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Cruelty-Free vs Vegan: Is There A Difference?

Cruelty-Free vs Vegan: Is There A Difference

Many people are making the shift towards more ethical consumerism, and for good reason. By choosing to purchase cruelty-free and vegan products, we can support companies that are dedicated to animal welfare and ethical values. However, the terms "cruelty-free" and "vegan" are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion about the differences between the two. So, Cruelty-Free vs Vegan: Is There A Difference?

Cruelty-Free: No Animal Testing

When a product is labelled as "cruelty-free", this means that neither the product nor its ingredients were tested on animals. This is an issue of animal welfare, as cosmetic testing on animals includes cruel procedures such as force-feeding, skin corrosion, and eye irritation. In fact, studies show that nearly 80% of countries still allow some form of animal testing for cosmetics, despite the availability of alternative methods.

To combat this, an increasing number of brands are making the switch to cruelty-free testing. In 2013, the European Union banned animal testing for all cosmetics and their ingredients. Additionally, in 2019, California became the first state in the US to ban commercial animal testing for cosmetics.

Despite these advancements, animal testing is still widespread in some countries, and many products sold in the global market are not cruelty-free. This means that consumers must be vigilant about reading labels and doing their research to ensure that the products they purchase align with their ethical values.

Vegan: No Animal Products

While cruelty-free and vegan products share some similarities, the latter is a more comprehensive approach to ethical consumerism. Vegan products, by definition, contain no animal-derived ingredients or by-products. This means that cruelty-free products may still contain substances like honey, beeswax, lanolin, or carmine, which is a red pigment derived from cochineal insects.

Choosing vegan products is about more than just avoiding animal ingredients; it's about rejecting products that contribute to the exploitation of animals. For example, the beauty industry relies heavily on animal-derived ingredients that are often sourced through inhumane practices. One example is mink oil, which is obtained by boiling the skin off dead minks. The production of mink oil is inhumane and leads to additional animal suffering, making it an ethical concern for consumers.

The Bottom Line

While the terms "cruelty-free" and "vegan" are sometimes used interchangeably, they represent distinct concepts. Cruelty-free products are those that have not been tested on animals, while vegan products contain no animal-derived ingredients. Choosing products that are both cruelty-free and vegan ensures that our purchases are ethical and sustainable.

Fortunately, more and more cosmetics and personal care brands are making the switch to ethical, sustainable products. In fact, a recent report from Grand View Research predicts that the global market for vegan cosmetics will reach $20.8 billion by 2025, reflecting a growing demand for ethical and vegan products.

As consumers, we have a powerful tool in our hands - our purchasing power. By choosing to support ethical and sustainable brands, we can help create a world where animal welfare is a priority, and consumers can trust that the products they purchase embody their values.


1. European Commission. (2019). EU bans cosmetics testing on animals outside the EU.

2. California Department of Public Health. (2019). California Becomes First State to Ban Sale and Manufacture of New Animal-Tested Cosmetics.

3. Grand View Research. (2019). Vegan Cosmetics Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product (Skincare, Haircare, Makeup), By Distribution Channel (E-commerce, Supermarket, Brand Outlet), And Segment Forecasts, 2019 - 2025.

4. Humane Society International. (2021). Cosmetics Animal Testing.

5. PETA. (2021). What Is Cruelty-Free?

6. The Vegan Society. (2021). Definition of veganism.


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