The start of the new year (or any other time!) is a great time to commit to switching over to a new way of approaching shopping for beauty products! Nowadays it is easy to find products that will make you look great on stage and avoid animal testing or animal-derived ingredients. I wanted to write this blog as a guide to help you find ways of converting your makeup to be free of products that cause harm to animals and to help people who already shop for these types of makeup products to discover new brands.
1) Sorting out the Terminology
Vegan makeup and cruelty free makeup are not synonyms.
Cruelty free makeup refers to makeup that has not been tested on animals. Often this means that the finished product was not tested on animals, but the constituent ingredients making up the product could have been tested on animals. In addition the product may contain ingredients that were derived from animals. Figuring out each company’s stance on animal testing can be extremely difficult and time confusing so I recommend checking with a place like Leaping Bunny or Vegan Makeup Share since they do extensive research to figure out which products do and don’t utilize animal testing.
Vegan makeup refers to things that have not been tested on animals and also contain no ingredients that were derived from animals. It also means seeking to verify, to the extent possible, that no human workers were exploited in the production of the items as well. Truly vegan makeup is inherently cruelty free but cruelty free makeup is not necessarily vegan. There are also differences in what people consider to fall under vegan products. Some people will consider a product vegan as long as the product wasn’t tested on animals and contains no animal ingredients, but others will only consider it vegan if the parent company of the brand also conducts no animal testing and the conditions it was manufactured under have good labor standards. For example Urban Decay manufactures some vegan products and doesn’t test on animals but they make other products that contain animal derived ingredients so some people would choose to avoid it.
A note on terminology- In this article I use the term cruelty-free to mean not tested on animals since that is the common usage in regards to makeup and personal care products. However I want to note that it is virtually impossible to know that no cruelty to humans or animals occured when ingredients are manufactured (ex. Working conditions in factories or farms where plant based ingredients were grown, in factories producing the products etc.). There has been some push to move away from the term cruelty free for these reasons, but since it is such a common term I am including it here.
2) Figuring out Ingredients
What is in your makeup that might have come from an animal? Too many things to list here, but these are a few of the most common. See the resource section for more info.
- lanolin (from oil glands of sheep)
- carmine (from beetle shells)
- gelatin (a variety of slaughterhouse waste products combined and melted down) I can’t imagine that it is something you would want on your face in any situation!
This sounds a bit complicated, how can I be sure what I’m getting?
Luckily there are several certifications that products can get that clearly show if they were tested on animals. Most companies are great about labeling if a product was tested on animals or contains animal ingredients. If you can’t find anything on the packaging saying whether or not it was it is a very safe bet to assume it was tested on animals. Most mainstream brands are such as Maybelline, L'Oreal, Clinique etc. all test on animals. Beware of some companies that put a ‘cruelty free’, ‘vegan’, or bunny symbol logo on for marketing purposes. Since these terms aren’t regulated mislabeling has become more common and since more and more consumers are pushing for products free of animal testing and we live in a capitalist society there are many unscrupulous companies that want to capitalize off the terms ‘vegan’ and ‘cruelty free’ without actually doing the work. Ethical Elephant has a post breaking down what to look for on labels, and another one looking at bunny symbol logos and apps.
3) Now on to Some of my Suggestions!
Foundation, Primer, Concealer- I use both Gabriel and Zuzu Luxe, which are different lines from the same company, for my liquid foundation and powder. I also use Gabriel concealer under my eyes and on any spots I want to cover. I don’t currently have a face primer, but for eye primer I currently use Urban Decay. I would eventually like to switch to a brand that is completely vegan, but I will use this until it runs out. Another concealer product that looks really great is the new one from Jecca. Jecca is a unisex makeup line formulated with the needs of the transgender community in mind. They just launched so the shade and product options are limited, but they are planning to expand soon.
Contouring- I can’t claim to know much about contouring but I was intrigued by it so before a photoshoot a few years back I went out and bought the cheapest vegan contour palette I could find so that I wouldn’t be spending too much if I couldn’t sort out how to use it! I got an e.l.f one for $6 at Target and it has served me well.
Highlighter- Highlight has become one of my very favorite parts of doing my makeup. I only own a few highlighters, but I have to say the ones I like best for stage are definitely Whimsical Wonder by Vanessa’s Vanity and Phoenix Embers from Clionadh. Honorable mentions go to my Clionadh one-off which is so very pretty and no one else has one like it, as well as the Gabriel Multi-Pot which gives a more subtle shimmer.
Lipstick- My favorite lipstick for stage is Fantasy Allure. It is the most perfect shade of red with a hint of shimmer and it dries completely without leaving your lips feeling gross which is perfect for when you want to avoid having your veil accidentally get stuck on your lipstick (we’ve all been there!). I also recently got Genie from Black Moon Cosmetics which is an awesome iridescent fuchsia and I know will look amazing on stage. The other ones I use a lot are the liquid lipsticks from Life’s Entropy, though unfortunately their brand is on hiatus due to personal life stuff. Life’s Entropy also has some great lip toppers which are a new product for me but I’ve been really loving them. I have their gold (Exponential) and iridescent red/gold which comes out a little more towards pink than red (sine). I recommend checking them out when they reopen in June, their products are so good and they have nice shimmery eye shadows which look great on stage too.
Eyeshadow- I tried Clionadh eye shadows for the first time this past summer and now I’m completely hooked. I can’t recommend them enough. They have several lines which are perfect for stage makeup including the Witchcraft vs. Alchemy duochromes (but get these quick because they are limited edition), the Ultra Metals, and the Birthstone Sage. In addition to Clionadh I also wear a lot of Geek Chic, and a bunch of handmade ones I have bought on Etsy over the years.
Eyeliner- I very much prefer liquid eyeliner to pencils, but I just tried my first cream eyeliner and I think I’m hooked. The best liquid eyeliner I’ve tried is Zuzu Luxe, they have several really pretty colors and many are shimmery. My new cream eyeliner obsession is inspired by Pixllady. She has several neutrals and bright shade options, plus she does custom colors!
False eyelashes- I can’t even tell you how much I love eyelashes. The ones I wear most are the Glitter Dip Perversion ones from Urban Decay. I also like Ardell and those are really easy to find in stores. I am intrigued by the Black Moon cosmetics ones, but they are a bit pricey for me right now, though I am sure they are worth it.
Mascara- Pacifica is definitely my favorite here. I have been using Stellar Gaze daily for a long time and recently picked up their Dream Big mascara as well.
Glitter- To avoid adding more microplastic to the world the best thing to get to have your makeup be as friendly to animals and the environment as possible is biodegradable glitter made from plants. A few options are Glitterevolution, Eco Star Dust and Eco Glitter Fun. Also a Canadian bellydancer Laura Selenzi makes her own glitter balms from bio glitter to make glitter application for stage easier.
Nail polish- There are so many great options for pretty nail polish! Wrenn polishes have great colors and each have a set of druzy jewelry that they were created to match. Their polishes are all 5 free, which their website explains: “5-free means that our polishes are NOT made with 5 of the most common and dangerous ingredients found in nail polishes that have been linked to cause cancer: Toluene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin and Camphor.” Pacifica polishes are another of my favorites. They make a lovely Rainbow top coat is another favorite- it makes any nail polish rainbow! Their polishes are listed as 7 free, which in addition to the 5 ingredients listed above also don’t contain parabens or xylene. Though as a side note, while Wrenn doesn’t say 7 free, their ingredient lists do not contain either of these ingredients. Both brands are really great and have lots of color options. Gabriel is the other place I often get nail polish. I also use their base and top coats and ail polish remover.
Brushes- Brushes are commonly made from animal hairs which you definitely want to avoid for vegan and cruelty free makeup. Let’s let the animals keep the fur they have grown, I am sure they will prefer it that way plus it is an important aspect of consent culture to not take something from another’s body without permission. Some of the best vegan brushes on the market are Spectrum Collections and Eco Tools. Both strive to use as little plastic in their packaging and products as possible and never use animal hair or animal testing. Eco Tools are readily available in stores and pretty affordable. For a cheaper alternative you can also go with e.l.f which are easy to get but, use much more plastic. Spectrum are high end vegan brushes and as such I haven’t been able to try them yet, but they look so beautiful! Do you have vegan makeup brushes you love?
Makeup and Nail Polish Removers- My three favorite makeup removers are Gabriel Sea Fennel Gentle Makeup Remover, Earth Science Chamomile and Green Tea Eye Makeup Remover, and Andalou Lash and Lid Makeup Remover. For nail polish removers I use Gabriel. I find that the pre-made pads they are most effective for me because the bottle of liquid remover soaks into my cotton pads and I end up using a lot more of it.
4) Where to Shop
The easiest places for most people to shop are online or in larger chain stores. Everything in my suggestion list below can be bought online, but there are some products that can be found in stores near you. Ulta, Target, Sephora, and drugstores all have a number of vegan and cruelty free brands and Logical Harmony has made a helpful blog page about vegan products found there.
Online shopping links for all of the companies mentioned above are linked below!
If you are into subscription boxes there are also a few vegan makeup boxes you can get. Medusa’s Makeup often has bold and glittery colors that are good for the stage and Vegan Cuts has more day to day make up but many things could be used on stage as well.
Vegan Makeup Share by Creestaaal
My Beauty Bunny
Brown Bunny Meli
CF and Vegan Makeup for Melanin Girls
Black Owned CF Brands
WOC Owned Vegan Brands Video by Meli
Cruelty Free Kitty
My Beauty Bunny Article
Ethical Elephant Article
Brands in this Post
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