Back to a simpler time: 2018 saw sales of vegan beauty products increase by 38% within a year. With demand higher in 2022 than ever before, now is the time to swap your staple cosmetic items for a vegan and cruelty-free option.
OK, so this isn't shade to your fave products, but it's time to step it up when it comes to cruelty-free make-up brands. Everything from your foundation, fake tan and make-up brushes can be cruelty-free, and it's time to make the switch ASAP.
So, while swapping every single make-up item you own for a cruelty-free dupe is highly recommended, it may not be totally affordable. We would suggest starting simple with the heart and soul of all make-up routines: foundation.
In this complete guide, we'll run through everything from how to tell if a cosmetic company is vegan-friendly, to understanding how cruelty-free make-up is tested, as well as listing off the best vegan foundations that you need to know about, of course.
CHECK OUT: The best vegan foundations that you need to know about
The best vegan foundation UK
Best vegan foundation for mask-proof staying power Cruelty-free: Yes Vegan: Yes Skin type: All skin types, fair to olive skin tones Coverage: Long-lasting, full coverage - a little bit goes a long way Shades: Five shades SPF: 30 Tried and tested review: "The coverage is brilliant, covers all my acne! And it sits well with any face powder I put on top to set it. It is a slightly higher density than other liquid foundations, hence the really full coverage. Anyone who goes for quality - a foundation you can wear all day and night - definitely give this one a go!!"
Best vegan stick foundation Cruelty-free: Yes Vegan: Yes Skin type: Every skin type and particularly dry skin Coverage: Medium buildable Shades: 20 shades SPF: 25 Review: "This makeup is a dream for my difficult skin; dry, large pores, skin laxity, some visible veins & redness. This foundation provides the coverage I didn't think was possible, is long lasting and doesn't look overdone. Love it."
The best vegan matte foundation Cruelty-free: Yes Vegan: Yes Skin type: All skin types Coverage: Medium to full Shades: 50 shades available SPF: Not listed Review: "This is by far the BEST foundation I have ever used!!! I have oily sensitive skin and it doesn't cause irritation, it doesn't crease, and I don't get super oily. If I do get a little oily one pat does it. I will never use another foundation again."
Best vegan foundation for pigment base Cruelty-free: Yes (but not listed on Free the Bunnies list) Vegan: Yes Skin type: For olive skin tones and all skin types Coverage: Lightweight Shades: 16 different shades SPF: No Tried and tested review: "From the moment I put this foundation on my skin, it felt like butter. The coverage was light, and although I was able to build this up, it didn't camouflage my spots completely. The smell from this foundation is distinctive - so if you don't like a fragranced product, this is not for you. For the price and the added benefits of this being vegan and cruelty-free, it makes it totally worth including in your make-up bag."
Best vegan foundation for oily skin Cruelty-free: Yes Vegan: Yes Skin type: Oily and normal skin types Coverage: Light Shades: 40 different options available SPF: SPF-15 Tried and tested review: "If you're looking for light coverage that feels more like a moisturiser, this will be right up your street. This is a sensational everyday product that covered up my maskne spots on the second application ud83cudf89. The foundation's fragrance was sweet and floral, but not intrusive. I found that it blended easily with a brush or beauty blender."
Best vegan foundation for all-day use Cruelty-free: Yes (but not listed on Free the Bunnies list)Vegan: Yes Skin type: Oily or combination skin Coverage: Medium to full coverage Shades: 15 different shades SPF: SPF-15 Review: "Perfect foundation, very good quality! Long-lasting, good coverage, smooth skin and nice smell. The 3-in-1 formula is great. Next time I will try lighter colour as this is slightly dark for me, but good for the summer."
Best vegan foundation for shine control Cruelty-free: Yes (but not listed on Free the Bunnies list) Vegan: Yes Skin type: Suitable for normal, oily and combination skin types Coverage: Full, matte coverage Shades: 45 flattering tones SPF: Not listed Review: "I bought this as soon as it came out because I heard it was a good coverage. I go on nights out a lot so I wanted something long lasting! ANYWAY, I used it New Year's Eve and had it on not even two hours when my ex boyfriend decided to try and ruin my night by throwing a drink in my face. I went to the bathroom and none of my makeup had moved! LOVED IT! What an absolute hero"
The best oil-free vegan foundation Cruelty-free: Yes Vegan: Yes Skin type: All skin types and especially oily skin Coverage: Medium to full Shades: 35 shades available SPF: No Review: "Perfect for my combination/oily t-zone skin. I've tried most hyped foundations on the market, but this is my favourite. Buildable to full coverage, doesn't slide off any blemishes or the nose, natural(ish) finish, it gives that smooth, perfect complexion. Lasts all day with setting powder and spray."
Best vegan foundation for a natural finish Cruelty-free: Yes Vegan: Yes Skin type: Every skin type and tone Coverage: Lightweight but buildable Shades: 50 skin-true shades SPF: Not listed Review: "I have some very pigmented acne scars that I find hard to cover with foundation alone, but this foundation is fantastic. Even though it is buildable, I didn't need to apply another layer as the first was definitely enough. Perfect match for my skin tone, another thing I usually find difficult."
Best vegan foundation for buildable coverage Cruelty-free: Yes Vegan: Yes Skin type: For every complexion Coverage: Light, but buildable coverage Shades: 40 shades available SPF: Not listed Tried and tested review: "This dewy and dreamy foundation delivered. With a light to medium coverage, this stick will leave you with a flawless finish if you have dry to combination skin. I was able to build this foundation to give me a fuller coverage, which did cover up acne scars pretty well. On fresher spots, I did need to top it up with a concealer. Top tip: I found that a brush left me with an airbrush-esque look, whereas my beauty blender soaked up more of the product."
Best vegan foundation for covering acne and scars Cruelty-free: Yes Vegan: Yes Skin type: Normal to Oily Coverage: Full, you don't need much of it Shades: 26 shades available SPF: Not listed Tried and tested review: "Absolutely love this foundation. I have combination skin which is sensitive, prone to breakouts and I'm menopausal. If that isn't enough to be getting on with I'm also a nurse and wear a face mask most of my 12 hr shift. The foundation is light to wear, doesn't shift when I have a menopausal glow and doesn't give me breakouts. Fabulous product all round."
Want to get all the facts about what you're putting into your make-up bag? Well hun, don't worry, because we've answered some of the most popular questions when it comes to vegan foundations and cruelty-free make-up brands.
How can you tell a company is vegan-friendly?
In order to get the cruelty-free certification, brands must meet all of the following criteria:
• They don't test on animals during any part of production
• They don't order materials from any third-party vendor who tests on animals
• They don't have third parties test their products on animals on their behalf
• They don't sell their products in countries that require animal testing (i.e. mainland China)
• They aren't owned by a parent company which tests on animals
Free the Bunnies has pulled together a guide on cruelty-free beauty brands 2022, including a list of all the companies that are 100% cruelty-free, with many of them offering vegan products too. Check out this full list here.
The best ways to apply your foundation
We enlisted the help of Anna Bynum, e.l.f Cosmetics' Global Make-up Artist to give you tips on the best ways to apply your foundation.
Anna said, “Focus on the areas that need more coverage (usually near the centre of the face) and blend upwards and outwards. Using our synthetic vegan brush means it's easier to keep down bacteria and sanitise since the bristles aren’t porous like that of a natural hair bristled brush.
“If you want a more natural and blended look, use our Total Face Sponge by wetting the sponge prior for a streak-free application. This will help blend easily for a flawless finish with less effort. Sponges allow you to sheer out the formulation and build coverage if needed. To build coverage, stipple the foundation onto the area by using a tapping motion and then blend out the surrounding areas.”
What makes a foundation vegan?
A simple explanation of what makes a foundation vegan is that it doesn't contain any animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients. But, what does that really mean?
Here's where it gets a little complicated...
According to Ethical Elephant, "products that claim to be ‘vegan’ but may not be ‘cruelty-free’ means the product does not contain animal products or animal-derived ingredients but sadly, the products or its ingredients may have been tested on animals."
If you're not sure whether a cosmetic brand or product is vegan (or cruelty-free for that matter), it's best to check the label or website.
Are cruelty-free cosmetics vegan?
When a product states that it's cruelty-free, this basically means that the product or ingredients haven't been tested on animals. This doesn't necessarily mean that no animal ingredients are included.
Common animal ingredients to look out for are:
Collagen: Love a lip pump gloss or anti-ageing eye cream? Watch out for this in your make-up as it isn't plant based.
Elastin: Similar to collagen, this can be found in some anti-aging products.
Keratin: Usually found in hair and nail items, keratin is produced from hair and horns of animals.
Beeswax: A common ingredient in mascara, beeswax can often be labelled as cera alba.
Animal hair: Make sure that your false eyelashes don't contain any animal hair.
Lanolin: All your lip products from balms, glosses and sticks may contain this ingredient.
Shellac: Check your nail products and hair sprays for this product.
Squalene: Often can be found in lip balms, moisturisers and deodorants. Always make sure to check the ingredients.
Glycerine: Not to be confused with vegetable glycerine, this product may be found in types of make-up, moisturisers, hair care items and soaps.
Guanine: Make sure that this ingredient isn't in anything that sparkles - we're talking eyeshadows, bronzers and blushes.
Oleic acid: Also known as tallow, oleyl stearate or oleyl oleate this can be found in everything from soaps to moisturisers and nail polishes.
Stearic acid: Watch out for this ingredient in soaps, deodorant, moisturisers and hair products.
Carmine: Generally found in lipsticks, nail polishes and blushes - watch out for this ingredient which can also be referred to as cochineal, E120 and more.
Casein: Often listed as sodium caseinate or caseinate this ingredient is used in some hair products and face treatments.
How is cruelty-free make-up tested?
According to Cruelty Free International, alternative methods to animal testing include cell cultures, human tissue, computer models, and human volunteers.
They go on to add that, "Replacing animal tests does not mean putting human patients at risk. It also does not mean halting medical progress. Instead, replacing animal testing will improve the quality as well as the humaneness of our science."
Which covers a whole other issue to get your head around...