Cruelty-Free & Vegan Beauty: What You Need to Know

Dec 11, 2022by Heather Smith

As a cruelty-free and vegan skincare brand, these ethical values are tied to every decision made here at bareLUXE. There can be some confusion because of misinformation and/or tricky marketing language, so this article is designed to help sort through what is hype and what isn't.

Cruelty-free skincare products are not tested on animals at any stage of production. This means no animals are used to test the safety or effectiveness of the ingredients or the finished product.

Instead, cruelty-free companies and vegan brands use alternate methods to test skin care product safety, such as in vitro testing (cell cultures). By choosing cruelty-free, you can support companies that are committed to ethical and humane practices.

Depending on factors like crop stability, water and feed requirements, and shipping costs, plant-based ingredients are often more eco-friendly than non-vegan friendly products. Natural ingredients are both ethical and sustainable when sourced with care.

There's no need for animals to die so that we can have beauty products; it doesn't really matter what your skin type or anti-aging needs are - there is an ethical beauty brand out there dedicated to helping you see results *and* making the earth a better place in the process.

Are All Vegan Skincare Products Cruelty-Free?

Yes*, vegan skincare products are cruelty-free. **few exceptions exist, but (especially due to the situation in China) it is possible that some vegan skincare brands could still be considered NOT cruelty free. That's one important reason to follow the advice of organizations like Leaping Bunny. 

Vegan skincare products are made without any animal-derived ingredients. This makes them inherently cruelty-free and both ethical and environmentally friendly.

It's important to note that not all cruelty-free skincare products are vegan, as some may be made with animal-derived ingredients.

What's wrong with ingredients like beeswax, honey, and goat's milk?

In theory, these should be sustainable ingredients that are easy to produce without harming the animals. One could go even further to say that beeswax and honey should be farmed more aggressively because it encourages pollinator expansion. The issue is that the supply chain and farming conditions cannot be guaranteed. There are beekeeping practices used by some farmers that are far from humane or natural.

The bottom line is that vegan skincare brands will not use any animal-derived products; that way, certainty can be 100%.

Do you know where animal-based ingredients come from? Here are a few of the obvious but also hidden sources:

    • Lanolin: thick waxy oil from sheep skin
    • Honey, beeswax, royal jelly
    • Guanine: pearlescent crystalline additive made from fish scales
    • Snail Mucin/helix aspersa muller glycoconjugates
    • Animal placenta (🤢)
    • Carmine: red pigment from the dried and crushed shells of female cochineal bugs
    • Emu oil (note: the emu must be killed to extract)
    • Squalane (one of my favourite ingredients, but MUST make sure it's from plant origin - otherwise, it comes from shark farming 😢)
    • Shellac: varnish produced from a resin obtained from an insect called the "lac"
    • Collagen: from animal bones and tendons
    • Tallow/Gelatin: rendered from animal fat or connective tissues
    • Ambergris: a scent/perfuming agent from the lining of whales' stomach
    • (glycerine can be made from animal fat, but plant-based sources are readily available and easy to confirm the origin)

What About Brands Selling Beauty Products in China?

Until recently, selling any cosmetics product in China required animal testing. This is why so many brands try to label themselves as cruelty-free, but are denied certification because they still conduct these practices internationally where required by law.

Changing animal testing laws is an important part of China's cosmetics regulations. This is a major move towards a cruelty-free future. But the new legislation is still a work in progress. While the new laws will remove pre-market and post-market testing requirements, they will not ban the practice altogether.

'General' cosmetics such as makeup, lotions, body washes and shampoos will no longer require pre-market animal testing. This means that brands will be able to sell imported non-special use cosmetics into mainland China without paying for cruel animal tests. However, special-use cosmetics, including sunscreens, hair dyes and antiperspirants, will still require pre and post-market animal testing.

Despite the change, companies will still have to jump through a number of hoops to avoid animal testing. The first step is to obtain a Good Manufacturing Practice certificate.

The second step is to get a safety assessment. The Institute for In Vitro Sciences provides guidance for non-animal testing methods, however this may be prohibitively expensive for indie brands.

Finally, companies must apply for an exemption from the animal testing requirement, which usually takes between six and twelve months.

Major Cruelty-Free Certification Programs


Leaping Bunny

The Leaping Bunny program provides a globally recognized standard for cruelty-free cosmetics, personal care, and household products. The program is administered by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), a coalition of eight animal protection groups.

PETA Beauty Without Bunnies

PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is an animal rights organization that operates a program called the Beauty Without Bunnies program, which is a cruelty-free certification program for cosmetics, personal care, and household products.

To become certified by these organizations, a company must make a commitment to not conduct, commission, or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations, or finished products, and must also pledge not to sell their products in countries that require animal testing by law. The company must also undergo regular independent audits to ensure that they are compliant.

The main difference between the two programs is that PETA is an animal rights organization, while the Leaping Bunny program is a coalition of eight animal protection groups. Ultimately, both PETA and the Leaping Bunny program offer reliable and trustworthy cruelty-free certifications, and consumers can choose the program that aligns best with their personal values and preferences.

Choose Cruelty-Free/Cruelty Free International

Choose Cruelty-Free (CCF) is a non-profit organization based in Australia that promotes the use of cruelty-free products and supports companies that produce such products.

CCF has recently merged with Cruelty Free International - the parent organization that administers the Leaping Bunny Program in North America and Europe.

These organizations all work at different levels of Government and Industry to advocate for the elimination of animal testing in the personal care industry. 

Mica Mining Ethical Considerations

Cruelty-free and vegan skincare is centred around the protection of animals. However, with our focus on ethical beauty, we think it's critical to always also draw attention to the humanitarian issues associated with mica mining, which involves human cruelty.

Mica is a mineral that is commonly used in cosmetics and other personal care products for its shimmering, pearlescent effect. However, the mining of mica has been the subject of controversy due to the use of child labour and poor working conditions in mica mines, particularly in India.

The issue has gained increased attention in recent years, and many cosmetics companies have committed to sourcing mica from ethical and responsible sources. However, the problem remains widespread, and there is still a need for greater transparency and accountability in the mica supply chain.

In addition to being a vegan and cruelty-free brand, bareLUXE has committed to being a mica-free because we had trouble verifying the supply chain with 100% certainty. Formulations were revised, and mica was removed from our face scrub.


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About the Author

Dr. Heather Smith developed her love for skinimalism and clean beauty years ago when she began making home remedies for her newborn's eczema. She is an expert in natural ingredients and active botanicals and has now launched bareLUXE Skincare - a full line of effective oil serums. She dedicates this blog to consumers who are researching ingredients and working to make their beauty ritual more natural and sustainable.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Smith nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content should consult their physicians about their skincare concerns and routines.