Vegan & cruelty free beauty products: the differences

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What is the difference between vegan and cruelty free products? These two terms are often confused and exchanged: let’s clarify the subject!


Product labels tell the story of how they were made: what substances used and their origin. Vegan and cruelty free beauty product brands are among the most important. Even if they are sometimes confused. We sometimes tend to believe that these two terms are synonymous, that they have the same meaning and therefore that they are interchangeable: nothing more deceived! To buy consciously, it is good to understand the differences between a vegan product and a cruelty-free product, avoiding falling into easy traps. With this guide, we want to explain what distinguishes the two terms, helping you understand when a product is vegan, cruelty-free, or both!

Vegan and cruelty-free products


Cruelty free literally means “free from cruelty”: the term refers to all the products obtained without hurting the animals. The cruelty-free formulation ensures that no animal has been subjected to cruel treatment at any stage of production. These products, before being sold and reaching consumers, have in no way been tested on animals. Therefore, the effectiveness of the formula is not verified by experiments conducted on animals.

Cruelty-free beauty products


Since March 11, 2013 in Europe, it is forbidden to test cosmetic products on animals, as provided by law. EU Regulation 2019/788. This obliges all EU member states not to test cosmetics on animals at any stage of product development. Brands can’t test on animals not even the only ingredients of the formulas, nor can they mandate third-party companies for this task. In addition, they must refrain from purchasing ingredients tested on animals from other companies or facilities, often located on non-European soils, in countries where animal testing is legal.

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Vegan and cruelty-free beauty products
Skincare products for sale on Cult Beauty – photo: @cultbeauty


When can a beauty product be defined as vegan? A beauty product is vegan when it does not contain any ingredients of animal origin nor of animal origin. No element of animal origin, not even collagen, honey, beeswax, keratin, silk proteins, lanolin. A very popular animal ingredient is collagen, anti-aging par excellence used in face serums to maintain the elasticity and tone of the skin. Collagen is a protein exclusive to the animal kingdom: it is found in connective tissues and in abundance in the human body. Vegan brands replace animal collagen with extracts from certain types of seaweed with similar properties. Another ingredient found in face serums and creams is squalene, with soothing and moisturizing properties, derived from shark liver. Vegetable alternatives to this ingredient are becoming more and more widespread and derive from amaranth seeds, rice bran, wheat germ or olives.

Natural beauty products


Animal by-products are, for example, honey, propolis and milk. In the case of references containing ingredients derived from animal activity, we speak of vegetarian products. and not vegan. Today, there are more ethically correct ways to collect these ingredients without harming animals and the environment, such as in the case of some of Gisou’s hair products made with honey and bee-propolis. When a product contains derivatives of animal origin, he is no longer a vegan. This means that if words such as “90% vegan” appear on a single product, it cannot be defined as vegan. The best way to understand which products to use is to trust them certificates indicated on the label and ingredients present at the INCI!

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Vegan skincare products


The fact that a product is certified cruelty free does not mean that it is free of ingredients of animal origin. The cruelty free mention concerns the operating methods of brands, the business choices that can be more or less virtuous vis-à-vis respect for animals. It can therefore happen that a product is cruelty free but not vegan. So a product not tested on animals can contain animal-derived ingredients. It is therefore essential to know the differences between vegan and cruelty free products!

Vegan and vegetarian treatments


If a product is certified vegan, we can be reasonably sure that it does not contain traces of animal-derived or animal-derived ingredients of any percentage. Certification is a certified on the form issued by an association or body outside the company created for this purpose. Official certifications remain the tool more transparent and trusted to ensure that a brand’s formulas are vegan. But we must make a clarification: not all companies that undertake to exclude animal substances from formulas are certified vegan. Often the costs of obtaining recognition are very high and some brands cannot yet afford this expense. How to understand, then, if the product is vegan even if it is not certified? The best thing to do is read the INCI carefully ensuring that no ingredients of animal origin appear.

Certification of vegan products

Certified vegan products
Certified vegan products: on the packaging they bear the certification logo


Vegan and cruelty-free certifications are the most immediate tools for getting to know beauty products in-depth. THE certification logos they are highlighted on the product packaging and often repeated on the label, below the INCI. Indications that certify products as vegan correspond to the Vegan Society, Certified Vegan, VeganOK or similar logos. While cruelty-free products may have a different formulation depending on the organization issuing the certification. The most popular international cruelty-free certifications come from associations such as PETA, Leaping Bunny, IHTK and CFF.

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Cruelty-free product certification

We hope our guide was helpful in clarifying the differences between vegan and cruelty-free products! We remind you of the importance of always reading the INCI beauty references and of informing yourself about the operating methods of the brands, in order to be more and more aware in their purchasing choices.

Did you already know the differences between vegan and cruelty-free products? Do you tend to buy certified beauty products? We look forward to reading your questions and opinions in the comments!

Some suggestions on beauty, vegan and cruelty free brands and products:

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