Makeup! Whether it be a creative outlet, a pick-me-up or just part of your everyday routine, it’s often an overlooked lifestyle element when making the plant-based switch. BUT if you’re interested in minimising animal cruelty, or taking steps towards a vegan lifestyle, then reviewing your makeup purchases can actually be a great place to start.
Unlike food, going vegan in your makeup and personal care products doesn’t require much research, or effort to change your daily habits. Another added bonus is that it won’t attract attention or unwanted opinions. While the argument of a vegan vs. omnivorous diet may rumble for years to come, it’s hard to justify the exploitation of animals in an industry that is enhancive, rather than essential.
To be considered completely vegan, a beauty product must be:
1. Cruelty Free
So… What’s the difference?
Cruelty Free means that the ingredients and the final product have not been tested on animals at any point.
Vegan means that the product does not include any ingredients derived from animal products.
These terms can often get jumbled around, and it can be confusing, as a product may be Cruelty Free, but not Vegan. But essentially, if you want to make choices that minimise animal suffering, you need to make sure both boxes are ticked!
Thankfully, like vegan food products, the landscape of vegan makeup has changed enormously over the last few years. It’s no longer a mix of essential-oil scented, poor-performing health store brands, but trend driven, market leading beauty brands that also happen to be vegan. There’s no missing out and no compromises, with products to suit every budget and style.
My Top 15 Vegan-Friendly Makeup Brands for Every Budget
Founded in 2004 with the mission to create high quality, affordable beauty products, E.L.F. is famous for great value, with most products less than $16 AUD, and many just $6 AUD. E.L.F. stands for “Eyes, Lips, and Face” and is 100% cruelty-free and vegan. They have a wide range of products not just in cosmetics, but also beauty tools, skincare and suncare. EL.F. is widely available at major department stores and pharmacies across the USA, Australia and Europe.
The big mama of makeup brands! Covergirl is leading the way in the mainstream market, achieving cruelty-free certification in 2018. Unfortunately not everything from Covergirl is vegan, as some contain animal derived ingredients like beeswax, however the entire collection of Covergirl ‘Clean Fresh’ products are plant-based. You can find the range at most pharmacies and drugstores across the USA, Australia and Europe.
One of the few trustworthy private-label beauty brands out there, Mecca Max is a collection of affordable, yet high quality products from the wildly successful Australian beauty retailer, Mecca. Offering first-class in store experience with their sales assistants and makeup artists who have excellent brand knowledge and are all passionate beauty aficionados. The Mecca Max range was developed with this intimate knowledge of their customer’s needs, providing all the go-to beauty and skin care essentials at an average price point of just $20 AUD. The range is 100% vegan and cruelty free and incredible value. You can find Mecca Max in Australia at all Mecca stores. Unfortunately the brand isn’t readily available for those outside Australia, but the Mecca team can help arrange international shipping via their contact page. My favourite product of the day is their Brow Guru Super Soap to get that fluffy textured brow look.
For all the lipstick lovers out there, this one’s for you! Bite is hyper-focused on lip products and makes some of the best lipsticks available that happen to be vegan, clean-label, cruelty-free, and gluten-free. Bite lipsticks are bold with intense pigments, but are comfortable to wear, and the lip balms are known to be really soothing. As a starting point, try the Power Move Lip Crayon or the Agave Lip Mask. You can find Bite products at Sephora and online in the USA, Australia and Canada.
‘Australia’s most ethical beauty brand,’ Kester Black is a heart-led business driven by a purpose of sustainability and ethics. Kester Black specialises in two types of products: lipstick and nail polish. Kester Black is certified carbon neutral, 100% vegan and cruelty free with clean, long-lasting formulas in a beautiful array of colours.
Created by the former chief chemist at MAC Cosmetics, Cover FX has been committed to effective, clean, vegan products since its launch. The brand is based on the idea that makeup isn’t one-size-fits-all, and the products are made to mix and match based on what works for you. This is most apparent in the primers, which are specially formulated for every skin type, and in the Custom Enhancer Highlighter Drops you can mix into any product you desire. You can find it online or at Sephora in Australia and the USA.
As a long-time vegan herself, celebrity tattoo artist from reality TV series LA Ink, Kat Von D, created a line of 100% vegan cruelty-free makeup. She credits her makeup as suitable for beginners and ‘makeup junkies.’ You’ll find everything you could possibly need here, especially if you are looking for a bold, full coverage and unforgettable look. KVD can be found at almost any makeup store in USA, and Europe. In Australia, it is available online and at Sephora.
Inika is an Australian beauty brand that’s certified organic, vegan, halal, and cruelty-free. Founded in 2006, Inika’s mission is to create natural, botanical, mineral based makeup and skincare products that are not only safe, but good for your skin and the earth, with zero synthetic ingredients. Although its shade range is a bit limited (right now its Liquid Foundation with hyaluronic acid is only offered in eight shades), it still gets top marks for health, sustainability and ethics. Available in Australia at David Jones, Myer and selected pharmacies. Inika is available online in the USA and UK.
Jeffree Star is a famous and often controversial beauty YouTuber, with millions of subscribers. He’s an expert and artist in the makeup world, with high standards – when a product meets his approval, you can be sure it’s good quality. His own makeup line, Jeffree Star Cosmetics, is 100% cruelty-free and vegan. The prices are mid-range, and bestsellers include the eyeshadow palettes and concealers. Jeffree Star Cosmetics can be bought online at Showpo or Black Swallow in Australia, on his own website in the USA and at Beauty Bay in the UK.
Milk is not only an innovator in the cosmetics space as a whole, but especially as a vegan brand. The products are cool, the packaging is gorgeous and it offers unmatched peace of mind by keeping its list of blacklisted ingredients just as long as its list of approved ones. Milk’s marketing campaigns are on the pulse and inclusive, proudly featuring plus-size and LGBTQI models. Honestly, there’s not much more we could ask for! You can find Milk Makeup at Sephora in the USA and Australia, and online at Cult Beauty in the UK.
Kosas is a darling eco-friendly brand of clean label products. Developed by artist and chemist Sheena Yaitanes, the Kosas range is clean label and designed with the minimalist in mind, as ‘a collection of all the necessary products’ with a special emphasis on lip colour. The Kosas range is certified cruelty free, and while most products are vegan there are a handful that contain animal derived ingredients – steer clear of the lip balm, lipstick and mascara for the time being and double check the label on new products. My favourites are their Lip Oil and Colour & Light Crème. Kosas is available in Australia at Mecca, at Sephora in the USA and online at Cult Beauty in the UK.
Haus Laboratories (HL) is a newly launched vegan makeup line by pop star Lady Gaga. HL started in September 2019 and is already impressing droves of fans with its 100% vegan and cruelty free products. Gaga’s inspiration for the line came from when she was young, as she struggled to find a sense of inner and outer beauty. By experimenting with makeup she ‘found the superhero’ inside herself. As you can expect, the colours and products are bold and punchy, especially the eyeliners, lipsticks and eyeshadows. The Glam Attack Liquid Shimmer Powder has received great reviews. Haus Laboratories is available on Amazon to most countries.
#Goodvibesbeauty – vegan, organic and the cleanest of ingredients. Aether Beauty takes sustainability to the next level, banning over 2700 environmental offenders from their products, offering carbon-neutral shipping and using recycled materials to make its 100% recyclable packaging… they even remove mirrors and magnets from their packaging, because they can’t be recycled. Aether’s point of difference is their use of crystal-infused formulas in their eyeshadows, to create vibrant colour, promote wellness and attract positive energy. Aether Beauty can be found in Australia online at Maruko Beauty, at Sephora and Anthropologie in the USA or at Free People in the UK.
Ilia beauty was created in 2011 in Vancouver by former branding executive, Sasha Plavsic, now dubbed ‘the queen of clean beauty.’ Driven by a personal interest in healthy living, Plavsic ensures Ilia makeup uses certified organic ingredients that are safe, effective and natural yet provide long-lasting coverage. Not only focused on safety, Ilia also strives to be as ethical and sustainable as possible, their packaging uses recycled glass, aluminium and paper and all products are cruelty free certified. Unfortunately not all Ilia products are vegan (some mascaras, eyeliners and lip products and use beeswax) but *most* products are suitable for vegans. To be sure, check the product description of each item on the Ilia website. Ilia is available in Australia at Mecca, at Sephora in the USA and online in the UK. My favourite product is the True Skin Serum Foundation.
Hourglass proves that sleek, sexy products and vegan-friendly formulas are not mutually exclusive. Hourglass is best known for its complexion products that provide that elusive lit-from-within effect, making it a favourite of supermodels like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who endorses the brand. Hourglass is certified cruelty free, and committed to becoming completely vegan by the end of 2020. There appear to still be some non-vegan products available on their website though, so best to double-check the product description before purchasing. Find Hourglass Cosmetics in-store at your nearest Sephora (USA, Canada, Mexico, UK, Europe) or at Mecca in Australia. I’m currently using their Arch Brow Sculpting Pencil.
Did I miss any of your favourite vegan or cruelty free brands? Let me know in the comments below.
For further reading and detailed information on all the cruelty-free and vegan personal care products out there, I highly recommend checking out Ethical Elephant blog. Vy is an expert in vegan beauty and has very detailed guides out there to help you make informed choices quickly.