US American Beauty Haul Cruelty Free Beauty Blogger Hello Gemma Milani LA Girl ELF

Cruelty Free Beauty & Parent Companies – My Stance

In Beauty by Gemma Tomlinson42 Comments

barry m barrym cruelty free beauty makeup cosmetics uk blogger gemma hellogemma get up and glow palette blush dupe inexpensive cheap drugstoreIn August last year I made the decision to switch my blog and YouTube channel over to cruelty free beauty. In all honesty this was long overdue – I have been vegetarian for most of my life and I switched to vegan almost a year ago, so why wasn’t my choice to live a more compassionate lifestyle reflecting in my makeup bag too? I rifled through my heaving Ikea Alex unit and pulled out everything that had been tested on animals. As the products littered my rug (about a third of my collection) I glanced over at my dog Maddie who was watching me intently and felt sick with guilt that it had taken me this long. Any lingering doubts quickly left my mind, and whilst the dog was probably just hoping for a treat or wondering why I was looking wistfully at a Bobbi Brown palette, to me it felt like a sign I was doing the right thing.

Had I been a regular makeup consumer I wouldn’t have been so hasty in ruthlessly getting rid of my cosmetics, I would have used them up and just not repurchased them, after all the money was already spent and the damage already done. I’m not however a ‘normal’ makeup lover, I blog about it and I have so much that even after filling four big boxes of animal tested items my drawers were still bucking under the weight of lipsticks. I’m still using up foundations and items that couldn’t be sanitised, but they won’t be going on my blog or my channel unless it’s in the form of an “Empties” video where I will make their cruelty free status (or lack thereof) clear. I didn’t see any point in having all this stuff going bad in my drawers and having to remind myself not to wear it in a video – someone else could make use of them, so off they went to family, friends and a local women’s refuge.

Although I announced that my channel would be cruelty free at the end of a video and on Instagram, I didn’t make a huge fanfare about it nor did I make a big announcement post on this website, mostly because I was still knee-deep in research and wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing. If a brand changed their stance and I had unknowingly used something that wasn’t cruelty free I was worried that others would read the post and make the same mistake. I was diligently reading lots of cruelty free blogs and quickly realising that everyone had their own criteria when it came to determining the status of brands. Where did I stand?

US American Beauty Haul Cruelty Free Beauty Blogger Hello Gemma Milani LA Girl ELFI am not an expert, and there are people who have been doing this far longer than I have, and who know far more than I do. I cannot emphasise enough how much I recommend people do some of their own research and decide where they stand on the issue. For me this applies across many things in life, we are all better off when we check things out for ourselves and form our own conclusions based on what we know. Having said that, I do think it’s time I have some sort of statement on my website so that readers know the status of products I feature and my opinion on certain divisive issues in the cruelty free community, so here it is…

I do not feature brands or products that have been tested on animals and I have three main points when it comes to determining what I consider cruelty free. Firstly have the finished products or any of their ingredients been tested on animals by the brand? Secondly have the finished products or any of their ingredients been tested on behalf of the brand by a third party? (This one is important as a lot of brands claim they don’t test but get around it by paying other people to do so) Thirdly does the brand sell their products in a foreign market such as China that requires animal testing by law? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, I don’t want to feature the item and I don’t want to take money from the company for a sponsored feature or collaboration. I use trusted resources and email brands myself to get answers for these questions so to the best of my knowledge anything I present as cruelty free meets this criteria.

It’s important to note that many companies claiming to be cruelty free fall at the China hurdle. China requires that any brand with a physical retail presence (so that’s their own store, or being physically sold in stores like Sephora) must allow their products to be tested on animals. The government carries out the testing, but the brands fund it. There are exceptions, for example Hong Kong, which is technically part of China but has many of it’s own laws and a difference in animal testing stance is one of them. A brand can retail in Hong Kong and still be cruelty free.

vegan organic cruelty free beauty hellogemma gemma skincare blogger natural aloe vera santaverdeMany brands that were once cruelty free have started to sell in the Chinese market which means they now pay for animal testing. It’s a real shame, but they won’t be getting my money or support. A lot of companies manage to skirt this issue by setting up production in China – I am not an expert on this but I believe that currently the animal testing law only applies to imported brands, so if you have a plant in China which manufactures the products, these can be sold there without having to be tested. I often see that people are suspicious of cosmetics ‘made in China’ as they assume they will have been tested as default. Whilst they may or may not be tested on animals depending on the company’s stance, seeing ‘made in China’ doesn’t automatically mean it isn’t cruelty free, although I have yet to see a big western brand manufacture their products in China to circumvent the animal testing laws. Pretty much all the western brands I know of retailing in China are paying for testing.

China is a huge market, I can understand the potential profit is so enticing to a brand, but I personally cannot support established companies who were doing just fine financially going into a market and turning their back on their previous values. Urban Decay famously announced they would sell in China and received huge backlash from consumers. As a result, they listened and decided not to go ahead with plans to retail there, but for some people the fact that they even considered it was enough to stop shopping with them, and many still boycott the brand as a result. This is where we all have to decide where to draw the line.

Whilst some abandoned Urban Decay for considering China, I applaud the fact that they listened to their customers, after all, why do we sign petitions and make noise on social media if, when a brand changes their mind and does what we ask we still aren’t happy? I understand that for some people their trust in the brand was shaken, but I think it takes a lot to admit you were wrong and apologise to your customers. If Urban Decay decided to do right by their customers, whatever the reason, I will continue to purchase from them. That’s where I personally draw the line in that case.

too faced toofaced chocolate bar palette semi sweet semisweet cruelty free makeup review hello gemma hellogemmaThere are other blurred lines, which I am often asked about in the comments of my videos. Many brands with strong ethical values have been purchased by larger corporations – “parent companies” who also own other businesses. If the other brands under the parent company have questionable moral codes, the ethical company is accused of selling out, making a deal with the devil and going back on everything they once held dear. For me this isn’t as black and white as it may seem, it isn’t always that simple.

The Body Shop is probably the most famous example of an ethical brand “selling out” – in 2006 they were purchased by L’Oréal who were perhaps the antithesis of everything Anita Roddick built her business on, yet the deal wasn’t as clear cut a decision as people might think. This article gives a great insight when it comes to their reasons for agreeing the sale and this one  shares some of the ways The Body Shop was able to share fair trade suppliers with L’Oréal to improve their ingredient selection for their other brands such as Garnier and Kiehls. The buyers from The Body Shop were able to act as a go between for the small fair trade co-ops and L’Oréal, who now source many things more ethically than they once did. They learned from The Body Shop for the better and both parties benefited.

Whilst two brands might make for strange bedfellows, there are often benefits to a brand having a parent company – funding to keep a flailing business afloat, money for counters in major beauty halls, access to create and expand the product line, or in The Body Shop’s case being able to share ethical knowledge with a juggernaut and influence their future business operations. I’m not saying having a parent company with differing ethical values is necessarily a good thing, or the ideal option, but I do think it’s important to see that there is often a more nuanced relationship where both parties can benefit. It doesn’t mean we should automatically abandon a brand, but rather ask questions, find out more information and then make a decision as to whether or not we want to support them.

The Body Shop TBH Italian Summer Fig Perfume EFT Eau de Toilette Cruelty Free Gemma Hello HelloGemma Blog Beauty Lifestyle ReviewI use Urban Decay, The Body Shop and NYX (owned by L’Oréal), Tarte (owned by Kose), Nars and Bare Minerals (owned by Shiseido) and Liz Earle (owned by Avon) – it is important to note that all of these companies still retain their cruelty free status, they still don’t test on animals and their stance on the issue has not changed since they were bought out. If Urban Decay sold to L’Oréal and decided to then go into the Chinese market they would be testing and I would therefore not support them, but they don’t test and I still use their products. They retain their Leaping Bunny accreditation as a cruelty free brand.

Many people have issues with parent companies since a portion of the profit will be going to said corporation, and we might not like everything they do. I totally understand this viewpoint and really respect the people who decide to buy not only cruelty free, but also go further and only purchase from independent brands. I do however often see people comment that a brand cannot be cruelty free if it’s owned by a parent company, which simply isn’t true. Many of the brands I listed have the Leaping Bunny certification which means they are in fact certified cruelty free by the most respected body the community uses. Whether or not you want to support a brand or you consider it cruelty free based on your own set of criteria is another thing, so it’s important to know the difference.

This is a hot topic in the cruelty free community and there are arguments for and against buying from brands with parent companies, but for me the positives outweighed the negatives. There are two main reasons I am happy to continue using these brands and the first one is that it shows how easy going cruelty free can be. I get messages and emails all the time from people wanting to go cruelty free, and on my food channel wanting to go vegan, but worrying that it will be overwhelming, costly, too difficult, or that their life will have to change drastically. Whether we like it or not people don’t want to be seen as different or difficult, and we don’t like change, but I want to show people that small changes and minor choices can still have a positive impact, that it doesn’t need to be so hard.

contouring made easy becca one perfecting face brush ecotools gemma hello gemma cosmetics hellogemma makeup how to contour tutorialThe debate within the cruelty free community is mirrored within veganism, so I think it’s apt to make a comparison with my thoughts on this too. A food item is considered vegan if it doesn’t contain animal products, but many people also choose not to eat at restaurants that serve meat, spending their money only at vegan or vegetarian establishments which share their ethical concerns. Whilst I love to do this too, I also gladly purchase vegan options at mainstream supermarkets and restaurants. I am of the opinion that more vegetarian and vegan options is a good thing, so I will gladly eat Nandos vegan options despite it being predominantly a chicken restaurant, or celebrate a new vegan product at Tesco despite them selling meat.

Business is about supply and demand, so when we lobby for vegan options it’s also important that people buy them, otherwise why would the brand go to the trouble? For some vegans eating at Nandos is out of the question, but I want to show that there’s a demand for plant based options, and since I started eating there with my family their menu has gone from 1 veggie option to several veggie and vegan mains and lots of sides. Did you know Nandos garlic bread is even vegan? If more people buy these things, it sends a message to the brand to supply more, and evolve, so whilst I admire and respect others for only supporting small businesses, it isn’t the only way to do things. There is room for both schools of thought.

A huge goal for me is normalising a vegan and cruelty free lifestyle. Whilst you might not want to support McDonalds on the regular, if you can get a vegan burger when you’re stuck in traffic on the motorway that’s great. If a 15 year old goes shopping then to Nandos every Saturday with their friends and they don’t have to stick out like a sore thumb and bring a packed lunch, that’s a good thing. If a luxury beauty-loving woman wants to go cruelty free but feels like she’s going to have to only buy makeup at Whole Foods, I am all for her buying from Leaping Bunny certified brands at the beauty hall, even if they have a parent company. Lets face it, without said parent company they likely couldn’t afford to retail in luxury spaces in the first place.

illamasqua equinox collection celestial palette eyeshadow makeup cruelty freeThe way I feel about food is the way I feel about cosmetics. If a food is vegan I will buy it, even if it’s from a supermarket that also sells meat. If a makeup item is not tested on animals I will use it, even if it has a parent company who own brands that test. I want to show a demand for these products alongside smaller brands, in hopes of encouraging more ethical production in the future. I do however encourage people to do their own research, draw their own lines and come to their own conclusions. Whilst there are many resources online and copied and pasted email chains to be offered as proof of a brand’s status, you might want to email a company yourself to get the word right from the horses mouth.

So there we have it, a longer than anticipated essay of sorts on animal testing, parent companies and where I stand. I hope this encourages you to ask questions, decide where your lines are, and make informed and ethical purchases.

Points to consider:

  • Despite EU legislation banning animal testing, if a company physically retails in China they are required by law to test their products on animals and cannot be cruelty free. This means that some of your favourite companies are still conducting animal testing.
  • As a broad rule of thumb, if a brand is on the Sephora China website, animals are likely suffering. There may potentially be exceptions (for items manufactured in China) but this raises red flags and means you need to look into the brand if you don’t want to support testing.
  • A company can physically retail in Hong Kong and keep their cruelty free status intact.
  • There are several certifications that brands can have to prove their cruelty free status. Leaping Bunny and BUAV/Cruelty Free International are two of them, so you may see their bunny logo on products. PETA also have their own list, although I haven’t found this to be totally accurate so proceed with caution there. If you see the BUAV or Leaping Bunny logo a product is definitely cruelty free, and they have very stringent guidelines for brands to adhere to.
  • Not every cruelty free company is registered with Leaping Bunny or BUAV, either because they haven’t found the time or they think it will cost too much money (it’s actually free, but they do have to open their records and processing plants.) Other brands may not realise the importance of these schemes. Some of these brands are KIKO Milano and Becca. Both are cruelty free but are not registered with Leaping Bunny. Some people choose not to purchase from them for this reason, others are satisfied if the brand will answer their questions in an email, again it’s down to where you personally draw the line.
  • A company can be owned by a parent company who is not fully cruelty free yet still keep their own cruelty free status intact and remain Leaping Bunny certified.
  • Some brands are deceptive and use a bunny that isn’t the leaping bunny to make you think their products are cruelty free. Don’t be fooled, sometimes these logos mean nothing. Check out the real bunny here and if you aren’t sure, do your own research.
  •  Some brands state that they do not test finished products, ingredients or use third party testers but they may agree carry out animal testing if required by law. This can be a grey area, for example the brand might not actually retail anywhere that requires animal testing, but if they did they would theoretically comply. A lot of people find this unacceptable since the brand would consider it, however I usually go off whether or not they are actually retailing anywhere that requires testing. Stila is an example of this. Before they retailed in China in my eyes they were cruelty free even though they stated that they were open to retailing there. When they began selling (a quick search on Sephora China brings up some products) I no longer considered them cruelty free. I’m beginning to sound like a parrot now but again it’s important to decide what you are comfortable with.
  • If you live in the UK, all of Superdrug’s own brand products are Leaping Bunny certified, and many are vegan, this will be listed on the back of the item. If the idea of trying to find cruelty free toothpaste, shower gel, skincare, deodorant, shaving foam and hairspray on top of your makeup choices seems overwhelming, head to Superdrug and fill your basket! Easy.

Like this post? Share it!

  • This is a really great article Gemma!
    I started my beauty blog 5 years ago now and quickly decided to become cruelty free, another year or so later I switched to only using natural/organic brands as it’s far easier and I became a little addicted to discovering new, exciting niche brands! (not so niche anymore which is amazing) as well as wanting to avoid synthetic ingredients.
    Your comment about a luxury beauty-loving woman can only shop in wholefoods if she switches is so off base tho! – content beauty, love lula, naturisimo, glow organic, even cult beauty stocks a lot of organic now, etc. so many places to take my luxe beauty-loving money. And that’s just in the UK. Kjaer Weis makeup is perhaps the most luxe I have ever come across, and it’s organic & cruelty free. 😀 I know a lot of people don’t even know about these places to shop, let alone the incredible brands that they stock which is why I spread the word as best I can, because they make being cruelty free a walk in the park.

    • Gemma Tomlinson

      Thank you lovely! I think maybe you mis-read what I said though, “If a luxury beauty-loving woman wants to go cruelty free but feels like she’s going to have to only buy makeup at Whole Foods, I am all for her buying from Leaping Bunny certified brands” i.e. people think it’s way harder to make ethical choices than it really is, so if she knows she can buy Urban Decay & other brands where she normally gets her products, perhaps more people would take in interest in ethics and it can grow from there.

      My point is that although we know differently, people incorrectly see being cruelty free as being so hard, when really they could go to the next counter in Selfridges and have some sort of impact, and they might be more open to change from there, so I think sharing brands with parent companies alongside smaller brands is great as it shows people there is a wide variety and a lot of choice on offer. I feel the same about veganism, so many people say to me “vegan food? what do you eat? can you eat out?” so having vegan options on the menu at McDonalds or Nandos is a great start and shows people it’s a simpler switch than they think. Although vegan purists might not eat there, it’s important that we show the variety so that more people make changes, however small, that was my point, not that I myself think you only have to shop at Whole Foods.

  • Wow. This is an amazingly detailed post with very clear and constructive arguments. Thank you for writing this, giving so much information! I’m all for more cruelty free and vegan options from all brands and companies, it sends a message that there are more and more people demanding these types of products, slowly changing the industry one choice at a time. Also: thanks for the list of make-up brands you do use, this makes it so much easier for others (aka me) to go cruelty free as well!


    • Gemma Tomlinson

      Thanks Margot! I’m so glad you liked it, and now you know the criteria I have you’ll know which brands I consider CF, and if that aligns with your criteria too I hope it will prove useful in future 🙂

  • Hannah Victoria

    I 100% agree with all of this! I’ve been vegan for 7 months now and get totally slated for buying off NYX and the Body Shop from other vegans. Just like you, for me it’s the products that matter, not the parent companies. We all still shop in supermarkets that condone the use of animals as meat, so why should buying off a L’oreal owned company be any different?
    So happy you did a blog post on this, it’s very easy to feel like you’re fighting an alone battle with veganism sometimes.

    On another note, I also have a cruelty free vegan blog (even though I’m a total newbie at it) – maybe you’d like it? I’m also from Lancashire too 🙂


    • Gemma Tomlinson

      I agree! I totally understand and respect the people who want to take it one step further, but it’s when misinformation spreads online that I feel like it’s important to lay the facts out. So often I get comment saying “Urban Decay tests now they have been bought” when it’s not that simple and you really have to ask questions before jumping to those conclusions. Some of the comments from vegans with regards to restaurants drive me mad, it’s great that we can all do what we feel comfortable with but the judgement of fellow vegans is hard to bear sometimes, it makes the whole movement seem petty and I think it’s very off-putting for people considering it. I will check your blog out! 🙂

  • Thank you for an interesting, well researched and eloquently written article. I really enjoyed reading this post and because of it I will be more conscious of my beauty product choices in future.

    • Gemma Tomlinson

      Thank you so much, that’s made my day!

  • Hi Gemma,

    This is such an excellent post that I felt I had to comment. I nearly didn’t because I don’t want it to look like I’m just trying to advertise my own blog, but such a well-thought-out article about a topic so close to my heart deserves praise! (It’s taken me over half an hour to sort out registration on Disqus to comment so you can see how much I wanted to post this!)

    I became vegan last year and am finding it very frustrating that so many companies test on animals or put bits of animals or bugs in their products. I finally got round to starting my own blog at the end of January after planning to start a beauty blog for the past four years or so (with illness getting in the way and making me put it off). I’m horrified every time I discover another product that’s not vegan and/or cruelty-free, but at least my blog gives me somewhere to vent that frustration and try to help others learn about what’s in their make-up bags! I’m still finding nasty surprises far too regularly of things I thought were cruelty-free or vegan, but aren’t.

    It’s awesome to see others who want to avoid animal cruelty too. I’ve occasionally watched your videos before, but you have a new regular follower here!

    April xx

    PS. Are the photos on this post supposed to be cruelty-free? Just wondering whether you consider non-vegan items to be cruelty-free, as some of the products in the photos aren’t vegan? Everyone has their own line in terms of veganism so this isn’t a criticism – just a question. 🙂

    • Gemma Tomlinson

      Hi April! Thank you so much for commenting, please never feel like that, I love reading peoples comments and discovering new blogs 🙂 I admire your persistence with Disqus! I totally agree, I think most of us have no idea how our products are made and what goes into them, it’s quite scary especially when we buy them without thinking and even put them on our face.

      Also all the brands in the images are cruelty free (based on my criteria that I mentioned in the post, no testing finished products, no testing ingredients (by the brand or third party) and no retailing in China apart from Illamasqua who ship there, but don’t physically sell so avoid testing. At the moment all my beauty is cruelty free, and I’m becoming more and more educated on what is vegan and what isn’t, I consider cruelty free to be Leaping Bunny’s definition and then vegan is kind of on top of that for me if that makes sense? I work with a lot of beauty brands outside my blog in my freelance work so going fully vegan with my cosmetics right away wasn’t possible for me if I wanted to carry on my work as I already had to say no to a lot of work, but I hope to move closer to more vegan cosmetics as time goes on. I am dying to try Colourpop, they have so many vegan options and Matt is working in Vegas soon so I’m hoping to get a cheeky order sent to his hotel to bring back for me!

  • LOVED this post!! So informative; I didn’t realise Kiko was cruelty-free (great news as they’ve just opened a shop in my local area) nor that all of Superdrug’s own brand stuff is. I have recently decided to go cruelty-free (purely through reading blogs about it, including yours) and at first I was worried there would be a lack of choice (having to give up Origins and Mac, staples in my make-up and skincare routine), but it turns out there’s actually loads! I completely agree with your opinion about Urban Decay, that they listened to their customers and had the grace to make a complete U-turn says a lot about their integrity. Also about brands owned by parent companies – I think it’s far too simplistic to say a brand has sold out or abandoned their values – many companies maintain a massive amount of control over their own brand but with added financial security and a wider reach.

    • Gemma Tomlinson

      Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Yep, Kiko are fantastic, so glad to hear you’ve decided to go cruelty free, it’s really so much easier than it seems, good luck with it!

  • This is such a great post! I think we have a very similar view on the cruelty free matter. I still use The Body Shop because I generally really like their ethics. The comparison with buying vegan food in a supermarket is great, I never thought of that! I think every one has to decide on these matters themselves and I don’t really get the point in hating on someone who uses Urban Decay or NYX etc. That won’t make you happy in the end!
    Patti Shifting Tales

    • Gemma Tomlinson

      Thank you! I totally agree with you, I think there are general things we need to agree on so that the vegan label means something, for example if some people rescue hens and occasionally eat an egg, it’s important that people know vegans don’t usually do this because otherwise a meal labelled vegan in a restaurant might contain animal products. However in reality everything is more nuanced. When it comes to bees I have read very conflicting reports and there are actually a lot of vegan beekeepers out there protecting the species! They only take the honey that the bees discard and sometimes consume it. In Gran Canaria they produce honey rum, which is technically not really even honey rum, it’s mostly sugar cane, and they have to add 2% honey or something to legally call it honey rum. My parents have visited the place it’s made and seen how they make the honey. I currently have 6 bottles of the stuff in my fridge because it was my favourite drink before I went vegan and I have felt so mixed about whether or not I should drink them or give them away to someone else.

      • It is so confusing but in the end, I think everyone needs to make up their own mind about those things! I think I would still use the honey at my parents because I know it comes from a good source and this honey rum sounds pretty good to me as well. It’s probably one of those things where people just have different opinions on.

  • HermioneGrangerisbae

    I don’t normally comment, but I have to say this post is excellent. I appreciate how, as a blogger and YouTuber, you must take somewhat of a hit not featuring certain brands and turning down brand deals, but please know that there are lots of people who greatly appreciate that you have such firm morals that you stick by! I love reading your blog/watching your videos because I know if you say you like something it is because you truly do. Keep killin it girl!

    • Gemma Tomlinson

      Thank you so much for saying that, it’s unfortunately true that you have to turn down a lot of brand deals. It can be very painful, the week after I went cruelty free I was offered the most money I have ever been offered by a brand and it would have made a big difference to me but ultimately there comes a moment when you have to decide if you’re comfortable with it and I definitely wasn’t. I definitely don’t want a medal or anything, it’s my choice after all but I truly appreciate you bringing it up! Your comment means a lot! 🙂

  • This post is just fantastic. I love your view on the matter, and I agree wholeheartedly. I also love how informative and clear this post is! I went vegan this year and have also decided to stop buying beauty products tested on animals (though I’m still using up whatever I already own). It’s really tricky sometimes, but it’s so worth it!

    Mimmi xx
    Muted Mornings

  • peonies passionfruit

    Great post and well done on going cruelty free. A good way I find to make sure cosmetics and body care products are cruelty free is by purchasing items from indie retailers and small batch producers, this way you get quality certified organic products that aren’t mass produced and are cruelty free.
    ~Eme xx

  • I really liked reading this article, and I liked how you illustrated everything. As a vegetarian that went on the cruelty-free and vegan beauty bandwagon early last year, I can see where you’re coming from. However, I’m of the mindset that if a company was truly devoted to being cruelty-free, then they wouldn’t consider selling their business to a company giant that tests on animals. That of course is my own opinion and I steer clear from brands owned by a parent company. I bought a couple of Tarte sample sets for a friend for Christmas before finding out they were now owned by Kobe. That friend and I don’t talk anymore so I wasn’t able to give her the gifts, so now it’s in my possession. Considering how my money has already been spent on them, it doesn’t make any difference as the whether I sell them or keep them, despite their vegan and cruelty-free certification. In general I wouldn’t buy from Tarte, but in this one case I will just deal with it.


  • Very well written and thought out post. Very well done. You can see your passion, but I also feel you’ve written this with a certain “impartiality coupled with lack of judgement” (if that makes any sense) which I think is an excellent stance. There’s so much judgement and “meanness” online about this topic…this is lovely and refreshing.

    I’ve been cruelty free for a couple of years and have tended to avoid buying from CF brands whose parent companies test on animals. When I was first researching CF, that’s just what fit with me; I didn’t really care about other people’s stances. I’d still read their blogs and considered them CF.

    However, as time has passed I’ve noticed myself moving more towards a middle ground. My turning point came when I’d purchased a Bare Minerals product and then berated myself for “not looking harder” for a different CF replacement. It bothered me that I was so mean to myself about a reasonably kind choice of purchase. I don’t judge others for their choices with CF, why judge myself so harshly?

    I’m still tending towards CF with no parent company testing, but I’m no longer so hard on myself for purchasing a CF brand whose parent company does (or might) test. I don’t need that kind of judgement/rudeness from anybody (including myself).

  • winterinadream

    Gemma, you are amazing! This post is so thought through and you put your view so well. It’s very refreshing to find someone writing about cruelty free makeup without going into a massive rage and bashing everything and everyone around them. Though I am not vegan, nor I specifically seek for cruelty free items only I do read about the topic and do take conscious choises into account. You made me think and I think the next time I am in Superdrugs or Boots when buying something I will start looking if the product has leaping bunny product. What I am taking from your article today is to start assessing what I use (not drastically but in a more natural way).

  • I read this on my phone last night as I was collapsed on the sofa after a stressful week, but I wanted to come back and leave a comment because I thought it was brilliantly written and because I really admire your stance, your ethics but also your respect for others. It is my belief that most people want to do the right thing or would like to live ethically or consciously or however we want to call it. However, it can seem so intimidating at times, with so many absolute voices out there. It is just as important to make a small step in a more conscious or ethical direction than not having made any, and this applies to food, cosmetics, the clothes that we buy and pretty much everything we consume. I am an omnivore but during the past 10 years I have made changes in my diet that ensure that the animals of the products I am consuming have had the best life possible, and over the past 2 years I have considerably reduced the amount of meat and fish that I eat. To some this will be cruel and I will be a person without a moral compass, but I think it is much much better than mindlessly buying and consuming without caring.

    When it comes to cosmetics my views are pretty similar. I was really glad you mentioned The Body Shop. I spent a week in their buying office a few years ago as part of my work and I can say hand on heart that the Anita Roddick’s spirit and ethics are intact, and that L’Oreal has probably benefitted greatly from having them on board. As well as raising awareness and supporting small businesses that are brave enough to stand by the strong moral stance, influencing the big corporates is just as important in making change happen. The impact they have is huge, and one small change in a big group like L’Oreal or Estee Lauder practically equates to the effect that 3,000 small brands can have.

    Hope this rambly comment makes sense.

    Inma x

  • I love the points you’re raising. None of this is black and white, and what works for someone might not work for another. Best of luck on your cruelty-free journey, Gemma! You’re inspiring many people with this change. 🙂


  • Great post! It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the pretty packaging and the promising product claims… Love that you took the time to write about something so important!

    Miran ||

  • Thank you. I’d been thinking about going cruelty free for a while and am gradually replacing products with Marks & Spencer’s and Superdrug etc as things are used up. This has encouraged me to keep at it and given me some more brands to look out for.

    Not sure if you’re aware, but Paul Mitchell, the haircare brand, doesn’t test and says they never will. They opened a representative office in China anyway. To educate the authorities about why animal testing was pointless in the hope of getting the laws changed. I think they’re the only brand that’s done that.

  • Rosie Reads

    I just wanted to leave a comment and thank you for a wonderful, well thought out post. I’ve been vegan for all of 5 weeks and am already overwhelmed with all the information, differing opinions, and negativity floating around the internet on the topic – particularly about cruelty free.

    I’d already made my mind up, basically inline with your opinions outlined above, but your post has really made me feel confident in my decision. The main deciding factor for me, as well as having a mutually beneficial relationship, cruelty-free brands that are owned by a big parent company need support because the market is supply and demand (like you said) and if we don’t support these cruelty-free branches of larger companies they could disappear. Also, if a particular branch of your company is making money you are going to invest more in that branch and help new cruelty-free product development. Who doesn’t want more things to play with?

  • The Gossip Darling

    Thank you so much! This is such an awesome post and so important! Totally love cruelty free products!!

    Mel |

  • High fives! This is exactly how I feel. I have been vegan for 6 years, and so many options at restaurants and supermarkets have sprung up, and I think it’s so important to support them. Also since I live in a small town, options are extremely limited as it is. I recently purged most of my non-cruelty-free makeup as well, and it’s a great feeling!

  • Sal’s Alien on Toast blog ( is a great resource for vegan make-up, and I found this to be a really helpful post about ‘cruelty free’ vs. vegan (

    In terms of folks who avoid problematic parent companies (I try my best to do this generally, e.g. Nestle, Unilever – the really bad ones!) I think their issue might be more to do with the gratuitiousness of the practice of testing cosmetics on animals at all, particularly what with the huuuuge arrange of vegan-friendly make-up options from totally cruelty free indie and big brands/makers. So, I’ll buy a vegan friendly foundation from Boots No.7 range because they have a decent policy as a company, even though they sell products with animal ingredients in as well (so, a bit like eating in the restaurant that sells meat).

    Everyone comes to and proceeds through their vegan lifestyle differently so I think that everyone should decide what works best for them, personally. My own views have changed a lot in recent years and nowadays I’m having loads of fun pinning all sorts of cool vegan products to my Pinterest wishlist and trying them all out 🙂

  • “This one is important as a lot of brands claim they don’t test but get around it by paying other people to do so”

    This isn’t true. EU law dictates that this “loophole” cannot be used to get around animal testing. I’m not saying some companies don’t try and do it.. but legally they are not allowed to. It’s a bit misleading to write that. I’m not trying to be pedantic but this kind of thing is hotly debated.

    I really appreciate you writing this post, I think this topic should be covered more by bloggers. I also think it’s important people decide for themselves – which you make clear in your own discussions on this subject – and do whatever they feel is morally/ethically right or wrong for them.

  • Georgina

    Thank you so much for this post!

  • Pingback: 5 Tips For Going Cruelty Free ~ Brianneetc()

  • I’m really glad you posted this! It was something I was having a lot of mixed feelings about and I wasn’t sure how to articulate it at all, but this post has been so helpful! You’re definitely right that we should be investing in brands that are cruelty free and it’s so nice seeing non-judgemental posts about these things.

    Brianne xo

  • Ayesha Khan

    I’ve read your bio and what I’ve learned is that i have wasted a lot of time in my life you were running a blog when you were a teenager and it was a dial-up connections in those days , wow good to know and what we were doing , well leave it and your information about makeup and all that is really appreciating , keep sharing such wonderful knowledge , thank xx

  • This blog post is amazing, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I stand with you on all the points. I was looking forward to the part about the parent companies, because I also purchase from Urban Decay, Liz Earle, etc. For me it’s actually BETTER than purchasing vegan chocolate ice cream from Tesco’s Free From range, which isn’t specifically for vegans at all. (I still buy and eat it though!) When purchasing ‘accidentally vegan’ food from non vegan food companies you’re giving your money directly to a non vegan company, right? That’s ‘worse’ than buying from a cruelty free company who is owned by non cruelty free.

  • Icy Sedgwick

    I love everything about this post!

    And you answered a few questions for me, too. I buy a lot of Make Up Revolution products and they say on their site that they’re CF, but the products are made in PRC. I might still do more research though.

  • Pingback: Clicklist #13 – A Scatter of Thoughts()

  • Great post Gemma! It’s such an interesting debate, and I think you could spend hours talking about it, but I love your point of view, and feel exactly the same. I made the switch to cruelty free about 3 months ago, and trying to find good companies can be a minefield, but am slowly getting there. I agree with you about the parent companies, and I still buy from companies who are owned by a parent company but they themselves are still cruelty free, such as Urban Decay and NYX. Also, a big shout out to Superdrug whose own brand stuff is amazing for anyone looking for cruelty free toiletries – their body butters in particular are amazing.
    Thank you also for these types of posts Gemma, they really help and are brilliantly written.

    Fliss xx

  • Pingback: The Body Shop – We Choose Cruelty-Free()

  • Swati

    Love the blogpost, thank you so much for it >

  • Thea

    I want to thank you for this post. I’m also vegan, and was a big Urban Decay supporter at the time that they announced their plans to sell in China. I was so distraught, and since that time, have refused to buy from them. Soon after, I learned about parent companies, and quickly decided that companies owned by testers would no longer get my business. I’ve recently started digging deeper into my feelings on the issue, and your analogy regarding buying vegan foods from non-vegan restaurants completely changed the way I think about the issue. I often go out of my way to visit non-vegan restaurants when they begin to provide vegan options, and I buy all of my groceries from stores that sell non-vegan items. Why would my consumption of beauty products be any different? Thank you so much for being so open about your thought process even though I’m sure you’ve received negative responses for buying from owned companies. We need more open and honest discussions in our community, rather than “us or them” mentality! <3