The Guide To Vegan Beauty


Covered in this guide:

  • What Is Vegan Beauty?
  • Vegan Vs Cruelty Free
  • Vegan Vs Vegetarian Products
  • Ingredients That Aren't Vegan (Including Alternative Names)
  • Symbols To Look Out For & What They Mean
  • Cruelty Free & Vegan Beauty Brands & DISCOUNTS
  • Favourite Cruelty Free & Vegan Beauty Products
  • DIY Vegan Beauty Products
Cruelty is one fashion statement
we can all do without.
— Rue McClanahan

What Is Vegan Beauty?

Vegan beauty products are those that are made without animal derived ingredients. A lot of makeup and skincare contains animal ingredients that are standard in cosmetics production. These products may still be labelled natural or organic which often leads people to believe that they're more ethical. Beeswax is a natural ingredient, however it is definitely not vegan.

Vegan beauty is also typically the absence of cruelty to animals through animal testing, but more on this later. 


Vegan Vs Cruelty Free

Just as mentioned, veganism is about reducing the cruelty to animals, therefore a vegan beauty product should not be tested on animals. However as we've come so accustomed to vegan meaning 'plant based' in food terms, some products become mislabelled as vegan when they are still tested on animals. 

Are cruelty free products vegan?

Cruelty free products are not necessarily vegan. A product that is cruelty free has not been tested on animals and does not contain ingredients tested on animals by another party. It must also not be sold in the Chinese market as this requires animal testing by law. If you read a brand's FAQs and they mention that they do not test on animals, except where required by law, it means that their products ARE test on animals and therefore not cruelty free. Because cruelty free only refers to animal testing, it does not take into account any ingredients that are derived from animals, no matter how cruel you may deem that to be. E.g A product might be cruelty free but contain beeswax.

To put it simply: 

Cruelty free beauty products: Have not been tested on animals. Do not contain ingredients tested on animals. Are not sold in China. May contain animal derived ingredients.

Vegan beauty products: Have not been tested on animals. Do not contain ingredients tested on animals. Are not sold in China. Do not contain ingredients derived from animals.

Because, however, there is misinformation about what the vegan label stands for, it's important to check that the item also has a cruelty free status even if it has been labelled as vegan. Read this post on how to determine if a product is cruelty free - including all of the different symbols. 


Vegan Vs Vegetarian Products

We've mentioned that products can be labelled as cruelty free and / or vegan, but what about vegetarian? Sometimes products are labelled as vegetarian but not vegan. This is where there are issues with what these labels actually entail. They start to refer to ingredients as though the product is a food item and therefore doesn't consider animal testing. The vegetarian symbol can also lead people to believe that it is suitable for vegans. 

What the vegetarian symbol means: 

A vegetarian beauty product does not contain parts of an animal e.g fat, gelatin or its meat (this would be unusual to find anyway.) Some products do contain animals fats in them, most predominantly in skincare. A vegetarian beauty product may still contain animal by-products that are not part of the animal's body but have come from it, like lanolin or honey (more on specific ingredients later). Vegetarian products are also not necessarily cruelty free.

Vegetarian products are not vegan - but some products that are labelled vegetarian might be vegan and just not labelled so don't assume that they won't be.

So a vegan beauty product must be vegetarian AND not contain animal by-products. 

Ingredients That Aren't Vegan

So what ingredients do you need to look out for? Here's a run down of the most common ingredients that you need to look out for, including their alternative and chemical names. 

Carmine (Alt: Cochineal Dye, Cochineal Extract, Crimson Lake or Carmine Lake, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, or E120)

A red pigmented collected from crushed insects. Typically found in blushers and lipsticks but can also be seen in lots of cosmetics. Cosmetics that have a red or warm undertone to them often use this pigment.

Lanolin (Alt: Wool Wax or Wool Grease)

A wax ('fat') produced by wooly animals like sheep. These animals are bread to produce more wool and in turn produce more lanolin. Can often be found in most cosmetics, including eyeshadows.

Beeswax (Alt: Cera Alba or E901)

Often used in waxy products like lipsticks but can also be found in foundations.

Gelatin (Alt: Gelatine)

A gelling or thickening agent derived from boiled skin, tendons, ligaments and bones of animals. Will tend to find in creamy products.


A protein from animal tissue. Is often used in skincare for its supposed plumping affect.

Retinol (Alt: Vitamin A)

Retinol does not always have to be from an animal derived source, but often is. Double check as there are skincare products that contain vegan retinol. 

Tallow (Alt: Rendered Animal Fat)

Tallow is an animal fat that comes from boiling an animal's carcass. It can be found as a base to many cosmetics.

Guanine (Alt: G, Gua)

A crystalline material found in crushed fish scales. It's often used in mascara, nail varnish and lipstick.

Ambergris (Alt: Ambergrease or Grey Amber)

Produced in the digestive system of sperm whales, it's commonly used in perfume.

Symbols To Look Out For & What They Mean

If you've already started to look out for vegan products, you might have found it a little difficult to find certification on the packaging. Firstly, there are a lot of products (just like food) that are vegan but just aren't labelled. Some vegan labels, like the Vegan Society, must be paid for and a lot of brands do not have the budget for it. So don't assume that a product must have a label. It does always take the pressure off when you see one though! 

Here's a selection to the right that you might have seen. Pin this to keep note of them. 

These are accredited symbols that verify the vegan status of the product. This means that an external party have reviewed the products and their production process to ensure that they meet their standards. 

You might see that products create their own symbol, or simply label a product as 'vegan' or use a v. This means that the company is confident in making this claim, but hasn't necessarily been assessed by a third party. Generally a brand doesn't lie about labelling like this, especially because of legal implications, BUT, as we mentioned earlier, there is sometimes a misconception that vegan just refers to the ingredients, so always give a product labelled like this a check to be safe. 

Cruelty free & Vegan Beauty Brands

Now that we've established what a vegan beauty product is and how to look for them, here's a list of some great vegan beauty brands to check out. There is also a list of brands that are not exclusively vegan but sell some great vegan products.

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics - Great liquid lipsticks

Pacifica - Great perfumes: Here's a review of their vegan perfumes. 

EcoTools - Affordable, good quality makeup brushes

Nanshy - Beautiful makeup brushes, high quality

Ofra - Cult makeup & skincare

Loving Tan - Raved about fake tan - Get a free Deluxe Applicator Mitt valued at $14.95 with any mousse purchase using the code: daisily at checkout.

OSEA - Cult skincare

Sukin - Natural skincare

Inika - Organic makeup

B. Cosmetics - Superdrug owned drugstore makeup line

Spectrum Collections - Dreamy makeup brushes

Axiology - Organic, high quality lipsticks

Ringana - Toxin-free skincare 

There are plenty more but these are a few favourites. 


Brands that aren't exclusively vegan but offer great vegan beauty products: 

Tarte - Here's how to get Tarte in the UK.

Urban Decay (Parent company not CF) - High quality makeup 

Hourglass - Luxurious makeup 

Kat Von D - Soon to be all vegan. High quality makeup (love the lipsticks & setting powder) and vegan perfume.

Makeup Geek - Great alternative to MAC and really affordable

Juvias Place - AMAZING eyeshadow palettes: Here's a guide to vegan eyeshadow palettes

Becca (Parent company not CF) - Cult makeup (great highlighters) 

Too Faced (Parent company not CF) - Cult makeup

Favourite Cruelty Free & Vegan Beauty Products

Not sure what products to get? Here are some of the best vegan beauty products (regularly updated)...

DIY Vegan Beauty Products

You don't have to buy your products, particularly skincare, there are some great recipes for making your own DIY vegan beauty products. I made a body scrub, which also makes a great gift. This section will be regularly updated with new recipes. 

This scrub was really easy and fun to make. It's great to know what's going in to your skincare so that you don't have to worry about any nasty toxins. Click below for the tutorial.


Pin this guide to save it. It will be regularly updated with new brands, products and discounts!

This guide should have covered everything you need to know about vegan beauty. This will be updated regularly so check back in for more brands, products and DIYs.