Kate on Conservation

The comprehensive guide to cruelty free and vegan cosmetics


November is World Vegan Month, a commemorative month to celebrate the advancing movement of vegan ideologies. It was established in 1994, to mark 50 years of The Vegan Society (creators of the word ‘vegan’), which began in the UK, in November of 1944. Given the number of animals who had given their lives for meals and consumer products, the date was selected to fall in line with Halloween and the Day of the Dead — to honour those animals who had already passed under the unnecessary cause of supporting human life.

As many people recognise veganism as a movement that goes beyond what’s on our dinner plates, to encompass the loss of life and suffering that animals endure for the creation of countless other products, from clothing to furniture, and cosmetics to household cleaning products, it would seem like the perfect to share this guest blog post from Josh Hill, providing a helpful insight into how to shop for vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics and skin care.

Cruelty free and vegan cosmetics guide

As consumers’ habits turn to shopping more ethically and sustainably the availability of vegan-friendly and cruelty free skincare and cosmetics option has increased.

But, shopping for cruelty free and vegan is not without it’s troubles, namely what ingredients should you look out for? How can you tell if an item is truly vegan or just cruelty free and what’s the difference?

Let’s get stuck into the guide!

What is cruelty-free beauty?

Cruelty-free cosmetics are products that have not been tested on animals. Further to this, most advocates of cruelty free products agree that the ingredients that go into the product can not have been tested on animals for a product to truly be considered cruelty free.

Unfortunately because this definition is not legally binding it means that some companies will claim their products to be cruelty free despite the ingredients that go into the products being tested on animals.

So how can you tell if the products you’ve bought are truly cruelty free?

How to ensure your beauty products are cruelty free

Luckily, certifications exist that ensure companies have to abide by the principals expected for a product to be truly cruelty free.

Leaping bunny

Since 1996 leaping bunny have certified over 2000 companies as being cruelty free.

The leaping bunny standard ensures the following:

  • The company does not take part in any animal testing, including in the use of raw ingredients
  • The company must not purchase any ingredients or product from a third party involved in animal testing
  • The company must monitor suppliers to ensure they don’t perform any animal testing on the products supplied
  • The company must ensure no animal testing in foreign markets

Choose cruelty free

Choose cruelty free (CCF) has existed since 1993 performing accreditations of companies and producing a list of cruelty free companies for the australian market.

The CCF standard ensures the following:

  • Companies have not tested any ingredients, formulations or finished products on animals within the last 5 years, at a minimum.
  • Companies do not sell in retail stores in mainland China. 

Cruelty free international

Cruelty free international’s leaping bunny is one of the most common labels to be used by companies selling cruelty free cosmetics.

The leaping bunny standard ensures:

  • The company does not take part in any animal testing, including in the use of raw ingredients
  • The company must not purchase any ingredients or product from a third party involved in animal testing
  • The company must monitor suppliers to ensure they don’t perform any animal testing on the products supplied

The standards above don’t preclude the use of animal ingredients in products such as honey, which brings us onto vegan products.

What is vegan beauty?

Vegan beauty products are those that contain no animal or animal derived ingredient. It’s important to note that vegan beauty products aren’t necessarily cruelty-free and visa versa.

How to ensure the products you are buying are vegan

Ensuring your beauty products are vegan friendly is a case of knowing what ingredients to look out for. Whilst some are obvious, some less obvious animal derived ingredients have a habit of sneaking into cosmetics.

Here’s the ingredients to look out for:

Beeswax — Beeswax is taken directly from the bee hive and can often be found in products like eyeshadow and lipstick. It’s also worth noting that beeswax can commonly be listed as cera alba and cera lava.

KeratinKeratin is a protein often found in products like shampoo and is derived from animals nails, horns and hair.

Squalene — Squalene is often found in moisturisers and other cosmetics and is derived from oils found in the livers of sharks.

Collagen — Collagen is often found in skin products with claims of being anti aging and is found in animal’s bones, skin and connective tissues.

Lanolin — Lanolin can be found in lotions and is a fat derived from the grease in sheep’s hair.

Guanine — Guanine is often included in products like blushers, eyeshadows and nail polish. It is created by scraping scales off fish.

Vegan beauty certifications

As you can see above navigating through the world of vegan beauty products can be tricky, but don’t worry – much in the same way there are certifications for cruelty-free products similar certifications exist for vegan-friendly products, including vegan cosmetics.

The Vegan Trademark

The Vegan Trademark is the authentic international vegan standard and is managed by The Vegan Society; the charity that created the word ‘vegan’ back in 1944. 

The Vegan Society logo was introduced in 1990, to show that products do not contain animal-derived products or use them in the production process

Vegan action

The vegan action non-profit has the “certified vegan” logo which is globally distributed and recognised.

The vegan action logo ensures:

  • The company has no animal or animal by-products in it’s products
  • No animal testing is performed on any of the products or ingredients of the products produced by the company
  • Products produced by the company must contain no known animal or animal derived GMOs or genes.
  • The company must produce certifcation to ensure that no supplier the company uses has animal or animal derived products as part of their supply chain.


If you’re keen to make ethical choices when it comes to your beauty and cosmetic products, this guide should make sure you’re able to identify and chose cruelly-free and vegan cosmetics when shopping.

About the author

Josh Hill is a scientist whose work involves reducing the toxicity of plastics in the pharmaceutical industry. Josh used the knowledge gained through his day job along with his passion for the environment to launch his brand Soseas. Soseas is a zero-waste store whose mission is simple, replace everyday single-use plastic pollutants with more sustainable alternatives.

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