Cruelty-Free vs. Vegan vs. Not tested on Animals?

If you are someone who’s just venturing on their cruelty-free journey or if you are just lost and don’t know where to start or what these labels mean, you are at the right place. :). You must have heard “Cruelty-free”, “Vegan” etc. thrown around a lot lately. If you are confused, dont worry, we have all been there at some point. But, do they know what these terms really mean?

MUAs at Sephora once mentioned that people come in asking for cruelty-free products. But when asked if they know what it means or why they want to shop cruelty-free, they would get answers like “Cruelty-free” ~ “good for skin or it’s plant-based”. These are true to some extent, but knowing what these terms really mean will help you pick out what you really want.

Understanding these terms took me a while as well. So, I took a stab at trying to make this as simple as possible for you. 🙂


Term “cruelty-free” means that the products manufactured or developed by methods that do not involve experimentation or testing on animals.

Simply put, “cruelty-free” ~ “not tested on animals”.

This does NOT mean, that it doesn’t contain animal ingredients.


Term “Vegan” simply means the product doesn’t have any animal ingredients.

Many traditional ingredients within skincare products are derived from animals. This list includes but not limited to Beeswax, collagen, lanolin, keratin, honey, hyaluronic acid, elastin, squalene, stearic acid, and silk.

Some ingredients have multiple sources ie, for example, Hyaluronic acid can be obtained from rooster’s combs and through bacterial fermentation. So, this ingredient can also be vegan if it’s from the latter source.

Not tested on Animals

Now, comes the tricky part. You must have seen this phrase written behind some products and thought, “score! another cruelty-free product”. Haha 😂, I am sure you didn’t exactly think that. But, these were the exact words that went through my mind couple years ago, when I didn’t know what this phrase exactly meant.

This Phrase, “Not tested on Animals”, can mean a lot of things:

  • The final product is not tested on animals, but the individual ingredients ARE.
  • Ingredients ARE tested on animals, but the final product wasn’t.
  • Manufacturer itself did not conduct any tests. But instead relied on a third party supplier to test them.
  • Testing was done in a foreign country where animal testing laws could be much weaker than in the U.S.
  • Either the ingredients or the final product was not tested on animals only in the last one, five or ten years. But they could have done testing the past and could resume testing in the future.
  • Neither the ingredients nor the final product was tested on animals. But this is highly unlikely because, if this were true, the company wouldn’t stop at just adding the phrase “Not tested on animals”.

So in most cases, if you see the phrase “Not tested on animals” on a product, it is simply for marketing purposes.


Pick a product that’s truly “Cruelty-free” or “Vegan” as “Not tested on animals” doesn’t mean anything. To learn how you can identify if a product is “Cruelty-Free” or “Vegan”, check out my other blog post “Understanding Cruelty-Free & Vegan logos”.

4 thoughts on “Cruelty-Free vs. Vegan vs. Not tested on Animals?

  1. This is an amazing breakdown to all these terms. The way you broke down each term and including what stereotype definitions float around. It’s sad what sometimes brands do for marketing purposes. I feel like I know what to look for in products from now on because I am trying to go towards all cruelty-free products. Thank you for this amazing reminder!!


  2. I’ve learnt so much from your post. It’s very informative and well written. I’ve already been cautious with brands, but now I know to do thorough research. Great post! 🙂


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