Cruelty-Free & Vegan Are Not The Same Thing

Vegan and Cruelty-Free - Is This vegan- Cruelty free logos

It’s never been easy to match your makeup to your morals. Finding that perfect red lipstick is hard as is and with the confusing labels on the product getting your hands on one that is also made without hurting a soul can be even more challenging. While things are certainly looking up with increased awareness and tonnes of brands now offering vegan and cruelty-free options – you need to be just a little extra careful before you commit to a purchase.

Despite all advancements in the beauty industry, it’s unfortunate that animal testing is still a relatively common practise. Some of the most popular and biggest beauty brands of the world are guilty of the crime. Fortunately, for most of us, the leaping bunny logo comes to the rescue when shopping for beauty products. It is a symbol that most of us reckon with and it gives us the assurance that the product is free of animal cruelty. Isn’t it?

In fact, when we hear the term cruelty-free most of us assume that the product in question {whether food or beauty} is also vegan. Many even use the term vegan and cruelty-free interchangeably. But the truth is far from it. When it comes to technical definitions, vegan and cruelty-free are not the same thing. Confusing? We can’t get our head around this ourselves. It’s absurd for a product to be deemed cruelty-free when it still uses animal by-products in its formulation.

To help navigate the waters, we’ve done the task of explaining how cruelty-free is different from vegan {and vice-versa} and provided an easy guide on how to identify if something is truly animal-free aka vegan and cruelty-free.

Vegan & Cruelty-Free: What makes them different?

Cruelty-free vs Vegan - Vegan and cruelty free are different

When a product is vegan, it simply means that it does not contain any animal by-products, animal derivatives or ingredients. On the other hand, the term cruelty-free means that the brand never tested the product in question on animals. Thumbs up so far, but hold your breath because you are in for a shock. A cruelty-free product, although free from animal testing, can still contain animal by-products or ingredients. These ingredients can include everything from:

  • – fish oil and shark liver oil (squalene) to insect juice (carmine),
  • – protein derived from ground horns or animal hair (keratin) and protein from connective tissue of animals (collagen) to fat from pig’s abdomen (stearic acid)
  • – waste extracted from oil glands of sheep’s wool (lanolin) and whale vomit (ambergris) to beeswax and honey

all add-ins that no compassionate soul would ever want to use.

This means that a vegan product may have been tested on animals, as it is not vegan out of compassion but the product’s formula simply didn’t require any animal ingredients (aka sheer coincidence). If a product is labelled as vegan, you still need to make sure that it is also certified as cruelty-free otherwise you may end up buying something that was tested on a baby monkey in a sterile lab before it made its way on this shelf.

Similarly, a cruelty-free product may not be vegan as it can still contain animal ingredients. Ironic, isn’t it? The very term cruelty-free indicates it should be free from cruelty to animals (or humans for that matter). Unfortunately, that’s not the case (even with the innocuous looking bunny logo) because if the product contains animal derivatives, which obviously came from harming the animals, it can’t be free from cruelty.

How to shop for a truly cruelty-free product?

Vegan vs Cruelty-Free - Vegan and cruelty-free is not same

As a conscious customer, before you swipe your card, you need to make sure that the products that you are purchasing are both vegan and cruelty-free – whether it is your basic necessity like a toothpaste, soap bar or shampoo or little luxuries of life like perfume or makeup.

For a regular compassionate customer, who doesn’t have time or patience to do research about every brand and product, this can be daunting. Fortunately, there are plenty of brands out there that leave animal testing and the use of animal ingredients out of the equation – and even better, some of them take it to the next level by getting the necessary certifications and plastering it on every product that abides by the code.

Organizations like PETA, Vegan Action (Vegan Awareness Foundation) and Vegan Society offer vegan and cruelty-free certifications that help consumers identify products that are free from animal-cruelty – not tested on animals and contain no animal derivatives {not even a trace}.

According to The Vegan Society, a certified vegan product means “this product and it’s ingredients do not contain any animal product, by-product or derivative and must not involve testing of any sort on animals by the manufacturers or on its behalf, or by any third parties”.

All the above vegan certifications indicate that the product has not been tested on animals nor does it have any animal ingredients or derivatives. So, if you see any of these logos on a product, you can be assured that the product is suitable for vegans {or those who want to avoid animal cruelty}.

However, when a product has no vegan certification, and the company claims that it is vegan or if you verified that it contains no animal ingredients, by-products or derivatives, you still need to check if it is also cruelty-free. For that, you need to look out for one of the following logos:

Cruelty-Free Logos - Cruelty-Free Certifications - Vegan and cruelty free


Few things you further need to consider:

  • Companies that sell in China are not cruelty-free – despite what the logo or the company says. In China, health authorities requires every company to mandatorily test their beauty products on animals in order for it to be retailed in the country. Some examples include Benefit, Kiehl’s, MAC, Avon, Revlon, Estee Lauder, Victoria’s Secret and Lancôme.
  • If you are a very strict vegan, then you might want to also verify that whether the parent company of the company in consideration is also cruelty-free or not. For example cruelty-free brands like NYX, Essie, Urban Decay, PureOlogy, and The Body Shop are owned by the L’Oreal Group which is not cruelty-free, similarly Too Faced, Smashbox and Aveda are owned by Estee Lauder.

Every product that we talk about on Address Chic, is guaranteed to be vegan and cruelty-free, so the next time you’re looking to buy something in the beauty department – refer to our website and vegan beauty directory.

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5 thoughts on “Cruelty-Free & Vegan Are Not The Same Thing


    I live in Mumbai India!!
    Which company’s that retail here are cruelty free n Vegan?
    i Use Nyx ,, a Lotus sunscreen/daily moisturizer (indian brand) and Urban Decay mascara…
    At the moment i can’t seem to figure out what products to use as there isn’t much of a choice

    • addresschic says

      Hi Aesha,
      NYX Cosmetics has beeswax, and other animal ingredients (Esp lipsticks). Urban Decay mascara is vegan, and most of their lipsticks too. Look for carmine and beeswax in their ingredients list, if it shows up its not vegan. Else it is.Lotus we are not sure of, but we will let you know. We are working on a vegan guide to Mumbai, and that should help. We have a WhatsApp group where we share vegan products.

    • addresschic says

      We’re so glad that you found this useful Stella. Yes we think most people think that if it’s cruelty-free it does not have animal ingredients and believe they are making a conscious choice. We hope that the CF logo changes to mean that the product is 100% vegan

    • addresschic says

      We’re glad this was helpful. Do you think there is any topic that needs to be covered? We’d love to write about things people want to know about so their cruelty-free journey becomes smooth

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