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Women's Beauty

Cruelty-Free vs Vegan Products - What’s the Difference?

Does cruelty-free and vegan really mean the same thing? We've done all the work so you don't have to. Discover the differences & certifying bodies behind these terms below. 
beauty products can be vegan and cruelty-free

by K T Wallace

One recent global movement has been veganism and choosing cruelty-free products. It is this consumer behaviour that has led us to question, what really is the difference between a cruelty-free and vegan beauty product?  

Table of Contents

What Does Cruelty-Free & Vegan Mean?

Beauty products which promote being cruelty-free and vegan may seem synonymous to each other, but when we look deeper there are independent elements to consider. Currently the lines can become blurred between the two terms, as there are no regulations for companies, eg. no FDA approved definition. Due to this freedom, companies can use the terms interchangeably, which can sometimes be miscommunicated and lead to greenwashing.

Although no official definition, we have concluded the general consensus of what cruelty-free and vegan really means. The definitions are as follows:

the definition between the two is one does not test on animals and one does not contain animal products


Cruelty-Free means that no animals were used to test on during any stages of the process for development of a beauty product. This includes the testing of each individual ingredient and the final product development stages before shipment.  

Although not tested on animals, cruelty-free products differ from vegan, as they may still contain by-products or animal ingredients. Which can lead us to question, if they contain any form of animal ingredients, are they truly cruelty-free?


Vegan means that the product does not contain any form of animal ingredients or animal by-products, which is how it differs from cruelty-free. Essentially that means that your beauty item will not contain ingredients such as: beeswax, gelatin, yoghurt or lanolin (wool grease) to name but a few. This being said, just because the product does not contain any form of animals, does not mean they don’t test on them.

together there are five organisations you can trust to be official representation of vegan and cruelty-free products

Certifications to Look For

To make it easier to shop for cruelty-free and vegan beauty products, there are some helpful logos to look out for. 

For cruelty-free, there are three trusted certifying bodies:

  • Leaping Bunny - An internationally recognised company, formed from eight national protection groups to form the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC). They promote one comprehensive standard while using the leaping bunny logo, to make it easier to shop for animal-friendly products. 
  • PETA - Recognised internationally, PETA believes that “animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment.” It is this ethos which has established the nonprofit organisation as a leading cruelty-free trusting body which people can rely on.
  • Choose Cruelty-Free (CCF) - An Australian animal protection organisation which has joined the Cruelty Free International family. For 25 years CCF has enlightened customers in Australia about how to make ethical choices by purchasing from brands which do not test on animals at any stage of their production.

many companies can be both vegan and cruelty-free

For vegan certifications, there are two main associations which you should look for:

  • The Vegan Society - The Vegan Society is recognisable through their sunflower logo. Having been founded over 75 years ago, their ethos and vision is still as vibrant as it was at the start. Essentially, the main goal is “to promote vegan lifestyles for the benefit of animals, people and the environment.”   
  • Vegan Action - Vegan Action is a nonprofit organisation which certifies thousands of vegan products with their recognisable heart logo. The overall mission they look to promote is “to eliminate animal suffering, reduce environmental impacts, and improve human health through a vegan diet”.

Brands Who Have Cruelty-Free & Vegan Beauty Products

Finding companies who are both cruelty-free and vegan can be a mind field to establish. But don't worry! We have the top 10 vegan skincare brands and top 10 vegan haircare brands to refresh your beauty bags. 

Handpicking a couple from our lists, these beauty companies are all proud to be cruelty-free and vegan.  

  1. BYBI
  2. Bleach London
  3. The Glowcery
  4. Noughty
  5. Odacite
  6. Ethique
  7. Summer Fridays
  8. Aveda
  9. Pai
  10. Faith in Nature

the future of cruelty-free and vegan beauty is ever growing and not stopping soon

Future of Cruelty-Free and Vegan Products 

With the increase of people switching to vegan and clean lifestyles, it's no wonder we as consumers are demanding more from our beauty products. Cruelty-free and vegan products are becoming more apparent on the shelves of our beauty stores, and the options do not seem to be stopping anytime soon! Whether you are wanting to restock your beauty favourites for vegan and cruelty-free alternatives, or looking for new products to try. Switching to cruelty-free and vegan beauty products could ensure that we as a society are moving to an animal-friendly supply chain.