As people become more conscious of what they put into their bodies, they’re also becoming more discerning about what they put on their faces.
When Urban Decay announced in June 2012 that it would begin selling its cosmetics in China, the public outcry was immediate and livid. The beloved cult, indie brand (before it was sold to MHLV in 2000 and then to L’Oreal in 2012) was known for its cruelty-free formulas, beautifully plush synthetic brushes, and overall identity as the anti-cosmetics company. It was recognized by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as one of the best cruelty-free beauty company and earned the Leaping Bunny logo.
Why the outcry? Because China’s regulations at that time demanded that all cosmetics sold on its soil needed to be tested on animals before being offered to consumers. Immediately, PETA removed Urban Decay from its list of cruelty-free companies.
The result? Urban Decay reversed its decision one month later. Getting a piece of China’s nearly $30 billion beauty market was understandable, but potentially could have cost them more in loss of sales from already devoted fans. Ethical beauty products have become increasingly popular in recent years, partly due to the attention brought about from this Urban Decay development. Customers are now searching out beauty brands that are cruelty-free (no animal testing), vegetarian (no by-products from animal slaughter), and vegan (no animal ingredients at all).
While many countries around the world have done a thorough job of banning animal testing on cosmetics, other countries, including Canada, still allow it. Our policies are far more regulated than in the United States, but they’re not nearly as stringent as in the United Kingdom, for example.
This growing trend in ethical beauty parallels increased general food awareness. As people become more conscious of what they put into their bodies, they’re also becoming more discerning about what they put on their faces. Vegetarians and vegans in particular are seeking skincare and beauty items that match their ethical standpoints – and it’s all possible today.
Because ethical beauty products are a sub-category of the overall cosmetics industry, it can be easier to find them through niche, indie brands. A good place to start is your local health food store or independent drug store or salon. A few favourites:
This is a Vancouver-based brand whose new Natural line is cruelty-free and vegan. The five products in this line are 98 per cent plant-based and naturally-derived. The Balance shampoo includes organic apple cider vinegar and organic argan oil for especially lustrous hair. And the Rosehip Balm is a must for frizzies.
A classic farm-to-face brand, Farmacy products contain naturally-derived ingredients that are enhanced by science for optimal potency and efficacy. Their products are not tested on animals and are free of parabens, formaldehyde and artificial colouring. Must try: their Honey Potion Mask.
Based in France, Klorane adheres to European laws that forbid any animal testing on cosmetics (since September 2004). Their dry shampoo with oat milk, in particular, is a stellar product: effective, light and full of hydration while absorbing oils and excess hair products.
This Quebec-brand is organic, eco-friendly, fair-trade, uses recyclable materials, and is certified cruelty-free by PETA. Argan oil features in every single one of their produces. Their top selling products are Ora Eye Cream and C-Nature Anti-aging Complex.
While not officially certified as cruelty-free, Zoya is largely recognised in the industry as an animal-friendly and vegan-friendly brand. Zoya was the first nail polish to remove toxic ingredients such as toluene, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and DBP (dibutyl phthalate) from its polishes.
Big Brand Beauty
Of course, there are many well-known, established brands that are also ethical and cruelty-free.
Canadian and Leaping Bunny-approved, Bite Beauty is best known for their lipsticks, which are made with food-grade ingredients. Makes sense since lipstick, as it wears off, is ingested. If you’ve never tried, their Amuse Bouche colour is a perennial top-seller.
On their website, Anastasia of Beverly Hills says that when they roll out new products, they’re tested on people, not animals. Cruelty-free and vegetarian, this brand has developed a cult following for their brow products, namely the Dipbrow Pomade (which is actually vegan).
Luxury brand, Chantecaille, remains a private, family-owned brand that produces beauty products that are cruelty-free and nearly entirely vegan aside from their face mask and lip balm (they contain honey). Their skincare famously features rosewater that’s extracted from the famed Rose de Mai rose fields in Provence (the flowers bloom for only two weeks in May each year), which Chantecaille shares with Chanel, who uses these same flowers in the making of their Chanel No. 5 parfum. Must try: their Pure Rosewater and the Nano Gold Energizing Eye Cream.
As a French company, Lierac abides by European laws and absolutely does not test on animals. Their top three selling products in Canada are Premium The Voluptuous Cream, Premium Yeux, and Premium The Silky Cream.
Vegan and cruelty-free, Hourglass has managed to create a premium beauty line that adheres to impressive ethical standards. Nearly all their products are winners, but definitely try their Ambient Powders, Ambient Blushes, and Veil Mineral Primer.
If you prefer the convenience of doing all your skincare and beauty shopping under one roof without having to consult PETA with every new product, these stores have got you covered.
The Body Shop
was the first global beauty brand to take a vocal stand against animal testing and continues to do so today. LUSH
is best known for its fragrant, hand-made soaps and bath bombs and is also cruelty-free and 100 per cent vegetarian (80 per cent vegan).
And for Vancouver-based shoppers, try independent beauty store, Kiss and Makeup
, which only stocks cruelty-free brands, ranging from niche (Amaterasu, RMS and Ilia) to well-known brands (Coola, Tata Harper and Oribe).