The difference between vegan and cruelty-free

Hello Wildlings!

I hope you’re all well and that it’s sunny where you are. So, I often get asked what the difference is between vegan and cruelty-free products and thought I’d make it our first topic of conversation while also telling you a bit about my cruelty-free journey.

I was never a girly-girl. I didn’t have a skincare and make-up routine growing up, apart from splashing my face with soap and water every morning. I’m talking about not even moisturising after a shower. For me it was get up and go; an easy lifestyle growing up by the coast. I only started browsing the cosmetics aisle when I was about 19 or 20 with some friends from college. That’s when I decided to indulge in some moisturiser. At the time, I had no idea what cruelty-free even meant, or that animal testing even existed.

I always loved animals and for as long as I can remember I’ve always had an animal friend who I shared my room with. When I got married and inherited my own place, my husband and I decided to get a dog. And that’s when my journey to a cruelty-free lifestyle really started.


This is Sutro, the Chow Chow. And she taught me more about humanity than any human could’ve.

By then, I had graduated in my skincare regime from only moisturiser to now using cover up, foundation and even mascara and lipstick on some days.



I remember seeing a very graphic ad online about what happens to a rabbit’s body when it gets injected with the chemicals used in my perfectly flawless foundation. And that was the penny drop moment for me; I thought.. if I love my dog so much, then how can I support any brand that treats animals this way. I did some research about brands who do not test on animals and the very next day I went to The Body Shop and swapped out my foundation for a cruelty-free product by TBS. Hawaii Macadamia – it’s the one I still use today.

Since then I’ve been very conscious about the brands I support and invite into my life. I will only support brands who share my own values, who are ethical and who value the lives of animals. So an ordinary day of shopping takes a lot longer for me than it does the average person. Because half the time I’m on the internet 5 pages deep on a brand’s website frantically searching for the line where they say they value the lives of animals. And so that’s opened my eyes a lot too in the sense that, no one consciously wants to support a brand that is not cruelty-free. Some people support those brands by accident; it’s all about educating them and then you’d hope that after seeing the truth, they’d make the decision to choose cruelty-free brands. So let's get into it.. 

One of the big questions I get asked is “what is the difference between vegan and cruelty-free?” With veganism becoming an even bigger mainstream trend this year than it was last year, loads of brands are trying to cash in on it by producing vegan versions of their cosmetics (skincare, make-up, haircare etc.) And it really pisses me off because some of these brands are brands that are quite open about the fact that they test on animals, so how can they be truly vegan? Confused? Let me break it down for you:


What makes a product cruelty-free?

The product was made in a humane environment where animal testing is not a part of their production process. This means the finished product, its ingredients and all other cosmetic research, were not tested on animals at all.

What makes a product cruelty-free and NOT vegan?

A product can be made without testing on animals but some of the ingredients may be animal-derived. For example the product might contain beeswax or milk. I think it goes without saying that if the brand itself is cruelty-free, then the animal-derived products were sourced in an ethical way. Animal-derived products can be naturally sourced, meaning the animal is harmed in the process.


What makes a product vegan?

If we look at what vegan means (in inorganic matter) = it means something that contains no animal products. So a product is vegan if it is made with no animal product such as beeswax or milk.

What makes a product vegan and NOT cruelty-free?

Don’t be fooled by the term vegan. A product can be made using plant-based ingredients i.e. vegan but the finished product would be tested on animals = that doesn’t mean it is cruelty-free. So if you’re after vegan products, please also check that the product is cruelty-free.


A cruelty-free, non-vegan product will never use by-products of the slaughter-industry as ingredients. That automatically makes the brand not cruelty-free.

Also, sometimes a product can be vegan and cruelty-free but the brand is owned by a parent company who do test on animals or who sells in China where it is required to test on animals by law! This means that the vegan and cruelty-free product you’re purchasing is fine, but ultimately you’re supporting the overload that does test on animals.

The term vegan and cruelty-free is not interchangeable as they both mean different things. In my experience, something can be vegan but not pro-animal life. But most cruelty-free brands are cruelty-free because they care about animals.

I hope this post has shed some light on the issue for you. I want you to have all the information so you can make an informed decision. My journey towards a cruelty-free lifestyle started much later than I’d wanted it to. But everyone has to start somewhere I guess.

Stay wild,

  Founder & Chief Wildling

Founder & Chief Wildling