I would like to begin with a disclaimer: I am not trying to reinvent myself as a beauty blogger. I would be very bad at that considering I am only now learning how to properly apply concealer. Rather, I am writing this as someone who voraciously collects skincare products, and who also prefers those products to be cruelty free and vegan (i.e. not tested on animals and without any ingredients derived from animals), and would like to share my thoughts on that, as well as some product recommendations if that’s your thing – my mom recently told me that my skin looked ‘lovely’ and ‘very clear’ so if that is not a ringing endorsement of my expertise I am not sure what is.
I feel like at the minute there is a growing interest in vegan skincare, mostly due to an emerging awareness that animal testing and ingredients in the beauty industry are objectively unnecessary. It is the year of our Lord 2016, we have hoverboards and Jaden Smith; I’m pretty sure we can a) figure out whether something in a moisturiser is going to be harmful without pouring it directly into the eyes of a rabbit to just check real quick, and b) use synthetic versions of animal ingredients like lanolin* because, if I can be so real, wearing ‘a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals’ (ty Wikipedia) on your face seems kind of icky.
Howeeeeever, I think a big problem that a lot of people tend to have with animal-friendly skincare is that it often doesn’t feel like it’s quite as effective as the usually bigger-name alternatives. Another issue is that when brands do use their cruelty-free status as a selling point, it’s common that they’ll emphasise that to the detriment of aesthetic of the products and packaging (like, I may be vegan but I’m also 22 and obsessed with Kim Kardashian, and my most pressing life goal is to one day own a Range Rover so excuse me if I don’t want to purchase this cleanser with pictures of bamboo on the box xo). Now I am no marketing expert, but I’d say that people buy skincare products for a reason that lies somewhere between necessity – you gotta wash your face – and TREAT YASELF – you wanna wash your face with a product that leaves it feeling soft and smooth like a well-groomed mini pig – so if what cruelty free brands are selling doesn’t feel special or luxurious even in some tiny way, it’s not going to be as attractive to the consumer as similarly priced, non-cruelty free items that do.
What I’m basically saying is that whilst I’m aware that a lot of people are interested in making their skincare routines cruelty free, I fully understand the misgivings surrounding that. That is pretty much why I am writing this post. I absolutely love indulgent (or at least indulgent-feeling) skincare, but I also really dislike using animal derivatives, so because of this I have amassed a pretty good knowledge of vegan products which fulfil my two major criteria:
1) the product must be super effective
2) the product must make you feel like a luxury bitch.
I feel like I can share this knowledge to spread the Gospel of Actually Not Terrible Cruelty-Free Skincare, and maybe inadvertently save some bunnies if what I say is persuasive enough, so lemme talk about my favourite products for a hot minute:
REN Skincare Clarimatte T-Zone Control Cleansing Gel and T-Zone Balancing Gel Cream (aka ‘cleanser’ and ‘moisturiser’)
I am putting these two first because they have been a major landmark on my personal skincare journey. When I started using this stuff in February it was the part in a young adult novel where the main character has a coming of age experience, only the main character was me, and the experience was AMAZING SKIN. REN is all round great (they’re cruelty free and their vegan credentials are v good also – they list all of their non-vegan products, which is only about four or five items from a huge range – on their website), but as someone with combination/oily skin, the Clarimatte products are the standout for me. The packaging is super simple and ‘minimalist’ or whatever, which I am personally very into as a fetishist of the Scandinavian, but I think what I love most about these products is how they feel – the cleanser is a clear gel which comes in a functional pump bottle and foams up nicely when applied to the face, and the moisturiser is a super lightweight not quite-cream not-quite gel which absorbs into the skin really quickly, so it doesn’t feel like it’s resting on your face, which can be a bit off-putting when you’re already prone to oiliness. I use them both twice a day, with Aesop B and Tea toner – which, tbh, meh – and at night, a salicylic acid product that I will discuss shortly, in between, and I love them like a mother loves her babe. One time a few weeks after I started using them I caught my reflection in my bedroom mirror and I couldn’t believe how even and creamy my skin looked. I think that is what good skincare should do for you.
RMS Beauty Raw Coconut Cream (aka ‘makeup remover’)
I know people say you shouldn’t use coconut oil on your skin because blackheads or something but whatever I’m a maverick, and it hasn’t caused me any problems thus far. This ‘coconut cream’ is a super refined coconut oil, and I mainly use it to remove makeup. It is especially good for getting stubborn waterproof mascaras off. I usually spoon a bit onto a cotton pad, rub it on my face to warm it up, and then swoosh it about until all of the makeup is gone. It does a super nice job without leaving my face feeling sad and dry which I think a lot of makeup removers can be guilty of. Also RMS Beauty in general is a really great, interesting, ethical company whose aesthetic is very clean and doesn’t make me want to cry, so they get bonus points for that. They aren’t entirely vegan but a number of their products are, including this one. Another good thing about this coconut oil is that you can use it for any number of purposes; it does the job as a body moisturiser, a hair mask, something to sheer out your foundation or give it a dewier finish, and probably lots of other things that are beyond the feeble powers of my mind to ever even imagine too.
Superdrug B. Pure Micellar Water (aka ‘makeup remover 2: 2 Fast 2 Makeup Remover’)
‘WAIT A MINUUUUTE’ I hear u cry, in the style of a television detective who has uncovered a loophole in a petty thief’s alibi. ‘I thought she had oily skin. Why is she using an oil as a makeup remover? This makes no sense, my entire world view has been smashed to pieces.’ That is literally what I hear u cry, so let me explain.
For a while, I tried using the RMS Coconut Cream on its own as my sole makeup remover, and whilst I was still happy with the results, I noticed that my skin was feeling a little too oily in the mornings, even after I had done cleanser, toner, moisturiser and a virgin sacrifice. So, I introduced this Superdrug Micellar Water, which I used by itself before I switched to the coconut oil, back into the fold. I am v pleased to report that they work together wonderfully. They are the Mary Kate and Ashley of cruelty-free skincare – each perfectly serviceable individually, but total flames when photographed together wearing Rodarte (lmao idk).
Once I’ve got the majority of my makeup off with the Coconut Cream, I pour some of this onto a cotton pad and quickly swipe it around my face. The reason for this is twofold: firstly, it gets off any makeup that I might have missed, and secondly it removes any excess oil, meaning I still get the benefits of the coconut oil’s natural moisture without the morning oiliness problem I was having before. Would recommend these two products together especially if you have combination skin because I find that they balance each other out really nicely.
I also just wanna say a quick word on the B range from Superdrug before I move onto the next thing – whilst I was generally a bit disappointed with their makeup selection, the skincare is really good, affordable, and like all of Superdrug’s other own-brand products, *completely vegan*. This is obviously a very cool and important move from a massive chain whose clientele tends to skew young, and it also doesn’t hurt that the products are genuinely effective. Worth a go I think.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid (aka ‘exfoliator’)
I have #skincaretwitter to thank for this one. After many years of using scrubs, acid exfoliators have recently been brought to my attention and after a look at the extensive Paula’s Choice site, I narrowed my search down to this one, which is recommended for skin on the oilier side. My main motivation for wanting to try this was its promise to ‘unclog and diminish’ oversized pores, because I have some very visible pores on my cheeks. I don’t really understand the science of any of this, and I have literally no idea how salicylic acid works beyond the fact that it’s an excellent exfoliant, but I can tell you that this is a very good product which yields really pleasing results. After a few weeks of wiping my face down with a cotton pad full of this stuff at night after cleanser and toner (you can use it twice a day but if you are going to use it in the morning it has to be followed by some kind of SPF product, and, put simply, I am too lazy for that), I noticed my skin looking brighter and less congested. I much prefer using this to a scrub because it’s way less messy and also a lot more regular, so you can keep on top of your exfoliation which I am sure is deeply important to us all.
FYI, Paula’s Choice is another really great skincare brand and they note that they don’t animal test on the front of their bottles, which are again functional, simple and fairly minimalist. They’re not entirely vegan, but they list their vegan products on their website, which is kind of them.
Okay I’m going to shut up now but those are some good products and brands that you should look into if you don’t already know them. I think what they have in common is the fact that they are all trying to bring cruelty-free skincare up to date, which is of course very admirable, with products that are as attractive as they are effective. I hope that even these few products show that cruelty-free/vegan skincare which actually works and isn’t hideously ugly is actually out there. In the name of the cleanser, the toner, and the oil-free moisturiser, Amen.
*elf which is one of my most fav makeup brands recently rolled this measure out throughout their entire range which means that all of their cosmetics are not only ridiculous quality for the tiny amount you pay, but also 100% vegan