11 Cruelty-Free Makeup Picks for Festive Holiday Looks
From red lips to bold eyeliner, here are our picks for cruelty-free holiday makeup.
Senior Editor | New York City, NY | Contactable via: kat@livekindly.com

Kat has been writing about veganism, environment, and sustainability for five years. Their interests include over-analyzing the various socioeconomic forms of oppression, how that overlaps with veganism, and how the media in all of its forms reflects the current culture.

Makeup can be a powerful tool. It can be your armor for facing the world, your comfort zone (because let’s face it, there is a lot of pressure to look a certain way), or just for fun. No matter which way you’re inclined to use makeup, the holiday season is a great time to embrace shimmering colors and bold reds (which you can also work all year round).  However, makeup isn’t always vegan — and some companies still test on animals. Here’s what to know about vegan and cruelty-free makeup.

What Makes Makeup Not Vegan?

A few ingredients commonly used in cosmetics are derived from animals. Carmine, a red pigment used in lipstick, eyeshadow, and blush, is produced from scale insects like the cochineal.

Beeswax is often used in mascara and lanolin, a waxy byproduct of the wool industry that comes from sheep sebaceous glands, may be used in lip and face products. You may also come across makeup made with honey, collagen, and gelatin.

Do companies need to test on animals?

Why Do Makeup Companies Test on Animals?

Cosmetic animal testing was designed to prove that products are safe for human use. Humane Society International, a nonprofit that works to improve the treatment of all animals, estimates that approximately 100,000 to 200,000 animals are used in tests each year. They are commonly rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice, which are subjected to tests that involve having chemicals dripped into their eyes or onto their exposed skin. This can also include “lethal dose” tests, where animals are force-fed a chemical to determine which amount is deadly. Tests not only damage eyes, skin, organ damage, and trauma, but also animals are not provided pain relief. At the end of testing, they are killed via asphyxiation, neck-breaking, or decapitation.

Modern technology may make cosmetic animal testing obsolete, including donated human tissue or volunteer studies. According to Cruelty Free International, these tests are not only kinder to animals, but also cheaper and more effective.

Are Makeup Brushes Vegan?

Many modern makeup brushes feature synthetic fibers, so they are vegan, but several brands still use animal hair. According to international animal rights organization PETA, the most common types of animal hair used for makeup brushes include squirrel, mink, sable, horse (which is often labeled “pony” or “camel”), or goat. Both mink and goat hair brushes are byproducts of the fur industry while horsehair comes from animals sent to slaughter for meat. Squirrel hair brushes use the fur of animals that have been hunted and trapped.

Brands that make vegan makeup brushes range from drugstore to high-end. Check out wet ‘n’ wild, Ecotools, It Cosmetics, and Afterglow for animal hair-free brushes.

Vegan Holiday Makeup

Ready to put your best face forward? Here are our recommendations for vegan holiday makeup.

Complete your look in one go.

1. Vegan Holiday Makeup Kit

Complete your look in one go. E.L.F. Cosmetics’ Rose Gold Look Set features a palette with ten nude, shimmering rose gold colors perfect for highlighting your eyes. The precision lip pencil defines lips with ease, plus the kit comes with shimmering highlighter and blush and silky-smooth Bare Smooth Matte Eyeshadow.

Check it out here.

For a sparkling red pout.

2. Vegan Glitter Red Lipstick

The holidays are the perfect time to sparkle. This shimmering, metallic red lipstick from Ciaté London was inspired by Jessica Rabbit’s sparkling red dress. According to the brand, it combines twinkling pigments with a full-color base for a glamorous pout.

Check it out here.

For high-shine red lips.

3. Vegan Red Lip Gloss

With a high-shine lacquer and easy click-pen applicator, Glossier’s Vinylic Lip Pen gives your lips a pop of sheer, but buildable red. It has a cushiony formula that isn’t sticky like lip glosses of yore, plus it’s hypoallergenic.

Check it out here.

Full coverage red, sans shine.

4. Vegan Matte Red Liquid Lipstick

ColourPop’s long-wearing liquid lipstick in Arriba is a vibrant red with a matte finish that looks amazing on every skin tone. Reviewers note that it doesn’t transfer, so you can enjoy food and drink without worrying about touch-ups.

Check it out here.

Twelve-hour full coverage that’s perfect for parties.

5. Vegan Full Coverage Foundation

Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation was made to last. This oil-free, non-caking formula delivers a matte finish. It won’t dry out your skin, thanks to Amazonian clay and vitamin E and it works best with oily and combination skin. It’s available in 40 shades, from Porcelain Beige to Mahogany.

Check it out here.

Sheer coverage from light to dark.

6. Vegan Sheer Coverage Foundation

With its sheer formula, Glossier’s Perfecting Skin Tint won’t hide your freckles or any of your so-called “imperfections,” either. It helps even out skin tone and gives a soft-focus effect that minimizes the appearance of pores and is resistant to caking. It comes in nine shades from dark to light.

Check it out here.

Everything you need to highlight and contour.

7. Highlight and Contour

A vegan palette featuring four essential colors to highlight and shade the complexion. Cruelty-free and vegan brand COVER FX’s Countour Kit featured four colors and has six different versions from light to dark to match any skin tone.  Apply with a double-ended contour brush for a seamless blend.

Check it out here.

Create precision cat eyes with ease.

8. Vegan Liquid Eyeliner

This vegan liquid eyeliner by Lady Gaga-created brand HAUS Laboratories features a felt-tip applicator, which allows precision from the thinnest line to the boldest wing. It dries to a matte finish and stays put for hours.

Check it out here.

Strong enough to cover dark circles.

9. Milk Makeup Flex Concealer

Milk Makeup’s Flex Concealer blends seamlessly onto your skin without caking or creasing, thanks to a combination of tiny, blendable spheres and marshmallow root extract. It provides medium-to-full coverage that can take on dark circles and blemishes.

Check it out here.

Set your look with loose powder.

10.Vegan Setting Powder

Beauty Bakerie’s Flour Baking Powder is a vegan setting powder that sets your foundation in place for all-day wear. The HD feature provides a soft, smooth complexion and reduces the appearance of fine lines. Plus, it can also double as a bronzer. Apply this loose powder all over your face and neck with a vegan kabuki brush.

Check it out here.

Smudge-proof and waterproof.

11. Vegan Brow Pomade

Cruelty-free brow brand Anastasia Beverly Hills has a handful of vegan products, including every shade of its popular Dipbrow Pomade.

Check it out here.