Vegan beauty has come on leaps and bounds in the last decade – not merely great news for the animal kingdom, but also your product stash.
Plenty of industry heavyweights have cottoned on to the consumer trend, offering some vegan products within their ranges, or better still, there are heaps of excellent entirely vegan beauty brands that are absolutely killing it.
If you're planning on giving your beauty regime an animal-friendly makeover, there's zero need to compromise on quality. Ingredient innovation and formula development means that there are some high-performing vegan beauty products out there that stand head and shoulders above their non-vegan counterparts.
What is the difference between vegan and cruelty-free beauty?
Vegan beauty means products that contain no animal derivatives (including ingredients such as beeswax and lanolin), whereas cruelty-free (identified most commonly with the Leaping Bunny accreditation) means a product was developed without animal testing, and it is not sold in countries where animal testing is mandatory.
Is animal testing illegal in the UK?
Animal testing for cosmetic purposes is banned in the UK, and also under EU law. Prior to May 2021, 'general' cosmetics sold in China were subjected to mandatory pre-market animal testing, meaning that beauty brands that sold to the Chinese market could not be classified as cruelty-free. Since then, "the prerequisite for pre-market animal testing has been lifted for most cosmetics being sold in the country", according to Cruelty-Free Kitty.
Which ingredients are not vegan?
Most brands helpfully label their vegan beauty products as such on the outer packaging. However, if it's not obvious, or if you're simply wanting to double check, there are certain red-flag ingredients that signal a non-vegan product.
A few to look out for include lanolin (derived from sheep's wool, found in some lip balms), honey and beeswax, and carmine (a red pigment derived from insects, found in some lipsticks).
We recommend you refer to a brand's website if you're unsure, because even some commonplace skincare ingredients are non-vegan. Squalane for instance is harvested from the liver of sharks - granted this is much less common nowadays given developments in plant-based formulas - but it is still worth checking.
How we chose:
The nature of my job as a fashion and beauty journalist requires me to be super discerning, testing new products and putting them through their paces. All the beauty brands I've chosen are fully vegan across the board, and the products I've highlighted are a few of my personal favourites.
Hello! Fashion shares our favourite vegan beauty brands:
With its aesthetically pleasing packaging and kind spirit ethos, Selena Gomez’s brainchild Rare Beauty is brilliant, and entirely vegan. I really rate the Perfect Strokes Volumizing Mascara (think the ultimate all-in-one lash transformer), but my current obsession is the All of the Above Weightless Eyeshadow Stick.
With self-expression at its core, NYC-based Milk Makeup has a fun, youthful spirit. It's one of the more affordable brands that I think excels in non-sticky, super cushiony cream formulas – plus, it has an excellent selection of miniatures. You'd be hard pressed to find me flying without a Milk Makeup stick in my hand luggage.
Created by celebrity facialist Sharon McGlinchey, small-batch Australian brand MV Skintherapy strips things back to basics and focuses on the ritual of self-care. The brand's oils are utterly lovely, and I am particularly fond of its rose line for both nourishment and hydration - great on dull, weathered skin.
I personally remain unpersuaded by the 'clean beauty' movement, but another vote for Australian vegan skincare comes in the form of Inika Organic. With quality ingredients and the pursuit of radiance at its core, the brand boasts a thoughtful, user-friendly lineup of products at a reasonable mid-range price point.
Hair by Sam McKnight
Unsurprisingly, Princess Diana was onto something when she recruited hair extraordinaire Sam McKnight as her personal stylist. His entirely vegan brand Hair by Sam McKnight is all about the cool-girl aesthetic, captured best by 90s muse Kate Moss.
Aveda is one of the globe's leading haircare brands, and for excellent reason. Marrying performance and innovation with an earth-friendly outlook, the brand has been cruelty-free since its inception in 1978. After extensive fine-tuning, Aveda has reworked its first-rate formulas so it is now fully vegan.
I always favour professional-standard nail brands, and Mylee is one of my favourites for affordable gels. Founded in 2014, it is a trailblazer in the at-home salon sphere with its ultra-durable polishes. (Truly, if you have slow nail growth like me, a DIY pedicure can last for a month.)
A relative newcomer as far as luxury perfume houses go, Sana Jardin was only founded in 2017 and yet it has already made a huge splash. Blending natural and man-made notes, the brand prides itself on delivering "the exquisite, lush beauty of nature’s most exotic scents with sparkling clarity and presence".
Beauty maven Michelle Feeney created independent British label Floral Street with the intention of making the world of fragrance more "accessible and affordable". Unpretentious and excellent value, get acquainted with the London-inspired scents via the discovery set if you're looking for a new signature.
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