What Is Ethical Beauty?

It is no secret that sustainability plays a huge role in today’s society. In consumer choices, sustainability can be the sole factor as to whether a potential buyer chooses to purchase a product or not. That is because people want to buy products from brands who they connect with. These brands are typically ethical brands which means they strive to do the right thing. One of the main brands people look at when it comes to this is beauty brands.

Ethical beauty can be broken down into tons of different things. This includes animal testing policies, organic ingredients, how they treat employees, and much more. Here is your full guide to what ethical beauty exactly is.


A lot of what ethical beauty is is ingredients. People care about what companies are formulating into the products they are using.


One of the main things people think of when it comes to ethical beauty is whether a brand is cruelty-free. This correlates to the company’s animal testing policies. If a brand allows their products to be tested on animals, they are not cruelty-free. If a brand sells its products in countries where animal testing is required by law, they are not cruelty-free.

Popular makeup brands you might not have know still test on animals are Maybelline, Clinique, L’Oreal, MAC Cosmetics, Estee Lauder, and more.

One of the main reasons animal testing is unethical is because you are putting the animal’s life at risk. In a lot of cases, a lot of these animals end up dead because of animal testing. In fact, after testing, a lot of the time the animals are killed in horrible ways without any pain relief.

Here are some popular makeup brands that ARE cruelty-free: Anastasia Beverly Hills, ColourPop, Urban Decay, Becca, E.L.F., NYX, Smashbox, and more!


There are a ton of factors that go into labeling a product as organic or all-natural. They shouldn’t have any GMOs, artificial colors, artificial fragrances, preservatives, or harsh chemicals.

Organic beauty products should not be formulated with any harmful ingredients. These harmful ingredients could potentially cause irritating reactions to your skin. Some of these include parabens, silicones, sulfates, phthalates, fragrance, oils, and more.

It is important to remember that not all organic beauty brands are vegan. Some of them are able to be labeled as organic, but they still use ingredients such as beeswax and honey.

Some popular organic makeup brands include Juice Beauty, Ilia Beauty, Kosas, Bite Beauty, Beautycounter, Milk Makeup, and more.


When people think of veganism, they tend to only think of what foods you consume. But veganism goes much further than that. In order for a beauty product to be vegan, it cannot use any ingredients derived from animals in any way. This is even if it is not directly harmful or cruel to the animals.

Some non-vegan ingredients that are commonly found in makeup products are beeswax, carmine, honey, lanolin, and more.

Some popular makeup brands that are vegan are ColourPop, E.L.F., Milk Makeup, Kat Von D Beauty, Cover FX, Hourglass, Lime Crime, and more!

Palm-Oil Free

You may not have known about the importance of palm oil. Using palm oil in beauty products contributes to the destruction of the rain forests and the animals in rain forests. Products made with palm oil have an effect on the environment and are not considered to be eco-friendly or ethical.

In fact, many people don’t know that the production of palm oil strongly contributes to a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions. This destructs the rainforest leaving no room for animals to live in their natural habitats.

Here are some beauty brands that do not formulate their products with palm oil: Earth Tu Face, Axiology, Adorn Cosmetics, PHB Ethical Beauty, Atomic Makeup, and more.

Business Practices

Although ingredients play a huge role in ethical beauty, business practices also are super important. In most cases, business practices get left on the backburner in people’s minds when trying to be more sustainable. We’re here to educate you about how businesses can be more ethical in their practices.


In the media, you’ve probably seen people eliminating the amount of waste they produce. The zero-waste movement has increased in popularity, as people are wanting to be more eco-friendly. Therefore, it’s no surprise that businesses wanting to be more ethical are choosing packaging that creates less waste.

The main way that brands do this is by making their packaging either recyclable or reusable.

Unfortunately, this type of packaging tends to be more on the pricy side. So brands that use this packaging typically have higher costs for their products, delivery fees, or both.


How a company treats its employees plays another part in ethical practices. Some unethical companies treat their employees poorly. This includes paying them minimum wages, giving them little to no employee benefits, creating an unhealthy and unproductive work environment, and more.

Ethical beauty companies should pay their employees enough to make a living to support them and their families. The work environment should allow them to be productive. Employees should receive adequate benefits. Also, there should be plentiful room for growth within the company.

Waste & Energy

When a company tries to become more ethical in their practices, they often make strides to manage their waste and energy more sustainably.

When it comes to managing waste, ethical beauty brands try to have as little waste as possible in the production process. This also correlates to recycle programs in the production spaces.

When it comes to managing energy, some ethical brands choose to source energy from solar panels.


Have you ever seen that a brand donates a portion of the money you spend to charities? Did that make you want to purchase one of their products more? The answer is probably yes. The reality is that consumers want to buy from brands that do good for the world. So when a company donates money to charity, they are considered to be more ethical.

Here are some popular beauty brands and the charities they donate to:

  • MAC Cosmetics donates to COVID relief programs that help people of color that are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
  • Meow Meow Tweet donates to programs that help young women with breast cancer.
  • Laura Mercier has donated to programs helping people with ovarian cancer.
  • Beauty Blender donates to the Human Rights Campaign which works to achieve equality for the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Mary Kay donates to the Mary Kay Foundation which helps both in cancer research and putting an end to domestic violence.
  • Thrive Cosmetics donates to the American Red Cross helping with the wildfires in California.
  • Philosophy supports and donates to charities that help issues pertaining to mental health.
  • Sephora Brand donates to programs creating more female-empowerment based classes.
  • Tatcha donates to Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program for girls in Asia and Africa.
  • Lush donates to charities helping environmental issues like conservation, animal welfare, and human rights.

Final Thoughts

Our eco-friendly footprints truly do make a difference in the world. Don’t be afraid to make small changes to be more sustainable and then work up to become completely eco-friendly. Any small change helps, and we hope this shed some light on ethical beauty!

Frequently Asked Questions

If a product is not cruelty-free, can it still be vegan?

By definition, cruelty-free means not testing on animals. Vegan means not using ingredients derived from animals. When looking at this definition, it seems as though a product can be vegan without being cruelty-free. However, most ethical standards require a company to be cruelty-free first before ever being labeled as vegan.

Is ethical beauty more expensive for consumers?

Generally speaking, ethical beauty brands tend to be more expensive than other brands. But you can still find decently ethical brands for a low cost. For example, brands like E.L.F. Cosmetics and ColourPop Cosmetics are low-cost and implement ethical practices!

What are some resources for ethical beauty standards and information?

If you are looking for popular resources giving you all the latest info on ethical beauty, we’ve got you covered. Here is a comprehensive list of the top free resources: