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Vegan Beauty Is On The Rise. But What Is It?

We take a closer look at one of the industry’s leading trends, including the products that really work

Lucy Adams

I tried going vegan for a story once, and it was hard. I am a cheese lover and believe that a weekend without some sort of egg-based meal is hardly a weekend at all, so needless to say, my conversion was short lived.

But ‘vegan’ doesn’t only apply to food these days; it’s a term that has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, most notably the beauty industry, in which hardly a week goes by without the launch of a product wearing ‘vegan’ on its packaging like a gold star.

Partly, this trend is driven by the fact so many of us have adopted veganism. One study estimated that there are now 3.5 million vegans in the UK, with another 6.5 million vegans in the US – and that’s not including those who choose to adopt some vegan habits without committing to a permanent lifestyle change. A survey last year found 1 per cent of Australians were vegan (and we are renowned as a nation that loves meat).


Marley didn't mean to knock over the products

The rise in these vegan lifestyles and the socially conscious consumer has been the catalyst for a new class of vegan make-up and skincare lines that are worthy alternatives to non-vegan formulas.

With the vegan cosmetics industry estimated to be worth $20.8 billion dollars by 2025, it seems we are no longer just concerned with what we are putting into our bodies, but also what we are putting onto them.

“Consumers are becoming more aware of environmental and animal welfare, and that’s influencing purchasing decisions in every category,” says Carisa Janes, owner and CEO of vegan make-up brand Hourglass.

Advocacy organisation Cruelty Free International certifies cruelty-free products with their ‘leaping bunny’ logo, and CEO Michelle Thew says: “Consumers are making it really clear that they don’t want their cosmetics and their ingredients to be tested on animals, and they’re doing that by using their purchasing power to make a difference for animals [through buying] products that are cruelty free.”

It might be time to make an escape

What is the difference between vegan and cruelty-free?

If a product is vegan friendly, it doesn’t contain any animal products or by-products, such as beeswax, honey, animal fat (found in some collagen), lanolin and carmine (a red colour from crushed cochineal insects – it’s hard to erase that mental image). Look out for an enclosed V symbol on product packaging, just to be sure.

The term cruelty-free refers specifically to animal testing. The ‘leaping bunny’ approval and logo on a product demonstrates that a brand is doing everything it can to be cruelty free and remove animal testing from its supply chain – right down to its ingredients and the raw materials it uses.

What are the benefits of vegan beauty products to our skin?

The truth is, while there are benefits to vegan beauty, they aren’t necessarily more effective. “Vegan products aren’t inherently better for our skin, but they are inherently better for animals,” says Hourglass’s Janes.

The brand is on track to meet its 2020 pledge of being 100 per cent vegan. While the process has been costly and time-consuming, says Janes, she also feels that working within new parameters pushed her team to find and develop vegan ingredients that perform better that their non-vegan alternatives.

The big appeal for many when it comes to vegan and cruelty-free beauty is the fact that 60 per cent of what we put onto our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream. These products contain significantly fewer chemicals and toxins, and more natural (and often organic) ingredients.

This one smells nice

Is this another beauty fad or the future of beauty?

In recent years, the beauty industry has really embraced authenticity and the idea of staying true to your identity. One of the easiest ways to express yourself is to buy products that align with your values.

We are going to see more people seeking out cruelty-free and vegan products. But while consumer demand is increasing, Thew believes that legislation globally needs to catch up, arguing that the patchwork of laws prohibiting animal testing should be replaced by a comprehensive set of global standards.

And if you’re worried about cost, there’s no need. With veganism becoming so popular, there is something on the beauty shelves for everyone. Check out our vegan and cruelty-free beauty favourites below – not to mention our cute pal Marley, who was spoiled rotten while making this.

The products we love…


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Photography Georgina Egan

Styled by Jack Milenkovic


BY Lucy Adams

Lucy Adams is PRIMER's beauty editor

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