Your Comprehensive Guide to Cruelty-Free & Vegan Brands

Author’s Note: I’m back! It has definitely been a long time since I have posted on here, and I have been going through the biggest writer’s block spell I’ve ever had. Life has also been quite crazy, and I hope to post a life update soon. But I wanted my first returning blog post to be a resource that has been highly requested since I started blogging about veganism a few years ago. I’ve received lots of messages asking for cruelty-free and vegan brand recommendations and I thought I would combine them all (as well as extra info) into one comprehensive guide! So let’s dive into it!

Cruelty-Free and Vegan Brands: What’s the Difference?

This is a question I get asked a lot, as well as a question I had when I was first transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. The two terms seem similar, so is there a difference? Cruelty-Free brands are those that do not use animal testing during any part of the product manufacturing process. This means that they don’t test the raw ingredients, in process ingredients, or final formulas on animals. Vegan products, on the other hand, have no animal testing and no animal derived ingredients. It is possible for a cruelty-free brand to produce a product that contains an animal-derived ingredient (often this is carmine in cosmetic products).

What is important to look out for (and can be difficult) is brands that claim to be cruelty-free or vegan, but their products are sourced in China. China has product production regulations that make it mandatory for animal testing to be conducted on cosmetic and other goods. This means that companies that produce in or derive ingredients from China are not cruelty-free or vegan even if the processes that the products undergo in the United States or other countries are free from animal testing.

Why is it important to buy cruelty-free and vegan products in general?

Much like in the factory farming industry, there is a lot of information that consumers are not exposed to when it comes to the products that they use in their everyday lives. Most products on shelves are tested on animals in some way, and many people aren’t aware of how pervasive the issue is.

Many cosmetics and skincare products are tested on rabbits and beagles, as well as other small animals held in captivity for this purpose. Many articles have been written (like this one from The Humane Society) with the facts about animal testing in the cosmetics industry, and what alternatives might be available for such practices.

It’s not as difficult as most people think to find cruelty-free and vegan alternatives to commonly used products, the biggest challenge is reading labels for information when shopping.

How do I ensure that the products I am buying are cruelty-free or vegan?

This is where it gets complicated. Recently I was shopping for shampoo and conditioner when I saw the new line produced by Garnier that claims to be vegan. I was perplexed by this because Garnier is owned by L’Oreal, which is a brand that is not cruelty-free (one of the brands that I know from the top of my head has animal testing practices). Their use of vegan meant that there were no animal derived ingredients in the formula. However, the formula still involves animal testing.

How can brands advertise with these terms? There is no legislation that clearly defines what it means to be cruelty-free and vegan. Because of this, programs like the Leaping Bunny Program were developed to give consumers a way to ensure that the products they are buying meet rigorous cruelty-free standards (since the label can be used in many circumstances).

This can make cruelty-free shopping difficult, but any effort to switch your lifestyle to include more cruelty-free alternatives makes a world of difference.

What products do I use on a daily basis that could be switched out to be cruelty-free or vegan?

This can actually be hard to think of because so much of what we use has been processed in ways that we are unaware of. Below is a list of items that I was able to switch to cruelty-free and vegan alternatives.

Something that I want to emphasize is that this is not an overnight change. It took me many months if not longer to switch my lifestyle to be vegan. Why? Well for starters, as someone concerned about sustainability I didn’t want any waste to be produced from products I no longer wanted to use. For this reason, I finished up the products before searching for alternatives. The second challenge is finding products that work as well for you as the versions you are currently using.

Have you ever spent years and years looking for a moisturizer, concealer, acne spot treatment, or other product that finally works for you? I know I have. And the idea of finding something else after spending a lot of time and money finding the one that works can be unappealing. I plan to write posts about how I switched my skincare routine (as someone that deals with stress and hormonal acne), hair routine (as someone with long and sometimes unmanageable hair), and travel routine (as someone who had to find cruelty-free and vegan products in other countries for a few months at a time).

The products that I switched out in my life are included in the list below, and there are more that could be added!

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Body wash, soaps in general (many have animal derived ingredients)
  • Toothpaste (and toothbrushes!)
  • Lotions and moisturizers
  • Concealers and foundations
  • Sunscreen
  • Eyeshadow, eyeliner, highlighter, and other makeup products
  • Nail polish
  • House cleaning supplies
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Acne solutions

All of these products have the ability to make a positive difference for animals. So, you may be wondering…

Will it actually make a difference if I switch to cruelty-free or vegan products? I mean, I’m just one person…

The main driving force of these industries is consumer demand, so your buying choices have the power to change what is produced and how. You may be ‘just one person’ but your choice to switch to products that avoid testing on animals will save many lives and start to curve the demand. Have you noticed the increase in awareness and availability of vegan, cruelty-free (leaping bunny) alternatives? When I came back from studying abroad I went into a local store and noticed that there was an entire part of a shelf dedicated to local, cruelty-free, and vegan alternatives. This changed in just eight months (or sooner!), likely due to the local demand.

Isn’t it more expensive to buy cruelty-free and vegan products?

As someone who is on a college student budget, one of the reasons it took some time for me to switch all of my products was budget limitations. However, it wasn’t that cruelty-free or vegan brands are more expensive (I’ve actually found them to be cheaper!) but more that I was looking to switch quite a few products. Over the past year I have fine tuned the products I am using, and will do a post soon about my favorite products and how I use them! (Do let me know in the comments if you are looking for specific recommendations).

So where can I start to find brands that I can switch to?

I’ve created a board on Pinterest where I have collected helpful information from organizations and other amazing bloggers, and these types of pins were very useful for me when I was first starting out! Below is a list of my favorite brands, which I will do a specific product review of soon!

  • BH Cosmetics (they have cruelty-free and vegan clearly listed on their products)
  • Essence Makeup (cruelty-free and vegan)
  • Renpure Hair Care
  • Toms of Maine Toothpaste
  • Ancient Greek Remedy Soaps and Oils

I hope this post was helpful in your transition to cruelty-free and vegan products for your lifestyle! I would love to answer any and all questions you have, I definitely reached out to lots of cruelty-free bloggers when I was first starting out on this journey! Feel free to comment, send me an email, or message me on any of my social media!

Thank you for being so supportive during this transition time for me when blogging has been put on the back burner for awhile! 

 



  • http://practicallyclose.com Practically Close

    Love that you touched on the “but I’m just one person” ideology! It’s so easy for me to think I’m not making a difference, but you really do vote with your dollars! Plus, when a friend sees me using a product they haven’t seen before or asks what I use, I get to tell them that it’s cruelty-free, which opens a dialogue for them to consider cruelty-free products in their lifestyle! Love this!!

    • http://www.thewisewillow.com Alyssa DeBella

      Thank you so much Close!! Yeah I used to think that my buying choices didn’t make a difference, but I’ve noticed the same thing about dialogues and conversations with other people to make them more aware of animal testing and the alternatives! Thank you so much for reading and supporting my journey back into blogging! <3

      x Alyssa

  • Natonya M

    Your commitment to making that change is astounding. Thanks for your well-detailed post, this encourages me to do better with my products. I really want to start using vegan products as I think it will help with me skincare regimen. Thanks for sharing this <3

    BTW, your featured photo is gorgeous!

    Natonya | justnatonya.wordpress.com

    • http://www.thewisewillow.com Alyssa DeBella

      Thank you so much Natonya!! 🙂 My skincare regimen completely changed once I started using the bar soaps and remedy oil from Ancient Greek Remedies–they’re a family owned company and it’s done wonders for my cystic acne! The oil is even ok for oily prone skin, though I do only use it at night and instead use a tinted sunscreen in the morning. 🙂 So glad you found this post helpful! <3

      x Alyssa

      • Natonya M

        Sure Alyssa! This is great info, gonna have to try it out!

  • al.i.c.e

    It’s such a great and useful post. Thank you so much 🙂

  • Caroline Agoba

    I have been trying to go cruelty free with my makeup lately, so a post like this to help encourage me even more is ideal. Thanks for sharing x

  • Willow

    Loved reading this, I am trying slowly but surely to change all my products I am using to cruelty free. It was great to read more about what it all means and what products are out there to make the transition easier. I am also trying to cut down on plastic consumption. I love that you spoke about but I am just one person. If we all did that then there would be no change. It takes that one person to begin change. Thank you for a great post.