There are so many ways to describe skincare products. Vegan, natural, cruelty-free, not tested on animals. They sound the same and it sounds like the principles are the same, but they're actually very different and it can be quite difficult to muddle through the various labels and marketing terminology to get to the facts when purchasing.
At Reverie, we know that the cruelty-free and vegan skincare movement can seem really daunting and also a lot of us assume that there shouldn't be animal products in skincare products anyway - so why the need to label it?
Since launching, we have been so lucky to have received so many enquiries from our followers and customers about the benefits of using vegan skincare products and what "cruelty-free" really means. The journey to a cruelty-free beauty regime may seem like an uphill battle, but for so many reasons it will be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.
The thing which has struck me most during the conversations I have had with friends, family, followers and customers of Reverie is how hard it is to find the facts and understand the differences between all of these selling points. I decided to write this post to help you understand the difference between "cruelty-free" and "not tested on animals" and how to look out for the telltale signs of greenwashed marketing.
Let's start with the main one! Cruelty-free is the Holy Grail. This means that the product, and its ingredients, are not tested on animals at any stage of the process from development to retail. Animal testing is something which most of us probably first became aware of thanks to Elle Woods in Legally Blonde 2 and when many people woke up to the fact that it's still happening much more than we realise.
The process of testing on animals is a torturous, long experience which animals endure for their lifespan in captivity. I personally made the switch to cruelty-free products in our entire household not long after turning to a plant-based diet and educating myself on what animal testing involved for various industries.
Now everything (I think, I'm always researching!) in our house including bath products, skincare and cleaning products is all cruelty-free.
Look out for brands which are cruelty-free but not vegan, a really common ingredient which can be found in skincare is beeswax. Beeswax can be collected in a sustainable, cruelty-free way but if you're only interested in vegan skincare then this is something to look out for. Other very common (much less cruelty-free) ingredients can be animal hair, carmine and elastin.
Not Tested On Animals
Now for me, this is the world's biggest marketing cop out. "Not tested on animals" is generally followed by "unless required by law".
To cut to the point, if a product is sold in China then animal testing is mandatory and that brand pays for it with the money it makes from you. Your beloved brand may not test on products to sell here in the UK, or Europe, or America but the second they want to sell in China and sweep up on those sales they write a cheque to an animal testing laboratory and immediately contribute to animal cruelty.
By definition, vegan products do not contain any animal products of any kind. By default, this tends to mean that the brand is also cruelty-free so this really is a win-win combination!
Something to watch out for with "vegan" ingredients is that vegan doesn't mean natural so you might find some synthetic ingredients which you don't recognise (let alone be able to pronounce) on the back of your product! There is also a risk here than some synthetic ingredients may have been previously tested on animals.
If this makes you feel uneasy, you might like to read on for what Natural Skincare contains.
Natural skincare means that every single ingredient is a natural derivative. Now this can include some incredible plant based botanical ingredients like Kakadu Plum (the world's richest source of Vitamin C), Aloe Vera or plant-based oils like coconut or rosehip but it also opens the door for animal derived ingredients like beeswax, lanolin, fish scales or shellac.
The good thing about using natural skincare does mean that you're not putting any man-made chemicals onto your skin but the bad news is it doesn't guarantee that the product has not caused harm to animals during its development or creation.
Something else you might like to consider is if the "cruelty-free" or "vegan" brand you're buying from is owned by a parent company which does not align with those values. For years, The Body Shop was owned by L'Oreal which was a very clear contradiction of values and put many cruelty-free shoppers off from buying from The Body Shop.
In 2017, The Body Shop was bought by Natura & Co who are completely cruelty-free.
So, where does this leave you?! Well, it can seem like a minefield and admittedly you might need to spend a little time doing your own research to find out what you're comfortable with.
I personally only use cruelty-free products and while all of my skincare is vegan, not all of my make-up is (yet). It's a journey and being a conscientious shopper and constantly educating myself means that my values are evolving day by day.
I thought it might be helpful to break down below the beauty brands stocked at Reverie and apply the above definitions:
I hope you found this article helpful! If you need any advice on making the switch to cruelty-free beauty please feel free to contact me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org