Vegan and cruelty-free beauty brands to know, from Urban Decay to The Body Shop

Eva Waite-Taylor
·11-min read
<p>Whether it’s your cleanser, bronzer or mascara that you want to replace, these are our favourite swaps </p> (iStock/The Independent)

Whether it’s your cleanser, bronzer or mascara that you want to replace, these are our favourite swaps

(iStock/The Independent)

With the first day of the new year signalling the start of Veganuary – an annual global campaign that encourages people to opt for plant-based choices throughout the month of January – you might be reconsidering your lifestyle and reaching for dairy- and meat-free options.

But it’s also important to look closely at your beauty bounty, since its an industry that traditionally relies heavily on animal testing and animal derivatives.

Luckily, brands are becoming increasingly aware of the need to change their ways and develop products in accordance with demand. Turn to the likes of Lush and The Body Shop, for example, as your skincare saviours, or KVD Vegan Beauty for your make-up needs.

While this progress is welcomed, carefully worded brand statements, the way ingredients are sourced and different labelling criteria can make shopping for cruelty-free and vegan products difficult.

According to Peta, an animal rights charity, cruelty-free means that no animals were hurt, killed or tested on during the creation of products.

If products are sold in China it means they will not be cruelty-free, as animal testing is required there by law – for example, cult cosmetics brand Nars lost its status in favour of entering the Chinese market.

To count as vegan, a product’s ingredients list must be free from any animal-derived ingredients, which can include moisturising agents such as beeswax, honey, snail gel and lanolin in your creams, cleansers or lip balms. It is important to note that just because a product is vegan, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily cruelty-free, and vice versa.

If you’re still unsure, some brands may be certified by Peta, The Vegan Society and Cruelty Free International, so you can keep an eye out for those.

Owing to the minefield that is the beauty industry, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite cruelty-free brands to help you be more socially conscious during Veganuary and beyond.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Milk Makeup

Much-loved US brand Milk Makeup made waves when it was founded in 2016 and quickly gained cult status, before launching in the UK in 2019. Promoting “clean beauty”, the brand is entirely vegan, opting to use natural alternatives to animal products, and ingredients that are cruelty-free and paraben-free.

It’s a top brand to know, since the Milk Makeup vegan milk moisturizing cleanser (Cult Beauty, from £12) featured in our review of the best face cleansers. “This vegan, cream-based formula is a mix of fig, oat, argan and desert milks which, combined, feel luxurious and creamy on the skin for a very affordable price tag,” said our reviewer. They added that, when massaged into damp skin, it lathers into a frothy texture that won’t strip or leave skin feeling tight.

Milk Makeup
Milk Makeup

The same milk moisturising cleanser received rave reviews in our guide to the best vegan and cruelty-free skincare brands, with our tester noting that she was left with “a noticeably more youthful, dewy face after using it morning and night for a week”.

Not just well-known for its skincare, Milk is a popular choice for make-up too. The Milk Makeup lip + cheek (Cult Beauty, £23) landed a spot in our review of the best cream blushers. Infused with avocado oil, our tester noted how moisturising the product was, making it a good choice for those with dry skin.

Milk Makeup
Milk Makeup

“As for application, we preferred to swatch the stick directly across our cheeks and then blend out with our fingers or a sponge,” they said, adding that it also “passed the longevity test and retained its colour after a full day in the sun”.

With such an array of skincare and make-up products, Milk Makeup is a reliable vegan and cruelty-free brand to know.

Visit Milk Makeup now

Bali Body

A favourite for tanning oils, suncare and skincare, Bali Body uses no animal-derived products in its coconut lip balm (Bali Body, £12.95), opting instead for plant-based ingredients that are kind to the skin and the earth. The brand is also committed to being totally cruelty-free.

It’s a brand you can trust as it featured in our guide to the best fake tans. The Bali Body self tanning mousse in dark (Bali Body, £25.95) got top marks in our review, with our tester noting that it’s the closest thing to “achieving a deep golden sun-kissed tan in minutes without hitting the beach”.

Bali Body
Bali Body

“If you’re looking for a dark tan that is more on the warm side than cool toned, we seriously recommend this. Bali Body’s tan applies effortlessly,” they noted. There’s good news for those who can’t stand the fake tan smell, too, since this has a fresh cucumber scent.

“Infused with chamomile, coffee seed and pomegranate, this formula is nourishing and brightening, feeling hydrating upon application," said our tester. We can’t wait to try out more from the brand, including its suncare and cosmetics.

Visit Bali Body now

KVD Vegan Beauty

Tattoo artist Kat Von D launched her namesake beauty brand in 2008, which has since been renamed KVD Vegan Beauty and sold to Kendo Brands. The high performance, cruelty-free brand went 100 per cent vegan in 2016 – meaning none of its products are tested on animals or contain any animal derivatives. What’s more, the brand is Peta-recognised, too.

Ethics aside, KVD products don’t compromise on pigment or performance – in fact, quite the opposite. In our guide to the best foundations for Asian skin, the KVD Vegan Beauty lock-it foundation (Boots, £29) took the top spot, with our writer praising its colour match and application.

KVD Vegan Beauty
KVD Vegan Beauty

Noting the fact it provides a “flawless base while lasting pretty much all-day without touch-ups”, it passed our wear test with “flying colours”. We’re sold.

From the same lock-it range, the KVD Vegan Beauty lock-it translucent setting powder (Boots, £23) impressed us in the review of the best face powders for dry skin.

KVD Vegan Beauty
KVD Vegan Beauty

Used to bake the under-eye area after concealer, or applied all over the face, it created a crease-free finish and brighter complexion. “All in all, this is a great price for a high-end feeling product,” said our reviewer.

With such a huge range of high-quality vegan and cruelty-free products on offer, there’s certainly something for everyone.

Visit KVD Vegan Beauty now

Fenty Beauty

Rihanna’s revolutionary make-up line needs no introduction – it made waves by setting the standard for diversity and inclusion in the beauty industry. Its foundation range comes in three formulas, each being available in 50 different shades.

While many of the Fenty Beauty products are free from animal byproducts, it’s technically not considered a vegan line, but it is cruelty-free and doesn’t allow suppliers to conduct animal testing on its behalf. Its recently launched skincare line, Fenty Skin, is certified vegan and cruelty-free.

The fact that Fenty Beauty is cruelty-free is good news to us here at IndyBest, since it’s one of our favourite make-up brands. In our review of the best bronzers, the Fenty Beauty sun stalk'r instant warmth bronzer (Harvey Nichols, £25) took the top spot thanks to its inclusive credentials and the fact that our tester found the creamy formula to “blend like a dream while being completely buildable”.

Fenty Beauty
Fenty Beauty

“It's warm without being ashy, a key factor to look out for in a bronzer, and the colour stays pigmented all day, wearing beautifully on the skin. It also contains mango and papaya fruit extracts for extra skin-loving benefits,” she added. It’s one that our reviewer would recommend to anyone, as it’s a versatile staple that accommodates every skin tone.

Similarly, the Fenty Beauty full frontal volume, lift and curl mascara (Harvey Nichols, £21) received high praise when we reviewed it following its launch in January 2020.

Fenty Beauty
Fenty Beauty

The innovative “flat to fat” brush, which picks up every lash from root to tip, wowed our writer after it resulted in full, feathered-out lashes that were defined without any clumping.

“If you’re looking for a new holy-grail mascara that does it all, we’d definitely recommend this one. Go and tell all of your friends that Fenty Beauty has done it again," they said.

Visit Fenty Beauty now

The Body Shop

It should come as no surprise that The Body Shop is cruelty-free, 100 per cent vegetarian and 50 per cent vegan – it’s a brand that has consistently paved the way for a more sustainable and ethical industry. Famously against cruelty before it became mainstream, it’s also making waves in terms of circular beauty initiatives and is a certified B Corp, meaning it strives to do things better for its team, the planet and the people on it.

Featuring in our guide to the best circular beauty brands, the high street stalwart’s vegan bath blends (The Body Shop, £8) received high praise.

The Body Shop
The Body Shop

Using thrown-out “ugly” bananas and pears, plus strawberry and mango seed oil from the juicing and jam-making industries, the brand has created a bubble bath that is great for you and good for the planet.

Another favourite of ours is the camomile sumptuous cleansing butter (The Body Shop, £11), which is ideal for all skin types, but thanks to containing camomile, with its soothing properties, it’s particularly good for those with sensitive skin.

The Body Shop
The Body Shop

It’s great for removing make-up – simply apply a small amount of the butter across your face and wash off with warm water and a wet muslin cloth or flannel.

The brand also has an extensive range of make-up, some of which is vegan – we’d definitely recommend checking it out. You might just find your next favourite product.

Visit The Body Shop now

Urban Decay

This brand gained cult status thanks to its signature naked palette (Urban Decay, £43) with a selection of light pinks and browns. Its parent company L'Oréal does sell brands in countries that require animal testing, but, the brand itself is cruelty-free and Peta certified. While many of its products do not contain animal-derived ingredients, it’s not a 100 per cent vegan brand yet.

In terms of whether its products live up to expectations? Well, we put the Urban Decay all nighter setting spray (Selfridges, £20.60) against the Charlotte Tilbury flawless setting spray (Selfridges, £26) to find out which was best.

Urban Decay
Urban Decay

In the review, we noted that “while both offer brilliant make-up fixing and setting and minimise transfer onto a mask”, our favourite was the Urban Decay all nighter setting spray as our make-up didn’t smudge and the product created a more radiant look – something we could all do with during the winter months.

Similarly, the lash freak mascara (Urban Decay, £21) received high praise when we reviewed it following its launch in August 2020.

Urban Decay
Urban Decay

“The innovative brush is like an eyelash curler and mascara in one, delivering fluttery, lifted lashes that made me look instantly wide awake,” noted our tester. They added that the staying power was impressive, and they’d definitely recommend investing in it.

It would appear then that quality has not been compromised for ethics with Urban Decay, another high-performing, cruelty-free beauty brand.

Visit Urban Decay now

Lush

There’s no denying that Lush is friendly to the planet as well as its inhabitants. From ethically sourced ingredients to reusable packaging, it’s leading the way on issues of sustainability and plastic pollution. But that’s not all – as a brand it does not test on animals or use materials that contain animal derivatives that are unsuitable for vegetarians.

We love the slap stick foundation (Lush, £17), which delivers medium coverage and is formulated from 14 per cent pigment and 45 per cent coconut oil, leaving a dewy finish. The packaging is completely free from plastic, with the product dipped in peelable wax and sold in a recycled and recyclable cardboard box. Either keep it in this packaging or put it in a reusable container to keep it fresh.

Lush
Lush

When applying, we found it best to warm it up slightly on the back of our hand before applying to the face and using a brush to work into the skin. Owing to its natural ingredients, it’s best not to leave it in the sun as it will melt. There are 40 shades in the range, each with warm or cool undertones, so there's something for everyone. Plus, it’s 100 per cent vegan.

Another favourite is the big sea salt shampoo (Lush, £8), which landed a spot in our review of the best vegan shampoos and conditioners. While our tester was initially sceptical about trying a shampoo made with chunky sea salt, the virgin coconut oil and protein-rich seaweed soften up the formula.

Lush
Lush

“Following a quick blast of the hairdryer, it was clear that the coarse salt had added impressive lift to our roots – great news if your hair is on the thin side,” said our tester. “Though pricey, only a small amount of shampoo is required, and we love how easy it is to scoop out of the recycled pot, minimising waste,” they added.

With such a full range of products available, this really is a brand to know, not least because of its sustainable and ethical credentials.

Visit Lush now

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