What is the Difference Between Cruelty Free & Vegan Cosmetics?

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As consumer demand for products that do not harm animals has grown over the years, there has been a rise in the creation of ethical cosmetic products and brands. Alongside this trend, there are now a number of seals declaring “cruelty free” and “vegan” certification, but these terms are often used interchangeably when they actually have different definitions.

While the popularity for ethical beauty continues to grow, with no signs of slowing, the team at Jarvis Cosmetic Developments believe that it is important to distinguish between these two significant descriptions.

Differences Between Cruelty Free & Vegan

Cruelty Free Cosmetics

Cruelty free means that throughout the entire production process, animal testing is completely prohibited; this includes all of the ingredients within the product as well as the end product itself. This ban is included in law in many, but not all, countries.

Accreditations like the Cruelty Free International leaping bunny or the PETA logo signify that the product in question meets their stringent criteria and that, essentially, no part of the product has been tested on animals. It is important to be aware that sometimes animal testing is “required by law” in order for finished products to comply with various regional regulations around the world. In regards to this, no sign of certification or claim guarantees that they are cruelty free.

As this term refers to the testing process rather than the choice of ingredients, cruelty free products can contain non-vegan components.

Vegan Cosmetics

Vegan refers to the choice of ingredients that are used to create a product; vegan cosmetics do not contain any animal-derived products or animal by-products.

Examples of common ingredients found in cosmetics that are NOT vegan include:

Collagen – Used in anti-ageing products, it is taken from dead animal’s bones, connective tissue and skin.
Beeswax – Taken directly from a beehive, it is used in eye shadow, foundation and lipstick products.
Keratin – Used in hair products to make your hair shiny, it is taken from mammals’ hair, nails and horns.

The Vegan Society certification also indicates that no animal products have been used in the production process.

Unfortunately, just as cruelty free products can contain animal derived ingredients products, vegan products can also end up being be tested on animals.

Are There Products That Are Cruelty Free and Vegan?

While there are a variety of definitions, although none of them ‘legal’, for “cruelty free” or “vegan”, there are cosmetic products out there that do actually meet both criteria.

Now that you understand the classification of both terms, you can examine the labels and ingredients list in order to satisfy yourself whether they can be categorised as such. It is important to highlight, however, that some brands may deceptively describe their product as either cruelty free or vegan so make sure you pay close attention to detail.

One of the best ways to make sure that they are honest about their claims is by identifying certified logos on their packaging. As mentioned before, the leaping bunny and PETA logos are reliable accreditations for cruelty free products. Furthermore, the Vegan Action non-profit organisation and the Vegan Society has the certified vegan logo to indicate vegan cosmetics.

At Jarvis, we believe that soon enough all cosmetics will be “cruelty free” and “vegan”, with stricter regulations and guidelines put into place. We always work towards a better understanding of current and future trends of the cosmetics industry and encourage our clients to share their insights with us.


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