: In 2017, L’Oreal’s EverPure Shampoo and Conditioners were spotted with a ‘100% Vegan’ stamp on the packaging. L’Oreal claims these products are ‘vegan’ in which they don’t contain animal-derived ingredients or by-products, but L’Oreal is definitely not a cruelty-free brand. L’Oreal does test on animals when required by law.²

L'Oreal claims their Ever hair products are 100% vegan, but L'Oreal is not cruelty-free.
L’Oreal claims their Ever hair products are 100% vegan, but L’Oreal is not cruelty-free.

Isn’t it Illegal for Brands to Lie About Being Cruelty-Free/Vegan?

How is it possible for L’Oreal and Garnier to tout claims of being “vegan” and “cruelty-free” when they’re not? and can’t they be sued for lying to us? I hear ya.

Sadly, there is no standard or legal definitions for the labels “cruelty-free” and “vegan”. This means companies can use these labels in whichever way they like without any consequences or liability. This is why it’s important we stay informed on what these labels mean and who may be misleading or deceiving us.

If you’re thinking, ain’t nobody got time for dat! then you’ll be happy to hear that there are currently 4 certifying organizations who all audits and accredits companies/products that are both cruelty-free and vegan. When you spot their logos on a product packaging, it means the issuing organization has verified that this product/company does not test on animals and do not use animal products or animal-derived in their products.

List of Cruelty-free and Vegan Certifications for Cosmetics
List of Cruelty-free and Vegan Certifications for Cosmetics

For further reading on what each of these logos and other “cruelty-free” and “vegan” logos and claims mean, check out this post here that explains it all!


¹ Garnier products are sold in mainland China where all imported cosmetics are required by law to be tested on animals. Garnier claims, “Garnier is in China with a few Ultimate Blends products only. And these products are part of the nonfunctional products category, which is no longer subject to animal testing since 2014.” Although China may not require pre-market animal testing on ordinary, domestically-produced cosmetics anymore, China may still conduct post-market animal testing on products that are sold in their country. Post-market testing is where Chinese officials will pull products off of store shelves and test them on animals, this is often times done without the company’s knowledge or consent. At this time, any cosmetic brand that is selling its products in-stores in mainland China cannot be considered cruelty-free because of the risks and possibility of post-market animal testing.

² Similar to Garnier, L’Oreal products are sold throughout mainland China where animal testing is required by law for all imported cosmetics. Although L’Oreal can make claims that they are not conducting these animal tests themselves, but they are consenting and paying the Chinese authorities to test on their behalf in order to sell within their country. L’Oreal is not considered cruelty-free by our standards.

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28 Comments
  • Amanda
    October 12, 2017

    Hi, I have a question concerning glycerin. A lot of companies say glycerin that are cruelty free and don’t particularly say if the glycerin is animal derived or vegetable derived. Now, I know cruelty free means that the products are not tested on animals, but does that also mean no products that include materials that killed an animal (aka glycerin?) I’m trying to go vegan, but glycerin is messing me up with my research.

    • Vicky Ly
      October 13, 2017

      Hi Amanda,
      I know it can be a little bit confusing but usually when companies say that their products are “Cruelty-free” it ONLY means that they don’t test on animals. If you want to avoid products that contain animal-derived glycerin or any other animal ingredients, then you’ll want to find products that say they are “vegan”.

      I know it doesn’t make sense how a product can be called “cruelty-free” even though it contains animal-derived ingredients because it’s impossible to obtain these ingredients without cruelty to animals but unfortunately that’s not how the beauty industry uses or defines the term “cruelty-free”

      In a perfect world, I would definitely redefine the label “cruelty-free” to mean no animal testing AND no animal ingredients.. but for now, you’ll want to make sure you’re buying products that say they’re “vegan”! =)

      Hope that clears things up for you, Amanda!

  • Jazz
    September 26, 2017

    If 60% of the world’s child labor is in agriculture, then can something be vegan if it was harvested by children’s hands? How do you know? Can you truly be a vegan knowing your food was harvested by almost-slave workers? Or is that okay because they are not animals?

  • Heather De
    March 14, 2017

    Vicky, great blog. My questions is. What if you have a massage gel and the typical animal products are synthetic and the finished good is not tested on animals but you know that some raw materials were tested in animals. Are they still vegan products? Please let me know ASAP!! thank you

  • Jordan
    June 3, 2016

    Hi! So I am transitioning to vegan (slowly but surely) and I am getting confused not by the terminology but by the researchers behind it.

    On crueltyfreekitty,com the bunny ear logo you’re showing is called Peta, but that means it is uncertified (therefore we don’t no as consumers if what they are reporting is true and no one is calling them on it) but here on this site you are saying these products are surely BOTH cruelty free and vegan. My question is, which one is it? I don’t want to invest in these brands if there’s still a lot of uncertainty but then again it could simply be a common point of confusion.

    Pls help lol

    • Vicky Ly
      June 3, 2016

      Hey Jordan! Glad to hear you’re starting to transition to buying vegan products! =)

      PETA’s bunny logo is actually an official cruelty-free and vegan certification. But their cruelty-free standards and how they approve brands is like you said, questionable.

      In this article, I tried my best to simplify the terms “cruelty-free” and “vegan” to show the main difference between the two as most people were using them interchangeably. However, what qualifies as being truly ‘cruelty-free’ or ‘vegan’ is actually very complex.

      I totally understand your struggle and confusion because both terms do not have a standard definition and so ‘cruelty-free’ can mean something different to each of us.

      Some people choose NOT to follow or trust PETA’s bunny logo because they don’t feel that PETA is doing as great of a job with verifying each brand as to whether or not they test on animals throughout the supply chain.

      Here are some further readings that sort of go into detail about their standards and other CF/V logos:

      https://ethicalelephant.com/cruelty-free-vegan-labels-logos/
      https://ethicalelephant.com/cruelty-free-bunny-logos/
      https://ethicalelephant.com/who-to-trust-cruelty-free/

      But keep in mind, it’s not just PETA’s bunny logo that some people don’t trust. In fact, there are some of us that don’t trust the other cruelty-free or vegan logos (like Leaping Bunny or Vegan Society).. just because we all have different standards as what should be labelled as cruelty-free/vegan. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

      I unfortunately have no authority or right to say what you should do or which certifications/logos you should trust because what I, myself, would consider cruelty-free/vegan is very different than what someone else would.

      But it seems as though you’re already doubting PETA’s list so I would definitely trust your instincts =) and maybe just use their list as a starter’s guide but at the same time, check to see if a brand is on another cruelty-free list like Leaping Bunny or CrueltyFreeKitty.com!

      • Jordan
        June 4, 2016

        Ok thank you SO SO much this makes a lot more sense.

        I think much if my confusion was that all of the resources I’ve seen say “vegan” or “cruelty-free” with 300% confidence so I write down the product and then find somewhere else that it may not be true! All in all i think I will stick with the logos you’ve provided and try to make due with checking ingredients. Love your blog! Thanks for being awesome ?

  • Ado
    May 13, 2016

    By definition, the use of animal products cannot be cruelty-free. So, non-vegan but cruelty-free is an oxymoron =)

    As for vegan but not cruelty-free, well, I’m with you in your approach of veganism (as well as the official definition!) That said, I’ve met vegans who were pro-animal testing, agreed with culling or would eat non-vegan when dinning out with friends, so go figure.
    I wonder, at times, if I’m myself a vegan, considering the aberrations some vegans say and do. Maybe I prefer to see me as an individual who does all that’s possible to stop animal suffering, regardless tags and particular definitions.

    Cheers!

  • Mandy
    May 5, 2016

    Hi,
    It’s great to see such a clear explination of the terms. I went cruelty free about 7 years ago and was frustrated by the clouded mess of terms. Things got even more messy with vegan products.
    I just want to point out you’re missing one bunny logo which is authentic and more relable than PETA or Leaping Bunny. Choose Cruelty Free is an Australian company which has a list called Prefered Products List. It’s missed by a lot of bloggers because they don’t see the logo much or assume it is another marketing trick. I hate that many Aussie and New Zealand consumers are told to avoid it when CCF are stricter than Leaping Bunny (eg CCF don’t list The Body Shop due to L’Oreal owning it). Please update your post to include the CCF Bunny.

    • Vicky Ly
      May 5, 2016

      Hey Mandy! Glad you enjoyed my post!

      Yes! You’re absolutely right about how many people (myself included) don’t mention CCF as often as we should! They’re an amazing organization and I try to support them as much as possible but like you said, in the US and Canada.. we don’t see CCF logo too often on the products that are sold here.

      But, the good news is that I have referenced CCF in a series of other blog posts so they’re definitely not forgotten in my books! You can find them here:

      1. https://ethicalelephant.com/cruelty-free-bunny-logos
      2. https://ethicalelephant.com/cruelty-free-vegan-labels-logos
      3. https://ethicalelephant.com/cruelty-free-loopholes

      And although CCF does limit certain brands from becoming certified cruelty-free if they use animal ingredients in their products.. I can’t confirm with certainty that the products/brands they certify are all 100% Vegan… I believe they allow some brands to use beeswax or honey and therefore making them not vegan.

      So that’s why the 3 Cruelty-Free & Vegan logos that I mention in THIS article.. I make it clear for when consumers see these 3 logos.. they can know with certainty (on some level) that the products are vegan and cruelty-free.

      Hope that clears things up!

  • Jerilyn
    April 13, 2016

    Hi Vicky,
    You mention above that there are no standard definition of what Vegan means, but there is a clear definition given by Donald Watson of the Vegan Society and has been clearly stated since 1944: “Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose.” ? Looking forward to referencing this site (how did I JUST hear about it??), along with my other apps & sites to ensure I only use TRULY Vegan products. Thanks.

    • Vicky Ly
      April 14, 2016

      Hey Hey Jerilyn! =)
      Yes, I totally love that definition of veganism. It rightfully sums up this complex lifestyle of doing the best we can without harming animals!

      However, that particular definition of veganism is not an industry standard and is relative because “as far as possible and practicable” can be interpreted differently from person to person or company to company. What I would consider possible and practical is very different from someone who may be living elsewhere in the world under different circumstances.

      Some people may consider products to be “vegan” when it’s not tested on animals or contain animal ingredients. But what about products that have been manufactured with animal by-products that isn’t necessarily IN the final product? An example of this is white sugar being filtered by animal bone char. The sugar itself doesn’t contain animal ingredients but it was processed using a by-product of animals.

      So some people would define sugar to be “vegan” whereas others would only use and buy sugar that explicitly say it wasn’t processed with bone char. This goes back to how we all have different definitions of what it means to be “vegan” and if we can’t get it straight, it’s hard for the industry and companies to have one solid concrete definition for the label.

      It can be a little confusing but I encourage people to not get over-consumed by these little details when exploring and transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. I think it’s important to just try and do the best you can each and every day! And to do exactly what you’re doing of researching different resources and when it’s time to do better, then do better! =)

  • Noelle
    April 7, 2016

    As someone who loves makeup and hair and is just beginning their journey as a vegan I just wanted to thank you for this awesome website. Until I entered this website I couldn’t find a anything that had all the resources I wanted or needed to educate myself. So thank you thank you thank you!

    • Vicky Ly
      April 7, 2016

      Aww, it makes me so so so happy to know that my cruelty-free and vegan resources are helping you on your journey, Noelle! If you ever have any questions, feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer them for ya! =)

  • Besma
    July 12, 2015

    Hi Vicky,

    Loved this post – I recently found out this was the case when scrutinising Burt’s Bees’ cruelty-free status, as they clearly aren’t vegan, and their parent company tests on animals. You can find out more here: http://www.curiouslyconscious.com/2015/05/is-burts-bees-really-cruelty-free.html

    I’m now trying to only buy natural, cruelty-free, and vegan products, although I’m not against the use of certain materials such as beeswax, and honey.

    Besma (Curiously Conscious)

    • Vicky Ly
      July 12, 2015

      Hi Hi Besma!

      I know what you mean, I’ve been going back and forth about whether to support Burt’s Bees after finding out they’re owned by Clorox! I soon realized that they have a very limited selection of vegan-friendly products as beeswax is in almost everything of theirs. I will admit that I would continue to buy Burt’s Bees if they carried more vegan products though! =)

  • Joesy
    April 22, 2015

    No coverfx is not fully vegan I’ve emailed them about this myself. You should do the same. Like two or three products aren’t vegan while most others are.

    • Vicky Ly
      April 22, 2015

      Really now? Hm.. that’s interesting! They pride themselves on being cruelty free and all vegan. We will definitely email them and see what’s the dealio! Thanks so much for bringing that up!

“Make ethical choices in what we buy, do, and watch. In a consumer-driven society our individual choices, used collectively for the good of animals and nature, can change the world faster than laws.”― Marc Bekoff

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