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What Is The Difference Between Vegan And Cruelty Free Makeup?

All you wanted to do was make the switch to makeup that doesn’t involve animals, but now you’re finding out it’s harder than it seems. 

We agree that it should be easy to spot animal-based ingredients on a label, or just trust a company when they say they don’t involve animals. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple.

Let’s talk about the differences between cruelty-free and vegan makeup products, and how to tell if your products are one or both.

Wait, there’s a difference between cruelty-free and vegan makeup?

It would make sense (at least to us) that if a brand is going to spend the time and effort to be cruelty-free, they’d also make sure they’re vegan, and vice-versa. Most of the time, you’ll find that to be true.

However, there is a difference between cruelty-free products and vegan products, and it’s important you understand those differences so you can stay informed and make sure you’re using products that match your lifestyle and support your worldview.


Put most simply: vegan products don’t contain any animal parts or byproducts in their ingredients list. 

Here’s the catch: Vegan does not necessarily mean the product was not tested on animals. It only means no animal ingredients are found in the final product. 

There are a few organizations that certify vegan products worldwide; one of the most popular in the United States is Vegan Action. 

The Vegan Action organization certifies products as vegan. You can look for their logo on packages to know that no animal parts or byproducts are included; their logo is a “V” enclosed in a heart, inside of a circle.

Makeup Palette


Cruelty-free products ensure that a product has not been tested on an animal. There are two main cruelty-free certifications a cosmetics company can get for their products:

  • PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies. This logo has a bunny head with ears shaped into a heart. If the logo specifically says “cruelty-free and vegan,” the product is both vegan and cruelty-free. Most of the time, the logo alone will only mean the product is cruelty-free.
  • CCIC Leaping Bunny. The Leaping Bunny program certifies products in the United States and Canada as cruelty-free. However, they don’t certify that products are vegan. 

The strangest part with both of these programs is they don’t necessarily require that a brand’s parent company not test on animals, too. That means a parent company could test a product as a third party for their subsidiary, and the subsidiary could still obtain a cruelty-free certification. 

The best way to avoid animal parts, tests, and involvement is to shop with brands and retailers you know and trust. Most companies have their standards easily accessible on their websites. 

Kinder Beauty has some of the industry’s highest standards. We maintain a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of animal involvement for any of the products we feature in our marketplace or monthly beauty boxes.

Are all vegan and cruelty-free brands considered “clean” beauty?

You buy a product that is vegan and cruelty-free. You should be safe from hormone-disrupting ingredients, right? Not quite. 

Vegan and cruelty-free only refer to the absence of animal ingredients and testing. Clean beauty has a looser definition. 

Because clean beauty isn’t a defined term, a brand can basically adapt it to fit their needs. What is considered clean to one brand may simply be the avoidance of chemicals and toxins in their products. For another brand, they may consider clean beauty as the absence of chemicals, toxins, and animal involvement. Both brands think they’re right, but there’s no one to regulate that. 

A good example of this is beeswax. Beeswax is a natural, non-chemical ingredient that holds emollient properties (it can soften and smooth skin). Some companies believe that using beeswax is acceptable and “clean” because it’s a byproduct of an insect. However, vegan and cruelty-free brands won’t use beeswax in a product because it involves a living creature. 

You’ll find most vegan and cruelty-free brands do maintain higher product standards that involve the use of cleaner, greener ingredients. 

Shop vegan and cruelty-free makeup

How can I tell if a brand is vegan or cruelty-free?

Typically, if a brand is vegan or cruelty-free, they are going to tell you so. There will be information on their website or packaging that tells you what their products are free from (i.e., animal parts, testing, etc.). 

However, it pays to have ways to make sure. Here are a few other “hacks” you can use to ensure your products are vegan and cruelty-free.

Look for logos

Logos are helpful because they make a product that is vegan or cruelty-free easily identifiable. Companies pay to have their products certified, which can help build trust in the brand. 

Just remember that one logo doesn’t mean both certifications; vegan doesn’t in itself necessarily mean cruelty-free, and vice-versa. 

Search online databases

We’re all about keeping it simple, and online databases can help. 

  • PETA maintains an online database of the products they certify through their Beauty Without Bunnies program. 

  • You can also use Vegan Action’s searchable database to cross-reference whether a cruelty-free product is vegan. 

  • Another great resource is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website. This database contains thousands of product ingredients and information about their safety and origins. 


Rabbit on pillow


Know common ingredients

Knowing how animal ingredients show up in your cosmetics can help you easily identify them when you see them (and avoid them). Here are some of the most common animal-based ingredients that find their way into your makeup products:

  • Lanolin. Lanolin is often found in creams and lotions as an emollient to soften and smooth the skin. This ingredient is derived from sheep’s skin, as it is excreted to help protect their wooly coats.
  • Beeswax (aka Cera or Cera Alba). Beeswax is produced by bees (obviously), and it may seem safe to use. Unfortunately, bees are often forced to mate, have their wings clipped, and are housed in colonies much too large … and that’s none of our beeswax. 
  • Honey. This is another bee byproduct that makes any product that contains it a no-go. Honey is harvested from bees in the same manner as beeswax, so it poses the same problems. 
  • Collagen. We love collagen as much as the next person, but we’ll get ours from a plant and not a cow, thanks. Collagen is usually taken from the connective tissue of animals that have been slaughtered for their meat. 
  • Albumen. This is a code name for egg white and is often found in shampoos and conditioners. 
  • Gelatin. You probably don’t want boiled cow and pig bones in your bubble bath. Gelatin is what’s left in the pot when bones and connective tissues of farm animals are boiled. It’s then added to products like lotion and bath products. 
  • Keratin. This one is tricky. It’s almost always derived from an animal when you find it in a product. It’s most commonly found in hair care products and is derived from the hair and hooves of animals. 
  • Squalene. Once only harvested from shark liver oil, this ingredient is now largely plant-based after its origins were “uncovered” and made popular through social media. You can find squalene in creams, serums, and lotions that help provide moisture balance to the skin. 
  • Carmine. Carmine is made from the crushed exoskeletons of the cochineal beetle. It is added to products like lipsticks to give it a red color. It takes hundreds of thousands of these beetles to make even a pound of carmine. Bug guts on our lips? Hard pass. 

There are, of course, numerous other animal-derived ingredients, and the more familiar you are with them, the better you’ll be able to spot them and avoid them when you see them listed on a product’s label. 

Why should I use vegan and cruelty-free products?

A better question is why shouldn’t you use vegan and cruelty-free products? Vegan and cruelty-free products offer so many benefits that traditional makeup products just don't. 

  • No animal ingredients. If your goal is to avoid using animal ingredients in your cosmetics, vegan products, check that box.

  • No animal testing. Cruelty-free beauty products help you know that the makeup you’re using was never tested on a furry friend, and that’s some serious peace of mind. 
  • Cleaner, safer ingredients. The ingredients you find in vegan, cruelty-free beauty products are typically much cleaner, more environmentally conscious, and intentionally added. 

Because vegan and cruelty-free products are also affordable and seriously accessible with programs like Kinder Beauty’s monthly subscription box, it’s tough to make an argument against using them.

Try vegan and cruelty-free makeup brands today

Vegan beauty and cruelty-free makeup products are decisions that can help give you better skincare, makeup products that outperform their rivals, and a clear conscience about the decisions you make. From primers to powder, matte lipstick to mascara, there’s a vegan-friendly, cruelty-free formula available. 

If you want to try the best cruelty-free and vegan makeup brands by having them sent to your door, we’ve got you. Get familiar with the best brands without ever leaving your house. 


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Leaping Bunny: Homepage | Leaping Bunny 

EWG Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database | EWG 

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