If you’re a lover of skincare and makeup, you’ve likely heard the following terms — clean, vegan and cruelty free beauty.

Though many people believe they are interchangeable, these phrases are not all the same and can suit different people depending on their unique wants and needs from a beauty and skincare line.

However, if you’re confused as to how they differentiate from each other, read on. After all, knowing where to turn when shopping allows you to make the most informed choice about brands you want to support and recommend.

Clean Beauty

Clean beauty is centred on creating safe, organic, and natural products that don’t contain harsh chemicals, fragrances, talc, parabens or dyes. They are labelled as non-toxic and have a limited ingredient list suitable for sensitive skin.

But while these beauty brands are most likely cruelty free, they may not be vegan since they can still use honey, snail secretion, or beeswax.

Vegan Beauty

Vegan makeup and skincare doesn’t contain traces of animal products. These animal derived substances can include ingredients such as beeswax, lanolin (derived from wool), and glycerine (derived from animal fats).

Certain dyes in makeup are also obtained from animal sources. For instance, natural red 4, which is commonly used for its striking pigment in lipsticks and eyeshadows, is composed of crushed insects.

But how can you be guaranteed a product is vegan?

You can always check a product’s ingredient list on its packaging or look on the company’s website as they’ll usually advertise if a product is vegan or not. But if you want to take the guesswork out, some examples of vegan-friendly cosmetic companies are as follows:

Every product manufactured by these companies is 100% free from animal products and animal testing, making it a hassle free shopping experience for the vegan consumer.

However, the only downside is that these brands may not suit someone looking for clean beauty products as they can still contain fragrances and ingredients that can break out sensitive skin.

Cruelty Free Beauty

Cruelty free means that a beauty company does not test its products on animals throughout the development process. In instances of animal testing, rabbits, monkeys, and mice are subjected to cruel and unnecessary trials that can render them blind. Certain tests also result in painful chemical burns on their skin.

Additionally, keep an eye out for companies that distribute and sell their products in China as they are required by law to experiment on animals. Some of the biggest culprits include L’Oréal and Mac Cosmetics.

Thankfully, several brands do not abide by these standards, making it easier for you to choose a contender that aligns with your ethics and love of animals.

But what confuses many people when switching over to new products is this — a product can be cruelty free, but not vegan.

Major brands like Covergirl, Milani, Anastasia Beverly Hills and NYX are considered cruelty free, but mostly manufacture products that contain animal ingredients such as the ones previously listed. However, these brands do produce a handful of items marked as vegan; you simply must be wary when filling your shopping cart.

When searching for a cruelty free company, always look for the Leaping Bunny Certified Logo to ensure it’s gone through the regulation process and earned the title of being a true cruelty free product.

Which category of beauty is right for me?

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a brand that checks off all of these boxes, look to brands such as Mother Dirt, Acure, and Clove + Hallow. Their cosmetic and skincare products contain natural, plant derived ingredients with absolutely no animal testing or ingredients involved in the process. Best of all, they won’t irritate sensitive or acne-prone skin.

For people living a vegan lifestyle, consider products that are both cruelty free and vegan, as to limit the amount of animal suffering in the world of beauty and skincare.

clean beauty

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

About the Author


Ana Rueles is a freelance writer for hire who specializes in all things related to veganism — from cruelty-free beauty to healthy vegan living. You can find her blog at theveggiewriter.com, where you can also inquire about her copywriting and blogging services or read up on some of the best tips for living a balanced plant-fueled life. When she’s not writing, she’s most likely invested in a page-turning novel or hitting up her local thrift store.

Our writers independently select all products featured on The Vegan Company. We only recommend products and services we love – and think you’ll love too. Just letting you know that when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.