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Vegan vs. Cruelty Free - What's the Difference?

What's the difference between certified vegan and certified cruelty free in the skin, hair, body, and cosmetic realm?

Have you ever noticed a little "v" or bunny logo on your shampoo bottle? These logos symbolize that the product is either Vegan or Cruelty Free, as determined by various certifying agencies that work extensively with the manufacturer to make sure the product meets their criteria and standards. It's important to understand the difference between these certifications and what they mean so you can make more ethical decisions when you shop.


In order for a product to be certified vegan, it cannot contain any animal products. In the cosmetics, hair, skin, and body care realm, that includes milk and milk products, honey and honey bee products, and insects which are often used for pigment in cosmetics.

Products also cannot have been involved in animal testing in any way. This includes ingredients and the final product, and applies to manufacturers, suppliers, etc. This also means that it has not been tested "as required by law" (for example, some countries like China require animal testing on all imported cosmetics), and it cannot be tested on animals in the future. Find out more information here.

Cruelty Free

Certified vegan products are cruelty free, however not all cruelty free products are vegan. There are a few certifying agencies, Leaping Bunny being the gold standard and only internationally recognized certification, for cruelty free products and brands. In order to be certified cruelty free, the product and its ingredients must not have been tested on animals, nor is it allowed to be tested "as required by law" in other countries. For a list of detailed criteria, check out Leaping Bunny.

Parent Companies

There are a growing number of vegan beauty products available. However, it's important to note that while many makeup companies now offer certified vegan products, not all of their products are vegan.

There are also plenty of cruelty free brands that are owned by a parent company that tests on animals.

For those really looking to make a difference and vote with your dollar, it may be worth avoiding these companies, because in the long run your money is still supporting animal testing. On the flipside, many people believe buying these products will show the manufacturers that there is a demand for cruelty free and vegan products, which might encourage a change.

Take this knowledge with you next time you go to the store to pick up shampoo or makeup, and make sure to check those labels!



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