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Vegan, cruelty-free, all-natural, non-toxic, reef-safe, organic, not tested on animals… you just wanted a lipstick friendly to critters and the environment, but all those different labels for ethical cosmetics can be overwhelming. What do these terms mean, and which organic skin care products are truly “cruelty-free”?

What Are Cruelty-Free Cosmetics?

“Cruelty-free” in the cosmetics industry generally refers to products that have not been tested on animals. For a brand to be legitimately cruelty-free, they must do three things:

  • The product must not be tested on animals at any point during the design, development, or manufacturing process.
  • The finished, market-ready product must not be tested on animals.
  • The ingredients and components of the product must not be sourced from any third-party companies that test their products on animals.

Unfortunately, this label is an unenforced industry standard rather than a hard rule, at least in the United States. Speaking to Vogue, a PETA representative in India explained, “such tests for cosmetics are today banned in many countries in favor of modern methods,” but the U.S. is lagging far behind in these sorts of regulations.

While industry groups such as Leaping Bunny have robust programs to certify and label cruelty-free cosmetica products stateside, there is no legally binding definition for the term “cruelty-free” (or even the much more cut and dried “not tested on animals”) per the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that companies who test on animals during the development phase can get away with labeling their products “cruelty-free” with no real consequences.

One way to reduce uncertainty when shopping for cruelty-free cosmetics is to buy from a trusted brand that deals only in cruelty-free cosmetic products, such as Organic Cosmetica. We self-formulate and own 100% of each unique skin care and hair care formulation and we proudly disclose our ingredients on our website.

What Are Vegan Cosmetics?

Vegan beauty and skincare products are also popular with animal rights-conscious shoppers, but vegan means something entirely different than cruelty-free. A cruelty-free label refers to how a product is tested, but vegan refers to its ingredients. As with vegan food, vegan cosmetics don’t use any ingredients sourced from animals or their byproducts.

There is a massive number of animal-based products in traditional cosmetics, so vegan products can be trickier to locate than you might think. Here are common ingredients you’ll need to avoid if you go cosmetically vegan:

  • Animal hair – often found in brushes and false eyelashes
  • Beeswax and honey – common in skincare products and lip balms
  • Casein or caseinate – a milk-based product used in conditioners
  • Collagen and elastin – skin-firming, lip-plumping, and anti-aging ingredients made from the muscles and ligaments of cattle and other animals
  • Glycerin – produced through the rendering of animal fat and common in soaps
  • Guanine – made from fish scales and added to products for a shimmering, glittery effect
  • Keratin – derived from the hair and nails/hooves of animals and often found in products that promise to strengthen hair or nails
  • Lanolin – an oil secreted by sheep and used in hair and skin products

Warning—some of these natural materials, like hair or guanine, can get replaced by micro plastics or harsh synthetic chemicals in vegan products, so “vegan” and “environmentally friendly” are not always the same thing!

Once again, the FDA has no legally enforceable definition for “vegan” when it comes to cosmetics and skincare, so be sure to research deeper than the label if you have doubts about a product’s vegan credentials.

Where Can I Find Cruelty-Free Cosmetics?

When searching for legit cruelty-free cosmetics, your best bet is knowing your brands. Do a bit of research to identify companies who meet your needs and values. Organic Cosmetica is one brand fully committed to an ethical, sustainable, and fully cruelty-free business model. We offer a full line of cosmetics that are high in quality and affordable in addition to being animal friendly. Visit the Organic Cosmetica Shop to explore our selection of cruelty-free cosmetics.


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