For centuries, animals have been roped into the processing and production of beauty products, and you may be surprised to know that this practice is still prevalent today. To better navigate the market, various labels are now often applied to products, namely “vegan” and “cruelty-free”. This allows consumers to make choices that fall in line with their values and moral code… or does it just help certain brands sell more products and appeal to wider demographics? Understanding the difference between the implications of these terms AND how exactly they are being used can be tricky.
IN A NUTSHELL
Main Takeaways: While the terms “vegan” and “cruelty-free” are often used interchangeably, they actually mean different things. Further, a product labeled as vegan does not automatically imply that it is also cruelty free and vice versa.
Good to Know: Just because a product claims to be vegan or cruelty free, doesn’t necessarily mean you should feel confident in what you believe was an ethical purchase. Do your research, know your certifying bodies and their logos, and keep on the lookout for imposters!
What’s the Difference Between Vegan and Cruelty-Free?
When it comes to claims like “vegan” and “cruelty-free”, the first thing to note is they are not the same. While many companies use them interchangeably, they actually are two different things and are not at all mutually exclusive. This means that even if a product is cruelty-free, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is vegan, and vice versa.
Unfortunately, there are no FDA regulated or legal definitions to either of these terms. That means that a brand or product can claim to be either or both, but truly be neither. Without any regulation, it seems that these definitions can be up for interpretation. Brands can come up with their own understanding of the terms and generally apply them in any way they see fit. But that doesn’t mean that clear and distinct definitions don’t exist. So in their most unadulterated forms, what do these terms actually mean and how do they differ?
What Does It Mean for a Product to Be Vegan?
When an item is labeled as vegan, it implies that no animal products or byproducts were used in its making. Accordingly, the ingredient list of any product that claims to be vegan should only include items that are regarded as strictly vegan and should therefore exclude some less-obvious animal-derived ingredients like honey, beeswax, and lanolin (wax from sheep’s wool)
Yet, without regulation, some companies may decide that while an ingredient list doesn’t include any primary animal products, the use of secondary or tertiary animal products fail to compromise their ability to market their product(s) as vegan. Maybe a so-called “vegan” lotion contains animal glycerine, or a bath soap is colored with red dye (which is often derived from crushed beetles). But anyone in the market for vegan merchandise would feel grossly misled if they were duped into purchasing items that were marketed as something they are not.
Fleur & Bee is happy to say that every ingredient in every product we offer is entirely vegan.
What Does It Mean for a Product to Be Cruelty-Free?
When properly used, the term “cruelty-free” means that any product bearing this label was not tested on animals, and that none of the individual ingredients used to produce a product were tested on animals. It also means that the company does not allow for any animal testing after the product is made (by governments or other entities) in order for it to be sold or distributed.
Some brands feel they can get away with making a cruelty-free claim if just the final, marketed product is free of animal testing. This means that a body scrub can go to market without having been tested on animals; but maybe the fragrance oil used to scent said scrub was tested on animals, all without the scrub itself being stripped of its cruelty-free label. Another example would be if some of the earlier formulations of the product underwent animal testing or if the animal testing was outsourced.
Believe it or not, some companies do not personally test on animals, but rather have it handled by a third party. This happens most often in cases where brands sell in certain countries where animal testing is mandatory for the sale of any cosmetic or beauty products. Thus, products are green-lit in foreign markets and go under animal testing. And none of this prohibits a company from touting their creations as cruelty-free.
Here at Fleur & Bee, we are Leaping Bunny certified as cruelty-free; none of our products or ingredients are tested on animals, ever.
Choosing Vegan and Cruelty-Free Products
So, with all this convolution– and some of it blatant deception– how can one feel confident that what they are buying is in fact what it claims to be? More importantly, how can you rest assured that the choices you labor over are the ethical and conscious ones you believe them to be?
To help make your ethical consumerism less… consuming, there are a handful of certifying bodies that can bring you a sigh of relief when hitting the cash register. For vegan certification, comfortably rely on any items cleared by Vegan Action or The Vegan Society. Cruelty-free claims backed by Leaping Bunny, PETA, or Cruelty Free International should also give you peace of mind. Become familiar with all of their logos and be able to recognize posers; not all bunnies are created equal, if you catch our drift!
Keep in mind that a number of vegan and cruelty-free brands may be exactly what they claim to be, but also fail to have any certifications. It can be quite costly to obtain, especially for independent brands or local artisans. So, it’s always best to do your own research, and don’t be afraid to probe companies for information until you have all the facts. After all, pestering in defense and protection of our fellow creatures and fine furry friends is pestering well-worth it… or at least we think so! And when in doubt, hit up the entire Fleur & Bee product line for reliably vegan and cruelty-free skincare made the right way.
If you are looking for a vegan skincare routine, we’ve put together a 5 step Deluxe Set that includes a cleanser, toner, vitamin C serum, eye cream, and moisturizer.
All items are 100% cruelty free and botanically-based for clean and effective skincare that works.