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Clean and green beauty may be getting all the buzz these days, but let’s not forget cruelty-free beauty. A distinction that used to be reserved only for small, niche brands, more and more cruelty-free makeup products—including affordable drugstore options—are now on the market.
It's worth pointing out that the term can sometimes get thrown around loosely, so it’s important to do a little research and make sure these brands actually produce products that don't harm animals. Look for certifications like the Leaping Bunny seal, or check out PETA’s helpful resources if you want to be extra sure. Seek out brands that are transparent about their ingredient sourcing, including third parties involved. Those may be ingredient suppliers, or companies they sell their products or ingredients to. Sound tough to be sure about? You can shop from our list of favorite brands that produce high-quality, harm-free makeup at great budget price points.
Read on for the best cruelty-free drugstore makeup brands.
Easy to blend
Not as long-lasting as other options
The brand: When creating Flower Beauty, Drew Barrymore’s mission was to create high-quality products at accessible prices. Being cruelty-free has also been a point of focus since day one, and many of the products also vegan.
The hero product: For one reason or another, finding a good gel or cream blush at the drugstore had always proved a little tricky—until Flower Beauty’s Blush Bomb Color Drops came along. A gel-cream hybrid, this formula is perfectly silky and lightweight, blending seamlessly into skin. Bonus points for the applicator, which makes it easy to dispense drop-by-drop until you reach your desired level of flushness.
Shade Range: 8 | Finish: Natural, dewy | Size: 0.3 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Doesn't dry out skin
May irritate sensitive skin
Originally launched in the UK over two decades ago, the brand has become a stateside drugstore staple—and a 100% cruelty-free one at that. Their goods all use hardworking, active ingredients in formulas that truly deliver, whether it's in their skincare or makeup offerings.
The hero product: Okay, technically the Pixi Glow Tonic isn’t a makeup product, but it’s so iconic we can’t not mention it. The glycolic acid-based exfoliating toner brightens and smooths, generally leaving your complexion looking all-around radiant and glowing. It’s alcohol-free and not in the least bit drying.
Active Ingredients: Glycolic acid, ginseng, aloe vera, fructose, sucrose | Skin Type: All | Benefits: Unclogs pores, exfoliates, soothes, boosts radiance | Size: 8.5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Wet N Wild
Glides on smooth
Not as precise as other options
The brand: This brand is well known for amazing products at rock-bottom prices—but they’ve been cruelty-free for decades and do no animal testing. They’ve also earned a spot on PETA’s prestigious Beauty Without Bunnies cruelty-free list, so you know they’re super legit.
The hero product: Try this insanely amazing arch-perfector and we’re willing to bet you’ll ditch any other brow product you were using. The Ultimate Brow Retractable's creamy color glides on seamlessly to fill and define brows, while the built-in spoolie blends everything to perfection.
Type: Pencil | Shades: 4 | Size: 0.007 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Safe for contact lens wearers
Doesn't dry quickly
The brand: A staple of the drugstore makeup scene, this brand recently undertook the massive effort of making all of their products totally cruelty-free. It was a process that took years, but now they’re Leaping Bunny certified, the gold standard for cruelty-free certification in the beauty world.
The hero product: Beauty editors rave about the CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara, repeatedly making the claim that it’s a nearly identical (if not better) dupe for a much pricier luxury formula that shall not be named. A volumizing formula coupled with a specially-designed brush leave lashes looking full and fluttery, and it doesn’t smudge or clump.
Benefits: Volumizes, lengthens | Size: 0.44 oz. | Shades: 4 | Waterproof: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Soft and plush
Creates an airbrushed look
Can lose its shape after a while
The brand: A Target mainstay, Sonia Kashuk doesn't test ingredients or finished products on animals, nor do they work with suppliers that test on animals. They even refused to sell on mainland China so that they would remain completely cruelty-free.
The hero product: Per the cruelty-free point, you better believe that the bristles on the Essential Flat-Top Foundation Brush are completely synthetic—yet they're such great quality you’d never known it. Soft and not in the least bit scratchy, we also love the flat-top of this brush that's ideal for buffing in foundation for an airbrushed effect.
Size: 6.5 x 1.77 in. | Material: Synthetic bristles
Can apply patchy, may need multiple coats
The brand: Beloved by beauty bloggers and pro makeup artists alike, this affordable brand—known for constantly churning out a laundry list of amazing and on-trend launches—is also committed to being cruelty-free. They’ve been such since 2010, and are certified and acknowledged by PETA.
The hero product: This brand's Soft Matte Lip Cream strikes that seemingly-impossible balance of having a true matte finish, yet still feeling delightfully creamy on lips. Super pigmented, the color sets in seconds (and stays put), and there’s an incredible line-up of varied shades to choose from.
Finish: Matte | Shades: 34 | Size: 0.27 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Great color payoff
The brand: Milani has been Leaping Bunny certified since 2014 and many of the products are also vegan. It's a brand that consistently comes out with incredibly high-performing products that ring in at incredibly wallet-friendly prices.
The hero product: You get a trio of micro-milled, supremely silky highlighting powders in the Stellar Lights Highlighter Palette, all of which impart plenty of gorgeously shimmery color. Swirl them together or use them individually; you really can’t go wrong.
Type: Powder | Shades: 3 | Finish: Metallic | Size: 0.42 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
These tones also look stunning dusted on eyelids.
Easy to blend
Great for darker skin tones
Smaller amount than other options
The brand: Shade inclusivity is prevalent in the beauty world these days, but that wasn’t the case when supermodel Iman launched her eponymous line in 1994. Hence her emphasis on creating products that come in shades for all skin tones—and they also happen to be cruelty-free.
The hero product: The Luxury Concealing Foundation earns major points not only for the long-wearing formula and radiant texture but also for the buildable yet full-coverage. It works just as well as an all-over foundation as it does as a concealer to spot treat areas of discoloration and redness. And, of course, there are plenty of shades for darker skin tones.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 11 | Finish: Radiant | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Includes storage case
Great for beginners
Soft and plush
Application isn't as precise as other options
The brand: True to the name, all of these eco-friendly tools are not only cruelty-free, touting high-quality synthetic bristles in their brushes, but are also environmentally-friendly. The handles are made of sustainable bamboo, and their packaging is both biodegradable and plantable.
The hero product: The Start the Day Beautifully Kit contains pretty much all the makeup brushes you could ever need. It comes with five staples—blush brush, foundation brush, concealer brush, eyeshadow brush, and liner brush—and the packaging doubles as a convenient storage tray.
Size: 4.75 x 1.05 x 8.63 in. | Material: Synthetic Taklon bristles, aluminum
Works dry or wet
Easy to blend
Must scrape off top layer to use
The brand: Being cruelty-free and offering vegan products is a priority for the brand, arguably one of the biggest players on the drugstore makeup scene. They even created a custom palette to raise money for a pit bull rescue in L.A. Be still, our puppy-loving hearts.
The hero product: Pretty much any and every e.l.f. product is a hit with team Byrdie, but the Baked Highlighter is a particular fave. Packed with a laundry list of hydrating oils plus vitamin E, the highlighter is perfectly creamy, melting into the skin for that coveted, lit-from-within look. Use it dry for a more sheer wash of color or wet to up the intensity of the glimmer.
Type: Powder | Shades: 3 | Finish: Shimmer | Size: 0.16 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Works as a concealer
Can be drying
The brand: Around since 1994, Blk/Opl emphasizes both skincare and makeup for women of color. The brand has perfectly maintained this heritage while evolving and consistently launching modern offerings and formulas.
The hero product: There’s a good reason why the Perfecting Stick Foundation is the brand’s number one best-seller. The multi-tasking foundation stick works yes, as a foundation, but also as an effective concealer and even contour color. It comes in 24 colors, all of which also feature a Shade ID technology that helps to match your skin tone even better.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 24 | Finish: Velvet | Size: 0.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Easy to clean
Soft and plush
Fan brush doesn't pick up product well
The brand: Every Real Techniques product is vegan, 100% cruelty-free, and PETA-certified. That means, when it comes to their brushes, you can feel confident you’re getting synthetic bristles. Not to mention, incredibly high-quality synthetic bristles.
The hero product: We love the Artist's Essentials Brush Set as a fun add-on to your basic brush staples. It comes with five tools that pro makeup artists love, including a fan brush, stubby liner brush, and a dome-shaped accent brush. All feature synthetic bristles that are super plush and easy to clean.
Size: 8.13 x 0.95 oz. | Material: Synthetic bristles
What to Look For in Cruelty-Free Beauty
No Animal Testing—Even Third Party
No animal testing is the most basic definition of cruelty-free. You don't need to go full vegan diet beauty, but you should look for companies that proudly say they don't test on animals. This includes third parties, which means that the companies they do business with also don't test on animals. To some extent, it's hard to control what a company that one sells products or ingredients to will do with them, but cruelty-free beauty products should be committed to finding that out, and should say outright that they don't do business with other brands that test on animals.
Leaping Bunny or PETA Logo
The easiest way to know a product is cruelty-free doesn't involve any reading at all. Look for the leaping bunny logo, which is the industry standard certification. Note that to get a leaping bunny logo, a company must submit to product audits, whereas a PETA certification doesn't involve that. That makes the bunny a little bit more reliable in our book.
Ingredient Supplier Transparency
Ingredient traceability is growing into a huge movement. The idea behind it is that companies should be very clear and up front about where their ingredients come from. This includes forced labor, unsustainable practices, and yes, animal cruelty. Byrdie writer Natasha Marsh notes that "tracing where beauty ingredients are sourced, harvested, and produced is the next phase of the clean beauty revolution and one of the answers to a greener planet."
Why should I choose cruelty-free beauty products?
Choosing cruelty-free beauty products means that no animals were harmed for the sake of your beauty routine. This is a kinder, more conscientious choice than opting for products that were tested on animals.
Are cruelty free products better for the environment?
Some can be. Cruelty-free products often don't include as many chemicals, but there is no hard and fast rule about that--the only rules for cruelty-free are in relation to animal testing. Natural ingredients are sometimes better than chemical ones for the environment, but not always.
Does buying cruelty-free make a difference?
You may have heard of the term "voting with your dollar." That's what choosing cruelty-free beauty is: You're helping an industry grow in a positive direction through the money you spend in it. Whether that's supporting LGBTQ+ brands, game changers, or cruelty-free, all consumers have the power to help lead the beauty industry in a progressive direction.
What does it mean when a company is not cruelty-free?
A company that hasn't sought out one of the logos, or that doesn't make mention of animal testing on their products, may test their products on animals. Even if they don't, the ingredients they use to create their products may have been tested on animals, and the companies they sell to may also test on them.