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The beauty world has been hyper-focused on ingredients for quite some time. More and more companies are coming out with their own criteria defining ‘clean beauty,’ and space has never been more saturated. So it can seem admittedly confusing and counterintuitive that there are brands still testing cosmetics on animals. It’s been banned in the EU and many other countries, but it’s still a big problem globally, especially in China (where many companies sell products). Argh.
The good news? There is a growing number of brands going totally cruelty-free, which means that not only is animal testing a no-go, their formulas are also vegan. Think alternatives to common animal ingredients like beeswax, and the certifications to prove it. And while foundation may not be the first category you think of when you think of cruelty-free beauty, there are lots of great vegan foundations out there. Not only are they animal friendly, but they also have some innate added benefits that come along with them. Vegan foundations often include nourishing, plant-based ingredients that deliver great benefits for your skin, while also giving you the coverage that you need, says Jo Levy, a conscious beauty artist, and educator. She adds that many of them also intersect with both the clean beauty and sustainability spaces, a good choice for those looking to either minimize questionable ingredients and/or their impact on the environment.
Ahead, our favorite vegan foundations you’re sure to love.
Best Overall: Exa High Fidelity Foundation
One of Levy’s favorites, this has, “a satin finish and buildable, medium to full coverage that never appears cakey on the skin,” she says. We couldn’t agree more; the base has held a permanent spot in our makeup bag since it first launched last year. The first private label from clean beauty pioneer Credo, you can feel confident knowing that the formula is squeaky clean as well. Levy also lauds the “extensive and incredible” shade range, which includes 43 hues with varying undertones, including lots of options for dark skin.
Best Drugstore: CoverGirl Fresh Skin Milk Foundation
This brand made history a few years ago when it announced that all of its products were now going to be cruelty-free, vegan, and even Leaping Bunny certified, no small feat for such a massive company. In short, they have tons of vegan foundations to choose from, but this is our current favorite—lightweight, perfectly dewy, and with the ability to gently blur away the look of flaws like none other.
Best Budget: Flower Beauty Get Real Serum Foundation
You don’t have to shell out the big bucks to find a great, vegan foundation. A fraction of the price of many others, this wallet-friendly version gives you even more bang for your buck because it has an antioxidant serum mixed right in. Combine that with the light coverage and adaptable pigments (there are only 16 shades available, but each one works with a wide range of skin tones), and you have yourself a foundation that makes your complexion appear naturally perfected, almost instantly.
Best Sheer Coverage: Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint
This is the complexion perfector to reach for when you want just the slightest, sheerest wash of coverage, but don’t want it to look (or feel) like you’re wearing any makeup at all. The aptly-named product does indeed deliver just a bit of tint, in an ultra-thin formula that makes skin look super glowy; credit diamond powder in the formula. It’s also fragrance-free, a boon for those with sensitive skin.
Best Medium Coverage: ILIA True Skin Serum Foundation
For those who prefer their foundation coverage to fall right in the middle of the spectrum, this base is perfect. It’s a classic, medium-coverage, pigmented enough to totally conceal what needs concealing, but not so much that your skin doesn’t show through ever-so-slightly. (The radiant finish helps ensure it never veers into the mask-like territory.) It’s also packed with tons of soothing and hydrating plant-based ingredients.
Best Full Coverage: Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation SPF 15
When you want a full-on foundation that you can feel certain isn’t going anywhere, reach for this guy. Matte but never flat, it touts the brand’s signature Amazonian Clay for the best, most long-lasting wear—we’re talking up to 12 hours worth of coverage. Emollient vitamin E ensures it feels smooth and creamy going on...and stays that way, no matter how long you wear it. And as an added benefit, you do get that little extra dose of SPF, too.
Best with Skincare Benefits: Kosas Cosmetics Tinted Face Oil
This option is proof positive of Levy’s point about many vegan foundations containing good-for-your-skin ingredients. It’s one of her favorites, both for the serum-like texture, perfectly photo-finished effect, and lightweight feel. Plant-based oils—avocado, red raspberry, and rosehip—work wonders for your skin, and it’s also an easily customizable formula. “Use only a few drops for a tinted moisturizer-like effect or four or more drops for medium coverage,” she says.
Best Radiant: Too Faced Born This Way Foundation
Make no mistake, there’s no shimmer in this formula. Instead, the natural finish is somehow perfectly skin-like, making for the most natural radiance there is. Credit the addition of hydrating ingredients such as coconut water and hyaluronic acid in the oil-free foundation, which still delivers enough pigment to help cover anything you want to be covered.
What Our Testers Say
"I found Too Faced's Born This Way Foundation to be really impressive: it didn’t take much to achieve even coverage, the product felt comfortable on, and my skin had a natural finish that mimicked its best days." — Khera Alexander, Product Tester
Best Matte: Milk Makeup Blur Liquid Matte Foundation
The name says it all. This oil-free, silicone-free formula is lightweight and water-based, yet delivers a surprising level of full-on coverage. The matte finish is enhanced by the addition of powder-filled microspheres that work to even so effectively (yet naturally) blur away the look of prominent pores and other imperfections, making the result appear perfect.
Best Stick: Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick
“This delivers natural, adjustable coverage and works beautifully for those with normal to dry skin, thanks to moisture-boosting ingredients that melt into skin,” says Levy of another one of her favorites. (Think coconut oil and vegetable-derived squalane, just to name a few.) A girl after our own heart—you know how much we love stick formulas of any kind—she adds that the solid formula makes it easy to apply wherever it’s needed, then blend in with your fingertips.
Best for Dry Skin: KVD Beauty Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Hydrating Foundation Balm
For those with perpetually parched skin, this pick is choice. Hydrating sodium hyaluronate gives it an ultra-creamy feel, though, unlike many other hydrating formulas, it’s unique in that it touts a matte (rather than luminous) finish. The coverage is buildable though on the fuller side, and, as a nice extra perk, the packaging is totally recyclable.
Best for Oily Skin: Cover FX Natural Finish Foundation
The fact that many vegan foundations are oil-based can be potentially problematic for those with oily skin, who really don’t want to add any more oil into their skincare or makeup routines. Enter this alternative, which is water-based, so there’s no need to stress about slick spots. Still, it imparts 12 hours worth of hydration (because even oily skin needs that) and 12 hours of wear time, too.
There are more vegan foundations out there than ever before. We can’t stop obsessing over the Exa High Fidelity Foundation (and many makeup artists feel the same way), a vegan, skin-loving, and clean formula that’s incredibly versatile. At the drugstore, pick up the COVERGIRL Clean Fresh Skin Milk Foundation; FYI, all of the brands’ products are now vegan. Those who love sticks should check out the Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick, while anyone who needs full coverage from their base will appreciate the super-pigmented Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage SPF 15.
What to Look For In a Vegan Foundation
The Leaping Bunny Certification
According to Levy, seeking out this external seal of validation is the easiest way to ensure that a product is both truly vegan and cruelty-free. (She adds that it can usually be found on the side or back of the packaging.)
Beeswax is the ingredient in many traditional foundations that gives them their slip and smooth texture when applying. Look for vegan alternatives—candelilla wax, carnuba wax—if you want to make sure your base will glide seamlessly onto skin, suggests Levy.
Are vegan foundations really vegan?
Yes. For verification, make sure the product has the Leaping Bunny certification. But true vegan formulas are certified to contain no animal-derived ingredients, like carmine, beeswax, lanolin, honey, and many others.
Does vegan mean cruelty-free?
Yes. In a nutshell, all vegan products are cruelty-free, but not all cruelty-free products are vegan. While cruelty-free means the product and its ingredients were not tested on animals, it may still contain animal-derived ingredients. Vegan products contain no animal ingredients or animal byproducts and were not tested on animals.
Is vegan foundation good for your skin?
There shouldn't be too much of a difference between a non-vegan and vegan foundation as far as skincare benefits. Some, like non-vegan foundations, are oil-based, which can be problematic for acne-prone skin. If your skin is prone to breakouts, you'll want to look for an oil-free, water-based foundation, like the pick for oily skin on this list, Cover FX Natural Finish Foundation.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. An avid animal lover (she holds a special affinity in her heart for rescue dogs), she vehemently opposes any kind of animal testing, and makes it a point to use exclusively vegan beauty products as much as possible.
Meet the Expert
Conscious beauty artist and educator Jo Levy has spent nearly two decades working in the beauty industry. Working with brands such as Armani, Laura Mercier, Bobbi Brown, and BECCA Cosmetics, Levy has extensive experience in the bridal and editorial space.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any vegan foundations from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.