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Vegan vs Cruelty-Free – What’s the difference?

Last updated on December 2nd, 2023

Do vegan and cruelty-free mean the same thing?

Vegan vs Cruelty-Free - What's the difference - Logos

Vegan vs Cruelty-Free, do they mean the same thing, if not, what’s the difference? Stick around and I’ll fill you in. 

Vegan vs Cruelty- Free


Products must not contain any animal extracts or animal by-products in the ingredients or the manufacturing process.


Neither the finished product nor any of the ingredients used are tested on animals

Firstly no, vegan and cruelty-free are not the same thing. Let’s look at why you need to look for both logos on your beauty products.

There are more people than ever searching for that familiar vegan logo on their favourite items before buying them.

And as veganism becomes more and more popular most people now know what vegan food is all about.

But it isn’t only vegan food we need to look out for, there are so many everyday items that may not be vegan. Such as clothes, soaps, cleaning products, drinks (yes…that means beer, cider and wine too), hair products, cosmetics and so much more.

If there are any newbie vegans reading this please, please don’t panic. Just take one step at a time and do what you can.

Vegan and Cruelty-Free ARE different

Vegan vs Cruelty Free - What's the difference

For a product to be vegan there must be absolutely no traces of any animal products within it. 

For food, this means no meat, fish, dairy or eggs. But other things can be made using animal products too. Clothes can contain materials made from animals like wool, fur and leather. Alcoholic drinks can use animal-derived products such as egg whites, isinglass and gelatine during the filtration process. And beauty products can contain many non-vegan ingredients too such as shellac, lanolin, collagen, keratin and beeswax.

When you find a beauty product that says ‘vegan’ can you buy it?

Vegan vs Cruelty Free - What's the difference

Hold on…Vegan and cruelty-free are not the same thing!

For a product to be cruelty-free, either in its entirety or any of its ingredients must not have been tested on animals. So, if the company that makes the item conducts animal tests or pays others to do it on their behalf they are not cruelty-free.

So, vegan means no animal-derived products. Whereas cruelty-free means no animals have been harmed in the making of the product.

Sadly, an item can claim vegan-friendly status even if it has been tested on animals. Often invasive tests are performed on rabbits, mice, guinea pigs and rats. To learn more about the types of tests these animals are put through and why animal testing is unnecessary, take a look at the Humane Society’s website.

Change is happening – the good news is that animal testing is being phased out!

Change is coming - Vegan and Cruelty-free

Fortunately, things are moving forward and many countries are banning animal testing for new cosmetics but we’re not all the way there yet. One of the biggest struggles is that until recently China’s laws meant that all imported cosmetics were required by law to be tested on animals.

However, in 2021 a new law came into place. This law stated that certain products could enter the country without requiring animal testing. So, it’s a step the the right direction, but currently, many types of products still need to be tested.

Does this really matter to you if you don’t live in China? Yes, because many of the huge names in make-up are selling their products in China. This means they are still testing on animals.

The voices against animal testing have been loud. Change is certainly happening, but we’re not there just yet….

It’s not vegan vs cruelty-free, it’s vegan AND cruelty-free!

So, turns out it’s not vegan vs cruelty-free. We need to look for both the vegan and the cruelty signs when choosing any cosmetics to feel sure no animals were harmed to make you look fabulous. And then if you do find a hair in your night cream you’ll know it came from your dog who’s well overdue for a trim…..or is that just me? 

It’s not just what we eat, drink or wear on our faces that matters, the clothes we wear matter too. Have a look at Support Sustainable Fashion and look fabulous! To help you make some positive choices with your clothes too. 

Oh, and when searching for vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics if you find yourself frustrated and a little lost don’t worry. A company called Cruelty Free Kitty has created an absolutely incredible resource to help you find out which products are cruelty-free and which aren’t.

If you enjoyed this post you might like my post on What’s the best dairy-free milk option?

Meet the Author

Author Bio - Sinead OCarroll - The Wondering Wandering Vegan

Meet Sinead O’Carroll: Vegan explorer, sustainability advocate and the founder of The Wondering Wandering Vegan. Embracing veganism since 2018 and vegetarianism since 2005, Sinead is armed with a Vegan Health, Nutrition and Lifestyle qualification, and is on a mission to share her passion for cruelty-free living. 

With a taste for adventure and a heart for eco-conscious choices, she’s here to prove that vegans never miss out on flavour, fun or style. Join her in enjoying the delights of a vegan-friendly world! 🌱✈️🌍
Want to know more? Check out Sinead’s About page here.

Follow me on Instagram to see all the delicious vegan food I find, the vegan and cruelty-free products I use and what I get up to as a travelling vegan.

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