Updated on June 8, 2023

Vegan Beauty Basics (Quick & Easy Guide to Understand What Vegan Beauty Is)

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Vegan Beauty Basics

Whether you’re vegan or you know someone who eats a vegan diet, you may already be familiar with what it’s about and its absence of animal products and by-products, including meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs, but have you heard of vegan beauty products?

And you may be wondering… are there actually animal ingredients used in our makeup, skincare, bath, and body care products today?

Disturbingly, animal-derived ingredients and by-products like crushed up bugs, fat from slaughtered animals, and ground-up horns and claws, are still commonly used and found in our everyday beauty products.

As a result of this gross revelation, many cosmetic companies refuse to source or manufacture products containing animal ingredients, thus creating a safe, quality, vegan cosmetics line without animal cruelty.

If you’re just starting to venture into the journey of vegan cosmetics, we’re breaking down all the Vegan Beauty Basics to help you make better and ethical choices that are kinder to animals and the planet.

By the end of reading this vegan beauty starter’s guide, you’ll have a better understanding of what Vegan Beauty and Cosmetics truly mean.

Vegan Beauty Basics

What is Vegan Beauty? and what does it mean when a product is Vegan?

“Vegan,” “Vegan-Friendly,” and “100% Vegan” cosmetics are defined as beauty products that do not contain animal ingredients, animal by-products, or any other animal-derived ingredients, including beeswax and honey.

What’s the difference between cosmetics labeled as ‘Vegan’ vs. ‘Vegan-Friendly’ vs. ‘100% Vegan.’

All of these mean the same thing. The product doesn’t contain animal-derived ingredients or by-products. But sometimes, companies may be referring to a product that is Vegan vs. the entire brand is vegan.

Are Vegan Beauty Products Tested on Animals?

Some (not all) vegan products may have been tested on animals, making them not cruelty-free. 

L’Oreal, for example, has a line of “100% Vegan” shampoo, but L’Oreal is a brand that pays and allow their products to be tested on animals. So although L’Oreal’s shampoo may not contain animal-based ingredients and is theoretically “100% Vegan”, the company allows their products to be tested on animals and isn’t cruelty-free.

Here’s a guide to understanding the difference between Cruelty-Free and Vegan cosmetics.

What animal ingredients are commonly used in cosmetics?

Animal ingredients commonly used in beauty products include carmine, lanolin, keratin, collagen, elastin, animal-derived glycerin and stearic acid, tallow, pearl, silk, milk-derivatives, snail slime, and more. See this long list of animal ingredients used in cosmetics.

Are animals killed for cosmetic ingredients?

Animal ingredients used in cosmetics can be obtained from living or killed animals or sourced as a by-product of the meat and dairy industry.

What’s the difference between cosmetics that are ‘Vegan’ vs. ‘Vegetarian’?

Vegetarian beauty products don’t contain ingredients that were part of an animal. Still, they may contain ingredients made by an animal such as honey, beeswax, egg whites (albumen), milk substance, etc.

Whereas vegan cosmetics do not contain anything that came from or was produced by living or killed animals.

Vegan brand vs. vegan product

Vegan cosmetics can refer to either the overall brand is vegan, or a particular product is vegan. 

Vegan brands refuse to use any animal ingredients in all of their products. You can find a list of 100% vegan beauty brands here.

However, some brands may not be entirely vegan but offer some vegan beauty products.

Who certifies Vegan beauty products?

Currently, there are 4 third-party certifications for vegan beauty products and brands. (1) Vegan Action (2) Vegan Society (3) PETA and (4) The Vegetarian Society.

Note that Leaping Bunny, Cruelty-Free International, and Choose Cruelty-Free only certify brands that don’t test on animals, but they don’t necessarily have to be vegan.

How to know if a brand or beauty product is *actually* vegan?

Are Vegan Cosmetics Natural/Organic/Non-toxic?

Not always. — Although most vegan ingredients are naturally derived from plant sources, some can be synthesized or made in a lab and are far from naturally derived or organically sourced.

Cosmetic manufacturers may also choose to use synthetic ingredients (that also happen to be vegan) because they’re cheaper than natural, plant-based ingredients.

Are Vegan Cosmetics Expensive?

Not always. — We have lots of product guides showcasing a range of affordable and budget-friendly vegan beauty products. You can find a vegan alternative under $10 to just about anything nowadays!

Drugstore Vegan Makeup Brands
Affordable Vegan Skincare Brands
Budget-Friendly Vegan Shampoo & Conditioner

Are Vegan Cosmetics Better?

Not always. — Often, the “vegan” label on cosmetics is used by marketers as nothing more than a buzzword to try and sell you their products.

Just because something is labeled as “Vegan” doesn’t mean it automatically gets a stamp of approval for quality, effectiveness, or value.

When making the switch to vegan cosmetics, buy as you would with any other beauty products. Read reviews, ask your friends and family for recommendations, and do your research. 

Why Choose Vegan Beauty Products?

By choosing to buy cosmetics that don’t contain animal ingredients, we’re voting with our dollars for a cruelty-free future where no animal should have to suffer or die for the sake of beauty!

Where to Buy Vegan Beauty Products?

You can find vegan beauty products almost anywhere now! We have cruelty-free & vegan shopping guides to SephoraUltaShoppers Drug Mart, and Nordstrom. We also love shopping at Petit Vour, a 100% vegan online boutique.

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What do you think

7 thoughts on “Vegan Beauty Basics (Quick & Easy Guide to Understand What Vegan Beauty Is)”

  1. This is such a useful and comprehensive post, thank you for your hard work!

    I find that the Skin Deep database can be useful for identifying mystery ingredients, but when it can be obtained from either an animal or plant source it does get tricky :/

    1. I’m glad to know you enjoyed this post, Jenny! =)

      The Skin Deep database is definitely a great resource! There are also other apps and database that will tell you whether an ingredient is derived from animals or plants but like you said, the trickiest part is when an ingredient can possibly or theoretically be derived from either an animal or plant source!

      I’m hoping if more conscious consumers reach out to companies and ask about these specific ingredients, they will voluntarily start listing the source on their ingredients list! =)

  2. holy cow, vicky. this article is incredible. i trust companies that are leaping bunny certified or are verified cruelty-free from trusted sources, such as you, tashina, and petit vour. i read ingredient labels about 20 times before purchasing something and will always search online for verification of it being vegan.

    1. Glad you enjoyed this article, Caitlin! =)

      It was hard to cram so much information all in one place because as you pointed out.. there’s all these different ways we can go about to verifying if a brand/product is vegan! And it may seem intimidating at first for people just making the switch, but reading ingredient lists 20 times just starts becoming the norm for us folks! =) haha

  3. Cool stuffs and Information. its my hobby searching about vegan and cruelty free makeup brands especially “Foundations”, but unfortunately Most of the products available Outside India is Costlier to us, Due to import Taxes. I can see only few are available which are pocket friendly. But for some reason i didn’t stop the search game. In case if you get to find any Indian brand over there or products available all around the countries do update it. I am following you girl :D.
    Its Nice to see there is vegan secret community all around the globe. Yo rock! <3.

  4. Thank you so much for your website and ingredient information! I am allergic to beeswax, bee pollen, chamomile, chamomilla maticaria, chamomilla reticula, noble Artemis, echinachea, and non-mineral sunscreen. Therefore, I have a very difficult time finding products that I can use and that actually work. This website will be my Number 1 information source. I haven’t worn makeup in years. I love animals and now I will feel good using products that don’t harm animals.

  5. That was nice article and found it very helpful. Actually I was looking for cosmetic products for make up and through this blog post got fantastic vegan-beauty-cosmetics and thank you for sharing.

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