The Ultimate Guide to Cruelty-Free Beauty (SPONSORED)



Hello, beautiful! Today I'm here to talk about an issue that's close to my heart, and that is the continued testing of health and beauty products on harmless, innocent animals.

In case you didn't know, many health and beauty products are still tested on laboratory animals (yes, even in the United States!), despite the availability of many suitable, safe alternatives that do not pose a threat to innocent creatures. In fact, for many types of products, animal testing is even required by law, regardless of the progress scientists have made in finding alternatives.

I know this is a bit of a sad topic to talk about, but fear not! Instead of dwelling on the negative, I'm going to focus on highlighting some amazing cruelty-free beauty brands and products, as well as teaching you how to recognize whether a beauty brand is cruelty-free or not.

I'm bringing this post to you for two reasons. Firstly, animal welfare has long been an issue that's close to my heart. Ever since I was a little girl, I found ways to help animals, even making toys and volunteering at a local shelter for my Girl Scout Bronze Award project. Later on, I went vegetarian when I was 13, the summer before I started high school, and remained vegetarian for the next six years. Dayum, girl...

Since then, I have reintroduced fish and poultry back into my diet because I was concerned about my nutrition and overall wellness. I know it's controversial to be bringing a post about cruelty-free beauty to you when I choose to eat chicken, turkey and fish, but my personal view is that all lives are interconnected, and here to support one another through the life cycle and food chain. (In other words, if my cat eats fish, then so can I - that's just life!)

The real problem lies in the poor treatment of animals who are raised for food, the unhealthiness of the antibiotics and other chemicals rampant in our food system and the inability of these animals to live happy, healthy, fulfilling lives on this earth. And the same goes for animals who are condemned to live in captivity while being subjected to cruel, painful tests.

Whew, that was a lot, but thanks for sticking with me! Now, the other reason for this post: secondly, two extremely awesome cruelty-free beauty brands reached out to me - Maple Holistics and Remay Shaving - which you'll hear more about later as I talk about some of my favorite cruelty-free brands and beauty products. I wanted to include them in this post to highlight the quality of their products and show you guys that beautiful hair, skin and nails are all possible without harming another living thing!


The Scoop on Animal Testing


But before I can talk about the fun stuff, I want to shed a spotlight on why exactly cruelty-free is a thing, and why it's a thing we should all pay attention to. After all, I'm already anticipating that some of you will wonder why going cruelty-free matters at all - and unfortunately, if I'm going to call this the "ultimate guide" to cruelty-free beauty, we're going to have to talk about some not-so-pretty things going on in our consumer-driven economy. 

In the interest of saving you from a thousand hyperlinks, a quick disclaimer: for this section of the post, I'll be referring to this guide to what animal testing is from Cruelty Free International. I highly recommend you check out the rest of their website if you have questions I didn't answer or simply curious about living cruelty-free! 

So, what is animal testing, exactly? An animal test is when an animal is forced to undergo some kind of scientific experiment that will typically cause them some degree of distress, injury, harm or discomfort. Some experiments that might be conducted on an animal include surgical removal of organs or tissues, exposure to radiation and even frightening them to induce anxiety or depression. Any animal, from dogs to rabbits to amphibian, could be at risk for animal testing in a laboratory.

The scientific community is constantly thinking up new ways to subject animals to torture so they can study their behaviors. However, within the beauty community specifically, there are a couple types of testing that are especially prevalent - here's the lowdown from The Humane Society of the United States: 

  • Skin allergy testing. As many as 32 guinea pigs or 16 mice will have chemicals applied to or injected under the skin to test for an allergic reaction. 
  • Eye irritation. One to three rabbits will have the substance injected into their eyes to test for eye irritation or corrosion (a more severe, irreversible type of damage).
  • Toxicity. As many as 20 rats, rabbits or guinea pigs may be tested on to check if a product is toxic or non-toxic, and how much of a substance can be applied before it becomes toxic. These toxicity screenings may include oral-, dermal- and inhalation-driven tests.
  • Carcinogenicity. You've probably heard of carcinogens as those nasty chemicals that cause cancer - well, many chemicals are tested on 40-400 rats or mice to see how carcinogenic a product is, or if the product may induce harmful changes to an animal's cells.
  • Reproductive tests. As if testing on one animal wasn't already enough, scientists may also perform tests on pregnant mothers or babies to see if a product might induce genetic mutations or changes in the offspring. 

Nasty, right? And fun fact: all this animal testing isn't necessary at all, thanks to many alternative methods (such as in vitro or computerized testing) available today. In fact, Europe banned animal testing altogether in 2013, and their economy seems to be doing just fine without cruelty. So, why do we continue to subject animals to torture for the benefit of a few huge corporations? 

It quite literally all comes down to business. More specifically (and at the risk of sounding a bit like Trump), it all comes down to China: the Chinese government requires that all cosmetics and dermal products be tested on animals. In other words, if a company wants to get into business in China, its products must be tested on animals. Period. End of story. 

Sickening, right? Thankfully, this fucked-up system (sorry, Mom, but you know it's true!) is one you don't have to participate in. Here's how to opt out of animal cruelty in your beauty routine...


"Is this cruelty-free?"


It's actually a tougher question to answer than you might think. After all, the FDA itself admits that "cruelty-free" is an unregulated term that could mean anything when used by beauty and cosmetics brands. 

For example, a finished product might be "cruelty-free," but a corporation could rely on suppliers whose raw materials are tested on animals. Or, a beauty brand's parent company might test on animals, even though this particular line does not. And the list of loopholes goes on, and on, and on...

So, how do you see through all the bullshit and find out if a brand is cruelty-free or not? First thing's first: look for the bunny. 

"The fuck?" you might be thinking - but all three of the certified cruelty-free logos contain bunnies in their imagery! The leaping bunny logo is used by Cruelty-Free International, the caring consumer logo is used by PETA and the CCF rabbit is used by Choose Cruelty-Free - yet all three are regulated organizations with strict standards. They don't go handing out these bunnies to just anybody, ya know! 

On the opposite hand, claims like "This product was not tested on animals" aren't investigated by the FDA, and could quite literally mean anything when they appear on a company's bottle. For example, I love the Neutrogena Naturals line, whose packaging claims not to test on animals - but its parent company does. Additionally, there's no guarantee that the raw materials used to create the product were created without cruelty. So, chances are very likely that I'll be gradually weaning off this line of products in the next couple of months - all the more reason for more big brands to adopt cruelty-free testing standards! 

This can get pretty confusing, I know - but thankfully, there's a couple of reliable sources of information I trust to tell me exactly what brands are on the naughty and nice lists. Here are three sources of information I highly recommend when determining whether a brand is cruelty-free or not. (If you're feeling ambitious, I suggest cross-referencing all three guides for the most accurate, up-to-date information!)



  1. PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies Database. With PETA's database, searching to see if a company is cruelty-free or not is as simple as Googling the answer. Simply type a company into the search bar and PETA will give you the magic verdict as to whether or not it's cruelty-free. (Example: I searched for Shea Moisture, since I'm currently using their facial soap, and happily discovered that they're cruelty-free! Woohoo! L'Oreal, on the other hand, whose mascara I recently purchased, is not. Booooooo....) 
  2. Leaping Bunny Approved Brands. Just like PETA's database, you can also search the Leaping Bunny database to see which brands are certified cruelty-free, and which are not. If a brand doesn't appear in the database, cross-reference PETA's guide or another reliable source to see why they aren't Leaping Bunny-certified. You can also view a complete list of Leaping Bunny-approved brands on the main page, with icons to indicate whether a company uses the Leaping Bunny logo, is a Canadian product or a cruelty-free subsidiary of a non-compliant parent company (a fancy way of saying that one line doesn't test on animals, even though its parent company does). 
  3. Cruelty-Free Kitty's Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide (2017 Edition). Last but not least, the blog Cruelty-Free Kitty is hands-down my favorite beauty-minded source of cruelty-free information. CFK even reaches out to companies whose animal testing policies aren't specified to see whether or not they are cruelty-free. However, what I especially like about CFK's Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide is that they break down their brand list into two sub-lists, Sephora brands and drugstore brands,  so it's much easier to find what you're looking for and see where you can discover and purchase new cruelty-free brands.

Another way to find out if a brand is cruelty-free or not? Just ask! For example, as you probably noticed, I have been talking about Brandless a lot lately, since they're such an affordable and eco-friendly alternative to many store brands. However, their website's statement on animal cruelty seemed a bit vague to me, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and email their customer service line. (Stay tuned for the results,) You can always take this approach if you're concerned or can't find information about your favorite brands; as long as you're polite, customer service will usually be happy to help you figure it out! 

Before we move on to some of my favorite cruelty-free beauty brands, I also want to talk about two important topics that come into play when it comes to cruelty-free products:

First of all, let's talk about greenwashing, a practice often employed by cruel companies to trick the consumer into feeling good about where their money is going. You've probably noticed the rise in labels like "all-natural," or the changes in many of your favorite brands' packaging in recent years to look more wholesome and earthy. 

Just like certain statements about animal testing, these terms are not regulated by the FDA, and don't necessarily mean a company is actually "natural" or cruelty-free - so be wary of big beauty brands who put leaves on their packaging and drop buzzwords like "eco-friendly." And, of course, if you're truly confused about whether it's greenwashing or truly legit, try looking them up in a database or emailing-slash-calling the company for more information. If you don't see one of those three certified bunny logos, you should never just take the package's word for it.

Secondly, let's talk about the important distinctions between cruelty-free and vegan. Cruelty-free and vegan are NOT the same thing! 

Here's the difference: a cruelty-free product cannot be tested on animals or contain ingredients tested on animals - but that doesn't mean it can't contain animal derivatives such as milk, egg white proteins or collagen. On the other hand, a vegan product must be cruelty-free and free of all animal byproducts like dairy, eggs, etc. 

In other words, all vegan products are cruelty-free, but not all cruelty-free products are vegan. So, if you're vegan (or shopping for someone who is), never forget to check the label for animal ingredients - or a heart-shaped logo that says "Certified Vegan" on the package.


Cruelty-Free Favorites


Animals shouldn't have to pay a price for our beauty - and they don't with these cruelty-free faves! Believe it or not, you can still get great skin, flawless eyeliner and a bold lip, all without a single casualty. Here are some of the products I'm loyal to and why you should be, too:



Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo


As gross as this is to admit on the Internet, I (along with everyone else in my family) suffer from terrible dandruff - and, if you didn't already know about the powers of tea tree oil, this post is about to change your life! 

Tea tree oil has incredible properties that can promote a healthy scalp and even help your hair grow faster. So, naturally, when Maple Holistics reached out and asked if I would test their tea tree shampoo, I just had to say yes.



I have been SO pleased with the results I've had from this tea tree shampoo. Not only does the tea tree improve my dandruff more than any other commercial product I've tried (read: Head & Shoulders), but it also contains pure ingredients like argan oil and botanical keratin to help make my hair silky and strong. 

The best part? This shampoo costs less than $10 and lasts forever! (I've had it a month and have used maybe half the bottle.) So, if you're at all interested in trying an inexpensive botanical shampoo that doesn't test on animals, I highly recommend Maple Holistics.


REMAY Shave Gel Bar


One weird thing about me is that I really hate normal shaving cream. Why, I have no idea - but I just can't stand that white foam! As a result, I rarely use it, but then I end up with these annoying razor bumps up and down my legs.

Enter the REMAY Shave Gel Bar, and voila: problem solved! This gel-based shave bar smells amazing, glides on paper-thin and creates zero mess as you shave. Plus, because it goes on so thin, one bar will literally last you for months at a time....not to mention that it's both cruelty-free AND vegan (so everyone can enjoy it!).



Me and my friend both tested out the shave gel bar last month, and it's been a staple in our shower routines ever since. I definitely would recommend you test out this shave bar if you're looking for a mess-free way to spice up your shower routine....

No bunnies were harmed in the making of this shave bar :) 


Other Cruelty-Free Faves...

  • Tartelette in Bloom Palette. That's right - Tarte is completely cruelty-free and PETA-approved! Their Tartelette in Bloom Palette is an amazing collection of pink, brown and red neutrals with great pigmentation that are perfect for fall.
  • BareMinerals Gen Nude Matte Liquid Lipstick in Boss. I got this lip color during a free BareMinerals event with my sorority - and having seen this color on nearly all of my sisters, I can attest that this shade looks gorgeous on just about everybody. Bonus: it stays put after eating, kissing...even napping! 
  • NYX High Definition Blush in Rose Gold. This NYX blush was a gift from Her Campus' Boston Fashion Week event this year (in case you didn't already know, I'm a staff writer for Her Campus BU, the most viewed chapter of Her Campus!) and I've literally used it almost every day since. This color looks perfect on my fair skin and adds just enough shimmer that I don't even need a highlight. (And for $6.50, who could resist that?)
  • Aria Starr Dead Sea Mud Mask. I bought this mud mask because I was looking for a new one and, TBH, it was a bestseller on Amazon. (I'm a loyal Amazonian, what can I say?) However, I was so happy with the results I got from this mask! It dried up all my blemishes and purged my pores of blackheads - plus it's vegan, cruelty-free and under $20. I have zero complains :) 


Take the pledge to go cruelty-free! Comment or tweet me @haleymarieblog "I pledge cruelty-free with HMB" to show your commitment for animal rights.