I know a lot of people are confused about ‘vegan’ and ‘cruelty-free’ as terms/phrases that beauty brands use on their product packaging and while promoting them. I thought it’d be useful to write a guide unpacking these terms, so you can have confidence when buying beauty products.
In simple terms
Terms/phrases that beauty brands often use:
‘cruelty-free’ = the product and its ingredients haven’t been tested on animals
‘vegan’ = the product contains no animal or animal-derived ingredients or animal by-products
Because the term ‘vegan’ is not regulated, it is often used by brands to simply note that a product does not contain animal ingredients. This is very important to note as items that are tested on animals can claim to be ‘vegan’. A ‘vegan’ product is not necessarily ‘cruelty-free’. The term you want to be looking for on products in ‘vegan & cruelty-free’.
Products to (potentially) avoid: “Cruelty-Free”
The term ‘cruelty-free’ means the product and its ingredients haven’t been tested on animals but it CAN contain animal or animal-derived ingredients or animal by-products.
Yes, a product/brand can be ‘cruelty-free’ but that doesn’t equal being vegan-friendly, as the product(s) can contain still animal ingredients.
For example, The Body Shop’s products are all cruelty-free – they have a strict animal testing policy and are certified cruelty-free by PETA and Leaping Bunny, however most of their products contain animal-derived ingredients like milk, lanolin and honey. One of the brands most popular ranges – body butters – contains beeswax.
If you’re vegan, products like The Body Shop’s body butters are products to avoid, as although they’re cruelty-free (not tested on animals), they still contain animal ingredients.
You’ll often find that beauty brands that are cruelty-free do have a few products that are vegan-friendly too, but their entire product range won’t be labelled as ‘vegan’, as most of their products contain animal ingredients. Here at Stylishly Vegan, we try and publish articles with vegan product lists from cruelty-free brands (like our KORA Organics Vegan Product List), but if there’s a particular brand you want to see a vegan product list for, please get in touch!
If you’re interested in finding out more about cruelty-free products (that aren’t necessarily vegan) and how to check they aren’t actually tested on animals, you can read more in our Ultimate Guide to “Cruelty-Free” and Animal Testing.
Just to re-iterate though, a product marked ‘cruelty-free’ is NOT always vegan, as it can still contain animal ingredients.
Products to (potentially) avoid: “Vegan”
The term ‘vegan’ means the product contains no animal or animal-derived ingredients or animal by-products but the product or its ingredients MAY have been tested on animals.
This is where it gets a bit tricky. Some brands label their products as ‘vegan’ and they mean they just have vegan ingredients (i.e. they’re not ‘cruelty-free’ too / animal testing has taken place), while some brands label their products as ‘vegan’ and mean that they are vegan AND cruelty-free (i.e. no animal ingredients/by-products AND no animal testing has taken place).
An example of this is in my Is it Vegan if it’s Tested on Animals? guide, where Garnier (owned by L’Oreal) have used a ‘100% vegan’ claim on a product range, while still carrying out animal testing across their entire line.
It’s often extremely hard to tell what a brand means when calling itself ‘vegan’, but there are ways to try and figure it out, which brings us on to…
Products to buy: “Vegan & Cruelty-Free”
The term ‘vegan & cruelty-free’ means the product contains no animal or animal-derived ingredients or animal by-products and the product or its ingredients haven’t been tested on animals.
This ‘vegan & cruelty-free’ term/phrase is what you want to look out for on products or on a brand’s website. No animals have been harmed or exploited in the making of the product(s).
As mentioned in the last section, it’s often hard to tell if a product/brand is vegan AND cruelty-free if they just use the ‘vegan’ label, so we recommend looking out for the following logos to check if they are indeed vegan AND cruelty-free:
- Certified Vegan Logo by Vegan Action
- Cruelty-Free and Vegan Logo by PETA
- Vegan Trademark by Vegan Society
These logos mean that the organisation (Vegan Action, PETA or Vegan Society) have verified that the product/brand in question is vegan AND cruelty-free – their products don’t contain animal or animal-derived ingredients or animal by-products and the products or their ingredients haven’t been tested on animals.
As with some purely cruelty-free companies, some vegan & cruelty-free brands don’t submit their brand/products to these organisations (some charge a hefty fee), so if in doubt, you can check our Vegan Beauty Brand Directory full of vegan & cruelty-free brands that we’ve checked ourselves, or you can contact the brand yourself with questions around their ingredients and animal testing policies.
You can find templates of what questions to ask brands in our How to Contact a Brand to Check If It’s Vegan & Cruelty-Free guide.
Products featured on this website
Stylishly Vegan’s definition of vegan = “the product contains no animal or animal-derived ingredients or animal by-products AND no animal testing has taken place”
Just as a final note, all products featured on Stylishly Vegan are vegan AND cruelty-free, so you can have confidence that any product you’ve spotted while on this website is safe to buy!