Buying cruelty-free beauty is easier than you think

Still think your conscience is only clear in The Body Shop? There’s a whole world of products out there not tested on animals, says Fiona Ward – you just need to know where to shop

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By Fiona Ward on

I’ve always loved beauty. I’m enthralled by the transformation, colour and artistry, not to mention the sheer joy of indulging in a new product or rifling through someone else’s make-up bag (with their permission, of course). I still remember getting my first real pay cheque when I was 17 – I went straight to my nearest House of Fraser and promptly blew the majority of my month’s earnings at Dior and Guerlain. I’m still no more sensible when it comes to shopping.

Nowadays, however, you won’t find either of those brands in my stash. Not because they aren’t wonderful or because I’ve become more financially responsible (I wish), but simply because I can’t justify using cosmetics that are tested on animals. Just as I marvelled in make-up as a teen, I’ve felt a powerful empathy for animals since I can remember. My cat is my favourite topic of conversation and I still grieve for my dog years on; I weep at that awful Donkey Appeal advert and I was traumatised for days after Marley & Me. In June last year, a little casual curiosity turned into a research mission that led me to realise that the cosmetic industry is responsible for countless cruel animal experiments across the world. I soon re-evaluated my shopping habits. 

It’s safe to say that beauty is so “in” right now – never have there been more eyes on the latest products, trends and technology, thanks to the huge popularity of beauty blogging and online make-up tutorials. With that comes conversation and, as we passionate beauty consumers are becoming more savvy, awareness around animal testing is rising. Last year, Pamela Anderson told her hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to boycott MAC because of its continued testing, and singer Kesha also pledged her voice to the cruelty-free movement.

Actually, it’s illegal to test beauty products on animals within the EU. But it’s still legit in 80 per cent of the world’s countries. Plus, there are loopholes galore – third-party testing, separate ingredient testing and overseas testing are all ways that some of my beloved beauty brands try to dodge the controversy.

Pleasingly, there are plenty of wonderful and easily-accessible brands that maintain a cruelty-free status as well as a fantastic product range

Many make vague and misleading statements on their websites. "We’re against animal testing… unless required by law." This refers to the current practice of animal experiments in China, where it’s sadly obligatory to test all international products in order to sell there. Of course, sales in China bring in the big bucks, so more and more high-profile beauty names are trading their cruelty-free policies for a slice of the lucrative Eastern market.

And then there’s the parent company debate. It’s not uncommon for big corporations to buy out smaller companies. There was outrage when L’Oréal acquired The Body Shop in 2006 (while The Body Shop is a cruelty-free organisation, L’Oréal still sells and tests products in China). Is it OK to buy from a supposedly ethical company, which indirectly funds an animal-testing one? As I’ve learnt, declaring myself cruelty-free hasn’t been as straightforward as I first imagined. I wholeheartedly respect Urban Decay for example, who pulled out of entering the Chinese market when their customers voiced concerns. They, like The Body Shop, have remained cruelty-free.

Of course, no product is ever entirely innocent. Like it or not, even the cosmetic ingredients that so-called cruelty-free companies use today were tested on animals at some point, years ago – but as far as I’m concerned, there’s no need for it to happen now.


If you like my logic, look out for the Leaping Bunny symbol for cruelty-free approved beauty and household products – they have very strict criteria and brands must go through a rigorous application process to become certified. Pleasingly, there are plenty of wonderful and easily-accessible brands that maintain a cruelty-free status as well as a fantastic product range, including Charlotte Tilbury, Hourglass, Barry M, Becca and Marks & Spencer’s Autograph range. Online, try boutique make-up shop Cocktail Cosmetics for a vast range of cruelty-free and vegan choices that are harder to find in your typical beauty hall. It’s easy when you know how – here are some of my tried-and-tested favourites.

Five of the best


I adore the Barry M range for affordability, colour and quality. One of my first loves was their Lip Paint, £4.49 – creamy, pigmented and a total bargain. The lip liners, pigments and nail polishes are excellent, too.


If you like a glow, Australian make-up brand Becca is your gal. An incredible range of highlighting products covers creams, lotions and powders in a fantastic range of shades. I’m partial to their original bottled Shimmering Skin Perfector, £34.00, for a very skin-like finish. 


An independent UK brand, these guys make only three products currently – all lovely. Their Green Balm, £12.50, has replaced my once-beloved Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm by Clinique. It has a multitude of uses, including as a cleanser (I’ve been enjoying using it as a mask, of late). Its healing, natural formula doesn’t aggravate my spot-prone skin. 


You can’t go wrong with Real Techniques for synthetic, effective and reasonably priced tools. I love this Sculpting Brush, £9.99, for applying foundation – it’s dense enough to give coverage and blends beautifully. 


It’s a little trickier to find cruelty-free hair brands (particularly salon-quality). Luckily, Paul Mitchell has been proudly against animal testing from the start and makes some awesome products – my favourite is the Ultimate Color Repair range, which strengthens and softens like a dream.


Shop Smarter is part of our regular series on finding simple ways to shop in an eco-friendly way

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