Are You A Cruelty-free Beauty Virgin?

We're about to pop that cherry, so, um, brace yourself.

By: Amber

Transitioning your a beauty routine to one exclusively filled with cruelty-free products – or even just easing into it by committing to embrace cruelty-free beauty brands – is one of the best ways to a more gorgeous, conscious lifestyle, and something we’re extremely passionate about. It could seem overwhelming to replace all your beauty products, so just like we did with your closet, we’re going to walk you through a practically painless step-by-step process to transition your beauty cabinet.

Honestly, there’s just no reasonable excuse to continue purchasing beauty products from brands who continue testing on animals when there are so many amazing cruelty-free beauty brands killing the game right now (we’ve been through this). From Herbivore Botanicals to any of the brands featured in our most recent NAP haul, more and more brands are proving that when you go cruelty-free you don’t have to give up having glowing skin and bomb makeup. If amazing brands like By Terry, Charlotte Tilbury, and Byredo can get their shit together, then so can other brands. But we digress.

What exactly is cruelty-free beauty?

First thing’s first: if you’re like WTF is cruelty-free beauty, then head to this post and brush up on what it means. (Don’t forget to come back!) In a nutshell, cruelty-free products (and the ingredients in them) have not been tested on animals in any capacity during the manufacturing process.

Vegan beauty sometimes is used synonymously with cruelty-free beauty, but there is a difference. While a vegan product is one that is made sans animal products (think beeswax, carmine, lanolin, silk proteins and honey), a cruelty-free beauty product is one that is made and shelved without harming animals during any part of the process. So a cruelty-free product can or cannot be vegan. Whether you choose to go full-force with your beliefs is completely up to you. Of course we’re in favor of the former.

We will admit, things can get confusing. It definitely did for us in the beginning. But that’s why we love Suzi over at Cruelty-Free Kitty. She has a ton of resources that will come in handy during your journey. Going cruelty-free requires a lot of dedication, but more importantly, research on your part. Her blog has a ton of cheat sheets so definitely pay her blog a visit once you’ve scrolled to the bottom of this guide.

Get to know cruelty-free beauty brands

This is going to be a long-term, committed relationship, so you best get to know cruelty-free beauty really well before you tie the proverbial knot. Before you start your transition, you need to be thoroughly educated on your options. A good goal is to have 2-3 go-to brands for each category – hair, skin, nails, makeup, body. Some can, of course, overlap. When you’re sizing up brands, some areas you’ll want to keep in mind are price point, accessibility, and the overall vibe of the brand. Be sure to consider if these are products are in a price range your comfortable with, that are easy enough to get a hold of, and if you are the woman they design their products for.

If you’re like us – when we first set out to overhaul our medicine cabinet, we had no idea which brands were cruelty-free and which weren’t – navigating the hundreds of beauty brands is not a piece of red velvet cake. There are brands that are 100% cruelty-free, brands that are cruelty-free themselves, but have parent companies who test on animals, then there are brands that claim to only test on animals when required to by law (because the company chooses to sell in China), so much to sift through and understand.

Good thing there are a few comprehensive guides out there. To get you started, check out this cruelty-free beauty brand list by Logical Harmony. Tashina updates this baby weekly, so it’s the perfect one to bookmark. BTW, her Youtube videos are always packed with great product recommendations, which is perfect when you’re new to the game like, what do I buy? If you’re an avid Sephora shopper, then this is essential reading. If you’re looking for some high-end cruelty-free brands, check out this guide to cruelty-free beauty at Revolve.

Luxe, drugstore, or combo of both

If you currently use mostly drugstore products, then don’t worry. There are plenty of great cruelty-free drugstore brands. If this is all your budget allows, then stick with it. TBH, before switching to exclusively cruelty-free beauty, we picked up our skincare and haircare products at Target and Duane Reade on the way home.

We’ve always had an obsession for luxury and going cruelty-free was the perfect excuse to upgrade. And seriously, can’t complain about the collection of LBB’s (little black boxes) in our apartment. It might take some more strategic planning and budgeting, but don’t be afraid to step up your beauty cabinet with higher-end products if you can’t find cruelty-free drugstore products to satisfy your beauty needs. You might end up with fewer products, but less is more guys, especially when it comes to skincare. We know the beauty product FOMO is real, but when you find great products that work, it’s best to stick to them.

Don’t do too much too fast

Transitioning your beauty cabinet can (and most likely will) get overwhelming fast. A way to make sure things don’t get out of line is to start with one area of your beauty regimen – skincare, haircare, or makeup. Once you’ve successfully transitioned in new products in that one area and you feel comfortable with all those products, then move onto the next area. If you flip-flop between skincare and makeup and haircare, things get messy. Focus is going to streamline the entire process for you.

You can even narrow down the transitioning process further by product type within the broader areas. For example, let’s say you’ve decided to transition your makeup by replacing all your products are from brands that test on animals out first. You can start off with eyes: mascara, shadows, primer, etc. then move on to lips: glosses, liners, lipsticks. You get the idea. Another example of narrowing down would be to transition all your hair styling products (creams, serums, sprays, dry shampoos, etc.) versus trying to transition products that take care all your haircare needs (conditioners, deep treatments/masks, shampoos, tools) at the same time.

Pick 3-6 everyday essentials and replace them

Once you have the order of your transition set by category, it’s time to start trying out products (the fun part!). Transitioning in new essentials is the same concept of replacing your old essentials when you’re transitioning to a cruelty-free closet or doing a wardrobe overhaul. (Shameless plug alert: Hate your closet? We have a 10-day masterclass that’ll teach you everything you need to know to whip your wardrobe in shape and it’s totally free. You can sign up here, it takes two secs.) A good way to strategize is to choose 1-2 essentials from each category: skincare, haircare, makeup. Once you have those curated, keep adding until all your essential everyday products are covered.

Find replacements for your HG’s

While your essentials are the products necessary for your daily beauty regimen, your holy grails are your staple, ride-or-die products, however, you probably use them often, but not quite every day the way you do with your essentials. If you’ve already developed a thorough beauty routine, you’ve probably already have a selection of products that you consider legend. In other words, if the brand who makes the products suddenly disappeared, your life as your know it would end (minor exaggeration here). These are the products you nearly suffer panic attacks when they get halfway through, kind of how your palms start perspiring when your phone’s battery drops below the 50% mark.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if all your HG’s ended up being made by cruelty-free beauty brands? This happened for only one of ours – Anastasia Beverly Hills’ Brow Wiz. (If you’re not up on your ABH game, definitely try the Wiz because it’s seriously magical). We used this product long before we realized it was a completely cruelty-free beauty brand, so that just goes to show that there are major cruelty-free beauty brands that put out stellar products.

Enjoy the process

If you’re as passionate about cruelty-free beauty as we have become since becoming aware of the ugliness of animal testing, you’ll probably be in an incredible rush to get your beauty cabinet, vanity, and shower filled with all new products that don’t test on animals. Not only is this process expensive, but it’s also overly ambitious to assume you’re going to be able to tackle this overhaul in only a few weeks. With all the products out on the market, getting this done super fast is nearly impossible. So, a bit of advice: before you make your first purchase, get comfortable with the idea that this transition is not going to be an overnight process.

The toughest area is definitely going to be skincare because you have to try out products multiple times before you can tell if they’re right for your regimen. For this reason, it’s wise to leave this area for last, especially since it’s the most pivotal anyway, and you’ll want to make sure you find the right products for your skin. Skincare is everything.

Don’t be shy when stuff doesn’t work out

As you can see, transitioning into using only cruelty-free beauty is going to be a long process filled with months and months of trial and error. Please don’t be afraid to return anything. We used to so be those girls who were too scared to take something back to a store after using it. TBH, we used to be too shy too even bring back things that we hadn’t used. There’s just something iffy about the whole experience, we get it. But most online retailers allow you to return beauty products even once they’ve been opened. Some have certain restrictions, though. Definitely be careful with fragrances. But for the most part, you shouldn’t encounter any major problems.

Something to keep in mind: if you order online, make sure you’re careful when you open your package(s) and neatly store your boxes/receipts/packing slips/return labels somewhere safe until you’ve tried out the product and made a decision. You’ll pat yourself on your back (if you’re flexible like that) when it comes time to ship it back in the case it just doesn’t work out for you.

It’s okay to use up your products that are not CF

Okay, it’s obvious we’re passionate about cruelty-free beauty. One thing we are not about? Wasting shit. Here’s the truth: we decided to invest in high-end/luxury beauty products, mostly MAC and Bobbi Brown, right before we went vegan and decided we would only buy cruelty-free products from then on. We have a ton of shadows, highlighters, and bronzers, the type of products that can take over a year to use up.

So what were we going to do? Toss products we’d saved up months to purchase? Uh, no. Going cruelty-free is not as easy as flipping a switch, and it’s not about being perfect. Remember, you’ve already made the decision to go cruelty-free. That’s the hardest and most important part. As long as you commit to no longer supporting brands that are not cruelty-free, you’re doing your part.

Best case scenario is you’re able to find someone to give them to, a friend, a family member, a coworker, a follower. Or selling barely used products on Depop can be great. That way you can use those profits for new cruelty-free beauty products. Whatever you do, don’t throw them out. Use them up while you’re transitioning. Did we mention that this can be a really long process?


Feeling more confident in transitioning your beauty cabinet and packing it with amazing cruelty-free beauty products, huh? Hope so! Let us know if you are in the comments section below. If you’re a cruelty-free veteran and have any other suggestions/resources that will help out people who are transitioning, please drop them in the comments section too.

We’ve curated a few of our favorite cruelty-free products below. Have fun perusing!

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