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Vegan vs. cruelty-free. What's the difference?

Vegan vs. cruelty-free. What's the difference?

As it relates to the fashion, beauty, and cosmetics industries, there is a lot of confusion surrounding the "vegan" and "cruelty-free" labels. So what's the difference? Vegan means no animal products in the product formulation (which includes ingredients derived from animals as well as ingredients tested on animals) and cruelty-free means no animal testing. In this post, we will discuss the differences between vegan and cruelty-free products, and how to identify them. Let's break it down!

What does vegan mean?


First, let's dive into what veganism is. Veganism is "a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose" - The Vegan Society. Veganism is not just a diet - it's a lifestyle. This means that veganism extends beyond what we put into our bodies and also includes the products we use in our everyday lives. This is where veganism and cruelty-free intersect, generally. Why generally? We'll get to that in a second.

What does vegan mean in beauty and cosmetics?

When it comes to veganism in the beauty and cosmetics industry, vegan means that products do not contain any animal-derived ingredients and that no animal products or by-products are used in the formulation of the product. This includes ingredients such as beeswax, lanolin, collagen, gelatin, honey, etc. In beauty products, this can also mean ingredients such as carmine (made from boiled cochineal beetles), squalene (often derived from shark liver), lactic acid (sometimes made with milk), stearic acid (often derived from cows or pigs), tallow/tallowate (rendered fat from cows or sheep) and more.

What does vegan mean in fashion?

When it comes to veganism and the fashion industry, vegan means clothing, shoes, accessories, and any other fashion item that is not made with any animal products or by-products. This includes leather, wool, silk, down feathers, fur, and anything else derived from animals. Vegan fashion also excludes glue and other adhesives made from animal products (like bone char) as well as dyes tested on animals. Vegan fashion is often made with sustainable and cruelty-free materials like organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, pineapple leaf fiber, and more.

What does cruelty-free mean?

Cruelty-free means that the product and its ingredients have not been tested on animals at any point during production. For a product to be cruelty-free certified, the brand must not test their products or ingredients on animals, nor can they outsource these tests to a third party.

So vegan doesn't mean cruelty-free?

No, in the fashion, beauty, and cosmetics industries, the cruelty-free aspect of veganism was "stripped out" into its own separate label. This separate "cruelty-free" label is why vegan in the fashion, beauty, and cosmetics industries does not mean that the products or ingredients were not tested on any animals at any point during production. Think about that. Although veganism means excluding/avoiding cruelty to animals, the "vegan" label doesn't refer to animal cruelty or testing. Therefore, a product can be vegan and not cruelty-free, if the manufacturer still tests the products on animals! Mind=blown? This separation is what causes all the confusion about the labels.

And cruelty-free doesn't mean vegan?

No, cruelty-free does not mean vegan. Cruelty-free only means that no animals were harmed during the production of the product or any of its ingredients - it says nothing about whether animal products or by-products are used in the final product. So a cruelty-free product could still contain animal-derived ingredients.

Can a product be both vegan and cruelty-free?

Yes! For a product to be both vegan and cruelty-free, the brand must not use any animal products or by-products in their formulation AND they cannot test their products on animals at any point during production.

How do I know if a product is vegan and cruelty-free?

The easy answer? Wegano checks for you :) Here at Wegano we verify and check that all products are both vegan and cruelty-free so that vegans can shop with peace of mind. We will be detailing in a future post how we go about checking and verifying products before we carry them.

However, in case you aren't shopping for vegan and cruelty-free products on Wegano (not sure why you would be), below we break down how to check yourself.

The first step is to check the packaging for any certification logos. The two most common vegan certifications are "Certified Vegan" by Vegan Action and "Vegan Society Certified". The Leaping Bunny logo is an internationally recognized symbol for cruelty-free products. For a summary and breakdown of all the different vegan and cruelty-free certifications, check out our article here.

If a product is not certified, you can check the ingredient list for any animal-derived ingredients. In a future post, we will be summarizing our banned animal-derived ingredients to help you in your review. You can also contact the brand directly and ask them about their vegan and cruelty-free policies.

So, what does it all mean?

So, what’s the difference between vegan and cruelty-free? The easiest way to think of it is that vegan means no animal products were used in the making of the product, while cruelty-free means that no animals were hurt or tested in the making of the product. Wegano makes it easy since we only carry both vegan and cruelty-free products (that we verify).

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