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Image courtesy of Honeycombers.

The terms ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘vegan’ have become increasingly popular in the beauty industry within the last decade, as the consumer demand for more socially responsible brands continues to rise. The market is now inundated with products being marketed with cruelty-free and vegan claims, from smaller indie companies to big mainstream brands. But did you know there’s a difference between vegan and cruelty-free?

Both of these labels are often used interchangeably by consumers and companies without actually meaning the same thing, making it understandably confusing when trying to filter through and find genuine cruelty-free and vegan products. This is why I want break it all down for you, and hopefully make the process of shopping in the cruelty-free and vegan beauty space a little bit less daunting.

So, what is the difference between cruelty-free and vegan? In short, the term ‘cruelty-free’ implies that a product and its ingredients has not been tested on animals, whereas ‘vegan’ means that a particular product does not contain any animal-derived ingredients or by-products.

Image courtesy of PeopleImages / Getty Images.

A product can be both, or one but not the other. Meaning that even if a product is deemed cruelty-free, it can still contain animal by-products and vice-versa, a product created with all vegan ingredients can still be tested on animals. When a product claims to be cruelty-free and vegan, it means that the product has not been tested on animals and does not contain any animal by-products or ingredients.

For example, the Anastasia Beverly Hills matte lipstick range is both vegan and cruelty-free, meaning that they haven’t been tested on animals and do not contain animal-derived ingredients, or by-products such as beeswax, carmine or lanolin. A good example of a product that is cruelty-free but not vegan, is the Honey Lip Scrub from Lush. This product has not been tested on animals, but contains honey which is an animal-derived ingredient.

On the flip side, some products may claim to be ‘vegan’ but are not cruelty-free. This means that the product may not contain animal products animal-derived ingredients, but sadly the company tests their products on animals. An example of this is the Clairol ‘Natural Instincts’ conditioning hair colour. The brand claims that this is a ‘vegan’ product, but Clairol is definitely not cruelty-free by any means.

For further information on cruelty-free and vegan certifications and logos, visit