13 best cruelty-free and vegan make-up products

These vegan beauty buys will become the stars of your make-up bag – and none have been tested on animals

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The Independent Online

Living as a vegan can be tough, with animal products commonly found in everything from food and clothing to household essentials.

Beauty is one area that often proves a stumbling block, as it can be tricky and time-consuming to check that every ingredient in your go-to product is vegan. If you fancy pairing a red lip with your LBD, the chances are it will contain carmine, made from ground-up red beetles. How about a lashing of mascara to dramatise your look? Careful, it probably contains beeswax. 

Luckily, as those taking part in Veganuary this month are finding out, more and more brands are reconsidering their ethics, making cruelty-free promises and releasing vegan-friendly lines to make shopping less of a minefield. There are currently some fantastic options on the beauty market, with animal rights organisation Peta giving its hard-earned seal of approval to many (there’s a handy list here), but to make it even easier for you, here’s our pick of the best.

Every product has been tried and tested to ensure that its staying power, colour, feel and value for money has not been compromised for conscience. They are all free from animal-derived ingredients and have not been tested on animals at any point in production. Rest assured you can enjoy them and sleep easy after taking them off.

1. Tropic Brow Defining Palette: £27, Tropic 

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Revolutionary may be pushing it, but if, like me, you struggle to tame your brows, this handy, innovative kit from Peta-certified natural beauty brand Tropic is a recommended investment. It includes a choice of four stencils in varying styles which you simply hold over your eyebrow and fill in with the included brush and filler powder. Dab a little highlighting cream (also included) under each arch for a youthful lift and voilà; move over Cara Delevingne.

Dubious? Don’t be. The results are brilliant for minimal time and effort, and even total beginners can achieve them. The gear all comes in a stylish but sizeable black box: if it’s too big to lug around, just take out the individual bits and pop them into your makeup bag. Better still, order the eco-friendly set that comes without the box. The only downside to this palette is that you only get one powder shade, so make sure you choose the best match for your colouring before you buy.

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2. Inika Certified Organic Vegan Lipstick: £18, Inika Organic

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Natural beauty brand Inika has recently gone through a stylish rebrand, adding a ton of newly formulated products and colours to its extensive offerings, including the world’s first certified organic vegan lipstick range with a choice of 14 shades. Most lippies get their pink and red tones from carmine, but not this stylish brand, which steers clear of all animal derivatives yet still finds natural ways to bring a rich shot of colour to your pout that stays put for hours. The creamy, nourishing formula glides on a treat and shea butter, argan, jojoba and avocado oils leave your lips feeling luxuriously silky. Dark Cherry is our top choice for a dramatic night time look, while the understated Nude Pink is one we would wear to the office. 

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3. Nars Velvet Matte Skin Tint Foundation: £30 for 100ml, Space NK

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For skin that looks naturally perfect with total shine control, try the Velvet Matte Skin Tint from fashionable and completely vegan French brand Nars. Transparent powders help to blur blemishes and even-up tone without making your skin look flat or cakey, while rose fruit extract minimises the appearance of pores, which many of us are self-conscious about, for buildable, soft-matte coverage.

This oil-free foundation comes in 12 shades to suit a wide range of colourings, from porcelain to deep mahogany, and its SPF30 makes it ideal for achieving beach glam on your winter sun holiday. It is easy to apply and blend with either a brush or your fingertip and glides on smoothly and weightlessly. The skin tint lasts all day without smudging or separating from perspiration and feels powdery rather than cloying to the touch.

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4. Bare Minerals Gen Nude Matte Liquid Lipcolor: £17, Bare Minerals

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Bare Minerals’ new Gen Nude collection, launching in February, is about to put an end to any idea that classic nude colours are uninspiring. Quite the contrary, the striking (and vegan, hurrah!) range of 10 shades of matte liquid lip colour proves that there are loads of ways to make a bold statement with a nude, from the antique rose of Friendship to the blushing mauve of Swag.

This fresh formula is long-wearing and the flexible paddle applicator allows for an effortlessly neat finish in one sweep, even if you’re a lippie novice. The colours have great pigmentation and feel lightweight, non-sticky and much more moisturising than a lipstick. They are gluten, paraben and cruelty free and the scrumptious vanilla scent will have people queuing up for a kiss. Combine with a heavier eye to make even more of an impact, or if its sheer coverage you’re after, try the buttercream lipgloss.

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5. Kat Von D Tattoo Liner Liquid Eyeliner: £16 for 0.55ml, Debenhams

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Kat Von D’s eyeliner is a must-have in many vegans’ handbags, thanks to its strikingly bold, high-pigment colour and its total lack of any chemical nasties. The fine brush tip stubbornly refuses to fray, giving you a perfectly even cat’s eye flick every time, and the formula proved impressively waterproof when tested in the shower. The liner comes in two shades – Mad Max Brown and Trooper (black) – and doesn’t smudge, run or fade after application. Expect it to last all day, with a quick touch-up needed before heading out in the evening. The packaging is edgy, giving you cool points, and the product won’t need replacing for three months with regular use.

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6. Benecos Vegan Volume Mascara: £7.95, Essentials

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Finding a reliable vegan mascara can be a time-consuming task as most use beeswax as a gentle sticking agent. Others do tick the vegan box, but are poorly formulated, leading to flaking of black mascara falling onto your cheeks. Luckily, affordable natural beauty brand Benecos has come up trumps with a quality mascara that stays put without clumping, can be layered for a day to night look and moisturises lashes to keep them naturally lush and healthy. This “magic black” mascara added more length and volume to our lashes with its large bristle brush than many non-vegan high street brands, leaving us with a new make-up bag essential.

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7. Lily Lolo Naked Pink Cheek Duo: £14.99, Lily Lolo

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Like with lipstick, many blushers rely on our insect friends for their pinky tones, posing a problem for vegans. Fortunately, British mineral make-up brand Lily Lolo has an answer in the form of this dinky duo, which gives you the choice of a matte finish or a shimmery glow or, in our case, both. Brush the blusher upwards along the cheekbone to give the illusion of a lift, before lightly sweeping the illuminator over the top and on the bridge of your nose for a highlighting effect. The colour builds easily from a light dusting to a deeper “just back from a country stroll” flush and moisturising jojoba oil pops up in the talc and fragrance free ingredients list. The non-clogging, non-irritant formula will suit those with dry, oily or combination skin and the compact black palette is travel-friendly for touch-ups on the go. Not all blush shades in this award-winning range are vegan as of yet, so double check if you want to try another.

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8. Illamasqua Precision Gel Liner in Infinity: £20 for 5ml, Debenhams

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Edgy British brand Illlamasqua (from “illusion” and “masquerade”) is Peta-accredited for its strong stance against animal testing and offers 300 vegan products. This creamy gel eye liner is as fluid as your favourite liquid option, but glides on even more easily without dragging for a smooth charcoal line on the first application. It’s long-wearing and safely waterproof, (cry all you like through your cinema date night), as well as non-irritating for sensitive eyes. The liner is intended for use all over the face and body, if desired, but for those of us sticking to a classic smoky eye, it’s just the trick. Simply dip your brush into the pot and run it along your waterline and across the roots of the lashes. Then smudge what’s left onto your eye lid and just underneath your eye, before blending your favourite eyeshadows over the top. For best results, invest in a suitable fine, angled brush, as it doesn’t come with one. This product may be small for the price, but you can expect it to last for up to six months, and will know when to buy another as the pot is clear glass.  

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9. Urban Decay Naked Skin Ultra Definition Pressed Finishing Powder: £23, House of Fraser

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Urban Decay certainly has kudos in the packaging department – this powder compact is sleek and metallic and comes with a sturdy puff in a separate compartment. Once on the skin is velvety to the touch (truly, we compared it to a faux velvet cushion on our sofa) and gives a semi-matte finish. Being oil-free it will prove popular with those concerned about acne and set your make-up perfectly without rubbing it off or making it look chalky. Imperfections are minimised thanks to light-diffusing pigments for a professional retouched effect. Synthetic wax has been used to leave the bees alone but there are absolutely no parabens to worry about. 

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10. Neal’s Yard Oat Eye Shadow: £12.50, Neal’s Yard

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For an eyeshadow that adds a subtle glow to your eyelids and doesn’t stray onto the rest of your face, try Oat by natural beauty brand Neal’s Yard. Natural light-reflecting minerals are blended in a fine, organic corn powder base for coverage that goes on smoothly and lasts with only a slight shimmer. This is a soft, subtle shade that will suit those seeking a fresh-faced daytime look, but it will also brighten the inner eye when used in combination with darker hues. It is made with antioxidant white tea and skin-nurturing wild rose hip seed oil with no talc, parabens or silicones in sight, so you needn’t worry about drying out and prematurely ageing your eyelids. For added intensity, trying dampening the brush slightly so that more pigment sticks to it. 

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11. Oxygenetix Oxygenating Breathable Foundation: £49.50, Cult Beauty

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Used backstage at the Oscars and London Fashion Week, this lightweight but hard-wearing luxury foundation is championed by A-listers like Emilia Fox and FKA Twigs for the full, flawless coverage it gives. Originally developed to heal and conceal post-surgery skin, Oxygenetix has dermatologists and make-up artists gushing over its innovative, oxygen-enriched formula that claims to be “so kind to skin you can sleep in it”. Not ones to go to bed with our make-up on, we didn’t try this, but it did leave our skin feeling soft and non-irritated, making it a recommended choice for harshly air-conditioned overnight flights. The key ingredient here is Ceravitae, which boosts collagen production and tissue growth to encourage firm, youthful skin. Oxygenetix is natural gel-based, offering anti-bacterial qualities and dead surface cell removal. It doesn’t rub off on clothing, is water-resistant and won’t clog your pores if worn while exercising. It contains SP25 for wearing on holiday and can be used safely even on third-degree burns. Redness is effectively camouflaged without the need to use half the bottle, and once applied it lasts all day. 

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12. Barry M Lip Liner: £2.99, Boots

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This pencil lip liner is a bargain but will add real professional definition to your lips and stop your favourite lippie from smudging around the edges. It’s creamy texture is firm enough to achieve precision and soft enough to blend over the lips for extra colour strength without drying them out. The 12 shades, from coral and blush to toast and mulberry, beautifully compliment many lip colours and skin tones so there’s no excuse not to rock the perfect pout. For quality at the fraction of the price of high end brands, this liner gets a big fat smackeroo from us.

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13. Cover FX Pressed Mineral Foundation: £31, House of Fraser

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The clue’s in the name with this one. Cover FX is a pro when it comes to catwalk-worthy face coverage and this pressed mineral foundation is no exception. It is the ideal solution for those looking for a powder and foundation in one with its oil-absorbing mattifying effect and can be built up to give medium to full coverage depending on what you’re after. Paraben, fragrance, gluten, mineral oil and talc free it is as clean as makeup comes and uses no animal derived ingredients whatsoever. There are an impressive 33 shades available with something for the lightest and darkest of skin tones, and a durable sponge is included. The black compact will look classy when whipped out on the Tube, and includes a mirror.

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The Verdict: Vegan make-up 

The stencils included in Tropic’s excellent eyebrow palette have revolutionised how we do our brows and given us a lot more confidence, while Inika’s fabulous organic lipstick range is rare in meeting all our criteria without compromising on colour. The flashy Oxygenetix foundation is pricey at nearly £50 but worth digging into your pockets for if you’re conscious of the drying effect make-up can have on your skin. Benecos deserves a mention too for giving vegan’s a quality, great value mascara to add to their make-up bag that does not clump or flake off.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing

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