A Quick Explainer On Vegan Vs. Cruelty-Free Products

A Quick Explainer On Vegan Vs. Cruelty-Free Products

They’re sometimes used interchangeably, but (spoiler alert) they don’t mean the same thing.

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You probably see a bunch of products labeled “vegan” and/or “cruelty-free” — even in a shopping post here! They give us the vibe that they’re somehow more conscious and animal-friendly. And better to buy.

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But what do they actually mean? Well, let’s get right to it.

Vegan products do not contain any animal products or ingredients derived from animals, like honey or animal fats.

Lil’ caveat: Vegan =/= Vegetarian. For something to be vegan, it cannot include any animal or animal-derived ingredients. For example, dairy is not vegan, because it comes from animals — but it is vegetarian. While there are many variations, vegetarian diets (or products) don’t include meat, fish, and poultry.

Panida Wijitpanya / Getty Images

Cruelty-free products have not been tested on animals — so no rabbits or rats are harmed or killed in the making of the product. Something can be “100%” cruelty-free if every stage of production did not test on animals. But sometimes, products that are cruelty-free only refer to the final product (and not each ingredient).

@skyniceland / Via instagram.com

If you’re looking for cruelty-free beauty brands, neither Aesop, EltaMD, Bare Minerals, nor Skyn Iceland test on animals!

If that whole “solutions for stressed skins” label caught your eye, you can get the pictured Brightening Eye Serum from Amazon for $35.

Study Tip: “Vegan” refers to the ingredients in the product, while “cruelty-free” refers to the production of the product.

That means they aren’t mutually exclusive terms. A vegan product can be tested on animals. A cruelty-free product can contain animal ingredients.

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A product can be both, either, or neither vegan and/or cruelty-free. And it’s not uncommon for brands to be both!

So how can ya tell if a product is vegan or cruelty-free?

Ofc, they’re usually labeled — duh. But, there’s actually no definition or legal standard for either term, so the labels don’t guarantee anything.

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Even though a product can be labelled as vegan, it’s up to the company to decide what is or is not an animal product.

A company could also call its product cruelty-free because the final product wasn’t test on animals, even if certain ingredients were. Or, they could have used tests from an outside company. Some cruelty-free companies are owned by parent companies that are not cruelty-free.

If you’d like to search independent ingredients yourself, PETA has a list of animal-derived ingredients so you can Ctrl+F away!

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Like PETA notes, there are so many different names (even patents) for ingredient variations — but if you ever want more clarification, you can call the product’s manufacturer!

If you don’t feel like tracking every ingredient and production process of a product, here are some organizations that vet vegan and cruelty-free products for ya!

Leaping Bunny is a popular program that certifies cruelty-free companies. You can check out their standards and use their database or mobile app to find cruelty-free brands!

PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies also offers a database of more than 4,700 cruelty-free companies (as defined in their FAQ) to search for brands or products.

The Vegan Society similarly labels companies with their vegan trademark and provides a database of products and brands that they authenticate as free from animal ingredients and animal testing.

Keep in mind, companies have to apply for approval by Leaping Bunny and The Vegan Society, so their databases may not have every brand or company out there.

Capish? Here’s a lil’ chart to sum it up:

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

Now that you know, you can be a more conscious consumer! Congrats!

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