The Cruelty Free Beauty Movement

Cruelty-free cosmetics are on the rise, and animal testing is on the way out.

By Josephine Werni, University of Minnesota Twin Cities


Tessa Violet sits cross-legged on a bed with her laptop perched in front of her and a bag of cosmetics in her lap.

“I’d have to say, more than anything, this is my biggest loss. I’ve been using this eyeliner for like four years now,” she says into the camera, coiling a strip of white tape around the end of the pencil. The eyeliner has been marked as unclean and is consequently laid to rest in the pile of shame.

How Cruel Is Your Makeup Bag?

Image via TreeHugger

She’s doing the “How Cruel is My Makeup Bag” Challenge that has been circulating cyberspace lately. According to the regulations of the challenge, participants are required to sift through all of their makeup and research each brand to find out whether or not it’s classified as “cruelty free” (a cruelty free product is defined as one that is manufactured or developed by methods that do not involve experimentation on animals). Some people—like Tessa—film themselves doing it, others don’t.

In recent years, there’s been a tangible movement facilitated by both the consumers and producers of beauty commodities to expand the cruelty free market. More new brands have been emerging under the cruelty free/vegan makeup umbrella, and several established companies have been making an effort to revise their methods of generation. Now more than ever, it’s become apparent that it is entirely possible to create quality cosmetics without any testing on animals.

For every brand that flaunts their sans-animal testing status, there is another that goes to lengths to hide their shady practices. If you’re interested in doing the How Cruel is My Makeup Bag Challenge, or if you’re just curious and you’d like to conduct a slice of research, there are several websites designed specifically to aid you.

The website that Tessa used in her video and the one that most people have been employing in the How Cruel is My Makeup Bag Challenge is called logicalharmony.net. Logical Harmony contains an extensive list of makeup brands that are cruelty free and/or vegan. In addition to the list, there are also areas of the website that explain the difference between cruelty free and vegan, list which common cosmetic ingredients are made from animals and reviews of products that pass the test.

There are several other websites and blogs that have databases on cruelty free makeup brands along with other information detailing the anti-animal testing beauty movement, such as crueltyfreekitty.com and leapingbunny.org.

Most of these websites will take care to note not only the practices of a single brand, but also whether or not that brand is under a parent company and what that parent company’s policies are.

Urban Decay is a prime example of a popular makeup brand that is cruelty free, but is under a parent company (L’Oreal Paris) that is not.

There appears to be a bit of a testy divide on how people feel about these semi-cruelty free brands.

In her video, Tessa voices her support for quasi-clean Urban Decay. She argues that if consumers consistently support the cruelty free option that the parent companies may notice and eventually implement conscious practices throughout, from top to bottom.

Makeup users who don’t support cruelty free brands that exist under non-cruelty free parent companies say that the money given to brands like Urban Decay still ends up going to, and thus supporting, the parent companies that conduct animal experimentation.

Fortunately, with the equipment and knowledge available to us in the modern age, it’s actually pretty easy to create high quality cosmetics without experimenting on animals. As you can see by the cruelty free brand lists online, there are a shitload of companies who have figured it out already, and the number only continues to grow. Here, I thought I’d rattle off a couple of cruelty free brands (all of which are not under non-cruelty free parent brands) that I have tried out and would recommend.

First up on my little list is a cosmetics company called Lush. I should probably just put it out there right away that I’m a big fat slut for Lush. I could babble on about them for like 3 moons if I knew that anyone cared to listen.

How Cruel Is Your Makeup Bag?

Photo via TheOdyssey

Lush produces not only makeup, but also a diverse collection of beauty products including soaps, perfumes, bath bombs and shampoo. Everything they put out is 100 percent handmade, composed of fresh, ethically-sourced ingredients, vegetarian and of course, completely cruelty free. Packaging is either nonexistent or minimal and entirely recycled/recyclable.

I first discovered Lush when I was in high school when a few of my friends and I were taking our annual Christmas shopping ramble around the Mall of America. We came, we sniffed, we left infatuated. When I returned home and told my mom that I’d just been to a really cool place called Lush, she responded: “Oh! Really? Okay, well let me know if there’s anything you’d like to talk about. I love you. Hold on…how did you even get in there?”

Little did I know, the only “Lush” that my mom had ever heard of was the popular gay nightclub in Minneapolis.

While a large portion of the money that you spend at Lush goes toward fantastic causes, I’ll be the first to admit that their prices are a tad heftier than the average college student can afford on a regular basis. Because Lush products are generally quite enduring, I’ll purchase a few of my favorite things on an annual basis.

Taking a step down from Lush pricewise, there are drugstore brands like Physicians Formula and Eco Tools. If you’re ballin’ on a particularly tight budget, there are oodles of super bargain cosmetic brands that operate sans-animal testing. E.L.F (Eyes Lips Face) is a cruelty free, vegan makeup brand that manufactures makeup of excellent quality for ridiculously cheap. Nearly all of their products are under $5. A similar label is the unfortunately named Wet n Wild.

No matter what your beauty budget is and whether or not you feel that brands operating under unregulated parent companies qualify as cruelty free, the main message remains the same: Nowadays, having a makeup bag full of cruelty free products is entirely within the realm of possibility and convenience. Unless you’re entirely apathetic to such matters, I think that it’s worth looking into and giving a try.

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