Natural, vegan and cruelty-free beauty. Three simple little terms that can actually require a decent amount of expertise, if you truly want to get down to the nitty-gritty of what’s really behind the labels.
While natural skincare and cosmetics is a minefield of mis-information and greenwashing, there’s also a lot of confusion around vegan and cruelty-free beauty. Did you know both aren’t interchangeable?
Conscious consumers who want guidance on how to navigate this beauty maze look to cruelty-free beauty expert, Jen Mathews, an award-winning blogger and social media guru who shares tips, trends and how-tos at My Beauty Bunny. In almost 10 years, she has not only helped thousands of beauty buffs in their pursuit of the latest beauty trends, but also animals, as she educates readers on why it’s so important to choose products that haven’t been tested on anything living.
Jen is quick to explain My Beauty Bunny isn’t a vegan blog, but does have a vegan section for those who want to choose beauty products that don’t have animal ingredients (and aren’t test on animals, either).
As a fan of Jen’s work since she began, I thought we were long-overdue for a catch up to chat about the ins-and-outs of cruelty-free beauty…
How did cruelty-free beauty become your passion?
I saw some undercover PETA videos when I was in college. After sobbing for hours, I decided I wanted to do something to change things. I still get upset when I think about some of the things I’ve seen. I know my blog is helping to make a difference, but I want to do more. Whenever I get upset, I make a donation to an animal charity. I recently donated to the Animal Legal Defense Fund for that very reason!
How have you seen the industry change since you started blogging in 2009?
One thing I saw early on was a negative. I saw formerly cruelty free brands (like Avon and Mary Kay for example) make the move into China, which means they were no longer cruelty free. But in recent years, I have seen a wave of support for cruelty-free and vegan products among consumers.
And, I’ve witnessed many brands either move out of the Chinese market or take steps to ensure the products they sell are not being tested. I have seen quite a few brands make the switch to 100% vegan in the last year or two as well.
Are you finding that many vegan products are starting to go all-natural, too?
I’ve seen a lot of brands jump on the “natural” bandwagon, but unfortunately that’s a term that is not regulated and doesn’t mean much. I think a lot of people don’t know the difference between cruelty free (not tested on animals), vegan (no animal ingredients) and natural (could mean anything – but generally means no potentially harmful additives).
A product could be accidentally vegan (meaning there was no reason for it to contain animal ingredients) but still tested on animals. Or a product could be cruelty-free (no animal testing) but contain collagen, honey, lanolin, or some other animal ingredient, which means it’s not vegan.
Of all the products you’ve tried and tested over the years, what would be your top five all-natural, all-vegan/cruelty-free ones?
Oh wow – that’s a tough question! I would have to go with Emme Diane skincare (completely changed my acne-prone skin!), Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation (my holy grail foundation for the past few years), Tarte Tarteist eyeliner (there are several waterproof eyeliners from Tarte and they are the only ones that don’t smudge for me!), Milk Blur Stick (blurs out your pores and fine lines like a Photoshop filter), and my beloved Beauty Blender (so much better than using fingers or brushes in my opinion).
Are consumers becoming more cruelty-free savvy? And are brands caving to pressure to become cruelty-free?
Yes and yes! I think people are finally realizing that makeup doesn’t have to be tested on animals to be high quality. And they’re just saying no to brands that continue to torture animals. Brands go where the money is, so if consumers make a fuss, they have to listen!
What tips would you give someone who wants to swap out their make-up and skincare made by companies that don’t abuse animals?
Well first of all, don’t feel like you have to throw away the beauty products you already have. You already bought them, and there’s no sense in wasting them. Just start replacing things little by little. Don’t be hard on yourself if there’s a product you can’t find a cruelty free replacement for. It’s the bigger picture—the sum total of all your actions—that makes a difference.
What’s your insight into the beauty industry-China relationship, and the fact that China requires animal testing of all products sold there?
China’s animal testing laws are one of the main reasons why some brands are not cruelty free. Many brands don’t test on animals, but they sell in China, where animal testing is required by law. It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the gist.
China’s government is starting to see some backlash from brands who won’t sell there (like Urban Decay for example), and there is pressure from animal rights groups, like Humane Society International, so I think they will eventually change the laws. It may take a very long time, but I think it will happen. From what I hear, it sounds like some of the laws have already loosened up a little bit. So, I’m trying to stay positive!
Of brands that still test on animals, which ones do you think would surprise people most?
I love this question! I should do a whole blog post about this! The ones that tend to surprise people are Benefit, Origins, Aveeno, Oil of Olay and OPI nail polish.