Cult Beauty Just Made It A Whole Lot Easier To Shop Clean, Cruelty-Free & Vegan Skincare

With great knowledge comes power. Sure, that phrase might be more popularly associated with ancient philosophers and long-dead American presidents but I reckon it translates pretty well to the digital beauty world (stick with me here). The internet can be a noisy place: if you’re not overwhelmed by the contradictory reviews and articles, then the unregulated brand claims, social media blasts and celebrity endorsements are sure to send you on a Google search spiral. Sometimes, the more we know, the more we can be left confused. 
A few years ago, I decided to make my beauty kit cruelty-free. Armed with good intentions and a smartphone, I thought I would have no trouble – but I was wrong. International law has many loopholes and I found that some popular brands were slipping through the net (any product that is sold in China, for example, must be tested on animals). Dig deeper into the industry and you find even more grey areas: ingredients ‘hidden’ in complexes to keep brand secrets ‘safe’ from rivals, no rigid rules around what ‘clean’ or ‘green’ beauty really mean, and rampant greenwashing.
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Luckily, Cult Beauty has been listening to its customers who are struggling with the same issue. Partnering with transparency tech platform Provenance, in 2020 it launched its Cult Conscious category – an edit of over 80 brands that you can really trust. Using what’s called ‘product level proof points’ and ‘brand level proof points’ (meaning the brand has supplied proof regarding its claims), you can easily narrow down your searches and cut through the beauty industry noise. It makes it easy to find the brands that we really want to give our money to: Black-owned and female-founded businesses, brands that offset their carbon emissions and use recycled packaging or give back to local communities. Brands, in short, which are trying to do good in our post-COVID world. 

How it works

Next time you're on Cult Beauty, keep an eye out for products which are 'powered by provenance' – this is a sign that the brand’s statements are credible, depending on what they’ve promised. If a ‘proof point’ is verified, it’ll have a green tick next to the statement; this simply means that a third party has verified the accuracy of the statement. No green tick means that the information hasn’t been verified by a third party but the brand has uploaded evidence to support its claims which you can check out yourself. We love the ‘shop all’ function for easily narrowing down our searches.
To get you started, we’ve sifted through the Cult Conscious edit and pulled out the brands we’re most excited about shopping. Scroll down for our picks.
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Cult Conscious brand tags: Cruelty-Free, Female Founded Business
Price range (individual products): £14 - £46
Korean beauty brand Glow Recipe is already a cult favourite – our own beauty editor can’t stop raving about it – and you’re bound to have spotted it all over TikTok. The brand went viral earlier this year as TikTokers raved about its products delivering that much desired glow. Sure, the pretty pastel packaging is guaranteed Instagram fodder but these products actually work. More than this, they’re cruelty-free (the Cult Conscious edit tells me that they’re accredited by Cruelty Free International's Leaping Bunny Programme) and the brand is majority female-owned. If you’re new to Glow Recipe, we recommend the Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner, £31 – key to getting the ‘glass skin’ look – and the Pineapple-C Bright Serum, £46, which protects against pollution and dullness while moisturising. The toner comes in 100% recycled packaging and the serum is vegan.
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Cult Conscious brand tags: Cruelty-Free, Black Owned Business, Female Founded Business
Price range (individual products): £8.50 - £126
Natural beauty doesn’t stop at skincare and makeup. With everything from shampoos that soothe irritated scalps to deeply moisturising hair masks, Briogeo is quickly becoming a favourite for its vegan, cruelty-free and texture-specific hair care. If you're looking for curl care, try the Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner, £21.50 each. Shea butter and avocado oil drench curls with moisture without weighing them down, while tomato fruit ferment seals the cuticle and ensures that hair dries consistently, resulting in uniform curl formation. 
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Cult Conscious brand tags: Cruelty-Free, Female Founded Business, Donates To Charity, Supports Local Community
Price range (individual products): £14 - £85
Codex Beauty Labs is the industry’s favourite new kid on the block. The brand offers the highest quality ‘biotech’ beauty: an area of biology that uses living organisms, like plants, to develop formulas. By combining science with the power of nature, Codex creates products that really work – as proved by Cult Beauty’s Clinically Tested tag, which can be found on every single one of its products. What's more, Codex truly cares about its environmental and social impact. It works alongside local communities and indigenous people to monitor the impact of plant farming on local biomes, its tubes are made from renewable sugar cane and fully recyclable packaging, and the brand is aiming for a zero carbon footprint by 2025.
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Cult Conscious brand tags: Cruelty-Free, Female Founded Business 
Price range (individual products): £16 - £49
Pai was founded on the principle of honest, clean beauty. Its founder, Sarah Brown, was fed up of being let down by products which claimed to be ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘organic’ but left her skin hyper-sensitive and acne-prone. Pai Skincare, then, is designed to gently nourish sensitive skin without irritating it. The brand as a whole has the Cruelty-Free tag but our favourite products – the Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil, £18, Rosehip Bioregenerate Universal Face Oil, £16, and Love & Haight Avocado & Jojoba Hydrating Moisturiser, £38 – are verified vegan and organic, too. The first two use the regenerative power of rosehip oil to protect and nourish skin, while the third delivers a big dose of moisture that doesn’t overpower sensitive complexions. 
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Cult Conscious brand tags: Cruelty-Free & Vegan (PETA)
Price range (individual products): £16 - £61
Devised in a lab in California by the scientists who discovered an accessible cure for malaria (yes, really!), Biossance harnesses biotechnology to create highly effective skincare which is safe for us, for animals and for our planet. The brand is credited cruelty-free and vegan by PETA and many of its products have the EWG VERIFIED™ mark, meaning that they meet the EWG (Environmental Working Group)'s strictest criteria for transparency and health. The real star of the show is the sustainably sourced, plant-based squalane found in each product. Touted as the next big thing in skincare, squalane is produced naturally in our skin but is depleted as we age, causing dull, lacklustre complexions. Sharks have been hunted for this wonder ingredient since the 16th century (the oil can be found in their livers); Biossance’s renewable vegan alternative is derived from sugarcane and helps save 2 million sharks each year.
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Cult Conscious brand tags: Female Founded Business
Price range (individual products): £15 - £65
Beauty is more than skin deep; it’s also about what we’re putting into our bodies, which is why we love The Nue Co. The London-based brand produces a range of supplements which combine innovative science and natural ingredients. Founder Jules Miller wants to redefine our attitudes to health via an offering of targeted solutions designed for our busy, modern lifestyles – from promoting gut health and supporting stress management to bolstering immunity and easing muscle aches. Did we mention that the packaging is almost totally recyclable? Ninety-five percent is made from glass, 3% from easily recyclable card and the remaining 2% will be reused or recycled by the brand if you send it back. 
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Cult Conscious brand tags: Cruelty-Free & Vegan (PETA), Cruelty-Free
Price range (individual products): £12 - £59
"Powered by superfoods and perfected by science" – as described by Cult Beauty, you would be forgiven for confusing Youth to the People’s ingredients list with the recipe for your morning smoothie. Think antioxidant-rich leafy greens like spinach and kale combined with other natural nutrients, extracts and vitamins. Founded by cousins Greg Gonzalez and Joe Cloyes, the Californian brand builds on three generations of skincare expertise; it's a legacy started by their grandmother, Eva, a pioneer in pro-level skincare in the ‘70s. All about plant power, Youth to the People’s formulas are cruelty-free and 100% vegan. They’re also a huge success – the Kale + Green Tea Superfood Cleanser is the top seller on Sephora USA and the brand is a favourite of social media star Hyram Yarbro (aka Skincare By Hyram). No wonder, then, that Youth to the People is one of Cult Beauty's most requested acquisitions. 
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Cult Conscious brand tags: Female Founded Business
Price range (individual products): £18 - £22
19/99 Beauty, so named because beauty is ageless. Whether you’re 19 or 99, this brand believes that makeup should be fun and experimental, a space to make statements and subvert expectations. Frustrated by the lack of age representation within the beauty industry, cofounders Stephanie Spence and Camille Katona’s goal was to create beautiful products for those who laugh in the face of 'age-appropriate'. Rather, 19/99 Beauty harnesses intuitive formulas which give pride of place to versatility and sustainability, and the brand thoroughly vets each ingredient so that products can be used on the eyes, lips and cheeks. The Precision Colour Pencil, £19, and the High-Shine Gloss, £18, are also vegan. Colour is key here – we love the pencils for their vibrant shades and super blendable formula which make it easy to switch between a graphic eyeliner look and a bold smoky eye.
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Cult Conscious brand tags: Cruelty-Free
Price range (individual products): £15 - £49
REN is known and loved for its clean, gentle and cruelty-free face and body care. The brand has been pushing for a better beauty industry since 2000 and everything it does is underpinned by its 'clean to skin, clean to planet' ethos: a dedication to remain transparent, pursue ever-evolving sustainable solutions and use only recycled, recyclable and reusable packaging. REN's current ambition is to become zero-waste by the end of 2021. If you’re looking to replace your beauty kit staples with cruelty-free alternatives that won’t break the back, REN is a great place to start.
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Cult Conscious brand tags: Female Founded Business
Price range (individual products): £10 - £35
Founded by Jessica Alba, Honest Beauty is more than just another celebrity endorsement. The brand was born out of Alba's own frustration with the beauty industry and having to choose between 'what works' and 'what’s good for you'. Promising to remain transparent, it uses only the best vetted, verified ingredients – 2,500 and counting have made the brand’s ‘no-go list’ so far – and much of the range has earned Cult Beauty’s Clinically Tested tag.
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Cult Conscious brand tags: Vegan
Price range (individual products): £35 - £75
From the woman behind some of our most treasured fragrances, Jo Loves is a select bath, body and candle collection inspired by Jo Malone's favourite memories and moments. Highlights include White Rose & Lemon Leaves (an elegant blend of rose and lemon over a warm base of honey and amber), Pink Vetiver (a heady mix of pink peppercorn, cumin and vetiver inspired by spice markets in Grasse on the French Riviera) and Pomelo (a light, fresh summer scent that plays between citrus and spice). The majority of this edit is vegan, too, so you won't have to give up your signature scent if you adopt the plant-based lifestyle.  
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Cult Conscious brand tags: Cruelty-Free, Donates To Charity
Price range (individual products): £24 - £60
FARMACY is all about 'farm-to-face' beauty and the brand works with farms across the world to discover the most innovative and unique natural ingredients. Ensuring these are the freshest and most potent available, it then activates them in the lab to maximise their skincare benefits. The ingredients list is an exotic and exciting mix (moringa tree extract, licorice root or papaya enzymes, anyone?) but the real hero is the brand's patented Echinacea GreenEnvy complex: antioxidant-rich, it protects skin from nasty free radicals. Aside from what’s inside FARMACY, much of its packaging is 100% recycled and the brand also gives back to Feeding America, which supports food banks across the US.

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