Satire and comedy. Memoirs and autobiographies. Interpolation of musical notes and samples. Our world is filled with terms that, at first glance, share many similarities – enough that it’s not uncommon to confuse them – but, on closer inspection, mean very different things. For the beauty community, these terms are vegan and cruelty-free.
Testing on animals and animal by-products has been part of the beauty world for centuries. It is widely believed that our love for dark lipstick began as early as the reign of Cleopatra, when she used crushed insects to help create long-lasting pigment. We’ve come a long way since then, but some products still contain animal-derived ingredients today. And as the demand for transparency within the industry grows, the vegan and cruelty-free buzz follows.
But what is the real difference between these two terms? Yes, they both involve safer and more ethical practices, but how do they differ, if at all? Ahead, allow us to demystify these not-so-complicated terms and share the retailer that makes it easy to buy both.
What makes a beauty product vegan?
When it comes to talking about vegan food, the term takes on its full meaning. Definition becomes murky when beauty enters the conversation. Technically, a vegan beauty product is a product created without any animal ingredients or by-products. A popular animal ingredient, for example, is squalene. You’d be hard pressed to find it on beauty product shelves today, but when it hit the market, it was largely harvested from shark livers. Now, you will most likely find plant-based alternatives derived from olives and sugar cane.
Animal by-products, on the other hand, can be something like lanolin (a waxy substance extracted from sheep’s wool) or honey. There’s often a lot of debate about whether the presence of lanolin or honey in beauty products makes them non-vegan, but technically that falls into the category.
What does cruelty-free mean?
Vegan might be cruelty-free’s trendy best friend, but the latter term has been around for much longer – evidence of animal testing dates back to the 1800s. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the big beauty companies began to phase out animal testing altogether (it took until 1998 for the UK to ban animal testing during the cosmetic process). Although animal testing has not been entirely eradicated from the industry, it is becoming the new normal.
cruelty free means animals were not involved in any part of the process of creating or testing a product or ingredient. Can a vegan product be tested on animals? Yeah, but that’s why those notable tokens of approval, like a Leaping Bunny Program Certification, are so important to look for when buying products. Most beauty product retailers, such as Superdrug, will specifically indicate when a product is vegan, cruelty-free, or both on its site and on the product packaging, making the browsing process easier. Once upon a time, you might have wondered if your favorite body wash included fish scales; today, not so much.
Image source: Pexels / Polina Tankilevich
Where can I buy cruelty-free and vegan beauty products?
A few years ago, you had to dig into the Leaping Bunny Program Site to find a certified cruelty-free brand. And for vegan products? Forget it, may the Force be with you. Now retailers like Superdrug make it easier to find.
With over 1,000 vegan formulas available on the Superdrug site, it’s simple to find a lipstick or conditioner that doesn’t contain animal-derived ingredients. For example, Fruity by Superdrug offers a range of shower essentials, from body wash to shampoo, that are 100% vegan (and cruelty-free). Looking for something in particular? Superdrug also offers the vegan and cruelty-free brand Vitamin E. As the name suggests, this is a comprehensive collection of Vitamin E skin care products perfect for anyone whose skin needs some gentle treatment.
Even skincare enthusiasts can cut through the noise thanks to brands like B. Skin care. This certified vegan and cruelty-free brand offers at least five different product lines depending on your specific needs, whether it’s hydration or oil control.
Do vegan and cruelty-free ingredients mean a product is automatically sustainable?
Just because something is labeled as vegan or cruelty-free doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for the environment. How ingredients are sourced and tested is important, but when measuring a product’s sustainability, there are additional factors to consider.
Recyclable packaging, packaging made from recycled materials, and reusable packaging are a few features to look out for when buying sustainable. At Superdrug you can find the skincare brand Me+, which uses recyclable dark glass bottles for its serums and at least 30% recycled plastic for cleansers. Bonus: Dark packaging can prevent exposure to light from interfering with an ingredient’s potency, so you can expect to get the most potency from your product.
Eliminating single-use plastics may be one of the toughest hurdles for beauty lovers to overcome in all aspects of their lives, but products like the Luna Menstrual Cup to offer a reusable alternative that can help anyone on their period avoid wasting. The same goes for anyone who likes to use single-use wipes to remove makeup at night. It’s a tough habit to break, but a reusable cloth, like the Studio London Microfiber Cloth, can make the job easier.
Yes, the beauty industry has a long way to go, but brands like Superdrug are committed to a new level of transparency that promises better in the future. While it’s worth looking into for yourself – creating a more sustainable lifestyle takes sound research – there are some notable resolutions that Superdrug hopes to accomplish by at least 2025, including making all of its packaging recyclable , reusable or compostable; make all its products 100% vegan; and agreeing to use only RSPO certified palm oil and sustainable shea.
To see? Not so complicated after all.
Image source: Pexels/Shutterstock