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What Is Vegan Makeup?

By O. Parker
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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Vegan makeup products are cosmetics that do not use ingredients derived from — or tested on — animals. Concerns about animal abuse by the cosmetic industry has created a growing market for cruelty free products. Vegan cosmetic options include eye shadow, blush, lipstick and foundation; even vegan nail polish is becoming increasingly available.

Many people associate "vegan" with a kind of diet choice. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including dairy and honey. Reasons behind choosing a vegan diet include both health and philosophical reasons. Often when a person chooses a vegan lifestyle for philosophical reasons, her selections go beyond food to the consumer products she uses in her daily life, including cosmetics.

The cosmetic industry has increasingly moved away from testing on animals in response to bad press and growing consumer pressure. There are several criteria products must meet to be labeled vegan. One of the first requirements involves product testing: for a cosmetic or beauty product to be labeled vegan, no animal testing of any kind can be performed.

Additionally, vegan makeup does not just mean cruelty free or not tested on animals — it also means no animal derived ingredients are used in making the product. Many natural and cruelty free companies cannot label their products vegan, as some natural skin care and makeup companies use ingredients such as honey or goat's milk. In a vegan cosmetic, any ingredient derived from animals cannot be used.

Professional quality vegan makeup is becoming increasingly available. Such products include vegan foundation, eye makeup, and blush. As large companies increasingly embrace the new trend and create vegan cosmetic lines, vegan bronzer and nail polish are becoming more available as well.

Choosing a vegan cosmetic product is just the first step to an animal-free beauty routine. Most cosmetic brushes, for instance, are made from synthetic ingredients, but some high-end products are still made from animal hair. Using a synthetic makeup brush is an important part of choosing vegan cosmetics as well.

Reading the label generally is not enough to ensure a cosmetic product is vegan. Most vegan companies will carry vegan certified labels on packaging, but it is also important to research the companies to make sure the entire process is animal friendly. Though the final product might not be tested on animals, companies can still use chemicals that were developed using animal test subjects.

Using vegan makeup is just one step in adopting a vegan beauty routine. Many vegan soaps, cleansers, facial creams, and hair care products are now available as well. Some non-profit websites offer lists of certified vegan cosmetics, and products typically can be purchased in online or brick-and-mortar health food stores.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By browncoat — On Oct 29, 2014

@Ana1234 - You don't necessarily have to choose one or the other. Mineral makeup is usually made from mica and fair trade vegetable oils, and it's completely environmentally friendly. Often the company will be very forthright about what steps they've taken to minimize environmental impact, or you can get craft makeup from small businesses online and be told their entire process from start to finish.

By Ana1234 — On Oct 28, 2014

@clintflint - I'm sure it's cheaper to test on animals than on almost anything else, and I seriously doubt that any lab grown product could simulate living skin so that it was the same as the real thing.

But I've never had problems finding cosmetics that weren't tested on animals. It seems like more and more of the bigger brands are switching to other means of testing.

I don't worry too much about getting completely vegan products, though. I'd rather get products that are environmentally friendly and the problem with vegan products is that they are often made with palm oil rather than lanolin and the palm oil is sourced from unsustainable plantations.

I know people are trying hard to make the right choice in a world where it is difficult to know what to choose, but I'd rather use make up products that aren't causing long term damage, even if they involve other agriculturally based ingredients.

By clintflint — On Oct 27, 2014

There really is no reason for anyone to still be testing products on animals. Most of the products that come out each year only have a few differences between them and already established product lines and even if there was a radically new chemical or something, they could test it on human cells or lab-grown artificial skin.

That makes much more sense than testing products on animals that aren't that closely related to humans anyway.

But it still seems like products that haven't been tested on animals are a rarity, and I can't understand it.

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