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A Comprehensive Guide To Vegan, Cruelty-Free, And Natural Beauty

Beauty products are taking a turn for the natural. Here's what you need to understand about the industry.

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First things first, let's clear up what "cruelty-free," "vegan," and "natural" actually mean when it comes to beauty products, because the terms aren't interchangeable.

Here's the main takeaway: Cruelty-free and vegan products are not automatically natural, but products can potentially fall into all three categories.

Meow Meow Tweet

"There’s a difference between vegan, cruelty-free, and natural. The highest quality vegan and cruelty-free products are those that are also natural, because these companies are concerned with where and how the ingredients are sourced and processed," Tara Pelletier, co-founder of Meow Meow Tweet, a small batch apothecary in New York, tells BuzzFeed Life.

Let's toss one of the biggest misconceptions, shall we? Using cruelty-free, vegan, or natural products does not mean sacrificing quality in your makeup.

Photograph by David Phelps / Via Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics

"Animal ingredients are generally more cost effective in cosmetic formulas, but not necessarily better or longer lasting. The quality and the longevity of the product is really determined by the brand itself, and not by the ingredients," David Klasfeld, CEO/Creative Director for Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, explains to BuzzFeed Life.

And many of those extra chemical ingredients are nothing more than filler.

Meow Meow Tweet

"Take for example the use of body oil rather than lotion. In one eight ounce bottle of lotion, you might have 2-4 ounces of moisturizing oils, and the rest is water, preservatives, and emulsifying ingredients, which are fillers. In the same size bottle of body oil, all you get is the moisturizing oil. This means that with every application you're treating your skin to what it needs, not a bunch of other superfluous stuff," Pelletier tells BuzzFeed Life.

When you use fewer fake ingredients on your skin, your body becomes more naturally balanced, which means you won't age as quickly.

Photograph by Winky Lewis / Via Portland General Store

"We promote bathing less, and the less fake ingredients one uses on their skin, the less aging takes place as the skin becomes more balanced," Lisa Brodar, founder of of Portland General's Store, tells BuzzFeed Life.

Products laden with chemicals can directly harm the environment, which can indirectly — but seriously — harm humans.

Photograph by Winky Lewis / Via Portland General Store

"When we treat nature in an inhumane way, we are lowering their [natural] resistance to disease. This means the food we eat and products we use are of much lesser quality, pumped up with artificial ingredients, hormones, and antibiotics," Brodar tells BuzzFeed Life.

And then there are the chemicals that can harm you directly.

Osmia Organics

Pro tip: If it's hard to spell or pronounce, it's probably not very good for you.

"Ingredients such as synthetic fragrance, parabens, phthlates, petroleum, synthetic colorants — many of them are potential carcinogens, hormone disruptors, or skin irritants," Sarah Villafranco, founder of Osmia Organics, tells BuzzFeed Life.

Treating your skin well is as crucial as eating well.

Photograph by Winky Lewis / Via Portland General Store

“As consumers become more aware that what they put on their body is as important as what they put inside their body, I think the future of cruelty-free and vegan products will only grow. I think the future of cruelty-free and vegan products will only grow. In fact, in harder economic times, as we start to focus on local production of food and goods, we are closer to the whole process and more a part of it, which exposes any bad practices," Brodar explains.

While animal testing has been banned in many countries, it's still legal in the United States.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

"In the past couple of years we've seen the ban of animal testing on all cosmetic products sold and imported into the European Union and China change their policies on animal testing," Pelletier tells BuzzFeed Life. It is important to note that while animal-testing is legal in the U.S., it is not required by law.

So, how are cruelty-free products being tested if not on animals?

Tom McCavera / Via INGLOT Cosmetics

Human volunteers. Ingredient testing happens on a microbiological level, while finished products are tested on human volunteers. And all of this complies with safety regulations.

"The safety assessment is based on available data about particular raw materials, technical data and SDS (Safety Data Sheet) of raw materials, and dermatological tests on volunteers," Mahasin Phillips, Brand Relations and Senior Artist for INGLOT Cosmetics, tells BuzzFeed Life.

The easiest way to know if a product is certified as 100% Cruelty-Free is to look for the Leaping Bunny symbol on the label.

Leaping Bunny

The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, or the CCIC, is a group compromised of nine national animal protection groups. Together, they promote a single comprehensive standard with the internationally recognized Leaping Bunny logo, which certifies products as 100% cruelty-free. For the complete list of companies with the logo, head to the Leaping Bunny website.

Now that you're interested in natural beauty brands, Credo Beauty is a good place to start.

Credo Beauty / Via credobeauty.com

Credo Beauty just launched a website and it's loaded with luxury, natural brands. From cleansers and eyeshadows to dry shampoos and teas, Credo Beauty has just about every kind of natural beauty and well being product you can imagine.

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