Difference Between Vegan and Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

What’s the Difference Between Vegan and Cruelty-Free Cosmetics?

Many people confuse the terms vegan and cruelty-free when it comes to their cosmetics and personal care products. Unfortunately, labeling can make this distinction difficult to understand as well.

We think it’s important that all customers understand these terms so they can make the best purchasing decisions. Here’s a simple breakdown.

“Vegan” refers to the ingredients in cosmetics and those used in the manufacturing process. A product is vegan if it contains no animal products or byproducts. For example, leather is an animal product. Honey is a byproduct.

“Cruelty-free” refers to the processes used to test cosmetics for safety and efficacy. In order to be cruelty-free, a product can’t be tested on animals. 

These examples might help:

  • A lip balm made with no animal products is vegan
  • A lip balm that was tested on animals at any stage is not cruelty-free
  • Goat’s milk moisturizer is not vegan
  • Goat’s milk moisturizer made without animal testing is cruelty-free.

It’s important that consumers understand these product labels so that they understand exactly what they’re getting. More importantly, they can buy exclusively from brands that align with their values.

Difference Between Cruelty-Free and Not Tested on Animals

You’re shopping for a new conditioner, and you notice that one product you see says “cruelty-free” on the label. Another label reads, “not tested on animals.” Is there a difference?

Absolutely not! Both terms are used interchangeably. Brands are free to use both terms in their labeling and marketing campaigns. Remember, though, that the products may not be vegan. 

What Types of Products Are Tested on Animals?

There is a surprisingly wide range of products that may be tested on animals. These include medications, pesticides, cosmetics, hair care products, and cleaning products. Some animal testing is done voluntarily, while other testing may be compelled by law. 

Cruelty-free products are tested using alternative methods. This ensures that products are safe while also keeping animals from suffering and injury during product testing.

Why Are Products Sometimes Tested on Animals?

There are three primary reasons that brands choose to test their products on animals. This testing is used to verify the following:


Cosmetics, skin, and hair care products may be used on animals as a way to prove the products are effective. This is done to ensure that product labels are accurate and that any claims about each product have been proven through testing. Brands can then prove the reliability of the claims they make about their products.


Animal testing is also used to observe the long- and short-term side effects of using personal care and household products. In this case, animal testing serves as proof of a product’s fitness for use in humans. 

Additionally, product warnings and safety precautions often come as a result of animal testing.


If a company inaccurately labels a product or markets that product using unproven claims, it may be targeted for legal action. This is a key motivator behind animal testing.

What Are Some Alternatives to Animal Testing?

Clearly, testing products is a good thing. It ensures that people aren’t harmed. It also stops companies from making untrue claims. But should animals pay the price?

While testing products for safety and effectiveness may be necessary, there are many proven alternatives to animal testing. This is particularly true when it comes to beauty and self-care products. Years of successful alternative testing show that it’s possible to properly vet products without harming or exploiting animals.

Cruelty-free products can be determined safe and effective by using some of the following methods:


hair care products test on human volunteers

Testing on Human Volunteers

Many people are willing to test skin and hair care products. Some do it to make money. Others volunteer specifically to ensure that products are not tested on animals.

There’s an additional benefit to human testing: The results provide an accurate reflection of a product’s safety and effectiveness, as long as an appropriate sampling of volunteers is used.

In Vitro Testing

In vitro testing is an advanced form of product testing that uses human cells. It’s performed in a laboratory and doesn’t require that animals are harmed or exploited in any way.

Computer Modeling

Sophisticated computer models can be used to simulate the biological reactions of the human body. They can accurately predict how different products will impact people.

Use of Historical Data

Many of the ingredients in hair and skin care products have been available for decades. They are widely included in items sold by multiple brands, and extensive testing has already been completed. By sharing data from existing tests, brands may be able to avoid repeating tests on animals needlessly.


Why Are Animal Byproducts Controversial?

It’s easy to see why a product that results in the death or injury of an animal would be an issue. However, when it comes to animal byproducts, views are a bit more complicated. 

For example, some people believe that it’s not unethical to use silk products as long as they are derived from abandoned silk pods. However, it’s important to remember that these products are not vegan regardless of how they’re obtained.

Additionally, in many instances, the methods used to collect or extract animal byproducts cause harm or distress to the animals. For example, snail mucin may be collected by dehydrating snails with a sodium product or poking the animals with sticks. 

In other cases, animals must be held in captivity to collect the byproducts they create. Other methods require that animals are kept contained in small spaces. Many vegans or animal welfare advocates also oppose using these products because they deprive the animals of their freedom and natural habitats.


Which Countries Require Animal Testing?

When it comes to cosmetics, only China requires animal testing. However, some other countries may require animal testing for other product categories.

For example, pesticides in the USA must be tested on animals. Also, while it may not be required, most first-world nations do use animal testing quite extensively.


Cruelty-Free: What It Means

Any company can claim to be cruelty-free. Fortunately, there are several certification processes used to verify their claims. Out of all of these processes, Leaping Bunny is the most trusted. All brands with the Leaping Bunny certification must re-certify each year. 

Companies are required to provide data on in-house activities related to their products, as well as information about any suppliers or manufacturers they use. Other certification providers do not demand this kind of annual verification.


Leaping Bunny


Check out the Leaping Bunny website for an up-to-date listing of the brands that have been certified as cruelty-free.

If you’re interested in purchasing a Leaping Bunny-certified shampoo, take a look at any of the hair care products from Kavella. Every shampoo sold is Leaping Bunny certified and vegan. 

How to Identify Vegan Products?

Vegan products don’t contain any animal-derived products. The challenge consumers face is determining whether ingredients found on product labels are vegan or not. It isn’t always obvious. 

For example, terms like “natural flavoring” or “natural extracts” can be ambiguous. Both may refer to plant-based or animal-derived products.

Here are a few ingredients that aren’t vegan but may not be clearly labeled as animal products:

  • Casein
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Guanine
  • Elastin
  • Keratin

To make things even more confusing, terms like vegan and cruelty-free aren’t regulated by the government. Also, even if a company doesn’t use animal products, there is no guarantee that these products aren’t used by one of their suppliers. 

And some ingredients have both a vegan and non-vegan version. Some examples are:

  • Glycerin
  • Stearyl alcohol/stearic acid
  • Amino acids
  • Lactic acid
  • Vitamins, such as d3 or panthenol

In addition to reading labels and learning about the ingredients in your hair and skin care products, consider using brands that have undergone voluntary certification from trusted sources.

Kavella was founded by an animal lover who wanted to provide customers with effective hair and skin care products that didn’t contain animal products and were never tested on animals. 

That’s why they have been certified by PETA as both vegan and cruelty-free. All products sold are both vegan and cruelty-free, and all raw materials and ingredients used are also guaranteed to be both cruelty-free and vegan.


Vegan Hair and Skin Care Products

Animal-derived ingredients are common in cosmetics, hair care, and personal care products. These include:

Bee Byproducts

Bees produce byproducts such as royal jelly, honey, and beeswax. These are frequently used in hair styling creams, waxes, and pomades. Kavella has several alternative products that are completely vegan. 

For example, the Kavella Medium Hold Cream Wax is a vegan hair wax that uses a wax made from olives. That’s a perfect option for someone looking for a beeswax-free hair wax with great control. For a lighter, vegan styling cream, there’s also Kavella’s Defining Cream.


Unless it is made synthetically in a lab, silk is not a vegan product. Silk proteins may be found in several hair care products. Additionally, there are many hair accessories that use silk. Ingredients such as hydrolyzed oat protein can be used as an alternative.


Keratin is derived from animal hair, hooves, and horns. It’s found in a wide array of hair care products.

Collagen and Elastin

Like keratin, collagen and elastin are also animal products. They’re used to add strength to hair, skin, and nails. Many shampoos and conditioners sold today contain these ingredients. There are also several popular nutrition supplements with collagen.


Lanolin is a sheep’s wool derivative. Anyone who wants a vegan alternative to this can use products that contain jojoba. Kavella has moisturizing products with organic jojoba oil. This is a wax that very closely resembles the cellular structure of human sebum.


Carmine is a dye that is extracted from beetles. It’s found in many foods and cosmetics. If you’ve consumed something red, or used red lipstick or blush, you may have come into contact with carmine. 

Brands that use carmine may list it as one of these ingredients:

  • Cochineal
  • Cochineal extract
  • Crimson lake
  • Carminic acid
  • Natural red 4
  • CI 75470
  • E 120

Annatto is a possible replacement for carmine. 


Pearl powder may be added to skin creams to improve collagen production and provide protection against free radicals. However, it is not a vegan option. Jojoba and plant-based oils such as almond oil can be used as substitutes for pearl powder.


Snail mucin is used as a moisturizer in a variety of creams and lotions. Since it is an animal byproduct, it is not considered to be vegan. Fortunately, there are vegan alternatives such as wild yam extract.


Dairy milk may be found in face masks, creams, and other moisturizing products. But there are many plant-based milks and oils that can be used in place of animal-derived products.


Squalene is an oil that’s frequently harvested from shark liver. It is used in many cosmetics and skin care products. Fortunately, there is also a vegan squalane that can be extracted from olives.


Squalene Oil


Are Vegan Ingredients Effective?

When you purchase products with vegan ingredients, you know that you’re helping to ensure that no animals are harmed or exploited. However, you may also wonder whether the products you use are as effective as their non-vegan alternatives.

There’s great news. You don’t have to sacrifice quality, luxury, or efficacy to use products that are both vegan and cruelty-free. There are many plant- and mineral-based ingredients that have been proven to work just as effectively as animal products. 

First, keep in mind that vegan products aren’t new. People have been using them in their personal care routine for years. The difference is that now scientific advances allow us to better extract ingredients and mix them with others. This makes vegan ingredients more effective and longer-lasting, and improves bio-availability.

What Can Vegan Products Do?

Vegan products may contain elements that prevent or aid in issues with inflammation. They may protect skin and hair from environmental damage and free radicals. Many of these ingredients contain natural moisturizers, vitamins, and minerals.

Examples of effective vegan products include:

  • Cleansers
  • Exfoliants
  • Moisturizers
  • Deep conditioning treatments
  • Hairstyling products
  • Volumizing shampoos
  • Masks

There are even vegan products that you can use to care for your pets.

Vegan products are often gentler than their alternatives. If you have sensitive skin, it may be worth it to explore some vegan skin and hair care products to see how those work for you.


Are There Any Other Reasons to Use Vegan and Cruelty-Free Items?

Now you know that vegan and cruelty-free products are made without harming or exploiting animals. They are just as effective as animal products and byproducts. Some consumers may even find that they no longer experience some negative impacts when they switch to vegan products.

Read on to learn a few other reasons to seek out vegan and cruelty-free products.

Vegan Products Are More Sustainable

As a whole, plant-based products are more environmentally friendly. They use fewer resources to create, and the manufacturing processes are often less damaging. 

For example, grazing animals like sheep or cows for lanolin and tallow can be detrimental to the environment. It creates a lack of biodiversity, takes up large swaths of land, and increases greenhouse emissions. 

Meanwhile, the impact of growing the plants required to create many extracts for vegan beauty products is significantly less.

Many Vegan Companies Operate with Ethics as a Core Value

While it isn’t 100% guaranteed that a company that prioritizes vegan products and kindness toward animals is completely ethical, these qualities tend to be good indicators.

When a company like Kavella becomes certified as vegan and cruelty-free, it invests a lot of time and money in that process. Additionally, it ensures that employees work only with suppliers who are equally committed to providing plant-based and cruelty-free products.

This isn’t a process that companies undertake lightly. Also, brands aren’t obligated to do it. Instead, we do this voluntarily because it’s an important part of our core company ethics.

We take pride in providing customers who have similar beliefs with a selection of products they feel comfortable purchasing.

Vegan Products Can Be Budget Friendly

It’s absolutely possible to purchase vegan, cruelty-free products without spending large sums of money. In fact, you can purchase many shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and other plant-based products for a very reasonable price. 

We invite customers to compare the prices of vegan beauty products to standard products within the same categories. Many are pleasantly surprised that they can get the vegan products they need without having to spend more money.


Vegan and Gluten-Free Cosmetics and Personal Care Products

What happens if you are vegan and also need to avoid products with gluten? It can be difficult to source vegan and gluten-free shampoo in local stores or on large online marketplaces.

Good news. Kavella only produces and sells hair products that are both vegan and gluten-free. There’s no need to pore over labels looking for sneaky ingredients that could be bad for your health or against your personal ethics.

Specialty products like Kavella Volumizing Shampoo are always gluten-free. You can also find many vegan gluten-free conditioner options for every hair type on the Kavella website.


Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner


Sadly, many deep conditioning treatments for hair contain animal products. We are proud to offer the Kavella Recovery Mask as a vegan alternative.

There’s no reason you can’t care for animals and the environment and have amazing hair at the same time.

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