How to Make Your Skincare Routine Vegan
What to know about vegan skincare and brands to try.
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.

There are a lot of ways to take good care of your skin.

You can keep it simple with a two-step cleanse-and-moisturize or experiment with double cleansing, layering serums and creams, K-beauty, masks, scrubs, and high-quality SPF (Yes — you should use this all year round). But, shouldn’t the products you use be as kind to animals as they are to your skin? Whether your skincare routine is a simple wash in the morning at night or a double-cleanse followed by layering serums and creams, there are now plant-based options for every step. But, what is plant-based skincare?

What Is Plant-Based?

You may have noticed an influx of skincare brands calling out “green,” “natural,” or “plant-based” ingredients. It can be confusing — but, plant-based typically means that a product or brand features plant-derived ingredients. This can mean a serum uses squalane — a lightweight moisturizer that helps balance oil production — made from sugarcane or olive oil instead of shark’s liver Plant-based glycerin is made from vegetable oil, instead of fatty animal oil.

But here’s where it gets tricky: Skincare made with plant-based ingredients isn’t always vegan. There are no labeling laws governing “plant-based” skincare must be free from animal-derived ingredients, so you might see a brand advertising its ingredients as “plant-based,” while also featuring ingredients like honey. Plant-based, vegan skincare is free from honey, beeswax, lanolin, collagen (although a vegan version may be widely commercially available in the coming years), keratin, and non-vegan squalane and glycerin.

Why do companies still use animal testing?

Why Do Companies Test on Animals?

Cruelty-free and vegan labels are becoming the new norm, but cosmetic animal testing is still prominent. Humane Society International (HSI), a nonprofit animal rights organization, estimates that anywhere between 100,000-200,000 animals die for cosmetics tests every year. They are rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, and mice. Tests include skin and eye irritation tests where chemicals are dropped in the eyes or rubbed onto exposed skin, oral force-feeding to monitor potential health hazards, and lethal dose tests. According to HSI, “tests can cause considerable pain and distress including blindness, swollen eyes, sore bleeding skin, internal bleeding and organ damage, birth defects, convulsions, and death. Pain relief is not provided and at the end of a test the animals are killed, normally by asphyxiation, neck-breaking or decapitation.”

In 2018, The Body Shop and anti-animal testing organization Cruelty Free International, delivered a petition calling for a global ban on cosmetic animal testing. It was signed by 8.3 million people.

So, why do cosmetics companies still test on animals? HSI notes that companies tend to conduct tests when introducing new ingredients that don’t have existing safety data, which needs to be generated to satisfy regulators before a product can be introduced to the market. But are animal tests absolutely necessary?

Is 100% cruelty-free skincare possible?

Cruelty-Free Skincare

According to HSI, there are a number of non-animal testing methods that are just as effective in determining safety and efficacy if not more so.

Companies can also use ingredients already proven safe. But, there are a few roadblocks. There aren’t non-animal tests for every single test area required for new ingredients. And, regulators tend to be conservative, sticking to the mentality of “this is the way it’s always been done.” New tests are being introduced — more than 40 alternatives have been developed, according to HSI — and nearly 40 countries have banned cosmetic animal testing. Even China, which is notorious for its cosmetic animal testing requirements, is working with regulators and nonprofits to eliminate mandatory tests.

Companies Embrace Plant-Based Ingredients

As cosmetic animal testing becomes increasingly obsolete, brands are turning to fully vegan formulas and blending botanicals with biochemistry to create products that are food for your skin and good for animals. Here are 19 brands to try.

PLANT Apothecary is unisex and vegan.

1. PLANT Apothecary

PLANT Apothecary was founded in 2012 by Holly McWhorter and Bjarke Ballisager, a husband-and-wife duo who sought to create gentle, environmentally-friendly skincare products that could be used by the whole family.

It is on a mission to combine healthy, organic, eco-friendly, and vegan ingredients with clean, straightforward packaging. Its products are unisex, USDA organic, and free from synthetic ingredients like petroleum, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and
silicones. The brand follows principles of herbalism and aromatherapy to create effective, gentle products suitable for all skin types.

WASH YOUR FACE is a gentle, fragrance-free organic aloe cleanser that won’t dry out your skin. It’s fragrance-free and lightly-sudsing, perfect for doubling as a shaving cream. It features aloe, a skin-soothing moisturizer with anti-inflammatory properties that helps protect the skin from UV damage and lemongrass, which has antioxidant properties and is used to relieve anxiety in aromatherapy.

How to Make Your Skincare Routine Vegan
Plant Apothecary is gentle and effective.

The CALM DOWN body wash is a concentrated body wash with an eco-friendly, low-water formula — so a little goes a long way. The gel has a honey-like texture made with only eight ingredients, including soaps made from organic coconut oil, olive oil, and jojoba oil. It’s enriched with ginger and lavender essential oils, specifically chosen to help ease a stressed-out mind at the end of the day. Ginger promotes concentration and is known to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Lavender also doubles as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, making it an effective fighter against acne, swelling, and redness.

Find PLANT Apothecary’s products online through their website or on Ulta.com.

How to Make Your Skincare Routine Vegan
Every ingredient has a purpose at Herbivore Botanicals.

2. Herbivore Botanicals

Vegan skincare brand Herbivore Botanicals makes products that are safe and effective. Brand founders Julia Wills and Alexander Kummerow believe in only including ingredients that have a purpose — so, there are never any fillers. Formulas are all made from scratch using the finest raw materials from the earth and finished products are tested only on humans. The company makes a wide variety of products, including exfoliating serums, facial oils, toners, moisturizers, masks, and bath salts.

Check it out here.

How to Make Your Skincare Routine Vegan
Meow Meow Tweet wants to do right by the planet.

3. Meow Meow Tweet

Small-batch vegan skincare brand Meow Meow Tweet makes skin and body care products using natural, organic ingredients. The brand believes in crafting formulas as if they were recipes, carefully selecting ingredients to create effective products. It also works to have a lower ecological footprint. Meow Meow Tweet offers bulk refill bottles for several products, which can be returned to the company when finished to be sterilized and reused. It will also Terracycle hard-to-recycle plastic parts in its packaging.

Check it out here.

How to Make Your Skincare Routine Vegan
Youth to the People is gender-neutral.

4. Youth to the People

Los Angeles-based vegan brand Youth to the People makes skin products for all skin types and genders. It pairs nutrient-dense superfoods with clinical actives, ranging from kale and green tea to AHA and glycolic acid. Products are free from dimethicone, mineral oil, parabens, PEG, phthalates, silicones, artificial colors, and sulfates. You can even visit the R&D lab in the Arts District to see how products are made. Everything is packaged in recyclable glass bottles.

Check it out here.

Odacite uses wild-grown botanicals.

5. Odacite

Made in Van Nuys, California, Odacite is cruelty-free, vegan, and committed to using effective and pure ingredients. Founder Valierie Grandury was inspired to create the brand after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She began making custom-blend products for herself and clients. Word spread fast, leading her to officially launch the company. Odacite formulates its products with organic potent botanicals that are wild-crafted or grown without chemicals. Products are free from parabens, fillers, preservatives, PEG, and synthetic perfumes and dyes.

Check it out here.

Look no further for budget-friendly skincare than E.L.F.

6. E.L.F.

E.L.F. makes cruelty-free, vegan, and budget-friendly skincare products. The majority cost less than $15 and are suitable for a wide variety of skin types, from acne-prone to oily and dry.

Check it out here.

COSRX targets the root cause of skincare troubles.

7. COSRX

Cruelty-free and vegan-friendly K-beauty brand COSRX gets its name from a combination of “cosmetics” and “rx.” Its product range has gained an international following for its no-nonsense approach to skincare, using effective active ingredients that target the root cause of a multitude of skin concerns ranging from dry skin to clogged pores and sun protection. All vegan products are clearly marked on the website. Bestsellers include the Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, the One Step Original Clear Pad, and the Hydrogel Very Simple Pack.

Check it out here.

Luxury vegan skincare brand Osea is based in Malibu.

8. Osea

Based in Malibu, Osea specializes in organic, luxury vegan skincare that harnesses the power of the sea. The company uses organic seaweed infused with steam-distilled and cold-pressed essential oils to create formulas that fight fine lines and blemishes. All products are free from parabens, sulfates, and petrochemicals. Founder Jenefer Palmer, dedicated to animal rights and the environment, is committed to producing only vegan products.

Check it out here.

Isle of Paradise moisturizes and builds a summer glow.

9. Isle of Paradise

UK-based brand Isle of Paradise makes cruelty-free, vegan self-tanner products that do more than just help maintain a summer glow all year round. Its Self-Tanning Drops are made with organic tanning actives, plus moisturizing avocado, chia seed, and coconut oils. It’s free from parabens, sulfates, mineral oils, and phthalates.

Check it out here.

Greek brand Korres is vegan-friendly.

10. Korres

Greek cosmetics brand Korres is strictly against animal testing — all tests are conducted in the company’s own lab using new technological innovations, like in vitro (using synthetic skin cells) or human volunteers. The brand clearly labels all vegan products under the “Formula Facts” section of each product page. Korres carefully research every ingredient for clinical efficacy and sustainability, using medical herbs, native Greek flora, food, and natural actives. Its plant also employs more than environmental management programs throughout production, packaging, and storage. Popular products include the Vitamin C Active Brightening Oil, the AHAs & Enzymes Resurfacing Mask, and the Foaming Cream Cleanser.

Check it out here.

Acure products address a wide variety of skincare concerns.

11. Acure

Acure’s motto is “100% Vegan, 0% Pretentious.” The brand was developed by hair and skincare enthusiasts who aim to make products that are safe, effective, and accessible — the majority of products cost under $20. Acure has a number of skincare lines to address different concerns, ranging from acne to dry and damaged.

Check it out here.

Biossance is known for its sugar cane-based squalane.

12. Biossance

Plant-based skincare brand Biossance uses innovative biotechnology to create its formulas, drawing from both science and sustainability. It’s best-known for its vegan squalane, derived from renewable, ethically-sourced sugarcane, that’s suitable for all skin types. The company also supports missions for social good. It was founded by a team of Berkeley scientists who developed that created an accessible cure for malaria. To this day, the company donates a portion of profits to Zagaya, a nonprofit that works to eradicate malaria. Its production processes cause no deforestation and products are packaged in Sugarcane and Forest Stewardship Council-certified boxes.

Check it out here.

Thank You Farmer features skin-soothing ingredients..

13. Thank You Farmer

Thank You Farmer is a natural K-beauty brand that creates natural, soothing products for sensitive skin. The company prioritizes effective, safe ingredients for its ranges, which include acne, anti-aging, firming, brightening, and sun protection. The company’s products are available on K-beauty retailer SOKO Glam, which clearly labels vegan products. Best sellers include the Back To Iceland Cleansing Water and the Back To Pure Daily Foaming Gel Cleanser.

Check it out here.

The Ordinary sells high-quality skincare ingredients for a budget price.

14. The Ordinary

The Ordinary is a budget-friendly, vegan skincare brand from DECIEM, an umbrella brand that focuses on creating advanced functional beauty products. The company earned a strong cult following by selling luxury skincare ingredients at wholesale prices. Its serums, moisturizers, oils, and treatments range from just over $6 to just below $15. The website makes it easy to pick what’s right for your skin by breaking down concerns and offering suggested regimens.

Check it out here.

Atrue embraces the power of tea.

15. Atrue

Atrue is a cruelty-free Korean skincare brand. Its signature ingredient is black tea. The company sources its tea from Compagnie Coloniale, France’s oldest tea brand. packed with antioxidants, Black tea provides a number of benefits for skin. Atrue also uses green tea, which is known to soothe skin and help fight inflammation. Bestsellers include the award-winning Real Black Tea True Active Essence, the Darjeeling Black Tea First Anti-wrinkle Essence, and the Real Black Tea True Active Mask.

Check it out here.

Sunday Riley’s Good Genes serum is a cult hit.

16. Sunday Riley

Cruelty-free luxury skincare brand Sunday Riley blends advanced, clinically proven ingredients with botanicals to create small-batch, clean beauty products. It’s mostly vegan, free from synthetic fragrance, mineral oils, and sulfates, opting for flower and plant extracts and gentle cleansers instead. Good Genes, C.E.O. Glow Vitamin C and Turmeric Face Oil, and the U.F.O. Ultra Clarifying Acne Treatment Face Oil.

Check it out here.

Farmacy partners with organic farms.

17. Farmacy

Cruelty-free, “farm-to-face” brand Farmacy uses science to unlock the benefits of ingredients found in nature. The company has partnered with organic farms around the world to source potent, natural ingredients and create effective skincare. Its Green Clean Meltaway Cleansing Balm has a strong fanbase. All products are free from parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, and synthetic fragrances. A handful of products use beeswax and honey.

Check it out

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Clean beauty brand Drunk Elephant is free from the “Suspicious 6.”

18. Drunk Elephant

Drunk Elephant is a cruelty-free skincare brand committed to making “clean” products. The company selects only ingredients that either “directly benefit the skin’s health or support the integrity and effectiveness of our formulations.” It never uses what it labels the “Suspicious 6” — essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances/dyes, and SLS (sodium laureth sulfate). Try the Protini Polypeptide Cream, the T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial, or the Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser.

Check it out here.

Klairs is ideal for sensitive skin.

19. Klairs

Cruelty-free and mostly-vegan Korean brand Klairs believes in making products that are simple, but enough to deliver results. Since 2010, the company has been researching different raw materials and ingredients that work best for sensitive skin. It also takes its time — “no matter how long” — in introducing new products, all offered at a mid-range price. The brand is working toward making its entire range vegan. Try the Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop, the Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil, or the Gentle Black Sugar Facial Polish.

Check it out here.


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How to Make Your Skincare Routine Vegan
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How to Make Your Skincare Routine Vegan
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Want to give your skincare routine a vegan makeover? There are a number of plant-based, natural, non-toxic, chemical-free products to choose from.
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LIVEKINDLY
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