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Vegan And Cruelty Free Standards In Beauty

This week (March 9 – 15) is #BeCrueltyFree Week which is the largest campaign in the world to end animal testing for cosmetics globally. I am taking part in the #BlogForBunnies project run by the Humane Society to help spread the word about animal testing and what you as an individual can do to make a difference.

The terms ‘vegan’ and ‘cruelty free’ are often used incorrectly in the beauty world. If you ask a big cosmetic company if they are cruelty free they will often say yes, but when you look into that company more, you find out that they were lying. Sometimes it is intentional and other times I think the PR representatives just have no idea what they’re talking about. So I figured I would explain what both both cruelty free and vegan mean in the beauty industry. That way you can find a product that aligns with your moral values, and in the process reduce the money going towards animal tested cosmetics.

Vegan and Cruelty Free in the Beauty Industry

I am starting with vegan as it is a clear cut term. A vegan product contains no animal products in any form, that includes things like Carmine, Casein, Guanine, Silk, Honey and Beeswax. I have seen many products advertised as vegan when they contain beeswax and that is wrong. I’m not going to get into the debate about whether bees suffer or not during the wax extraction process as it doesn’t matter when talking about the term vegan. Bees are alive, they produce the wax, therefore beeswax is not vegan. I have seen companies marketing products as vegan when they contain beeswax. An actual vegan product will have synthetic beeswax, so read the ingredients carefully. Peta have a list of common animals ingredients and the UK Vegan Society have a reputable vegan trademark program that you can look out for.
Cruelty Free
The term cruelty free is much more complex. To be cruelty free, a product must not be tested on animals at any stage through the making and selling process. There are alternative ways to test a product for reactions so animal testing is not needed. There are varying laws on animal testing around the world. The European Union bought in a total ban on animal testing so any product that has been tested on animals since the ban started cannot be sold in the EU. Products that were tested on animals prior to the ban can still be sold in the EU. China on the other hand, requires any imported cosmetic to be tested on animals and conducts random tests post-market, which means any item on shelves can be tested on an animal. However, a product can be made in China and exported for sale without it being tested on animals, so long as it isn’t also sold in China as it’s then subject to post-market testing on animals. It is currently legal to test cosmetics on animals in Australia but the figures on how many animals are affected is not available. Whilst animal testing is legal here, it means that any product that is tested on animals in another country can be sold in Australia. You can do the Humane Society pledge to only buy cruelty free cosmetics and help end the needless suffering of many thousands of animals worldwide.

Choose Cruelty Free (CCF) Accreditation Symbol

Grey Zone
Big companies will often say they do not test their final product on animals, and therefore they are cruelty free. They won’t disclose that ingredients in the product were in fact tested on animals, so that is wrong. Other companies will market themselves as not testing their product on animals but are selling their product in countries like China who will test the products on animals before the product hits shelves there. There are a lot of companies who will not sell to countries like China as they are committed to not testing on animals, so please opt for one of their products instead. Then there are companies who are cruelty free, like The Body Shop, but they are owned by a parent company who does test on animals. Some people will buy from these companies and others won’t. At the end of the day, the profits made by The Body Shop are going to L’Oreal, so you’ll need to decide if that matters to you. L’Oreal, who also own Essie, Garnier and Maybelline, frequently defend their decision to test on animals. 

Nail Polish
Every indie polish brand I have used has been both vegan and cruelty free – just double check before making your order though. There is no real reason for a polish to contain animal products in this day and age. A lot of big brands are technically vegan but aren’t cruelty free, like OPI (OPI is owned by Coty who test on animals). Some cruelty free brands will have some non-vegan products like China Glaze with their nail treatments, but all colours are vegan. So again, you need to do your research to know what you’re getting. If you’re looking for a big polish brand that is good quality, vegan and cruelty free, then Zoya is the way to go.

Leaping Bunny Cruelty Free Accreditation Symbol

Vegan and cruelty free are different. A product can be vegan and not cruelty free, and cruelty free products aren’t necessarily vegan either. In an ideal world all vegan products would be cruelty free but we’re not there yet. Small ethical brands will often label their products as vegan but are cruelty free too, unfortunately big companies aren’t the same. You will have to do some research if you want to know what you are actually buying. A good place to start looking for brands is the Australian Choose Cruelty Free (CCF) website, and you can look for the Choose Cruelty Free, Leaping Bunny, Peta and UK Vegan Society accreditation symbols on products you are buying.

This blog post is by no means comprehensive, but I hope it has given you some insight into the world of animal testing and vegan cosmetics. For future blog posts, the products I will count as cruelty free will not be tested on animals during the making or selling process. If a brand is owned by a company that does test on animals then I will not be classing the brand as cruelty free, and I will do my best to find out if the product/brand is being imported into China.

What does the term ‘cruelty free’ mean to you? Will you be taking part in #BeCrueltyFree week or #BlogForBunnies?

Love, Alinta


  • vegeTARAian 16/03/2015 at 1:22 pm

    This is incredibly helpful, thanks so much for sharing. I think most people are completely oblivious to what happens behind the scenes with everyday products and it's great to get the word out there to help people make kinder choices.

    • Alinta McMurdo 17/03/2015 at 4:08 am

      Thank you for reading. Hopefully it helps a few people 🙂

  • Stacey B 31/05/2015 at 2:39 am

    very helplful. Can a company be in the "gray area" and also have one of the mentioned accreditations?

    • Alinta McMurdo 03/06/2015 at 9:17 am

      I go by the Choose Cruelty Free accreditation. I find them to be very accurate 🙂

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    I’m Alinta, an animal lover who writes reviews about cruelty free products as a distraction from my chronic illnesses. Read more…

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