Do the labels on your go-to makeup products make you do a double-take? What ARE all of those impossible-to-pronounce ingredients, anyway… and are they safe?
If you’re a makeup lover like me, you might wonder if you’ll ever find healthier alternatives that work just as well as your go-to brands. Because when it comes to makeup, terms like eco-friendly and vegan haven’t always gone hand-in-hand with professional quality. But don’t put your brushes away just yet—beautiful cruelty-free makeup DOES exist, and that’s exactly what we’re talking about today!
As a kid, watching my mom do her makeup was one of my favorite activities.
I’d join her in the bathroom every morning—perched on the toilet, transfixed by each and every brushstroke. She was the glamorous teacher and I was the eager student.
My fascination only grew when I got one of those 70s Barbie styling heads, remember those? She came with her very own makeup palette: bright red, baby blue and pea green (gorg!!). I practiced on her all the time—poor Barbie had her fair share of makeup mishaps. Luckily, she was a very patient customer. 😉
It wasn’t long until I started begging my parents for my first lip gloss, which was a big N-O until I was 13. But you probably know by now how I feel about that no word… So I’d sneak my Barbie palette onto the school bus and do my bold makeup when she wasn’t looking. And let’s just say it was bold enough to garner more than my fair share of sideways stares!
As I evolved over the years, so did my taste in makeup.
My career as a professional actress and dancer motivated me to refine my skills, and I learned a thing or two from the incredibly talented makeup artists I worked with along the way! Today, I feel most like myself with a more natural, toned-down look. And when I’m working from home, running my business and leading my unicorn team from my laptop, I prefer to let my skin breathe and just be me—totally makeup free.
But don’t get me wrong, I still love makeup! It can be a wonderful creative outlet and way to express ourselves. I’ve just learned that I don’t NEED it to feel beautiful or confident, and neither do you!
I’m also a lot more conscious about the cosmetics I do and don’t use.
Since going vegan and better educating myself about my carbon footprint, I pay much closer attention to what goes my makeup, as well as how it’s tested and its impact on the environment. To be honest, sometimes I’m still taken aback by the nasty junk hidden in our personal care products. Not to mention the brands that continue to use animal testing… what?!
I have good news, though—cosmetics don’t have to come at the cost of your conscience! The cruelty-free makeup brands I’m about to share are changing the face of the beauty industry by making kinder products without sacrificing quality.
12 Cruelty-Free Makeup Brands to Add to Your Makeup Bag
1. Thrive Causemetics
Every single product from this fabulous brand is vegan and cruelty-free. But that’s not all, Thrive Causemetics also gives back with every purchase. That’s right—every single product sold results in a donation to support domestic abuse survivors, women fighting cancer, women seeking a path out of homelessness or women veterans. You can learn more about Thrive’s mission here.
In my makeup bag: The Brilliant Eye Brightener and Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara make my peepers shine!
2. Milk Makeup
What can I say? I’m a sucker for cruelty-free with a side of cute branding! But Milk Makeup’s products aren’t just beautiful on the outside—they’re also vegan and cruelty-free. They even have a list of ingredients they promise never to use up on their website!
In my makeup bag: The Kush Fiber Brow Gel is super easy to apply and gives my brows a polished yet natural look. And the Flex Concealer provides comfy (not cakey!) coverage all day long.
3. Mineral Fusion
You might have spotted this EWG Verified brand at Whole Foods or your local health food store, which means you don’t have to make a separate trip to restock on your faves! All of Mineral Fusion’s products are cruelty-free and made in the US, and you can check out a list of vegan options on the FAQ page on their site.
In my makeup bag: I love Mineral Fusion’s vegan nail polish in the shade Tiara— it always makes me feel like a queen! ?
This cruelty-free makeup brand is raising awareness about something we don’t hear much about—issues with the mica industry. Mica is used in a lot of cosmetics, but it’s often not responsibly sourced (learn more in the informative video here). I love seeing brands use their platforms to educate consumers! Check out Beautycounter’s vegan makeup options here.
In my makeup bag: This Velvet Eyeshadow Palette is full of gorgeous statement shades with fantastic color payoff. And the Sheer Lipstick in the shade Petal is one of my all-time faves!
5. Cover FX
I dig Cover FX for a lot of reasons, but the diverse shade range they offer for foundations is at the top of my list! Many makeup brands exclude folks, especially people of color, by having really limited shade ranges. I support brands like CoverFX because they’re committed to inclusion. Their products don’t come cheap, but it’s worth the investment if you can swing it!
In my makeup bag: The Natural Finish Foundation and pretty much everything else for that matter—did I mention they’re 100 percent vegan and cruelty-free?
EcoTools proves that sometimes it IS a good idea to put all your vegan eggs in one basket! They’ve got one mission—making vegan makeup brushes that look, feel and work even better than the alternatives made with animal hair. They also use recycled and renewable materials like bamboo. Even their packaging is made of tree-free paper. EcoTools brushes are also affordable, what more could we ask for?!
In my makeup bag: The Ultimate Shade Duo for my eyes and the 360 Ultimate Blend set for my face!
7. Juice Beauty
This brand lives up to its name by using botanical juice concentrates instead of water as the base for their makeup and skincare. That means their products don’t just look great—they’re also packed with antioxidants and other vitamins, as well as good-for-you phytonutrients and hydroxy acids. Turns out juice is more than just a delicious drink!
In my makeup bag: The Phyto-Pigments Last Looks Cream Blush in the shade Flush is a gloriously smooth pop of color for my cheeks!
And more cruelty-free brands for your makeup bag!
I don’t have them all on hand at once (like I said, my makeup routine is pretty minimalist these days!), but here are some more notable cruelty-free brands that deserve shoutouts!
8. e.l.f Cosmetics makes some of the most affordable vegan and cruelty-free makeup out there. I like their 16-Hour Camo Concealer and the Charcoal Hydrogel Under Eye Masks for a soothing treat!
9. W3ll People’s Hypnotist Eye Pencil is a longtime love of mine (if you’ve been following me for a while, you might remember that it was also featured in my What’s in my Makeup Bag post back in 2017!). It creates the perfect cat eye for date night… meow!
10. Axiology makes cruelty-free, vegan lipstick in knockout shades. I haven’t yet, but I can’t wait to try one of their Sheer Balms!
11. Urban Decay is always expanding their vegan options—their Naked Skin Color Correcting Fluids are incredible!
12. Anastasia Beverly Hills has some great vegan highlighters—I’m a big fan of the Sun Dipped Glow Kit.
Conscious Cosmetics 101
I hope you saw something (or a couple of somethings) that you’re excited to try! You might also be wondering how to find and evaluate your own cruelty-free faves. And lucky for you, that’s what this section is all about! These must-have tips will help you navigate the makeup aisle with ease.
Cruelty-free vs. vegan
Many folks assume that if something is labeled as vegan, it must also be cruelty-free (and vice versa). But these terms each have specific implications and are often used independently. Cruelty-free cosmetics have not been tested on animals, whereas vegan cosmetics don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients. I know it can be confusing, but just being aware of the difference will empower you to make buying decisions that align with your values!
We covered what cruelty-free means, but I want to be crystal clear: animal testing is a hard no in my book, end of story. Many cruelty-free makeup brands are doing just fine testing their products on humans, so as far as I’m concerned, there’s no excuse to keep hurting innocent animals. Some countries still require animal testing before products can be sold, but I prefer to stick with brands that prioritize kindness over profit.
It’s cool to be eco-friendly these days, right? Many brands really do care about the environment, but some just see green… as in money. Trends like these open up opportunities for brands to capitalize without actually changing their practices.
Watch out for products that use generic terms like “natural” or packaging that gives the appearance of sustainability without any legit certifications or proof to back up their claims. Same goes for brands that claim to be organic—the FDA doesn’t regulate that term for personal care products like it does for food, so you might need to do a little digging. Knowledge is power, toots!
We know that labels can be misleading, so what’s the best way to find products you can really trust? Certifications, baby! There are many options out there, such as EWG Verified, NSF Certified, Certified Vegan and Leaping Bunny Certified. You’ll come across a variety of logos and stamps of approval in your cruelty-free makeup search, so I encourage you to do your research and seek out the certifications that resonate with you most.
Please keep in mind that certifications can be cost-prohibitive, especially for new or smaller brands. If you don’t see the certification you’re looking for, consider asking the brand for more info about their practices. Any company worth its salt will be happy to fill you in. And you never know, maybe your feedback will motivate them to pursue a certification!
This is an issue that trips up many cruelty-free makeup connoisseurs, so it might come up for you as you learn more. Vetting brands can get really complicated when you take into account where they get their raw materials, because suppliers aren’t always required to adhere to the same standards as the brand itself.
But trying to trace every last ingredient in your cosmetics back to the source can be incredibly frustrating, so I don’t recommend it! The best thing you can do is stick with brands that offer plenty of info about their products. Trust me, companies that go the extra mile to ensure consistent standards across their supply chain want you to know about it. And you don’t have to rule out the rest—tell brands you love that you want more transparency. Your voice is powerful!
You might be wondering how to keep track of all these details, not to mention how much research you’ll have to do next time you need new mascara! But don’t fret, dear one. This isn’t about knowing every DO and DON’T off the top of your head. Instead, the key is finding a trusted resource to help with some of the heavy lifting.
For me, that’s the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep Database. It contains hazard ratings for nearly 70,000 products and 9,000 ingredients on the market… Can you say wow? All you have to do is enter a new brand you’re considering or an ingredient you’ve never heard of in the search bar and ta da—the info you need to make conscious choices, at your fingertips!
Enjoy your cosmetics without compromise!
I shared a lot of info today, so give yourself time to process and learn more about the causes you care about most. And as you explore the world of cruelty-free makeup, please remember that your worth is not defined by your appearance. You are kind, smart, sensitive, loving and everything in between—that’s what matters. Have fun with your makeup but more importantly, have fun with your life!
Your turn: What’s your favorite cruelty-free makeup or personal care product? Or if you don’t have one yet, which brand from my list will you try?
Peace & conscious cosmetics,
My Results Journal was designed to help you supercharge your health, amplify your joy and rock your dreams. In it, I’ll guide you through the daily, weekly and quarterly practices that have helped me create a life I love so you can do the same. Get your Results Journal here!
I love Thrive mascara! Cruelty free, vegan mascara can sometimes leave a lot to be desired but Thrive is the hands down best I’ve ever used. I’m not a big make up girl but I love this post. I can’t wait to try the nail polish recommendation. Thanks Kris!!
You’re very welcome. I agree, Thrive is pretty great! I’m glad you found what works for your lovely peepers.
Thanks for this. I will save for future reference. I do want to mention that Elf products are made in China – at least the 2 that I looked at in stores. I won’t put anything on or in my body that’s made in China.
Glad it’s helpful, Cyndi. Bookmarking this page for future reference is a great idea. Xo!
I too have wanted makeup that is not toxic but I also want it to work well! I have found a brand I really do like – SaltyGirl Beauty. A company developed by two sisters, one who was diagnosed young with triple negative breast cancer while pregnant. Not the best deal, right?!?! But together they created this company of makeup committed to healthy beauty. I am also a cancer patient – metastatic breast cancer, almost 9 years out, and rocking it as best I can – so they spoke to me. Their story is good and their business concept is noble but the icing on the cake is that their products are great. Better than the more toxic products out there. I would highly recommend the products from this company. They are the real deal!
Thank you, Susan, we’ll check them out. What a story! Xo.
Beautycounter!!! Certified B Corp too and changing the industry for the better. And legit quality products. Countertime skincare line and sheer lip color in pearl are my favorites. And the overnight resurfacing peel!!!
I love BeautyCounter!!! Would be curious to hear Kris’s thoughts on the products.
They’ve got great products, I agree. I love their eye shadows and always have one of their lipsticks in my purse. Xo.
I heard that talc is an ingredient that Beauty Counter uses in some of their products.
Beautycounter actually tests their talc to make sure it is asbestos free!!
Tropics is a superb range
Tropic skincare Susie Ma founder.
Thanks Jill, we’ll check them out! Xo.
Hi! I appreciated this post. I myself do not wear makeup, but I have always appreciated good skin care. Cruelty-Free products are a must. I am on a small budget. I really appreciate Cocokind. Based in San Francisco, their products are certified organic, with many vegan options. They do currently use beeswax in some of their products. In addition to a full line of great skin care—which helps my very dry, sensitive skin feel comfortable and even glow—they also offer mushroom-based highlighter sticks and organic brow balm, which I want to try soon (I do like my brows to be neat).
Also, Kris, thank you for your post about good products at chemists / pharmacies. You mentioned Shea Moisture Lavender and Wild Orchid Scrub. This line also includes a body oil that is excellent for my dry skin and eczema. Again, thank you!
I’m so happy you’ve found what works for you, Pamela! Xo.
Alima, Au Naturale, and Omiana are all terrific brands. I will not use Elf or Urban Decay because, even though they are vegan, some of their products have ingredients that are not good for you, like parables and some other chemicals.
Oops, meant to write “parabens”. Darn auto correct!
Thanks for the recommendations on the other brands, Geri. It’s so nice to have such great options. My research showed elf is paraben-free but you’ve got to find what works best for you. Xo.
Oops, thanks for setting me straight! It’s so nice to have so many choices!
Thrive Causemetics is my FAVORITE! Glad to see they made #1 on your list! 🙂 I got hooked after trying their fabulous mascara, but now my makeup bag is nearly 100% Thrive! They also have EXCELLENT customer service and a great referral program that earns you cash-back to spend on their products. The blush is amazing, too!
Hey there, fellow Thrive lover! ❤ Xo.
What about the Jane Iredale line? It is supposed to be recommended for cancer patients.
I haven’t done extensive research on that line but will check it out. Thank you! Xo.
My favourite make up products are from Arbonne : vegan , cruelty free, plant based and without nasty chemicals (in their skincare, nutritional and cosmetic products, they do not use over 2000 ingredients which are normally found in other brands). I particularly love the CC cream which is like a tinted anti ageing moisturiser, the bronzer and the mascara.
Arbonne is now B certified which is amazing (sustainability, green commitment, reducing plastic, leaving a legacy to our children ,etc …)!
Great recommendations, thank you for sharing! Xo.
Love these suggestions! Check out also Jentri Quinn Makeup + Skin. It’s a small brand up and coming from Austin, Tx.
Cruelty Free, Paraben Free and all natural products. I love her line.
What about Pacifica? Are they cruelty free, vegan?
Hey there! This is Jennifer from Team Crazy Sexy. Kris didn’t include Pacifica in this round of research but we’ll add that to her list if she reviews this in the future. Thank you!
How about adding KOSAS cosmetics to the list. Cruelty free, leaping bunny certified, no bad ingredients. Uses botanicals. I love their oil foundation.
What about Tarte brand? Any information would be helpful.
Hi Lisa! This is Jennifer from Team Crazy Sexy. Some of us have used a few of Tarte’s products over the years and really liked them! They’re not 100% vegan, but they are cruelty-free. You can check EWG’s Skin Deep Database for the specific products you’re interested in to see how they score. ❤
Vegan and cruelty free are wonderful and obviously better than the other options. But I’ve had cancer twice under the age of 38 and I care more about not having cancer causing chemicals and dyes in my makeup. A lot of the companies you named have some unsafe ingredients. Just because they abide by a list of unsafe ingredients does not mean their other ingredients aren’t a health concern. There are so many less toxic brands that have not been named. And bad ingredients are hiding behind new names that have not been put on “no good lists.” You can do better.
This is a great list but Urban Decay and Tarte are both owned by parent companies that do test on animals. Tarte is owned by Lose and Urban Decay is owned by L’Oreal. This does not equal cruelty free to me.
Meant Lose, not Lose.
Sorry, for some reason it won’t let me type a K instead of an L.
Nice Article, thanks so much! I have made up my mind about what brand I will use, it was very confusing before, thank you!