Veganism Isn't Inherently Cruelty-Free: Vegan, Vegetarian, and Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

Being vegan and being vegetarian are two distinct dietary and lifestyle choices, differing in the foods consumed and the ethical considerations involved. Here's an overview:

Veganism: Veganism is a lifestyle and dietary choice that avoids the use of animal products or by-products in food and in other areas of life. Vegans avoid consuming meat (including fish and seafood), dairy, eggs, honey, and other animal-based and animal-derived ingredients. Vegans also avoid lifestyle products derived from animals, such as leather, fur, silk, and cosmetics tested on animals; with cosmetics, they avoid ingredients such as beeswax, carmine, lanolin, ingredients derived from animal fat, and more. The ubiquitous and ultimate galvanizer behind veganism is typically based on ethical concerns regarding animal cruelty, environmental sustainability, and health benefits associated with a plant-based diet.

Vegetarianism: Vegetarianism is a dietary and lifestyle choice that excludes the consumption of meat but still does allow for the consumption of other animal-derived products such as butter, cheese, etc. There are different types of vegetarianism--subcategories of vegetarianism--that vary based on the inclusion or exclusion of certain animal products. Many choose vegetarianism for reasons related to animal welfare. Vegetarianism allows for more flexibility in food choices compared to veganism. Now, though, let's talk about both veganism and vegetarianism as they relate to cosmetics and 'cruelty-free' status.

In the context of cosmetics, the terms "vegan" and "vegetarian" refer to the ingredients used in the formulation and the testing methods employed. Neither 'vegan' nor 'vegetarian' automatically qualify a formula as cruelty-free:

Vegan CosmeticsVegan cosmetics are finished formulas that do not contain any animal-derived ingredients or by-products, such as but certainly not limited to animal fats, lanolin, beeswax, carmine (a red pigment derived from beetles!), and other animal-derived substances. Vegan cosmetics are formulated with plant-based ingredients and synthetic alternatives. While it may seem vegan cosmetics would never involve cruelty to animals, given their lacking animal ingredients, such formulas could still be tested on animals. Cruelty-free status still needs to exist:

Typically, in addition to the ingredient focus, vegan cosmetics also commonly abide by cruelty-free practices; after all, vegan cosmetics are focused on eliminating any animal exploitation or cruelty.

Vegetarian Cosmetics: Vegetarian cosmetics exclude ingredients derived from animal slaughter, such as animal fats or meat extracts, albeit may still include ingredients like beeswax, honey, lanolin, and so forth, which are derived from animals but don't involve animal slaughter.

Vegetarian cosmetics may be suitable for individuals who choose to avoid meat consumption but still accept the use of animal by-products that do not require animals to be killed. Please note that there can be subjectivity in this definition: that is, specific interpretation of vegetarian cosmetics can vary from company to company or person to person. Check to see how a brand's definition aligns with yours.

While there is a significant overlap between vegan or vegetarian cosmetics and cruelty-free cosmetics, being vegan or vegetarian does not automatically guarantee that a cosmetic product is cruelty-free.

Vegan or vegetarian cosmetics focus on the ingredients used in the product formulation, specifically avoiding animal-derived ingredients or by-products. These cosmetics do not contain substances like animal fats, gelatin, beeswax, or carmine, which are derived from animals. Cruelty-free cosmetics, on the other hand, are products that have not been tested on animals at any stage of development, including both the ingredients and the finished product. Cruelty-free cosmetics ensure that no animals were subjected to harm or suffering during the testing process.

While vegan or vegetarian cosmetics may not contain animal-derived ingredients, they can still undergo animal testing during their development, which contradicts the cruelty-free principle. For example, a vegan lipstick may not contain any animal-derived ingredients, but it could still be tested on animals to assess its safety or effectiveness. 

Overall, both vegan and vegetarian cosmetics aim to align with ethical values and cater to individuals who seek beauty products that are free from animal-derived ingredients or animal testing, but you should still conduct your due diligence and see what cruelty-free certifications and assertions a company can provide in terms of whether their raw ingredient sourcing and finished formulas.

To ensure a cosmetic product is both vegan or vegetarian and cruelty-free, it is important to look for additional certifications or labels indicating that the product meets both criteria. Recognized certifications such as the Leaping Bunny or PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies program often indicate products that are both vegan/vegetarian and cruelty-free.

It's important for consumers to be vigilant and look for clear and reliable information regarding a brand's animal testing policies and certifications when seeking both vegan/vegetarian and cruelty-free cosmetics.