What’s the Difference Between Cruelty-Free and Vegan?


So you’re trying to be conscious in your consumer decisions and buy products that are vegan and cruelty-free. Congratulations! Your individual decision to go vegan and cruelty-free is actually making a big difference, whether you realize it or not. However, as you might have noticed, sometimes the line between cruelty-free and vegan can get a little bit blurry. Are all vegan makeup products cruelty-free? Are all cruelty-free makeup products vegan? What do those two terms even mean exactly? Today, we are here to answer these questions for you. Specifically, we’re going to talk about the difference between cruelty-free and vegan as well as break down the individual nuances. By the end of this article, you’ll have a pretty solid understanding of what cruelty-free and vegan mean and how to apply those definitions to your personal consumer decisions. To finally grow in your confidence of using these terms, keep on reading! 

What Does Cruelty-Free Mean?

Today more than ever before, there are so many makeup products out there that have the words “cruelty-free” stamped onto the packaging. What exactly does it mean when a product says it is cruelty-free? Essentially, it means that the product was not tested on animals. Unfortunately, many makeup brands test their products on innocent animals for safety reasons before distributing them to sellers. These tests are extremely unethical and torturous to millions of animals. Poor animals have to get injected, swabbed, and much more for the researchers to see any potential negative effects the makeup product might have. Once the researchers feel they have no more need for the animals, they are murdered and discarded like trash. However, animal testing is not necessary at all; there are numerous options for makeup testing that don’t cause any harm and still provide the same useful results. When a product claims to be cruelty-free, they are saying they used those alternative testing methods for their product and did not use any animal testing. Cruelty-free makeup products are a step in the right direction.

What Does Vegan Mean?

Similarly, more and more makeup products are also proudly claiming to be vegan. A makeup product being vegan is completely separate from a product being cruelty-free. Vegan makeup has no animal-derived ingredients. While you might think this means something as simple as no animal milk or meat, it’s actually much more complex (and gross) than that. Some common undesirable animal-based ingredients found in non-vegan makeup products are horse urine, shark liver, crushed beetle, animal carcass fat, and lac insect secretion. Who in the world would want to even be near these ingredients, much less put them on their skin? Additionally, these things are by no means ethically gathered. Millions upon millions of animals are killed to make these ingredients, so not only does non-vegan makeup contain extremely questionable substances but it is also responsible for harming innocent animals. Vegan makeup, on the other hand, uses plant-based ingredients and other synthetic ingredients intended to mimic the effects of animal-based ingredients. When you put on vegan makeup, you can be confident in the fact that there are no animal-derived ingredients in your makeup whatsoever. 

Cruelty-Free but Not Vegan

While cruelty-free and vegan often go hand-in-hand, not all makeup products are both. If you come across a makeup product that is cruelty-free verified but not vegan, then animals were potentially still harmed in the making of that product because, as we mentioned, many animal-based ingredients come from killing or hurting innocent animals. If you are trying to live a truly vegan and earth-friendly lifestyle, products that are cruelty-free but not vegan simply won’t cut it. 

Vegan but Not Cruelty-Free 

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true and just as sad; makeup products can be vegan but not cruelty-free. This combination is especially confusing because people oftentimes assume that vegan makeup assumes cruelty-free practices. However, even though the product has no animal-based ingredients, it still could have been lab tested on animals, causing harm and even death to creatures who did absolutely nothing wrong. If you want to live a vegan lifestyle, checking to make sure that a product is cruelty-free is just as important as ensuring it’s vegan. 

Vegan and Cruelty-Free

The gold standard option is makeup that is both vegan and cruelty-free. This type of makeup causes absolutely no harm to animals and has no animal-derived ingredients. More and more makeup brands are starting to become both vegan and cruelty-free, so make sure to double check before buying anything new. 


We hope this article helped you better understand the difference between cruelty-free and vegan. It’s necessary to find makeup products that are certified in both these areas. Thankfully, vegan and cruelty-free makeup is oftentimes just as affordable, if not more so, than non-vegan makeup, so what’s stopping you? Try cruelty-free, vegan makeup for yourself to make you feel and look your best. Plus, you’ll be giving the planet a hand, too.


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