Finding Vegan Makeup & Skincare Products

Veganism is more than just a diet — it’s a lifestyle that seeks to eliminate the use of animal products as far as is possible and practicable. Ergo, if you follow a vegan lifestyle, your choice of makeup and skincare products will not only contain zero animal products, but they will also be ‘cruelty-free’: an adjective synonymous with ‘no animal testing’.

If you’re scratching your head over what constitutes an animal product — or you’re wondering how to differentiate between the ‘vegan’ and ‘cruelty-free’ labels — you’ve come to the right blog. Let’s explore what’s vegan and what’s not, and how you can navigate the market to make more ethical beauty choices.

What Exactly Is Vegan Makeup?

In the broadest sense, vegan makeup is makeup that’s not only devoid of animal products but also came about without animal testing. Some makeup and skincare brands are forthcoming in declaring themselves vegan and cruelty-free, while others may not advertise it. To check if a product is vegan, you must either check its packaging for a ‘vegan’ label or read its ingredients. If you’re unsure, consult the company’s website, which may have an FAQs page, or contact the company with your enquiry.

One issue with reviewing ingredients yourself is that it’s not always clear which ingredients are animal-derived and which are not. Here are some common ingredients to avoid.

1. Beeswax or Honey

Perhaps the most obvious of all, beeswax and honey are products of bees. Bees produce wax to raise their brood and store their winter food — honey — which bees make from flower nectar. Because bees create these products for themselves and their survival over winter, vegans believe beeswax and honey are not ours to take.

A product is not vegan if you notice beeswax, honey or royal jelly listed in the ingredients. Also watch out for ‘cera alba’: a sneaky way to write ‘beeswax’.

2. Carmine or Cochineal

Carmine or cochineal is a red colouring derived from crushed cochineal insects. It should be obvious why this isn’t vegan. If ‘cochineal’ sounds familiar, you’re likely thinking of the food dye made from the same ingredient.

3. Shellac

While we’re on insects, shellac is a beetle-secreted resin that gives nail varnish and hairspray a shine. When humans harvest shellac, the beetles are often collateral damage.

4. Lanolin

Lanolin is a fatty byproduct of sheep’s wool. You’ll find it in some skincare products, and it’s often distributed as a vitamin supplement (vitamin D3). Of course, to extract lanolin, you must shear a sheep, and vegans would feel no less weird about stripping a sheep for its wool than they would about shaving their dog for its fur.

5. Gelatine

Gelatine is a concoction of animal skin, bones, tendons and ligaments. It’s a thickener used in cosmetics, but more commonly in confectionery. Because gelatine is the ‘off-cuts’ of the meat industry, vegans avoid this ingredient like the plague.

Without the labelling, staying beautiful as a vegan can be a minefield. Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you may purchase something with a sneaky animal product: an almost inevitable part of the journey. If this happens, don’t beat yourself up. A good strategy moving forward is to continue your research and perhaps stick with ‘safe’ brands.

Cruelty-Free Shopping

Shopping for beauty products as a vegan is a two-fold process: the first step is determining whether the product is animal-free, and the second step is ensuring that the product was not tested on animals. While it’s common for makeup and skincare products to be vegan and cruelty-free, not all vegan products will be cruelty-free and vice versa. Some buyers may avoid cosmetics containing animal products for skin sensitivity rather than for ethical reasons. On the other hand, many prefer to purchase cruelty-free products because they disapprove of animal testing but have less of an issue with using beeswax.

Contrary to decoding ingredients, determining if a product is cruelty-free is relatively straightforward. Product packaging often states ‘cruelty-free’, ‘not tested on animals’ or ‘against animal testing’. If you can’t locate such a label, your next port of call would be to research the brand online, starting with that FAQ page on their website. Failing that, you can send an enquiry to the company via live chat, email or their customer service line.

There’s been a lot of discussion about what not to buy, so let’s get to the good stuff. Without further ado, here are some makeup and skincare brands in Australia with vegan and cruelty-free ticks of approval:

INIKA Organic

INIKA Organic is every bit as beautiful as it is natural, organic, sustainable, vegan and cruelty-free. They boast skincare products such as cleansers, toners, moisturisers, masks and even sunscreen that are high-calibre enough to feature on the (physical and online) shelves of Myer, Adore Beauty and Nourished Life. You can read their stance on vegan and cruelty-free practices here.

 Mecca Max

Though it doesn’t have animal-loving roots, Mecca Max upped its game in 2018 by committing to making all its products vegan and cruelty-free. According to their FAQs page, they do not administer animal testing at any point in their development process and are currently in the process of acquiring third-party cruelty-free certifications.

 e.l.f. Cosmetics

Renowned for its Poreless Putty Primer, e.l.f. Cosmetics is an affordable and fabulous makeup brand you can find at Target, Priceline and the exclusively online shop, Adore Beauty. They label themselves as ‘double-certified cruelty-free’ as they are certified with Leaping Bunny and PETA. You can read more about what that means here.

The Body Shop

DISCLAIMER: The Body Shop does not stock 100 per cent vegan products, but it does have many available and acknowledges the market demand for them. If you prefer your makeup animal-free, there’s plenty of room to move with products like their Lip Juicer or Fresh Nude Foundation. The Body Shop itself is renowned for its strict stance on staying cruelty-free.


Like The Body Shop, LUSH prides itself on being 100 per cent cruelty-free with solid vegan options. Everything in their shop is vegetarian-friendly, but you must filter through their collection if you want zero animal products. That said, their vegan collection is rather extensive, covering everything from bath and shower to makeup and skincare products. They also proudly claim ‘ethical buying’, as well as lovingly handmade products.

Beautiful Faces & Happy Rabbits

Shopping as a vegan or with a more ethical mindset needn’t be difficult. If you shop with any sort of filter on — be that buying fair-trade or conflict-free, locally sourced or sustainable, or gluten- or dairy-free — the same sentiment stands. Whether you want to make more ethical choices for the planet, the animals, or human workers — or if you need to filter out specific ingredients for your own health — we have the resources available to better navigate the market than ever before. Ultimately, mindful shopping is a matter of taking a moment to research rather than impulse-buying the first appealing product.

Previous Post
Next Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *