15 best vegan and cruelty-free skincare products that don't compromise on ethics
Update your beauty regimen with one of these trusty skin-boosters
Shopping for skincare is overwhelming enough, as it is with so many products vying for our hard-earned cash, but when you want to ensure that the cleanser you are buying is not just cruelty-free but vegan too, you may end up leaving the store with a headache.
The good news is that veganism is no longer a niche lifestyle choice. Brands are reacting to the rapidly rising number of vegans – up from 150,000 in 2006 to more than 540,000 today, according to the Vegan Society – by reformulating their products to meet buyers’ demands.
Testing on animals has been banned in the EU for nearly 15 years. And since March 2013, it has also been against the law to sell cosmetics products in the EU that have been tested on animals or contain ingredients that have been.
To confirm that all products on this list are 100 per cent cruelty-free, brands were asked to clarify that they do not test on animals at any stage of supply, production or retail and are not on sale in China, where imported products must be tested on animals before entering the market. Some of the brands are certified by the relevant bodies, such as Peta or Cruelty Free International, while others have pledged to always abide by animal-friendly practices.
To count as vegan, the ingredients lists needed to be free from any animal-derived ingredients, which in skincare can include honey, beeswax and certain types of collagen and lipids.
Rest assured that none of the below skincare goodies – from exfoliators and body balms, to face masks and night creams – have compromised quality for ethics. They all left our skin looking and feeling healthier and would make a great addition to a daily skincare routine. Many are free from parabens, alcohol and synthetic fragrance, and some are certified organic.
Be sure to consider your own skin type before buying, as some will suit oily skin better while others are targeted at those with dryness or eczema.
You can trust our independent reviews, We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Holland & Barrett CBD day cream: £14.99, Holland & Barrett
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is the hot new kid on the beauty block. It’s not going to get you high – it comes from the non-psychoactive part of the cannabis plant – but it has been known to help lower stress levels and aid better sleep. This new day cream from high street health retailer Holland & Barrett is a treat to apply, delightfully creamy with a fresh, botanical scent. The CBD works in combination with hemp seed oils to regulate the skin’s oil production. Only a small amount is needed, gently smoothed into your face after cleansing. This is a top choice for skincare lovers looking for plastic-free packaging that’ll look classy on your dressing table.
Neal’s Yard frankincense intense lift cream: £65, Neal’s Yard
The ultra-relaxing aroma of frankincense is universally popular with good reason. Sustainably sourced from Oman, it has been mixed with vitamin E-rich chiuri butter – a sustainable, natural alternative to palm oil – to create an award-winning face cream that helps fight the loss of skin firmness that ageing brings. It’s on the dearer end of the scale at £65 for a small glass jar, but only a small amount is needed per use. Its premium ingredients are certified organic by the notoriously strict Soil Association, so you can rest assured that you are feeding your skin the best. If you fall in love with the scent, there are plenty of other frankincense products in the Neal’s Yard range.
Certified by: Cruelty Free International
Sand & Sky Australian pink clay porefining face mask: £39.90, Amazon
Beloved by millennial beauty bloggers, this vegan mask comes in a cheery pink pot with a cute (also vegan) brush for mess-free application. The main ingredient here is vitamin-rich Australian pink clay, which draws out toxins as it dries white on your skin. The scent reminded us of play dough while the 10-minute application experience proved sting-free, despite the tightening effect leaving us unable to open our mouths. It came off with warm water and once patted dry, we were surprised at the effect on our pores, which looked noticeably smaller, and pleased with our glowing complexions. Try it for multi-masking; it worked wonders on our oily T-zone, mattifying shine without drying.
Skyn Iceland pure cloud cream: £48, Amazon
If an Icelandic holiday is a step too far budget-wise, bring the pure health benefits of the Nordic nation to you with this blissfully fluffy face cream from all-vegan brand skyn. The texture is surprising – it’s more of a light mousse than a rich cream – but it absorbed quickly, proving a great base for make-up. Those with sensitive or rosacea-prone skin will love its soothing feel and it’s free from irritating parabens, petroleum and other chemical no-nos. The formula, dominated by yummy-smelling Arctic superfruits and mineral-heavy glacial water, will make you feel like you’ve just taken a dip in the Blue Lagoon. It’s not cheap, but it’s more affordable than a flight!
Certified by: Peta
Previse marine granules skin brightening botanical scrub: £43, Wolf & Badger
US plant-based skincare brand Previse recently launched its zero fragrance range, designed with dermatologists to cater for “clean beauty” lovers with sensitive skin. This face scrub combines jojoba extract with fossilized algae to exfoliate gently and there are no potentially irritating essential oils in the formulation. The texture is light and mousse-like so it doesn’t feel harsh to apply. Either use it on its own or squeeze some into your favourite cleanser every few days for a customised skincare ritual. Our skin looked and felt more radiant after trying this.
Certified by: Peta
B. sparkling water cleanser: £6.99, Superdrug
Superdrug’s own brand vegan cosmetics enjoyed a 750 per cent sales hike during Veganuary and it’s easy to see why. The entirely vegan B. range is refreshingly affordable for the results it delivers. One stand-out, fresh-to-market product is this clever cleanser, which slowly melts from a thick gel into cooling water for an instant wake-up. It can be used on its own to remove the day’s grime or as an extra cleanse after makeup removal (it’s not strong enough to take off sticky mascara on its own, sadly). Those with oily skin will benefit most as it has toning qualities – our skin felt much perkier after use – but it’s best avoided if you’re struggling with dryness.
Nadur smooth shaving serum: £25, LoveLula
Our male tester found using this non-foaming shaving serum from men’s grooming brand Nadur strange at first, but he loved how smooth it left his combination skin. Foams usually involve sulphates, which can leave skin blotchy and irritated, but this fully natural oil is non-alcohol based, making it great for use on all skin types pre, during and post-shave. It’s rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants that help prevent razor burn, improve skin elasticity and heal scars. Warm three drops in your hands and apply to moist skin, massaging in gently to create a milky texture that helps the razor glide across skin. It has a subtle pomegranate scent and rinses off easily.
Tropic pure lagoon blemish prevention serum: £42, Tropic
Natural brand Tropic whips up all its products in its Surrey “beauty kitchen”. The newest addition to its extensive range is this spot-fighting serum, ideal for oily complexions prone to pesky breakouts. It’s enriched with prebiotics (skincare goodies, basically) and gets its pretty blue colour from anti-inflammatory spirulina, which helps reduce redness. It soaks into the skin, unlike many similar products that sit on the surface feeling heavy and greasy, and our face looked brighter after just a few days of use. It’s on the pricey side but should last you ages as just 3-6 drops are required once or twice daily.
Certified by: Cruelty Free International, Peta, The Vegan Society
Clarins My Clarins re-move micellar cleansing milk: £17, Clarins
French skincare brand Clarins has long been a leading name but it never catered for vegans, until now! The My Clarins range has just launched and every product is vegan-friendly, from creams to cleansers. Our pick is this lightweight micellar cleansing lotion that feels heavenly against tired skin, drawing out impurities and stripping off our makeup without the need for rubbing. It’s mild enough for sensitive skin, the almond scent is comfortingly delicious and there’s no need to rinse. Our skin felt soft and revitalised after use. Other products sold by Clarins are not cruelty-free as they’re sold in China, but the My Clarins range will not be.
HealGel intensive: £39.50, Feel Unique
Plastic surgeons helped develop this intensive gel for people with problematic skin, be it post-op scars or sunburn, stretch marks and redness. It gets to work deep within every cell, encouraging the skin to regenerate naturally, with famously soothing arnica targeting irritated patches. Prevention is better than cure, so if you’re prone to skin issues, massage this in – organic silicone and a high water content means it glides on easily, offering instant cooling relief without any lingering greasiness. It’s pricey but is so versatile and needn’t be used every day.
Certified by: Peta
Lani tropical body oil, 100ml: £15.99, Lani
Skin and haircare brand Lani – meaning “heavenly” in Hawaiian – is enjoying cult status among the vegan community, thanks in part to its colourful, sustainable packaging. This glass bottle is filled with a blend of tropical and superfood oils brimming with collagen, vitamins and antioxidants. Coconut oil moisturises, baobab oil improves skin elasticity and exotic Madagascan ylang ylang destresses. Either slather it all over after showering or apply it to dry areas for that post-beach glow. It smells like a summer holiday and absorbs quickly without leaving any sticky residue.
Lavera hydro effect serum: £19.90, Naturismo
Not all of certified natural skincare brand Lavera’s range is vegan-friendly but this serum is, and it’s a must-buy for anyone living in a polluted city. It’s a pleasure to apply thanks to its mess-free pump dispenser and lightweight texture that quickly soaks in and calms the skin. It’s specially formulated to protect the skin from the fine particles and exhaust emissions that attack our delicate skin cells daily, causing premature ageing and dehydration. Organic algae, aloe vera and antioxidants form a barrier against nasty-free radicals and deeply nourish, leaving skin feeling soft. It’s expensive for a small tube but a little goes a long way.
Certified by: The Vegan Society
Bulldog original stubble moisturiser: £7.50, Boots
The problem with moisturising stubbly skin is that it can be left feeling extra sticky. That’s where Bulldog comes in, a British company created for men by men to address male skincare needs. This all-natural product is fantastically affordable and lives up to the clever “man’s best friend” branding. The pump applicator makes for fuss-free use, the cream is light and the aloe and green tea scent is refreshing first thing in the morning. Our male tester found it rubbed in easily and left his skin feeling rehydrated and smelling divine. He loved the bold, modern packaging too.
Certified by: Cruelty Free International
Lush charity pot hand and body lotion: £14.95, Lush
Every penny from sales of this lovely lotion from Gen Z favourite Lush goes directly to small grassroots charities focusing on animal welfare, environmental conservation and human rights. Its gorgeous ylang ylang and rosewood fragrance encapsulates the scent of summer, while Fairtrade cocoa and shea butter nourishes tired skin, effectively moisturising those rough patches around our knees and ankles. This chunky pot is a bargain at under £15, meaning you needn’t worry about slathering it on. Though not specifically targeted at those with sensitive skin, we found it soothing on itchy legs and reckon it’d be gentle on sunburn too. There are two smaller sizes available for use as a hand cream on the go.
The Handmade Soap Company lemongrass & cedarwood hand cream: £11.95, The Handmade Soap Company
Handmade in Ireland, this company began life at farmers’ markets. Its hand cream comes in an attractive glass jar with a cheery yellow sticker, and smells invigoratingly citrussy thanks to top notes of lemongrass and pineapple. It’s made entirely from natural essential oils, which work hard to soften up even the roughest hands, and the rich, creamy texture is a pleasure to massage in. It’s environmentally friendly, using repurposed packaging printed with ink derived from vegetables, and a bargain for just over a tenner.
The verdict: Vegan and cruelty-free skincare
Holland & Barrett is on to a winner with its new CBD day cream, a quality wash bag essential available at a high street price. The feel-good, do-good approach of Lush’s charity pot scores brownie points too, while men will love Bulldog’s cheap, cheerful, no-nonsense approach.
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