Many makeup brands claim to be vegan but aren’t. And many vegan makeup brands claim to be eco-friendly but arrive with an excess of plastic. Here are the best vegan cosmetic brands that are genuinely vegan and sustainable.
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We’ve written previously on why vegan cosmetics are better for the planet. If you don’t have time to read the entire article, here are some of the key takeaways:
- Cruelty-free cosmetics tend to have fewer synthetic chemicals
- Animal testing is both cruel and wasteful
- People are less likely to throw away natural, vegan cosmetics
- Vegan cosmetics don’t typically promote deforestation
- Vegan cosmetics are better for bees.
While looking for vegan cosmetics, be sure to keep an eye out for certifications from places like The Vegan Society. As we covered in the above post, PETA-approved and Leaping Bunny-certified cosmetics are typically vegan, but they could also simply be free from animal testing; animal-derived ingredients such as milk, honey, or carmine are still fair game.
Highlights: Canadian B Corp making sustainable vegan makeup with almost exclusively Fair Trade and organic ingredients. Products come in reusable, zero-waste aluminum and FSC certified bamboo housing with seed paper pouch refills!
Elate Beauty offers an extensive range of lipstick, brow balm, eyeliner, pressed powder, mascara, makeup brushes, and more. All of its products come in sustainable packaging and are certified Leaping Bunny Cruelty-Free and PETA vegan. This makeup is also gluten-free, free of nanoparticles, and contains around 75% of ingredients organic. Elate Beauty favors Fair Trade over organic, though, as part of its wider social mission. Currently, 100% of its products are compostable or recyclable and about 75% are plastic-free.
Elate Beauty lets you customize makeup palettes to suit your complexion, and provides refills in cute seed paper pouches. Plant these to grow herbs and non-invasive wildflowers and support your local pollinators.
The company also offers an imperfectly perfect collection in housing with minor dents or scratches. Snag a bargain on perfectly usable cosmetics and help Elate Beauty minimize waste!
Elate Beauty packs products in reusable aluminum and bamboo housing. The pressed powders come in recyclable aluminum pans that fit into any magnetic palette or compact. This is deliberate as it means you don’t have to buy a new compact because of a weird or irregular size or shape.
All Elate packaging is eligible to be returned (for free, using Canada Post) for proper recycling and disposal. You can earn Beauty Ritualist points for recycling items.
Elate Beauty works with a green-certified, fair trade Chinese manufacturer that produces bamboo housing using FSC certified bamboo. The bamboo is water processed and never chemically treated. The products are also assembled in China to minimize Elate Beauty’s environmental footprint low.
The wood in Elate Beauty’s pencils is Californian cedar wood certified PEFC (Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification). The pencil caps are sustainable bio caps produced with 55% renewable materials (non-GMO corn) and 45% fossil fuel-based materials. The cap can be composted in municipal facilities.
Elate Beauty offers foundations and liquid products in recyclable glass jars. It ships all products in plastic-free packaging that is recyclable and compostable. Elate Beauty offsets its emissions with Bullfrog Power, is a Canadian B Corporation, and donates 2% of sales to charity. The company has also planted 15,000 trees and every order contributes to more trees through One Tree Planted. Elate Beauty is also a Green Business Association member and an approved Surfrider Foundation business.
The only real downsides to this company are its use of palm oil derivatives. However, Elate Beauty sources only RSPO certified palm oil, which isn’t perfect but is better than nothing. Elate Beauty uses fair trade mica from suppliers who are active members of the Responsible Mica Initiative.
Highlights: 100% zero-waste, vegan, cruelty-free cosmetic crayons for lips, eyes, and cheeks from a woman-of-color-owned business in the U.S.
Axiology is a PETA-certified vegan and cruelty-free, palm oil-free company. It makes safe, non-toxic lipsticks that also work for cheeks and eyelids. The woman-of-color-owned small business offers innovative 3-in-1 sustainable Balmies crayons and Multi-Sticks that are plastic-free. Axiology 3-in-1 Balmies offer smooth, buildable color for eyes, cheeks, and lips.
Instead of traditional plastic tubes, these crayons have a recycled paper wrapper. They come in a recyclable carrying case handmade from recycled trash by a women’s cooperative in Bali. The company’s zero waste and plastic-free packaging won it a 2020 Beacon Award for Sustainability Champion.
Around 70% of Axiology ingredients are organic, and the company doesn’t use nanoparticles. It sources its shea butter and moringa oil through fair trade channels. The products are gluten-free, soy-free, and fragrance-free.
There is some mica in the Balmies. Axiology sources this responsibly, avoiding pigments from mines in India or South Africa (where child labor and indentured labor are more common). The Balmies also contain biodegradable shimmer/glitter (made with seaweed) rather than plastic glitter.
Don’t be surprised by the size of the crayons! These Balmies are actually a fairly standard size for lipstick (0.12 ounces) but appear minuscule because they’re not sheathed and capped in chunky plastic.
Treat yourself to the bumper pack including all of Axiology’s crayons. Then add a single carry case (made with cardboard) for just $2 and stash your favorite color in your bag when you’re heading out.
Update: Axiology now also offers Multi-Sticks (barely there lipsticks, blush, etc.) in 100% FSC certified paper packaging that’s recyclable!
Highlights: Clean Faced Cosmetics describes itself as “Mostly organic. Completely vegan. Zero waste AF.” A company after my own heart!
Clean Faced Cosmetics is a Michigan-based company offering completely vegan makeup in reusable metal tins or glass containers. It provides refills in biodegradable cellulose bags and is palm oil-free and cruelty-free. The Clean Faced Cosmetics range includes lip balms, lipstick, eyeshadows, mascara/eyeliner, bronzer, foundation powders, skincare, and more.
The company creates products to order, so you can customize palettes and order in bulk. I love that the owner has a no-nonsense approach, doesn’t fearmonger about ‘chemicals’, and uses mostly organic ingredients. There are some artificial colors (red and yellow Lakes) in some products but these are rated as safe by EWG.
Clean Faced Cosmetics isn’t a huge company but still takes care to source mica ethically from Germany and the U.S. The company is also aiming to operate a totally zero-waste enterprise, with most current packaging either biodegradable, recyclable, or reusable. The mascara and eyeliner, however, have compostable bamboo applicator wands with a nylon tip.
You can also purchase refills with a 10% discount (send the owner a message for a coupon code). CFC mails powder products in biodegradable cellulose bags. For other refills, mail your empty (and clean) containers for CFC to refill and send back. Contact CFC for the shipping label and rest assured that Etsy offsets all carbon emissions from shipping.
Highlights: U.S. company making plant-based cosmetics by hand using EWG-verified and organic ingredients in mostly zero-waste paper packaging.
River Organics is based in Wilmington, North Carolina. It makes all its products by hand using plant-based ingredients that are mostly EWG-verified and organic. The company’s range includes blushes, concealer, bronzer, lip gloss, eyeshadows and more. Everything is vegan, palm oil-free, and free of artificial fragrances and colors. The company uses lab-made conflict-free mica.
River Organics packages everything in recycled and/or recyclable zero-waste materials with paper tubes and pots and sugarcane-based labels. It also uses recycled shipping envelopes padded with upcycled scraps or biodegradable cornstarch packing peanuts. The company donates to environmental and animal welfare organizations.
Highlights: Super stylish, certified organic and vegan make-up packaged in sustainable and refillable containers.
Zao offers standout sustainable vegan makeup packaged in gorgeous bamboo with refills available for almost all products. The palettes are magnetized for ease of use and everything is cruelty-free and PETA certified vegan as well as gluten-free, and ECOCERT or organic certified. The company doesn’t use petrochemical derivatives or synthetic preservatives, and only uses natural vanilla extract to perfume products.
Zao is almost totally zero-waste and plastic-free, though their brushes are synthetic (and vegan) and some of the refill packaging is BPA-free recyclable plastic. The company makes its products in Italy, France, and the Czech Republic. It uses reusable cotton pouches for some products but is looking to replace these with bamboo.
The best bets for zero-waste are the eye shadows, compact powders, and other compact products as these are plastic-free. Zao products got a top rating from the Think Dirty App for having zero ingredients with a documented potential negative health impact. The brand was also highlighted by the Slow Cosmetics Association for its commitment to eco-friendliness, encompassing product composition, packaging, and advertising.
Highlights: Zero-waste, cruelty-free, and vegan mascara that is 100% carbon neutral and zero-waste. Products come in a refillable stainless steel tube designed to be reused over 10,000 times!
Izzy is a zero-waste, certified CarbonNeutral® mascara that is cruelty-free and vegan, gluten-free, and great for lengthening, curling, and volumizing. It comes in a medical-grade, American-made stainless steel tube designed to be cleaned and refilled over 10,000 times. The company’s mission is to prevent you ever having to throw away mascara again.
Izzy’s subscription model (which you can cancel or pause at any time) gets you a refilled mascara every three months. Use the prepaid mailer to return your empty tube. The company cleans and sanitizes these tubes for reuse. Unlike many zero-waste companies, Izzy doesn’t outsource its recycling. Instead, it actually grinds and recycles the plastic wipers and brushes in the applicators at the Izzy facility. Izzy also uses reusable mailers, so the shipping process is also zero-waste.
Compared to a typical mascara, Izzy mascara uses 94% less plastic and has a 78% smaller carbon footprint after 25 refills. Izzy Zero Waste Mascara is certified CarbonNeutral®, thanks to the reuse program and local manufacturing (within 400-miles of the Northeastern US company HQ).
This all costs just $35 for the initial purchase of the refillable mascara, then $19 every three months. You can cancel or pause your subscription whenever you like. Or choose a one-off purchase of $39 to try it out and then add a subscription or refills later.
My only issues with Izzy mascara are the presence of polysorbate-60 and benzyl alcohol. The former poses a slight risk of contamination with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. The latter is itself a moderate risk to human health and is flagged by the Canadian Environmental Protection Agency as expected to be toxic or harmful.
Please note that Izzy charges a $25 restocking fee, plus an additional fee of $5 for each reusable shipper that you fail to return with the tube for refilling. This applies to all customers and is meant to encourage customers to embrace the closed-loop, sustainable business model.
One to watch
One of our favorite vegan makeup brands is taking a break while the owner recovers from a short illness. We hope they’re feeling better and up and running again soon as Dirty Hippie Cosmetics offers some of the best zero-waste, cruelty-free beauty products around!
Highlights: Almost totally zero-waste, 100% vegan company making high-quality cosmetics and personal care products. Ingredients are mostly organic, wild foraged, and homegrown by the company.
Dirty Hippie Cosmetics is a completely vegan cosmetics company offering products in mostly zero-waste packaging. The company is cruelty-free and sources ingredients sustainably and ethically, including fair trade where possible. Most of the ingredients are certified organic, while some are wild foraged or grown at the company’s headquarters using organic permaculture practices. The range includes foundation, primer, mascara, blush, lipstick, eyeshadow, brow powders, and more.
Dirty Hippie Cosmetics strives to be plastic-free, though some products have a tiny amount of plastic. For example, the mascara comes in a recyclable glass vial with an aluminum screw cap and a bamboo handle with a synthetic fiber spoolie. Happily, you can add a note to your order to omit the applicator if you already have one!
Every item is handmade to order in a zero-waste community in Bemboka, NSW, Australia. The company is very small, so don’t expect a fast turnaround, especially in the U.S. Dirty Hippie Cosmetics uses minimal packaging, including recycled newspaper padding and post-consumer recycled paper tape and boxes. Many products are packaged in paper, with the rest in aluminum and glass containers that can be recycled.
If you’re in Australia, you can take advantage of the Dirty Hippie Cosmetics recycling program and return empties. The company prints its labels with refillable plant-based ink, is mostly solar-powered, and already offsets 50% of carbon emissions.
Most products are palm oil-free. However, DHC does not currently have a palm oil-free supplier of organic Cetearyl olivate or Sorbitan olivate emulsifying wax. These ingredients are in mascaras, eyeliners, concealers, facial primer, and some moisturizers.