I enjoy all things beauty. I like to experiment with make-up, wear nice clothes, indulge in skincare, and nurse my hair through frequent colouring and heat styling. The problem? It can sometimes be a challenge finding products that not only work but also fit into my budget and align with my morals.

That’s right; we’re talking about beauty and morals. My inner animal lover is coming out full force today. I don’t abstain from animal products; I still eat meat and wear leather, but I don’t agree with animal testing. I’m a human, and I want the products I use to be tested for their efficacy on me…not Thumper the Rabbit.

I can understand there are certain arguments for animal testing in medical research, but for my lipstick? Uh, no. If you are putting something in my lipstick that you need to test on rats to ensure it won’t kill me then I want nothing to do with you anyways. There is nothing you need to add to a product I’m applying to my skin that should be that toxic. Cool?

Defining Cruelty-Free

It can be hard to find a definitive definition of ‘cruelty-free’ and there is a lot of deceptive marketing out there. Pick up just about any cosmetic product and you’ll find some sort of pro-animal label stuck on it. How do you know what’s legit?

There are three resources that have searchable databases to look up the animal friendliness of particular brands. They have differing levels of regulation and all happen to use bunny logos…because of course!

Choose Cruelty-Free

Choose Cruelty-Free is an organization based in Australia. They have the smallest database of approved products but are limited in scope because they are Australian and not international. To earn their logo on your product you and all your suppliers cannot test any ingredients on animals. There is a questionnaire and legally binding contract and regular re-accreditation ensures ongoing compliance. However, there is no audit system in place to uncover bad behaviour.

Cruelty-Free International (Leaping Bunny)

Cruelty-Free Internation is the only international organization and are likely the most well known because of celebrity spokespeople like Ricky Gervais. To become a member of their Leaping Bunny program companies have to adhere to their standards against animal testing and agree to independent audits. This addition of audits is a big one because it means someone is actually going in and looking for compliance.

PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies

You’ve likely heard of PETA, for better or for worse, and they too have their own program for cruelty-free products. The beauty without bunnies program is the easiest to enrol in as the only requirement is the completion of a short questionnaire. Submissions are verified by PETA but no ongoing monitoring is performed. Just because a company only appears in the searchable PETA database doesn’t necessarily mean it’s no good, but you might want to do a bit more research if you want to be 100% certain.

Cruelty Free Organizations

No International Standard

The main reason for the discrepancy is that rules differ across borders. In Canada and the United States animal testing is not required, but that’s not the case everywhere. China REQUIRES animal testing on any imported cosmetics, and that’s a huge market to pass up if you’re in the business. There’s a push for change but until that happens many companies will continue testing on animals to get access to the Chinese market.

Brands can also disassociate themselves from their suppliers when claiming cruelty-free status. The brand itself may not test products on animals but they could buy from suppliers that do.

This is also an issue when it comes to the actions of a parent company. For example, The Body Shop and NYX Cosmetics are both technically cruelty-free brands but they are owned by L’Oreal which is not. You need to decide how strict you want your standards to be.

Brands I Support

When choosing cosmetic brands I try to look for companies that don’t test on animals, have good value for my money, and actually work. Until doing some background research for this post I didn’t about all the different qualifying stands for cruelty-free. I am happy to see that at least some of the brands I commonly use are on the lists, and I’m still confident the others fit within my own set of standards.

Rocky Mountain Soap Co

This is a local-ish company that I’ve been a fan of for awhile. Their soaps have been in my arsenal of stocking stuffer ideas for years but I’ve also converted to a few of their other products on a more consistent basis. I love that all their products are both toxin and cruelty-free.

I’ll be honest, I have not had a good sunscreen routine in the past. I could never find one that worked and didn’t make my face breakout. That changed when I tried out the Vanilla Coconut Sunscreen. It has become my go-to moisturizer during the summer months. Yes, moisturizer! It is moisturizing enough to do double duty as a moisturizer and a sunscreen. It is thick and takes a bit of work to blend in but doesn’t leave you looking all greasy and it smells delicious.

I’ve also converted to the Rocky Mountain Soap Co Natural Deodorant. It works, and that’s more than I can say about other natural deodorants I’ve tested. I do have to reapply more regularly than normal deodorant but I can live with that to avoid all the chemicals.

Burts Bees

When you think of Burts Bees you might not think of make-up. They are well known for their natural products (everything from baby wipes to dog shampoo) but have recently expanded their makeup offerings. I’ve been using their tinted lip balm for years and am a recent convert to their glossy lipstick. I often find matte lipsticks too drying so this moisturizing option is great. I find the colour really buildable so you can get a bold lip or smudge it on with your finger for a natural look.

E.L.F. Cosmetics

I have a slight obsession with E.L.F. products; they are just so darn cheap! I’ll be honest, I was surprised that they were also cruelty-free because usually that comes with an at least slightly higher price tag. E.L.F. is about as cheap as you can get though. If you’re from Canada you can order online but there are additional duty and shipping fees. The super low prices mean that this isn’t a deal breaker though. I have seen their products popping up in more and more drugstores lately so keep an eye out for them locally.

I have a long list of products I’ve tried and loved but I’ll narrow the list down to just a few. The brown sugar lip exfoliator is amazing to prep before applying lipstick. The lengthening and volumizing mascara gives a nice natural look as is waterproof but still washes off easily with my normal cleanser. This is important because it doesn’t smudge but doesn’t require an extra make-up removal step. Finally, the eyeshadow primer works just as well as the way more expensive Urban Decay version and is $2. Yes, TWO DOLLARS.

The Ordinary

Switching over to skincare now and another recent addition to my regimen. The Ordinary is fairly new on the scene and making waves because of it’s low cost, high-quality skin care products. You could pay hundreds on similar products from other brands. So far I’ve tried the ‘Buffet’ serum and the Rose Hip Seed Oil and the combo has made my skin very happy.

You can order directly from their site or from Sephora if you want those insider rewards. As of right now, you can only get the products only through Sephora and they have been selling out fast.


I had heard good things about Milani from a few people but didn’t actually try them out until recently. Their baked blush is the product people seem to rave about the most and I always had an endless supply of blush! It seriously takes me forever to finish a container. After finally giving it a go I understand what all the hype is about. The blush is highly pigmented so you just need a tiny amount (which means it will last FOREVER) and it also blends nicely. I’ve only tried the ‘rose’ shade which works well with my medium tone complexion.

So, those are the brands that are in my make-up bag that meet my animal-friendly standards. It took me awhile to find enough products that fit the guidelines and didn’t break the bank. Hopefully these recommendations will help you stay on budget if cruelty-free products are important to you.

Do you try and stick with cruelty-free products? If so, what are some of your favourites? I’m always looking for new recommendations so please share in the comments.¬†

Looking for affordable cruelty free makeup? Here are five brands that are animal friendly, high quality and good bang for your buck.


This post was proofread by Grammarly.

Image Credit: freestocks.org


  1. I love that you are writing about this! Just because we want to save money (or not spend a fortune), doesn’t mean we also don’t have ethics or morals that we want to uphold. I’ve been using cruelty-free products for as long as I can remember so it’s also something that is super important to me and I’m always into finding new brands. I also really like The Ordinary – I’m using their foundation, moisturizer and face oil. Their price points are seriously bananas. I’ve also hurt good things about e.l.f. and Milani so I might have to check them out when I need refills!

    • Sarah Reply

      Bananas right!! I’ve only tried skincare from The Ordinary but I’ll have to try their foundation especially since I’ve never found one I really love.

      Being able to find great products that also align with my morals is a huge win and I’m happy to see more companies adopting that strategy.

  2. I have a post drafted about my favorite cruelty-free products. It is such a labor to find these things! I get so frustrated when companies I love get bought out (here’s looking at you Burt’s Bees). The good news is, more and more of them are sticking with not animal testing despite their parent companies!

    • Sarah Reply

      I hate that Burt’s Bees is owned by Clorox but from what I’ve read they still don’t test on animals. Not ideal though, as you’re still supporting Clorox indirectly.

      I’d love to see your list too! I’ve been known to be a bit of a product junkie so I’m always looking for new finds.

  3. Do you know if there’s an Ordinary product that is similar to Sunday Riley’s Good Genes? I hear about that brand all the time, but for some reason I discounted them because their prices were low…

  4. Hey, Sarah. Sorry it’s been so long. I know this is off topic, but I have to ask. Are you enjoying the cup? How crazy is it that a first-year expansion team is only three wins away from hoisting Lord Stanley?

    • Sarah Reply

      So crazy right?! I can’t decide if it’s terrible for the league or if it’s an amazing underdog story. So far the series hasn’t disappointed. I’m rooting for Washington as I’d love to see Ovi get a cup but Vegas hasn’t made it easy to cheer against them. Fleury is so likeable and I’m a sucker for an underdog.

  5. Hey, Sarah!
    I loved this post. I’ve been wanting to transition into all cruelty-free and organic makeup products, but it can be hard to do it all at once with products that actually give you the results you want. I love that you’ve rounded up some inexpensive options that make it possible.

    I’ve used a Milani baked blush before and loved it, and have The Ordinary at the top of my list to try out!

    • Sarah Reply

      It definitely takes some time to transition. There’s no point throwing out existing product just to make the change. Hopefully you have good luck with some of these brands, I absolutely love The Ordinary.

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