Looking for vegan department counter or drugstore makeup brand to add to your kit? These are the best of the best, from affordable staples to department store luxury, tested and loved by the Ethos editors.
Nothing says loyalty like the love we can have for makeup. Whether they offer flawless coverage, gorgeous colors that complement our skin tone, or, let’s be real, prices that can’t be beaten, the makeup brands we support can be a near-religious experience.
But if animal testing makes your mascara run, there are cruelty-free options that can remove that element entirely.
Cruelty-Free or vegan makeup?
There are lots of definitions, claims, and logos on makeup and skincare labels that can be confusing. If you’re looking for cruelty-free cosmetics, many brands will bear the Leaping Bunny certification that indicates there’s been no animal testing on the cosmetics.
Animal testing is being phased out of China, but the country currently requires testing on products entering the market, making some brands compliant there, but not testing for other markets.
A product that is labeled cruelty-free generally is only referencing its lack of animal testing. It does not mean a product is vegan.
For brands that are both, look for vegan labeling on the packaging or website. Keep in mind though that some brands or products may be void of animal ingredients, but still participate in animal testing. Confusing stuff!
Add to that the growing demand for clean skincare — ingredients that are sourced responsibly, organically, or Fair Trade, and it can be even more confusing. While there are certifications for Fair Trade and organically produced ingredients, a label may not qualify to include those logos on the packaging as they’re determined by the overall percentage of ingredients.
Vegan department counter and drugstore makeup brands
Fortunately, both drugstore makeup brands and those at the finest department store counters are becoming more transparent about ingredients and policies, making it easier for consumers to support cruelty-free makeup brands and products.
1. Fenty Beauty
Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty is fairly new to the makeup game, but the brand came in swinging. It has disrupted the multi-billion dollar makeup industry with its product line aimed at diversity and inclusion. The 50 foundation shades are a life-changer for millions of people who previously couldn’t find the right shade. Try the long-stay lipstick that comes in a super chic refillable case.
2. Too Faced
Too Faced’s Born This Way Foundation offers great coverage, for those with dark spots, but is also extremely lightweight. The Better Than Sex mascara is also a best-seller. While the brand was acquired by Estée Lauder, the founders are committed to keeping the brand vegan and cruelty-free.
Who says that good cruelty-free makeup has to cost a ton? E.l.f. Cosmetics is the best of the best. There isn’t much that it doesn’t offer — from concealer to mascara and the whole gamut of skincare products. The entire range is free from phthalates, parabens, and sulfates, too. E.l.f. believes in being extra without paying extra, and that’s a motto that’s always in style.
It’s hard to read a cruelty-free and clean beauty round-up that doesn’t mention Glossier, and for a good reason. This cult-favorite brand is one of the best. What started out as a beauty website devoted to people sharing products they loved morphed into one of the biggest clean beauty brands around. Try the Cloud Paint cheek color and Boy Brow brow gel.
5. La Bouche Rouge
It’s nice when a cosmetics company starts off the right way. That’s the case with French beauty brand La Bouche Rouge. From the beginning, it has been committed to clean and vegan ingredients. It’s also keeping plastic out of the products entirely. With its latest funding round, the brand is also championing a new “blue” approach to sustainability and opening shops across the globe. Try the gorgeous lip pencils that come from responsibly sourced wood and a recyclable metal cap. Made with natural ingredients including plant-based squalane and castor oil, your lips will be soft and hydrated.
6. Milk Makeup
Don’t let its name fool you. Everything Milk Makeup makes is vegan. And now that it’s part of the first sustainable beauty powerhouse, you can continue to expect amazing things from the company. True to its ethos of building a better world, Milk starts by helping its customers feel better about themselves. The Sunshine Skin Tint Clean SPF 30 Foundation is a great place to start. Think of it as sun protection with something extra. Keep those UVs away with a sheer, clean skin tint that helps to even out skin tone for light coverage and an elevated glow.
7. Kjaer Weis
Kjaer Weis is committed to certified organic ingredients. And while that’s becoming increasingly common in skincare products, it’s a lot harder to find in cosmetics. But the attention to detail is at the heart of the brand from makeup artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis. She blends color and performance with sustainability. All products are cruelty-free, but some do still contain beeswax and carmine, as the brand transitions to cleaner formulations. Try the gorgeous eye pencils in Navy or Aubergine for a fun take on traditional eyeliner colors.
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