The Difference Between Cruelty-Free and Vegan

The confusion about these two designations is understandable since they're both about animal welfare. However, they don't mean the same thing.

Here's the difference between vegan and cruelty-free:

1. Vegan refers to a product whose ingredients are not derived from animals or animal by-products. 

2. Cruelty-Free means the final product is not tested on animals. A cruelty-free product can still contain an animal derived ingredient, such as beeswax.

Where this gets interesting is when a product is "accidentally" vegan, for example. This happens when a product doesn't historically have a need for animal derived ingredients. It's worth noting that it certainly doesn't mean they are better or healthier. We've come across many products that, while technically labeled vegan, are full of synthetic fillers that pose potential risk to human and/or environmental health.

This grey area extends to cruelty-free because often a smaller brand may be cruelty-free but they are owned by a parent company that is not. It puts the burden of research on the consumer, as usual.


There are several organizations that certify a product for Vegan compliancy or Cruelty-Free compliancy. Most brands who go down the ethical road are interested in both. While most certifying agencies are reputable, the most often recognized is and Leaping Bunny.

It's always good to look for these logos when you are checking ingredients. Certifications can sometimes take brands 3-6 months depending on all the paperwork that needs to be filed, so you may see a newly launched brand that doesn't have their certification yet. Read their ingredients to see if they pass the sniff test. Usually they do if they are indie brand launched in the US or EU.