Vegan Makeup & Skincare 101

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Last updated on: 03/22/2020 at 12:45 pm

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Exploring Vegan Beauty And Skincare.

Photo: Imaxtree


As we grow as a society and we learn more about our ecological impacts as well as what we need to keep our bodies balanced and healthy, the vegan movement is growing in a big way. No longer just a diet that excludes eggs and milk, veganism is a lifestyle choice that more and more of us are subscribing to. Even those of us who aren’t 100% vegan are more interested than ever in doing our small part to protect the world in which we live and to take care of our bodies in more holistic ways. Whichever camp you find yourself in, there’s a lot to know. We’ve got the encyclopedia of veganism, and vegan makeup as well as vegan skincare, in one comprehensive guide.



Veganism isn’t exactly black and white – like naming celebrity children, it’s complicated. Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the exploitation and use of animal products and by-products and also a philosophy that rejects the commodification of animals’ lives. Veganism falls into three distinct categories:


  1. Dietary vegans do not consume animal products or by-products in the foods they eat (including meat, eggs, dairy and animal-derived substances like honey).
  2. Ethical vegans are those that follow a strict vegan diet and extend the vegan philosophy into all aspects of their lives. They don’t use anything that contains animal product or by-product (including the skincare products they use, the clothes they wear, etc.)
  3. Environmental vegans avoid animal products and by-products with the understanding that industrial farming of animals is damaging to our environment and unsustainable.



Within all three branches of veganism, there are extremes: some vegans avoid a larger array of products than others. For example, some vegans avoid honey while others consider that strict veganism and unnecessary (sometimes even harmful to the movement).


Why? Let’s take the example of honey. Some vegans claim that eating honey or using products with honey exploits the labor of bees. On the other end of the spectrum are the vegans that claim this extension is too limiting and out-of-reach for the everyday person. In this way, people who would be unable to adhere to this strict principle are deterred from attempting veganism on a more flexible basis and reducing their environmental impact in their own way.


How strictly you adhere to these principles is completely dependent on you and your own beliefs, needs, and abilities. Not everyone can afford to replace all their existing products with pricey vegan alternatives and, in reality, even limited adherence to these principles counts as far as doing your part goes. A slow transition into veganism is recommended for the best results – give yourself time to learn and grow and you have a much better chance of being successful in your vegan-endeavors.



The doctrine that people should not exploit animals can and has been, extended to makeup and skin care in recent years. While cruelty-free products have been around for far longer than vegan products, the two are not one in the same. Cruelty-free refers to makeup and skincare products that have not been tested on animals, while vegan refers to products that do not contain any animal-derived ingredients. It’s not just semantics – these are two very different animal-friendly concepts and having one doesn’t necessarily mean having the other.


Cruelty-free does not mean vegan. Cruelty-free implies that the product was not tested on animals in any stage of a products’ manufacturing or distribution. Cruelty-free is definitely a step in the right direction but it’s still possible that these products contain ingredients which were derived from an animal (or insect).



Absolutely not. While it could be said that most certified vegan products are cruelty-free, you should still check for the cruelty-free certification or call the manufacturer to be sure. A product may have vegan-friendly ingredients and still be tested on animals at some point during the manufacturing process or by a third party supplier. That’s especially true for products that are “accidentally vegan” (they aren’t marketed as vegan but they contain vegan-friendly ingredients, making them de-facto vegan).


You have to be especially careful with assuming that cruelty-free products are vegan. Cruelty-free has been a thing for a long time and many products on the market refrain from animal testing. But there are still many cruelty-free products that are not vegan-friendly. If you want your product to be both, look for certifications or call the manufacturer to be 100% sure.



Vegan makeup and skincare products came about as a natural extension of ethical veganism – people that are against the commodification of animals need alternatives to the oft animal-imbued cosmetics and skincare products they buy. Vegan-friendly makeup and skincare products don’t include any animal-derived ingredients and, instead, is typically made from plants, minerals and synthetic ingredients.


Think about this: your skin absorbs up to 60% of what you apply to it. With that in mind, don’t you want products that have less preservatives, chemicals and toxins in them? That’s kind of a no-brainer, right? Well, vegan products tend to have minimal ingredients that lean toward the natural side. They are full of vitamins, minerals and natural antioxidants. They are nourishing and don’t cause irritation, making them ideal for people with sensitive skin or condition-prone skin (so they aren’t just beneficial for vegans!).



If going through the ingredient list of every product you purchase, googling what it’s made from and calling manufacturers seems like a lot of hassle (because it is) then you can simply look for products that are certified vegan. There are five independent bodies that vet makeup and skin care products as well as provide certifications:


  1. PETA certifies both ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘vegan’ products. PETA’s Cruelty-Free logo certifies no animal testing, but the ingredients are not vegan. Their vegan logo signifies vegan ingredients.
  2. The Vegan Society provides certification for products with vegan ingredients and no animal testing. While this denotes that the specific product is vegan, the same company might also produce or sell non‐vegan products.
  3. Choose Cruelty-Free will certify products with no animal testing and vegan ingredients. They do not offer their certification unless all subsidiaries and suppliers are also cruelty-free and vegan.
  4. Cruelty-Free International is the creator of the Leaping Bunny logo. If you see this logo, you can be sure that company does not engage in animal testing. However, the ingredients are not guaranteed vegan.
  5. Vegan Action/Vegan Awareness Foundation certifies products with vegan ingredients and no animal testing. Like the Vegan Society, this certification is only good for the specific product and does not guarantee that all of the companies’ products are cruelty-free.


As we mentioned above, not all vegan products bear these logos and certification, though. There are many “accidentally vegan” products on the market that are not advertised as such. If you find yourself wondering, PETA offers a summary of animal-derived makeup and skincare ingredients so you can check what’s listed on your product against the list.


It should be noted that PETA’s list contains products that may not meet the criteria of strict ethical veganism. But like we mentioned before, by refusing to buy products that have trace amounts of animal product, you discourage manufacturers from continuing to offer these products and could end up causing more harm than good. And if all else fails, you can always call the manufacturer if you have any questions regarding the ingredients in a product.



Vegans and vegetarians differ in makeup and skincare in the same way they differ in diet. Vegans avoid eating animals like meat and seafood as well as items produced by animals like eggs, milk, butter, cheese, etc. Whereas a vegetarian doesn’t eat animals but they’ll eat what is produced by animals.


Make sense? Ok, now for cosmetics: a fully vegan product doesn’t contain animal ingredients like gelatin or animal fat (yes, that’s a thing) nor does it contain animal by-product or substances derived from animals like honey, beeswax or lactic acid. A vegetarian-friendly cosmetic product, on the other hand, won’t contain parts of an animal but can contain animal by-product or substances produced by an animal or insect.


For example, beeswax is vegetarian-friendly but not vegan. Conversely, a product with gelatin (derived from animal collagen) is neither vegetarian nor vegan. You don’t often see vegetarian labeling though, so, to be sure, you have to use your old pal Google or make that call to the company.



Your face is the first thing that you present to the world and it’s likely the one part of your body that you take the most care of. We cleanse, tone, moisturize, peel, and apply makeup this part of our skin more than any other so if you’re going to make the switch, vegan skincare for the face may be the place you want to start. Our in-depth guide will tell you everything you need to know about the benefits of facial vegan products and recommend some of the best products you can buy to meet any need, all the while avoiding animal products that you’d find in almost any non-vegan item.

Make sure you check out our guide to the best vegan eye creams if you’re curious to learn about some earth-friendly options.


We admit that our face is probably where most of our attention goes when it comes to skincare, but the rest of your body is equally as important. We’ve got to keep cleansed and moisturized all over, all the time! Lucky for us vegan-inclined folks there are plenty of options in terms of soap, body wash and lotion that don’t have any animal-derived ingredients. Instead, they’re chock full of natural ingredients that have less of an environmental impact and more of a balancing, soothing effect on your skin.  Curious? Explore more in our overview of vegan skincare products for the body.



Becoming a vegan, either in diet or in lifestyle, is a big step… but it’s a big step in the right direction and that notion makes jumping into the deep end a little more easy to swallow. If you’ve already stopped eating animal product and byproduct, the next natural step is to swap your skincare for vegan-friendly options. As daunting a task as that may seem, we’ve broken down everything you could possibly need to know about vegan skincare as well as cruelty-free products so you can make an informed decision. And for those of us not wholly committed to living 100% vegan but still wanting to do our small part, vegan skincare is readily available, a healthy option for your skin and equally as effective if not more-so.


Trish Keatings
Published on: 02/28/2018 Last updated on: 03/22/2020

Trish Keatings is Lead Writer at The Youthist since 2018. Her writing career began after graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with a Master of Arts Degree, where she focused on Political Studies. Trish is currently traveling the world and fills her free hours with yoga, meditation, wellness workshops, and eating her way through new cuisines. With a passion for all things beauty and skin, she is particularly inspired by holistic and ayurvedic approaches to health and personal care. A student of these philosophies herself, she enthusiastically explores her passions through her writing and finds no greater joy than taking her readers along with her.

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