The Difference Between Vegan and Cruelty-Free Makeup

With the latest trends in the cosmetics industry, like zero-waste, sustainably-sourced, clean cosmetics and synthetic-free, it can be a bit confusing. And you would be forgiven even by the most hardcore animal rights activist for not knowing the difference between vegan and cruelty-free when it comes to makeup.


Don’t worry, we’re going to get to the bottom of it.

Vegan Makeup

If you’re reading this, then you probably already know what veganism is. Just to make things clear, veganism is the practice of abstaining from animal-based products. In food, this includes eggs and dairy because those products are derived from animals.

Most vegans that decide to adopt this lifestyle because they believe that animals are treated inhumanely and unfairly in order to harvest their meat and/or animal byproducts. Just looking at the squalid conditions that animals live in many large-scale farming operations is enough to make even the most die-hard carnivore lose their appetite, so it’s no surprise that we want to avoid contributing to the economic opportunities for these animal-plunderers.


But cosmetics products — more specifically, makeup, is characterized differently than food.


That is because we humans, like it or not, have evolved over thousands of years to live as omnivores and eat meat. Cutting out all animal products from your diet requires you to plan strategically to ensure you get all of your 9 essential amino acids as well as getting the right amounts of vitamin B12 and other important nutrients.

Humans were not optimized over millennia to wear makeup — let alone makeup consisting of both animal and plant-and-mineral-based ingredients. You don’t have to plan strategically to eliminate animal products from your cosmetics routine. Furthermore, many of the animal-based ingredients found in makeup 1 generation ago (animal fat used to be used to make the makeup easy to spread — Yuck!), have now been replaced by synthetic ingredients coming from a lab.

That said, there are still some animal-based ingredients in makeup found on most store shelves.

Cruelty-Free Makeup

“Cruelty-free” is a pretty self-explanatory name, but there are some dimensions to cruelty-free makeup that you probably haven’t considered. The term cruelty-free should generally includes products that are not tested on animals, are not produced with child labor, and do not subject any human or animal to harsh, unsafe, or cruel conditions, however in practice it simply refers to products that haven’t been tested on animals.


This becomes especially deceptive when it comes to cosmetics products.


Mica mining, for example, has been finally identified as a massive industry which rests entirely on the labor of children working in extremely dangerous and toxic environments. The mica mines are usually in third-world countries where people are desperate enough to earn money that they are willing to risk their own lives in order to feed their parents. Sometimes, the mines cave in and the child is buried alive, never to see their parents again. Almost all of the mica is then consumed by the cosmetics industry, because mica is shiny and makes your makeup look sparkly.

Many cosmetics brands that advertise themselves as cruelty-free sell products that contain mica. And mica isn’t the only alarming ingredient on your face — many common ingredients are just downright toxic and can even disrupt your sex hormones. The reason this is allowed is because cosmetics products don’t have the same regulatory restrictions that food and drugs do.

Many substances that would never be allowed in food are fully allowed in cosmetics products, which get absorbed into the skin anyway. In fact, on average, your body absorbs 5 pounds of makeup per year, not including the lipstick which inevitably gets swallowed. That sounds pretty cruel to me — putting heavy metals and endocrine disruptors into products which get absorbed through the skin of the very people who buy your products. This has been one of the main drivers for the synthetic-free makeup and nontoxic makeup movements.

Animal Rights vs. Human Rights

SO, whether you’re an animal-lover (like me) or just a person with a conscience, vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics are probably sounding really good right now. But I really want to drive home the point that vegan does not mean plant-derived, and cruelty-free is a word that usually only applies to cruelty against animals (rather than humans too).


As consumers, we really should strive to make a positive difference in the world, and we can only begin to do that once we open our eyes and become aware of what we are putting in our body, and what business practices we are supporting.


There are tons of vegan and cruelty-free makeup brands which are loaded with heavy metals like mercury and lead (which are found in synthetic pigments), and depend on child labor in cruel conditions for manufacturing their product. Not to toot our own horn here (well — maybe a little bit), but this is one of the reasons that we started XOTIQ Cosmetics. Our product is made in the USA from only the finest ingredients. Our products are completely free of synthetic ingredients, are vegan and cruelty-free, mica-free, ethically and sustainably sourced.

We believe that you shouldn’t have to compromise quality in order to be conscious of what goes into your body, so our products are really designed to be top-notch luxury makeup, on top of something you feel good about putting on your face. Our products are completely nontoxic, so you don’t have to be afraid of what your skin might absorb. To be honest, there are too many buzzwords which fit our products (mineral makeup, non toxic makeup, vegan, cruelty-free… The list goes on and on) that it would be laborious to write them all down here. Why aren’t there more mineral makeup brands like ours probably comes down to 1 thing — ignorance.


People have no idea what is in their makeup or where it came from


If people actually knew what was in their makeup, they would be marching to the nearest Ulta with torches and pitchforks. Or maybe they would just decide to buy from a truly clean cosmetics brand like ours. We should tell all of our beautiful friends so we can each play an active role in moving the industry in the right direction.

Making the best decision for you

I am going to take this opportunity to discuss something more than just the difference between vegan and cruelty free makeup. Those of you who are interested in this topic (I’m sure) also care about your health, the environment, and want to be your very best. Many people don’t care; they just want something sparkly to put on their face and don’t care what it is or where it came from. But not you, you do care.


That’s why I want to urge you to adopt more than vegan and cruelty-free principles. Check out zero-waste, sustainably-sourced, ethically-sourced, non-toxic, synthetic-free, and eco-friendly lifestyles. I must admit that in my own life I have not completely adopted all of these lifestyle principles, but I do make incremental progress over time to become a environmentally-conscious consumer, minimizing the garbage I produce, and shopping for food from local farmers.


The world has never been a more toxic place to live than it is right now.


I have been implementing a non-toxic lifestyle. It started with getting rid of nonstick pans and harsh cleaning chemicals so that I can live the healthiest life possible. Slowly, I am phasing out all synthetic materials and ingredients as well. You can check out our blog for more content on how XOTIQ supports all of these movements through their vegan, cruelty-free, ethically-sourced, synthetic-free, zero-waste, and 100% non-toxic makeup as well as how you can adopt these principles into your own life.


If you take away one thing from reading this, I hope that you remember to read the ingredients on your makeup, and that vegan and cruelty-free are a great step in the right direction, but there are more steps you can take to be ethical, healthy, and — most importantly — beautiful.

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