Vegan Versus Cruelty Free - What's The Difference?

Vegan Versus Cruelty Free - What's The Difference?

Posted by Angela - Naturally Safe Cosmetics on 22nd Mar 2019

In my job as owner of an organic beauty store, I get asked many questions by people interested in products made from natural and organic ingredients, as well as cruelty free and vegan products. A couple of questions that often come up are:

  1. What’s the difference between ‘cruelty free’ and ‘vegan’; or
  2. Are 'cruelty free' and 'vegan' the same thing?

Whilst the answers to these questions may seem quite obvious to some of us, it can be a little bit confusing. In this article, I will attempt to answer those two questions by clarifying the meaning behind the two terms.

Image credit: Canva

What makes a product cruelty free?

If a product is cruelty free, it basically means that the product and its ingredients have not been tested on animals. Testing of cosmetics and/or their ingredients on animals is an archaic practice that is painful to animals, causing suffering and even death. If cruelty free brands can do it without testing their products/ingredients on animals, why can't other brands? Perhaps it's because the ingredients they use have the potential to be toxic or harmful to people. Many cruelty free brands create their skincare, makeup and personal care products and then test them on people to see if they can effectively do the job they're supposed to do and also if people like them. If the ingredients used in cosmetic products are considered to be safe and non-toxic, then there should be no problem in getting humans to try them out, right?

What makes a product vegan?

If a product is vegan, then it does not contain any animal or animal-derived ingredients. Examples of animal-derived ingredients include: honey, beeswax, carmine, collagen and lanolin.

Can products be both cruelty free and vegan?

Absolutely, so long as they are not tested on animals AND do not contain animal or animal-derived ingredients.

Can products be cruelty free but not vegan?

Yes, many brands include animal-derived ingredients in their products but they do not test on animals, e.g. Eco Lips organic lip balms contain beeswax and Weleda Skin Food contains both Lanolin and Beeswax. Whilst these ingredients are derived from animals, there is no cruelty or testing required to harvest them.

Can products be vegan but not cruelty free?

Once again, the answer is yes. Some people assume that vegan products are automatically cruelty free. This is not necessarily the case. Items tested on animals can still claim to be vegan so long as they don’t contain animal or animal-derived ingredients.