I Tested Cruelty-Free Beauty Products For A Month — & Found 41 New Favorites

Growing up, there were two movies that, despite all the praise they got, I couldn't stand to watch: 101 Dalmatians and Dumbo. It felt unbearably painful to sit through 1.5 hours of the evil that is Cruella de Vil vying for a new fur coat or circus performers shackling an elephant to a tent.

Flash forward to my formative years, where I soon discovered that it wasn't just cartoon dogs getting the brunt of things — the lipstick I was stealing off my mom's vanity also could have been contributing to the harm of a furry friend. Luckily for 10-year-old-me, a beauty industry without animal testing is no longer just a fairytale these days: Countless brands in the U.S. have made a cruelty-free pledge, promising to never test on animals at any point in the production process.


If you're worried that the quality of these products takes a nosedive as a result, I'm here to tell you that couldn't be further from the truth. For one month, I tested hundreds of options to find the very best in the cruelty-free hair, makeup, and skin categories, documenting my progress each week. What I discovered was 41 damn good products I actually want to keep using — with the fact that it didn't take a bunny wearing mascara to get it in my hands being a big bonus, indeed.

Week One

First, I decided to sift through my bins (on bins on bins) of beauty products and fact-check which ones I had that already fit the criteria. Turns out, a lot of my favorites did — and they deliver a pretty natural, rosy finish I want to wear every day, as evidenced here.
When it comes to foundation, I'm a full-coverage girl through and through, so finding a creamy formula that also happens to be cruelty-free used to be tough. Now, though, I've been digging Milk's iteration, which takes only the smallest drop of pigment to camouflage every imperfection on my entire face.

Milk Makeup Blur Liquid Matte Foundation, $40, available at Milk Makeup.
I can barely keep my eyes open in the morning, so I’ve learned it's easier to just fake the whole wide-awake thing. Dusting on a combo of these light, shimmery shades from up-and-coming brand Catrice does the trick.

Catrice The Essential Nude Eyeshadow Palette, $7.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
If you want your makeup brushes to be soft and fluffy, without being made from the hair of soft and fluffy animals, synthetic bristles are the way to go. I love how densely-packed they are on this one, which make it easy to pick up lots of pigment.

Antonym Medium Eye Shader Brush, $15, available at Antonym Cosmetics.
I know, I know — this blush is fucking red. But as soon as my alarm goes off, I'm half-zombie/half-human for a solid hour, so my skin needs to be brought to life fast. This powdered formula from Urban Decay (a cruelty-free brand that, to be fully transparent, is owned by L'Oréal, which is not) gets the job done with just one swoosh.

Urban Decay Afterglow 8-Hour Powder Blush in Quiver, $26, available at Urban Decay.
The industry go-to for all things brows, Anastasia Beverly Hills has proven itself time and time again to be one of the hottest brands on the market — without ever testing on animals. It's a good thing, too, because this gel formula has been a longstanding favorite in my makeup bag for its mascara-like wand that makes application a breeze.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel in Espresso, $22, available at Ulta Beauty.
When you want to stay true to your animal-loving promise, but find yourself feeling the sticker shock with the items you've found on the market, Nyx — also owned by L'Oréal — is an affordable and cruelty-free option.

Nyx Makeup Professional That's The Point Eyeliner in Hella Fine, $10, available at Nyx Cosmetics.
I have deep-rooted love for the PETA-certified It Cosmetics, having long ago dubbed it The One Makeup Company That Can Do No Wrong. Even though it was acquired by L'Oréal in 2016, its cruelty-free practices have remained unchanged — a relief, if you ask me, because I'm not sure where my lashes would be without this volumizing mascara.

It Cosmetics Superhero Mascara, $24, available at It Cosmetics.
Always a safe bet, this all-natural lip balm from Burt's Bees leaves behind a delightfully rosy, just-been-kissed tint.

Burt's Bees Gloss Lip Crayon in Tahitian Sunset, $8.99, available at Target.
No snails were harmed in the making of this shampoo (or the conditioner), so you can relax knowing it'll just leave your hair smelling like clean, minty goodness and feeling softer than ever before.

Kenra Professional Snail Anti-Aging Shampoo, $18, available at Ulta Beauty.
It's not just IGK's cruelty-free status that's cool as hell — it has also formulated this lightweight, micro-emulsion hair mask that actually spritzes onto your hair like a perfume. I've been using it religiously for months, and I've never had better hair days.

IGK Prenup Instant Spray Hair Mask, $32, available at Sephora.
The brainchild of Chrissy Teigen's go-to hairstylist Jen Atkin (a self-professed animal lover, of course), Ouai's products definitely live up to the hype. My favorite, though, is this mousse, which adds some much-needed volume to my roots without leaving the telltale crunch behind.

Ouai Soft Mousse, $28, available at The Ouai.
I don't know if it's the calming eucalyptus scent or the fact that its gel consistency feels extra luxurious when I massage it onto skin, but I've found the ritual of using this cleanser just as satisfying as the knowledge that it makes my combo skin less oily and more glowy. It's worth noting that, while Ole Henriksen itself pledged to never test on animals in 2015, its parent company, LVMH, has not.

Ole Henriksen Find Your Balance Oil Control Cleanser, $10, available at Sephora.
I could write a love letter about this acne treatment, which has saved me from years of painful, embarrassing, and completely evil underground pimples, so I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that aesthetician Renee Rouleau's entire skin-care range is cruelty-free (an unfortunate rarity among the acne category).

Renee Rouleau Anti Cyst Treatment, $45.50, available at Renee Rouleau.
The first time I massaged this golden, jam-like mask into my skin, I couldn't get enough of the immediate warming sensation it gave — it was intensely relaxing. The formula itself is so rich and hydrating, you could technically skip the moisturizer afterward. Which I totally would, except for the fact that...

Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask, $56, available at Sephora.
... this silky face cream exists. I've long been a fan of Tata Harper's all-natural, cruelty-free skin-care line (as is pretty much every beauty editor I know), but her newest moisturizer might be my favorite yet. It's not just the great smell I'm after — it's also loaded with hyaluronic acid and humectants that make my skin feel dewy for a full day.

Tata Harper Repairative Moisturizer, $105, Tata Harper Skincare.
Week Two

This is about the time I started throwing newbies into the mix. While I kept some of my OG favorites in rotation, I substituted a handful of other lipsticks, foundations, cleansers, and more until I found the best of the best. Ahead, I've narrowed down the items that stood out to me.
Besides CoverFX's foundation range of a whopping 40 (!) shades that are never tested on our furry friends, this oil-free formula is also creamy and rich in that luxurious way, making it perfect for my combination skin. Just make sure you blend with a damp makeup sponge.

CoverFX Natural Finish Foundation, $40, available at Sephora.
Tattoo artist and beauty entrepreneur Kat Von D has been an animal advocate since the day her eponymous makeup line hit the masses and is now inching closer toward her pledge of a 100% vegan product line. If that fact gives you as many warm and fuzzies as it does me, then you'll be pleased to know this creamy, super-saturated concealer that covers up every dark spot (and then doesn't fade all day) is not derived from any animal byproducts.

Kat Von D Lock-It Concealer Crème, $26, available at Sephora.
While inexplicably less red in pigment than my regular blush option, I found myself reaching for this swirled blend of pink, burnt sienna, and beige the most during this 30-day challenge. Maybe it was the silky way with which it blended onto skin, or the subtle tinge of rouge that left me flushing just-so. Either way, the natural enthusiast in me found a more wearable, everyday alternative to my standard go-to.

Antonym Certified Organic Baked Blush in Rose, $36, available at Antonym Cosmetics.
It was unusually toasty in New York this particular week in October, so I kept this setting powder nearby to touch up my T-zone when things got oily. Instead of caking on the skin, it left behind an ever-so-subtle, soft-focus finish instead.

Alima Pure Satin Finishing Powder, $24, available at Alima Pure.
I also used its corresponding foundation brush, which is so incredibly fluffy, you'll wonder if the bristles are really synthetic. (They are!) Bonus: It's one of the few brushes I've tried that doesn't shed on my face.

Alima Pure Foundation Brush, $38, available at Alima Pure.
Blame my recent inspiration to try a bolder eye look on all the badass Fenty Beauty looks gracing my Instagram feed. And I'm glad I did — this sparkly, intergalactic shadow palette from the brand's holiday collection was the weekend pick-me-up I needed. Even cooler than RiRi, though, is that her entire makeup range is also cruelty-free. (It is, however, owned by LVMH.)

Fenty Beauty Galaxy Eyeshadow Palette, $59, available at Sephora.
How I somehow found a brick wall that matched my lipstick color to stand in front of is beyond me, but I'd be remiss not to mention that it didn't really need the backdrop to stand out. Bonus points go to the oxblood hue for its food-grade ingredients.

Bite Beauty Matte Crème Lip Crayon in Licorice, $24, available at Sephora.
Like a face mask, scalp scrubs can help whisk away product build-up or dead cells sitting on the surface of your skin — and yeah, I realize how unsexy that sounds. Bringing the sexy back, though, is this bottle of finely-ground walnut shells and peppermint oil from cruelty-free brand IGK.

IGK Low Key Cleansing Walnut Scalp Scrub, $36, available at Sephora.
I usually reach for ColorProof's formulas after I dye my hair to keep the color vibrant, but finding out that the brand is also PETA-approved made me want to really stock up. This volumizing mousse has been a lifesaver for my limp strands and doesn't contain salt, so the aftereffect looks (and feels) a lot more natural.

ColorProof SuperPlump Whipped Bodifying Mousse, $26, available at ColorProof.
I've had this in my cabinet for months, and admittedly only use it when I need a boost on my aforementioned limp hair (thanks to the gritty texture of the formula), but I do love using this dry shampoo on weekends. It helps prep my hair for a good tease — and then holds the style better than a Bump-It.

Kenra Professional Volume Dry Shampoo, $17, available at Ulta Beauty.
Yes To's line of makeup wipes have been my saving grace as a beauty editor who swatches makeup all day for as long as I can remember. But when the brand released its black charcoal-infused sheets, I knew I had to take them home — and I haven't looked back since.

Yes To Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Facial Wipes, $5.99, available at Target.
This has changed my daytime routine. The formula glides on really, really smoothly and makes my skin look subtly, imperceptibly better, even before I put on makeup — and yes, it helps my foundation last longer, too, like any good primer should. Glossier never tests on animals, either.

Glossier Priming Moisturizer, $22, available at Glossier.
My skin is far too sensitive for any normal kind of peel, but this gentler version hasn't triggered any flare-ups. It has, however, transformed the texture of my complexion for the better.

First Aid Beauty Fab Skin Lab Resurfacing Liquid 10% AHA, $55, available at First Aid Beauty.
Week Three

At this point, I've discovered what I don't like in a cruelty-free product — chalky powders, loose blush — and am on the hunt for more formulas that work for my specific needs. One incredible foundation and mascara coming up...
Rihanna's range of 40 foundation shades may have been two years in the making, but I'll be damned if this stuff wasn't well worth the wait. The formula is creamy in texture, vanilla-like in smell, and effectively creates the airbrushed finish that I love — all while remaining cruelty-free.

Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, $34, available at Fenty Beauty.
Finding a cruelty-free mascara for this experiment felt a lot like dating: I had to go through a lot of frogs before I found The One that didn’t flake, held my curl, and left behind the kind of lash drama and volume I crave. This formula from Marc Jacobs (which is owned by LVMH) checks all the boxes — and look, ma, it's even dressed to the nines!

Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara Collector's Edition, $26, available at Sephora.
I have always considered myself more of a dog person, but it's hard not to fall for this eyeshadow palette — both for its kitten designs on the exterior packaging and the nine silky, wearable pigments inside.

Winky Lux Kitten Palette, $25, available Winky Lux.
I'm calling this the animal-safe version of YSL's cult Touche Eclat pen. Light-reflecting pigments camouflage dark circles, while the blend of potent botanicals work hard to fade 'em.

Chantecaille Le Camouflage Stylo, $52, available at Chantecaille.
This is one my favorite new lines, created by hairstylist-to-the-stars Kristin Ess. Not only are the products amazingly priced, they perform just as well as the salon-grade stuff and look super-chic in your shower.

Kristin Ess The One Signature Shampoo & Conditioner, $10 each, available at Target.
When I first tried this packet of goodness, I was just in it for the smell. It's fruity yet musky and utterly delicious, but its hydrating ingredients make it so much more than that — my hair felt like straight Charmeuse silk after just one use.

Hask Superfruit Healthy Deep Conditioner, $2.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
This all-natural face mask worked wonders on a pretty gnarly breakout that popped up with a vengeance during this challenge. I only used it once, but the redness went down by half in just one day.

Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Masque, $60.50, available at Renee Rouleau.
Week Four

Now, the finishing touches — of lipstick, brow gel, and a helluva lot of dry shampoo.
Hourglass just announced its plan to become entirely vegan by 2020 — yet another reason to love the already-conscious beauty brand. The entire range is really lovely and luxurious, but this foundation stick is a standout for its pigment that's just as good as a concealer.

Hourglass Cosmetics Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick, $46, available at Hourglass Cosmetics.
Even though I've loved KVD formulas for a long time, I still hadn't tried any of the Kiss Lipsticks — a true crime, I quickly discovered — so I started with the #1 best-seller, Underage Red. There's no going back now.

Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in Underage Red, $12, available at Sephora.
Always on rotation with my Anastasia Beverly Hills brow gel is this old favorite. The bristles are much smaller and the pigment is a lot more subtle, so I use it for touch-ups or when I need just a hit of brow pigment to make me look alive.

Glossier Boy Brow in Brown, $16, available at Glossier.
This is honestly one of the cutest bottles of texturizing spray I've ever seen — it looks like the testing tube you'd find in a science lab (the only difference being the Leaping Bunny logo on the back, of course). But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the product itself also worked really well, giving my roots oomph without crunch.

Nature Lab Volume Texture Mist, $12, available at Nature Lab.
As someone who lives and breathes for a good dry shampoo, I was on the hunt for a formula that didn't leave behind a gritty texture. That's where this one from Ess' line came in: It sops up second-day oil as if it were wearing an invisibility cloak — you can't see a thing, even with multiple sprays.

Kristin Ess Reviving Dry Shampoo, $14, available at Target.
I don't care what anyone says, peel-off masks are my favorite kind of bonding activity. That's why I brought over a bucket full of 'em from this cruelty-free brand to my friend's apartment this past weekend. I got to try the creepiest one of the bunch, which went on a sickly green color that freaked everyone out, but left my skin silky smooth. Worth it.

Montage Juenesse 7th Heaven 2-In-1 Charcoal Peel-Off Masque, $1.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
hosted by Mi-Anne Chan.
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