Happy World Vegan Day. It’s 2018 and veganism has really taken off. From restaurant menus to the clothes on our backs, more and more industries are making an effort to meet consumer demands and support animal welfare by going cruelty-free – and the beauty world is no exception. According to the NPD Group, in 2018 there was a 38% increase in the sale of vegan beauty products in the UK, and we can be sure the numbers are set to grow in 2020, as a number of us cast aside the notion that vegan products are restrictive or second-rate.
Smaller brands like Axiology and Arbonne led the way in vegan beauty, swapping animal-derived ingredients for the plant-based variety. Nowadays, myriad big-name brands like Hourglass and Charlotte Tilbury are getting on board, ditching animal byproducts, such as lanolin and beeswax (which typically make up beauty must-haves like foundation and mascara) for vegan alternatives. Admittedly, I was sceptical. Would vegan offerings feel watered down? Would they work as well? And would the packaging be as #shelfie-worthy as my other buys? But that’s exactly why I accepted the challenge of swapping all my usual products, from skincare to makeup, for vegan versions for a whole week. Here’s how I got on...
I usually buy Elemental Herbology’s Vital Cleanse Facial Cleanser, on repeat because of how bright my skin looks after using it every day, but it contains manuka honey – first fail! A quick search for 'vegan skincare' turned up Peter Thomas Roth’s Water Drench Cloud Cream Cleanser; I bought it straightaway because of the rave reviews. It left my skin feeling refreshed and hydrated, thanks to the hyaluronic acid which quenches thirsty cells and marshmallow root extract – an ingredient which is quickly gaining popularity in vegan skincare for its skin-softening properties. It also eradicated every single scrap of makeup. So far, so good.
I’m a toner advocate because I’m convinced a quick once-over keeps my skin clear and primes it for any skincare I apply on top. I discovered a really cool brand called Kypwell, whose products are all cruelty-free, void of parabens and mineral oils, and of course, vegan. Their Signature Flower Mist Toner, swaps glycerin (sometimes made from animal fats and oils and a staple in many face mists because it attracts moisture) for an army of herbs as well as rose petals, chamomile and elderflower. After a couple of spritzes my face felt much cleaner. I later found out that the combined ingredients have antibacterial and anti-pollution properties, which is a total win. I think I might have to stockpile this one.
I can’t leave the house without applying moisturiser, but I know a lot of products contain things like lanolin (derived from sheep’s wool) or beeswax. I returned to my friend, Peter Thomas Roth, and his 10% Glycolic Solutions Moisturiser. Anything that aims to reduce dullness, kickstart collagen, banish breakouts and restore my uneven skin tone gets my vote. It went on smoothly and there was no irritation thanks to the addition of aloe vera. Ten percent glycolic is quite high, though, so if you have sensitive skin, be cautious. I’d also suggest following with an SPF – Glossier’s Daily Sunscreen SPF 30, is vegan.
I also picked up Tata Harper’s Restorative Eye Crème, because everyone from Caroline Hirons to beauty editors raves about it. I know it’s incredibly expensive, but I decided to treat myself because I absolutely adore the philosophy behind the brand. Tata is known to grow most of the vegan ingredients on her farm and the eye cream is made in small batches using minimal preservatives. The glass bottle is also recyclable. It felt satisfyingly refreshing on the first application. I’m still using it because it's great at smoothing puffiness and I hope to say goodbye to my dark bags soon, too.
My skin likes consistency so I kept my morning routine the same until the end of the week, when I started to add Bio-Extracts' Clean to Clear Boost – a plant-derived exfoliating treatment – to my moisturiser to combat some spots that creep up every now and then. It’s an under-the-radar vegan brand that deserves so much more recognition and at that price, this product is a pretty good deal, as you can get up to 50 'shots' out of it.
Many haircare products I’ve used in the past contain cashmere (wool from the Kashmir goat) or allantoin – uric acid from cows. Without these, I was worried that my hair would feel a bit dry or look really dull. But I’d spotted vegan Aussie haircare brand Mr. Smith all over Instagram, so I headed into Salon 64 and picked up the Hydrating Shampoo and Hydrating Conditioner; my hair is super thick and there’s a lot of it – thank you, Persian roots. The monochrome bottles looked so chic in my bathroom and dispelled the myth that vegan beauty products have questionable packaging. Impressively, the shampoo lathered up a treat. I’d never tried haircare containing neem seed and marula oil before, but they made my hair feel silky and a little easier to brush. I always go sulphate-free anyway, but this is the first time I’ve immediately felt a positive difference in my hair.
Two days later, I discovered Trevor Sorbie had launched a vegan, cruelty-free haircare range at Superdrug so I snapped up the Tame & Define shampoo and conditioner duo, which, amazingly, resulted in a hell of a lot less frizz than I’m used to. With 95% natural ingredients, no silicone, mineral oil or sodium chloride, it promised to define curls, not straighten out movement. This swayed me, because I always want to embrace my natural texture. For a brand that emerged from a hair salon, the vegan products are surprisingly pocket-friendly. Sold.
I picked up Yope’s Coconut & Sea Salt Shower Gel, as it doesn’t contain animal-derived fatty acids like some body washes do. Instead, it employs natural mineral salts, coconut, proteins and vitamins. The bottle is huge for the price. It doesn’t have a pungent scent like others and it only takes a single pump to lather up. After a week of using this every morning, my skin felt so nourished and my body breakouts virtually disappeared. This has to be my favourite buy of the lot.
On the first day, I realised I couldn’t use my usual body cream (thanks, royal jelly – that one comes from bees) so I ran out to grab Vita Coco’s Coconut Oil, which I’ve used before as a body oil and loved. It’s literally cold-pressed coconut oil and nothing else. It really hydrates my skin – better than a cream, in fact – and having it in the shower means it doubles up as a shaving product. I wouldn’t use it on my face, though, as I’m prone to spots and it can clog my pores.
I wasn’t worried about finding a vegan perfume, even though I like musky scents, because this component is now typically derived from synthetic ingredients. Still, this was a chance to treat myself. Elizabeth & James’ Nirvana collection is vegan and I picked White Nirvana for the mix of sweet and smoky notes. It’s slightly more grown up than my usual Dior Hypnotic Poison, but it’s good to try something new, right?
It’s not hard to find vegan makeup. Brands like Kat Von D, Hourglass and Chantecaille are all on board; in fact, I’ve been using some of their vegan products already. On Thursday evening I had casual drinks with my colleagues, so chose light makeup. I opted for The Body Shop’s All In One BB Cream, and was pleased to find that it covered my blemishes and lent my skin a dewy, radiant finish. I then added a touch of MUA’s Bronzed Shimmer Bronzing Powder, a vegan bargain at £4.
At the start of the week, I had to put aside my usual brush collection, as many of them are made from animal hair, so I applied most of my makeup with my fingers or Chantecaille’s Cheek Brush. The synthetic bristles felt great on my skin but I can’t get over how pricey it is for a brush. I made a mental note to pop to Boots to pick up some EcoTools brushes, which are vegan and affordable. To finish, I applied Axiology's Instinct Lipstick. I loved the unique honey-caramel nude and how moisturised it made my lips feel – plus I received so many compliments! I’m currently checking out their other products, too.
On Saturday, I went out out, and I’m pleased to say that the vegan beauty industry is totally there for my need for full coverage makeup. I started with Charlotte Tilbury’s Wonderglow Primer, listed as vegan-friendly on the website. It’s more expensive than my usual Revlon Fill & Blur, but I wasn’t disappointed by how it looked on my face so it’s worth the investment. When it came to foundation, I grabbed Hourglass’ Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick – it’s actually always been one of my favourite foundations because I love how weightless but long-wearing it is. It offers maximum coverage, falling midway between a matte and dewy finish. My vegan friends champion this brand, too.
I also tried RMS Beauty’s ‘Un’ Powder. It's been touted as one of the best vegan face powders around, but in all honesty, I prefer Laura Mercier’s Translucent Powder, as it’s non-cakey and non-comedogenic, so won’t block pores. To add colour, I used Chantecaille’s Cheek Gelee Hydrating Gel-Cream Blush in Lively – the only vegan blush in the range – and loved how natural a stain the creamy formula lent my cheeks. To my surprise, it lasted the whole evening. Another win.
Kat Von D is my go-to for eyeliner – she’s a huge advocate for veganism and you only have to scroll through her Instagram to realise how much it means to her. I’ve been using her Tattoo Liner (yep, the one that went viral for lasting through a car accident) for some time now and would never go back, so I was incredibly excited to try some of her other products. Scouring Debenhams, I picked up the Brow Struck Powder in Walnute. I was really impressed with how bold my brows looked after a once-over with a brush.
I was a little worried about an entirely vegan beauty regime, especially because I had a carefully selected arsenal of products that worked well for me. However – while there are certain things I was happy to go back to using – I would now readily swap the majority of my products for vegan alternatives. In fact, some of the products I sampled over the past week have firmly replaced others in my beauty regime. And even though I splurged here and there, this challenge didn’t burn a hole in my pocket like I thought it would.
I don’t follow a vegan diet in everyday life, so I have to admit that I’d never given much thought to vegan beauty products before this week. Now I understand that people go vegan – in all aspects of life – for heaps of reasons. Many have emotional attachments to animals, lots want to prevent their exploitation, while others believe that they have a right to life and freedom – all of which I respect.
Refinery29's selection is purely editorial and independently chosen – we only feature items we love! As part of our business model we do work with affiliates; if you directly purchase something from a link on this article, we may earn a small amount of commission. Transparency is important to us at Refinery29, if you have any questions please reach out to us.
Shop This Story