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Veganuary: The cruelty-free make-up brands to know, from Charlotte Tilbury to Urban Decay

Make your beauty bounty kinder to the planet and its inhabitants

Eva Waite-Taylor,Louise Whitbread
Friday 07 January 2022 15:36 GMT
<p>Whether it’s your cleanser, bronzer or mascara that you want to replace, these are our favourite swaps </p>

Whether it’s your cleanser, bronzer or mascara that you want to replace, these are our favourite swaps 

As the popularity of veganism continues to grow, you might be reconsidering your lifestyle and reaching for dairy- and meat-free options. But it’s also important to look closely at your beauty bounty since it’s an industry that traditionally relies heavily on animal testing and animal derivatives.

Luckily, brands are becoming increasingly aware of the need to change their ways and develop products in accordance with demand. Turn to the likes of Lush and The Body Shop, for example, as your skincare saviours, or KVD Vegan Beauty and Charlotte Tilbury for your make-up needs.

While this progress is welcomed, carefully worded brand statements, the way ingredients are sourced and different labelling criteria can make shopping for cruelty-free and vegan products difficult.

According to Peta, an animal rights charity, cruelty-free means that no animals were hurt, killed or tested on during the creation of products. If products are sold in China it means they will not be cruelty-free, as animal testing is required there by law – for example, cult cosmetics brand Nars lost its status in favour of entering the Chinese market.

To count as vegan, a product’s ingredients list must be free from any animal-derived ingredients, which can include moisturising agents such as beeswax, honey, snail gel and lanolin in your creams, cleansers or lip balms. It is important to note that just because a product is vegan, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily cruelty-free, and vice versa.

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If you’re still unsure, some brands may be certified by Peta, The Vegan Society and Cruelty Free International, so you can keep an eye out for those.

Owing to the minefield that is the beauty industry, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite cruelty-free make-up brands to help you be more socially conscious.

Charlotte Tilbury,

Make-up brand Charlotte Tilbury is well known for its glow-giving products, from long-wearing foundations to radiant highlighters, not forgetting its extensive range of lipsticks too. It’s recently been granted the Leaping Bunny certification by Cruelty Free International, which works to end animal testing in cosmetics, personal care and household products.

According to the brand, it will continue to work closely with Cruelty Free International as it grows its product ranges and offerings worldwide. Despite its new status as certified cruelty-free, only some of its products are vegan.

The filmstar bronze and glow palette (£49, is one of Charlotte Tilbury’s most popular products, earning a spot in our guide to the best bronzing palettes.

Our reviewer said: “Though we were dubious at first as the bronzer palette is offered in only two shades – light to medium and medium to dark – the formula is so velvety, subtle and buildable, that feasibly those two shades could cater to all skin tones.”

They added, “The highlighting shade has a golden base, universally flattering no matter your undertone or skin colour, and reflects light off your cheekbones in the way only a candle-light dinner can. This was more of a cool-toned bronzer, perfectly mimicking natural face shadows.”

We’re also big fans of the look of love lipstick in "nude romance” (£28, that was rated as best for olive skin tones in our review of the best nude lipsticks.

It’s a peachy, brown-based nude that our reviewer was left impressed with thanks to the balmy, creamy texture. “It has a satin finish that gives a subtle glow to lips without it looking dated, and we noticed very little transfer when eating and drinking,” they said.

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Milk Makeup,

Much-loved US brand Milk Makeup made waves when it was founded in 2016 and quickly gained cult status, before launching in the UK in 2019. Promoting “clean beauty”, the brand is entirely vegan, opting to use natural alternatives to animal products, and ingredients that are cruelty-free and paraben-free. 

It’s a top brand to know since the Milk Makeup lip + cheek (£16.50, landed a spot in our review of the best cream blushers. Infused with avocado oil, our tester noted how moisturising the product was, making it a good choice for those with dry skin. 

“As for application, we preferred to swatch the stick directly across our cheeks and then blend out with our fingers or a sponge,” noted our writer, adding that it also “passed the longevity test and retained its colour after a full day in the sun”.

With such an array of make-up products, Milk Makeup is a reliable vegan and cruelty-free brand to know.

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Bali Body,

A favourite for tanning oils, Bali Body uses no animal-derived products in its coconut lip balm (£12.95,, opting instead for plant-based ingredients that are kind to the skin and the earth. The brand is also committed to being totally cruelty-free.

It’s a brand you can trust as it featured in our previous year’s guide to the best fake tans. The Bali Body self tanning mousse in dark (£25.95, got top marks in our review, with our tester noting that it’s the closest thing to “achieving a deep golden sun-kissed tan in minutes without hitting the beach”.

“If you’re looking for a dark tan that is more on the warm side than cool toned, we seriously recommend this. Bali Body’s tan applies effortlessly,” they noted. There’s good news for those who can’t stand the fake tan smell, too, since this has a fresh cucumber scent. 

“Infused with chamomile, coffee seed and pomegranate, this formula is nourishing and brightening, feeling hydrating upon application," said our tester.  We can’t wait to try out more from the brand, including its suncare and cosmetics. 

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KVD Vegan Beauty,

Tattoo artist Kat Von D launched her namesake beauty brand in 2008, which has since been renamed KVD Vegan Beauty and sold to Kendo Brands. The high-performance cruelty-free brand went 100 per cent vegan in 2016 – meaning none of its products are tested on animals or contain any animal derivatives. What’s more, the brand is Peta-recognised, too.

Ethics aside, KVD products don’t compromise on pigment or performance – in fact, quite the opposite. In our guide to the best foundations for Asian skin, the KVD Vegan Beauty lock-it foundation (£31, took the top spot, with our writer praising its colour match and application.

Noting the fact it provides a “flawless base while lasting pretty much all-day without touch-ups”, it passed our wear test with “flying colours”. We’re sold.

From the same lock-it range, the KVD Vegan Beauty lock-it translucent setting powder (£25, impressed us in the review of the best face powders for dry skin.

Used to bake the under-eye area after concealer, or applied all over the face, it created a crease-free finish and brighter complexion. “All in all, this is a great price for a high-end feeling product,” said our reviewer.

With such a huge range of high-quality vegan and cruelty-free products on offer, there’s certainly something for everyone.

Visit KVD Vegan Beauty at now

Fenty Beauty,

Rihanna’s revolutionary make-up line needs no introduction – it made waves by setting the standard for diversity and inclusion in the beauty industry. Its foundation range comes in three formulas, each being available in 50 different shades.

While many of the Fenty Beauty products are free from animal byproducts, it’s technically not considered a vegan line, but it is cruelty-free and doesn’t allow suppliers to conduct animal testing on its behalf. Its recently launched skincare line, Fenty Skin, is certified vegan and cruelty-free.

The fact that Fenty Beauty is cruelty-free is good news to us here at IndyBest, since it’s one of our favourite make-up brands. In our review of the best bronzers, the Fenty Beauty sun stalk'r instant warmth bronzer (£27, was praised for its inclusive credentials and the fact that our tester found the creamy formula to “blend like a dream while being completely buildable”.

“It's warm without being ashy, a key factor to look out for in a bronzer, and the colour stays pigmented all day, wearing beautifully on the skin. It also contains mango and papaya fruit extracts for extra skin-loving benefits,” they added. It’s one that our reviewer would recommend to anyone, as it’s a versatile staple that accommodates every skin tone. 

Similarly, the Fenty Beauty full frontal volume, lift and curl mascara (£23, received high praise when we reviewed it following its launch in January 2020.

The innovative “flat to fat” brush, which picks up every lash from root to tip, wowed our writer after it resulted in full, feathered-out lashes that were defined without any clumping.

“If you’re looking for a new holy-grail mascara that does it all, we’d definitely recommend this one. Go and tell all of your friends that Fenty Beauty has done it again," they said.

Visit Fenty Beauty at now

Urban Decay,

This brand gained cult status thanks to its signature naked honey palette (£45, with a selection of light pinks and browns. Its parent company L'Oréal does sell brands in countries that require animal testing, but, the brand itself is cruelty-free and Peta certified. While many of its products do not contain animal-derived ingredients, it’s not a 100 per cent vegan brand yet.

In terms of whether its products live up to expectations? Well, we put the Urban Decay all nighter setting spray (£26, against the Charlotte Tilbury flawless setting spray (£26, to find out which was best.

In the review, we noted that “while both offer brilliant make-up fixing and setting and minimise transfer onto a mask”, our favourite was the Urban Decay all nighter setting spray as our make-up didn’t smudge and the product created a more radiant look – something we could all do with during the winter months.

Similarly, the lash freak mascara (£15.40, received high praise when we reviewed it following its launch in August 2020.

“The innovative brush is like an eyelash curler and mascara in one, delivering fluttery, lifted lashes that made me look instantly wide awake,” noted our tester. They added that the staying power was impressive, and they’d definitely recommend investing in it.

It would appear then that quality has not been compromised for ethics with Urban Decay, another high-performing, cruelty-free beauty brand.

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There’s no denying that Lush is friendly to the planet as well as its inhabitants. From ethically sourced ingredients to reusable packaging, it’s leading the way on issues of sustainability and plastic pollution. But that’s not all – as a brand it does not test on animals or use materials that contain animal derivatives that are unsuitable for vegetarians.

We love the slap stick foundation (£17,, which delivers medium coverage and is formulated from 14 per cent pigment and 45 per cent coconut oil, leaving a dewy finish. The packaging is completely free from plastic, with the product dipped in peelable wax and sold in a recycled and recyclable cardboard box. Either keep it in this packaging or put it in a reusable container to keep it fresh.

When applying, we found it best to warm it up slightly on the back of our hand before applying it to the face and using a brush to work into the skin. Owing to its natural ingredients, it’s best not to leave it in the sun as it will melt. There are 40 shades in the range, each with warm or cool undertones, so there's something for everyone. Plus, it’s 100 per cent vegan.

With such a full range of products available, this really is a brand to know, not least because of its sustainable and ethical credentials.

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Attempting Veganuary? Read our guide on how you can smash the challenge

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