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What’s the difference between vegan, cruelty-free, natural, organic, clean and fair trade beauty?

What’s the difference between vegan, cruelty-free, natural, organic, clean and fair trade beauty?

I recently read Skincare by Caroline Hirons, it’s a great book – informative when developing a skin care routine. I appreciate an expert especially when they explain the ‘why’ in layman’s terms. She made a comment in the book (I can’t remember it verbatim) suggesting that all make up at some point in time has been tested on animals – a product, an ingredient, a component and while now products may not be tested on animals… it’s impossible for it to be completely cruelty-free when we consider the origins or the past. I don’t claim to be a beauty industry expert at all but that comment really did get me thinking, where does it end? How deep can you go with this?

I’ve never written a post on beauty or beauty products because being honest, I don’t know enough – other than the fact that I always check if a product is cruelty-free before I buy it. For me, that’s the most important but how do I do that?..

It’s simple, I look for the bunny… it’s the fastest and easiest way to spot whether a product is cruelty-free or not. If I find a certified cruelty-free bunny logo on product packaging then I know that I am only a winner.

I am going to go into detail around labelling, but one thing that is really important is that you need to really read the labels because they can be misleading..

Onto the bunnies…

These are the three that you need to keep an eye out for. If they don’t look like this, then they aren’t real and the product is most likely not certified as cruelty free.

The Leaping Bunny

The Leaping Bunny Logo is the only internationally recognised symbol guaranteeing consumers that no new animal tests were used in the development of any product displaying it. The Logo can be seen on packaging, advertising, and websites for cosmetics and household products around the world.

Choose Cruelty Free


This post is a great for explaining the differences between the bunnies:

But what is cruelty free?

Now, I find this crazy.. there is no regulated definition governing what the term ‘cruelty-free’ means. Therefore, companies are free to interpret it differently. They can use terms such as “against animal testing” even if their product or ingredients may have actually been tested on animals. That is so misleading.

Below is an example on the website Younique from one of it’s products:

Younique is not listed on:

  • Leaping Bunny
  • PETA’s Companies That Don’t Test On Animals
  • Choose Cruelty Free

So, how do I know if it is or is not cruelty free. I don’t. Therefore, the bunny is the only legitimate way for me to know if a product is cruelty free or not.

I can’t understand how and why testing on animals is still allowed in 2021 but the easiest way to make a difference is to switch to brand that display one of the official bunnies.

What’s the difference between Cruelty-Free & Vegan?

Over the past 2-3 years, I’ve heard the terms “cruelty-free” and “vegan” become increasingly more popular as the consumer demand for quality, ethically produced products becomes evermore important.

Just because something is cruelty-free doesn’t mean that it is vegan.

To define a product as cruelty free:

  • The final product should not be tested on animals – either directly by the brand itself, or by any 3rd party employed by that brand.
  • The ingredients should not be tested on animals – either directly by the brand itself, or by any 3rd party employed by that brand.

To define a product as vegan:

Vegan refers to the ingredients within a product while cruelty-free refers to the way that product was tested.

Vegan means no animal-derived ingredients or animals by-products are in the beauty product. Honey and lanolin are examples of animal-derived products. Ingredients such as collagen, glycerin, or keratin may or may not be animal-derived.

Products that are certified vegan, will have one of the following logos:

The Vegan Society

The Vegetarian Society have a Vegan certified logo that you can look out for as well.

One thing that I do think is important to note especially as I’ve seen numerous small independant businesses saying that they are Cruelty Free or Vegan on Instagram – is that they probably are and they aren’t trying to mislead you – there are cost implications to getting verified logos.

So what else is there to think about?

Fair Trade – what’s that?

This one I like a lot because it ensures that the key ingredients are for a particular beauty product are purchased from the source at a fair price. Ensuring sustainable wages for the local, small scale farmers who grow the crops. These products also provide support for community projects from clean drinking water to improving local healthcare.


I like this explanation: ‘Clean’ products are those that are free from sulphates, silicones, phthalates, parabens, pesticides, petroleum derivatives, artificial colouring and synthetic fragrances. Within the EU, a label must list any potential allergens that may cause sensitivity (in concentrations over 0.01%). These ingredients are often included in italics at the end of the ingredients.


What upsets me about this is that supposedly organic products only need to contain a tiny percentage of an organic ingredient to label themselves as organic.

The easiest way of determining the organic credentials of a product is to always check the label and look out for the Soil Association Organic Logo. This certifies that the products are sourced and manufactured using sustainable, organically-farmed ingredients and are not tested on animals, free from harsh chemicals, nano particles, parabens, synthetic dyes and artificial fragrances.

It’s a minefield and there’s a lot to think about, but we’ve got to start somewhere.