Vegan beauty products. Products included mascara, eyeshadow and lipstick by Tarte, E.l.f, and Kylie Cosmetics. Photo by Arden Horacek.

With the rise of popularity in animal cruelty free make up, there has also been a rise in available and affordable vegan cosmetics. Vegan beauty products have ranged from lipsticks to mascara, with notable brands being E.l.f, Milk Makeup, and Everyday Minerals. Vegan products, often viewed synonymously to animal cruelty free, have become much more accessible in recent years as the harm of animal byproducts has been exposed. 

The purpose of animal testing in beauty companies is to test any allergy reactions in order to determine the safety of the product for humans. To completely rule out any allergies or safety concerns, companies will hold animals, primarily rabbits, in cages for months to test for lasting effects and rule out any conditions that might develop. In testing any skin or eye products, chemicals are rubbed into the eye bags and shaved skin of rabbits. It is estimated that 100,000-200,000 animals a year are tested on and die as a result of the testing, according to the Humane Society International. 

Animal testing in general is required for many products before they can be sold to the general public, but for beauty products, there are vegan and cruelty-free alternatives. To avoid the label of animal testing, many companies will use vegan options for their products and label them as such but will continue to test on animals. However some companies will claim to be cruelty-free by not using their own laboratories to test animals and instead test in other countries. In China’s large cosmetic market, to sell any beauty or skin care products in their country, the government requires companies to complete laboratory testing on animals. 

In order to sell their products in China, companies must be approved by regulators who make sure their animal lab testing proves their products cause no harm to humans. Companies such as L’Oreal state their non-engagement in animal testing and 100% vegan products, but in order to sell their products overseas, they comply with the testing, calling it an “exception.”

Many companies, though, strongly oppose animal cruelty and promote the benefits of vegan makeup. Often times, vegan cosmetic companies go hand in hand with cruelty-free philosophies, with their product containing no animal or animal derived products. The primary components of makeup that make it non-vegan are beeswax, gelatin, collagen, honey, lanolin (wax from wool animals), and albumen (egg whites), alongside other animal parts. 

The creation of vegan makeup is more expensive and time consuming than makeup containing animal products because sourcing animal alternatives is harder, but it is cleaner for the environment. Milk Makeup has found healthier alternatives for the environment such as synthetic beeswax and hemp-derived cannabis seed oil instead of real beeswax for mascara, mango and shea butter for moisturizer, and natural beet dye for red lipstick instead of crushed beetle shell. 

Most vegan companies are very conscious of the footprint they are leaving on the planet, and while it takes more creativity and energy to find and produce alternatives to animal products, it reduces the rates of animal cruelty and death. Some of the most prominent vegan makeup brands in America are Pacifica, Glossier, Tarte, Too Faced, Urban Decay, KKW Beauty, and Marc Jacobs Beauty, alongside many more. 

Educating yourself on vegan and cruelty-free makeup brands is very helpful in making more conscious decisions. Maia Kleinberg (10) says: “When I do buy makeup, I try to make sure it’s vegan and be aware of it.” Many individuals, once they realize which companies are vegan, invest in their beauty products and commit to those companies. 

Just like composting and recycling, it takes individual actions to create environmental changes through using vegan beauty products. Annabelle Poncet (11) says she feels “like [her] consumption of beauty products isn’t completely detrimental to the environment so [she’s] taking little steps toward being personally sustainable.”

Elena Seikmann (10) feels a personal obligation to commit to environmental awareness through the use of vegan makeup. “Whenever I see a non-vegan product, it’s right back on the shelf,” she says. While not everyone is initially aware of what companies invest in vegan and animal cruelty free products, learning about a company’s stance on it can raise awareness of supporting those products. 

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