You’d think that if a beauty brand tested on animals, they’d have the decency to let you know about it (some do), but smoke and mirrors marketing and a lack of legislation mean that it’s not always clear which companies are truly cruelty-free, and which aren’t. Animal testing on cosmetics products or their ingredients was banned by the EU in 2013, but the same can’t be said for the global market, and in China the law demands that beauty products must be tested on animals before going to sale. This means that, while brands don’t test on animals in Europe, they could do so elsewhere in the world.
Thankfully, more and more emerging and household name brands won’t touch animal testing with a bargepole: here are twelve cruelty-free crusaders that also happen to make some of the most innovative, high quality makeup out there, because owning a humane and brilliantly holographic highlighter is your right. I've noted in the edit which brands are owned by parent companies who do own other cosmetics lines sold in China, and which are independent- you can be sure that standalone brands have no umbrella link to animal testing in any way. I'll also be adding to this rundown over time so bookmark it to continue adding to your cruelty-free makeup collection.
An independent Brit brand that prides itself on its creativity, inclusivity and otherworldly shades and pigments, Illamasqua has more than a hint of the theatrical about it- the company’s photography shoots are a fantastical feast for the eyes. Bestsellers are surprisingly low key given the brand’s concentration on colour- the Hydra Veil Primer , £34, is fast on its way to becoming a cult skin prep product, and the Skin Base Foundation , £33, caters for all complexions, from snowy white to deep black, with due consideration given to a diverse range of undertones. For something a bit more bold to knock your socks off, the new Beyond Powder , £34, is molten deliciousness in highlighter form.
Kat Von D
With a punk spirit akin to Illamasqua’s, tattoo artist Kat Von D’s independent makeup range is as ethical as it is edgy. “Quality over quantity” is Kat’s ethos, and she tests all products on herself first and foremost, and is also making strides where vegan makeup is concerned, using a synthetic beeswax to give her lipsticks hold and lustre. Not all of Kat’s line is vegan, but #VeganAlert demarcates what is, from brushes to powder to liquid lipstick (a hero Kat Von D offering), and this sector of her range is ever expanding. In short, she’s pushing the beauty envelope, and we like it.
The Body Shop
Admittedly a departure from the previous two gritty brands, but good old independent high street stalwart The Body Shop has been a cruelty-free beacon of hope before many brands even stopped to consider the bunnies, plus, the makeup range is hugely underrated. See the Honey Bronze Bronzing Powder , £14, which is available in a far wider array of shades than most brands go for (two shades is really not enough to make most of us look convincingly beachy), while the eyeshadows are rich, velvety and vegan where possible.
A hip new independent take on high street makeup, 3ina , pronounced ‘mina’, puts colour and affordability at centre stage, aiming to offer customers of any age, race or gender a vast array of seriously creative cosmetics. From the recently launched UV collection (black eyeliner goes fluoro blue at nightfall and other eccentricities) to the Intense Lipstick , £7.95, offering lush pigmentation in every hue from nude to teal, it’s no surprise that former Sephora execs are behind this budget departure from the makeup norm. Try the brand’s bestsellers for starters- the finely milled Blush , £9.95, is available in six adaptable shades, while the glimmery Cream Eyeshadow , £8.95, can double up as an illuminator depending on the tone you go for.
From an extensive beauty haul to a select one, Eyeko (independent), unsurprisingly, specialises in eye makeup, and boy does it hit the mark. One of the first to introduce squeezy tube mascaras, so that not a drop of the good stuff goes to waste, this Brit-born brand has also cornered the market for inky felt tip liners and more recently, brow products, from volume boosting gels to a definition enhancing ‘brow liner’. Try the new 3-in-1 Makeup Brush , £16, for a mind-boggling yet genius eye makeup application experience. We’ve dubbed it the Swiss Army Knife of eye makeup brushes- it’s as smart, effective and economical as eye makeup brushes come.
Moving on from eyes to lips. While Dutch makeup artist Ellis’ independent range covers all features, it’s the sparky, state-of-the-art lip products that garner most attention. The ‘only tested on supermodels’ line puts a focus on texture as well as colour, with the Creamy Lips , Milky Lips , Glazed Lips and Hot Lips pens allowing you to play as much with effect as with shade, although the fact that Ellis has recreated the closest red to actual human blood on the market is equally impressive (and flattering, despite the gory connotations). Ellis recently launched a dedicated Hot Lips in aid of War Child , with 100% of profits of the very summer appropriate vegan and cruelty-free coral lipstick going towards giving children growing up in conflict zones a safe haven. In short, this is as kind as cosmetics get.
We jet from the Netherlands to LA, where this luxe, forward-thinking line was launched in 2004. Hourglass pioneered ‘real’ looking illuminating palettes before strobing was even a ‘thing’ (the sellout Ambient® Lighting Powders , from £22, are a case in point), and the brand’s dedication to empowering women and girls , along with creating socially responsible, recyclable and refillable products, earns them serious kudos in an industry that’s sometimes more concerned about making a quick buck. As for the makeup, think the richest colour payoffs you’ve encountered, along with lightweight, refined textures and beautifully on point colour palettes. It’s spendy, so do be choosy, but eyeshadows and face powders in particular will last you yonks. It's recently been announced that Unilever are to acquire Hourglass, so while Hourglass remains cruelty-free, Unilever brands such as Dove and Vaseline are sold in China.
We’re on an American roll here, and this recent US import is particularly exciting given its focus on high quality, full coverage base products that soothe skin while looking anything but fake or ‘cake’. IT Cosmetics co-founder and CEO Jamie Kern Lima, a former TV presenter, suffers from rosacea , and found that the heavy base she wore on air often rubbed off, aggravated redness or looked plain mask like. In collaboration with top plastic surgeons, she spearheaded a line of problem solving cosmetics, with the Your Skin But Better CC+ SPF 50+ cream , £50, becoming a global bestseller. Committed to changing cosmetic industry practices and the “conversation around what’s beautiful” for the better, we’re psyched that we can now get our hands on the line in the UK. IT Cosmetics were this year sold to L'Oreal, so while the brand remains cruelty-free, other L'Oreal companies are sold in China.
US makeup phenomenon number three, Tarte has long been a brand that we’ve stockpiled on transatlantic Sephora raids, but by way of ever-reliable QVC , we can now get our Tarte fix in the UK. We’re doing our best to exercise restraint in the face of rainforest inspired eye palettes and rose gold glitter liners, but it’s tough. From foundation to mascara, it’s high performance stuff, infused with vitamins, minerals and SPF where applicable, and the “eco-chic” vibe extends from packaging to green ingredients. Disappointingly Tarte's parent company, KOSÉ, owns other brands that are sold in China.
Originally conceived as a visionary counter to the “pink, red and beige” that typified the makeup market, Urban Decay is somewhat ironically now best known for its Naked dynasty of eye shadow palettes, concealer, base and lipglosses, but as neutrals go, the Naked family is anything but boring. Think smoked up bronzes, sheeny shell colours and a veritable feast of finishes, from matte to metallic. With a drive towards vegan makeup, a flora and fauna friendly office complete with UD urban garden and an open door policy to pets (I presume within reason), Urban Decay follows through in terms of compassion for animals, staff and of course, customers. They're defiantly cruelty-free as a brand, but be aware that they're owned by L'Oreal.
Although not strictly cruelty-free in all of its offerings, Birchbox has recently launched an Ingredient Conscious category to its Birchbox Shop, whereby you can browse and purchase cruelty-free, vegan and organic makeup and skincare, with many products and ranges ticking all three boxes. With relatively few retailers pointing clearly towards cruelty-free ranges, this is without doubt a step in the right direction, although ideally entire beauty halls both online and IRL would be animal testing-free zones. Baby steps.
Finally, drumroll please for possibly the most anticipated beauty launch on our shores in quite some time: Glossier is coming. Famed for its minimalist yet highly covetable skincare, beauty editor curated and created Glossier Phase 2 is all about wearable makeup basics, including the ethereally named and textured Cloud Paint blusher , “halo” highlighter and Boy Brow eyebrow thickener. All makeup ties in a conditioning skincare element as you might expect, with a firm stance against animal testing, although, as with Urban Decay, animals visiting HQ is quite another matter:
“No we do not test on animals. The Gloffice often hosts animal visitors (a Shih Tzu mix named Burger, a Dachshund Beagle mix named Bruce), and we wouldn’t dream of testing on them or any of their friends.”
Hold tight for an imminent launch from this independent brand. We’re still in the dark as to an actual date, but that just makes the whole prospect all the more mouthwatering, no?
For a definitive list of certified cruelty free makeup brands, visit Peta’s online cruelty-free search tool here
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