What is a "cruelty-free" or "vegan" skin care product?
Cruelty-free means that no form of animal testing has been done at any point in the creation of a brand’s products, while vegan-friendly skin care eliminates all animal ingredients, or animal-derived ingredients, including egg, milk, snail extracts, or any other animal product.
So keep in mind that vegan is not synonymous with cruelty-free, because it is possible for a product to be vegan, but not cruelty-free and vice versa.
Hidden ingredients to look out for if you’re a vegan:
- Lanolin: Lanolin is made from the fatty substance found naturally on sheep’s wool, and is a common ingredient used for its moisturising and healing properties.
- Bee products: Keep an eye out for bee products such as beeswax, honey, propolis and royal jelly, which are used in many natural skincare and beauty products, as they’re highly moisturising and full of antioxidants.
- Squalene: This powerful ingredient with anti-ageing properties is extracted from shark liver oil, and is commonly used in lip balms and moisturisers. Vegan squalene exists and is derived from olives and wheat germ.
- Collagen: Used in lots of anti-ageing products, this fibrous protein is usually derived from animal tissue.
- Hyaluronic acid: Known for its power to hydrate and plump your skin, hyaluronic acid is commonly derived from rooster combs, or the red crown that mounts the head of a rooster. However, keep in mind that not all hyaluronic acid is animal-derived, and the very same ingredient can also be manufactured via biofermentation. When in doubt about a certain product, get in touch with the brand's customer service team.
So which Korean beauty companies are cruelty free and vegan, or have vegan products?
Even though K-beauty is well-known for products with snail mucin, bee venom, horse oil and other animal derived ingredients, there are also loads of cruelty free and vegan-friendly options. If you are trying to cut out animal products from your routine, here are some of our favourite vegan and cruelty-free Korean beauty brands and products you should check out:
Aromatica is, in many ways, the gold standard for Korean organic and all-natural skincare products. Other than its ECOCERT Certification, Aromatica is also the only Korean brand to earn EWG’s Skin-deep Champion Status, an accolade awarded to toxin-free beauty brands. Aromatica is a cruelty-free brand, and most of its popular products are also vegan. Those that are will be clearly marked as such on their website.
TOP 2 Cruelty Free and Vegan Aromatica Products:
- Aromatica Rose Absolute First Serum: An all-in-one organic toner and serum that brightens and protects your skin while combating wrinkles. This multi-functional, highly enriched essence contains bulgarian damask rose oil and organic herb extracts to revitalise the skin.
- Aromatica Tea Tree Balancing Toner: A refreshing and clarifying alcohol-free toner for oily skin. It hydrates and balances your skin’s pH, while soothing sensitive, acne-prone skin.
Other than being a cruelty-free brand that does not test on animals, all of Klairs’s products are also vegan-friendly with the exception of its Manuka Honey & Choco Body Soap and the Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream. Klairs explained that honey was added to the body soap formulation because of its added effectiveness and could not be replaced. The calming cream contains beeswax, which the company also attempted to remove, but could not as it changes the texture of the product.
TOP 3 Cruelty Free and Vegan Klairs Products:
- Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner: A refreshing toner that removes excess dirt and sebum while restoring pH balance. It preps your skin to better absorb the next steps in your skincare routine, enhancing the effectiveness of serums and creams. Formulated with amino acids to reduce irritation and provide deep hydration to the skin, this toner is the essential first step in your skincare regimen.
- Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil: A mild yet effective cleansing oil that effectively removes dirt and makeup without irritating the skin, and maintains the skin moisture even after cleansing. Its hypo-allergenic formula is packed with natural oils such as Black Sesame Oil, which functions as an antioxidant and prevents dehydration and skin ageing, and Black Currant Seed Oil, which is rich in mineral and vitamins, to control sebum production, increase skin elasticity and soothe the skin.
- Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Serum: A gentle serum that nourishes and moisturises your skin. Formulated with a rich blend of organic ingredients, including celery, carrot root, and broccoli extract to help replenish your skin's moisture levels without compromising the delicate nature of your skin.
Neogen has become a hugely popular brand due to its incredibly innovative formulations. Neogen is a cruelty free skin care brand, and although its is not entirely vegan, it does still carry a number of products that are vegan-safe.
TOP 3 Cruelty Free and Vegan Neogen Products:
- Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Lemon: Manual exfoliation pads combined with chemical peeling effects of the lemon serum. Soaked in Vitamin C rich serum formulated from various antioxidant and vitamin-rich natural ingredients like lemon, these convenient cotton gauze peeling pads will leave your skin looking smoother, brighter, and more radiant.
- Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Green Tea: Manual exfoliation pads combined with chemical peeling effects of the green tea serum. Soaked in the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich Green Tea, these exfoliating pads also helps prevent premature aging and helps soothe irritated skin.
- Neogen Bio Peel Gauze Peeling Wine: Manual exfoliation pads combined with chemical peeling effects of the wine serum. Soaked in a wine serum containing potent antioxidants like Resveratrol, which is naturally fermented, these convenient cotton gauze peeling pads will leave your skin looking smoother, brighter, firmer and healthier.
COSRX is another cruelty-free brand that is loved worldwide. Although the brand is not entirely vegan as some of their products contain snail mucin and honey, they do have a number of great vegan products for those who want to try out a more plant-based routine.
TOP 3 Cruelty Free and Vegan COSRX Products:
COSRX Low pH Good Morning Cleanser: A mildly acidic cleanser with the ideal balanced pH level of 5~6. Formulated with botanical skin-purifying ingredients and mild acids, it is gentle on the skin and makes skin supple and clear without stripping skin's natural oils, leaving skin hydrated all day long. It makes the perfect morning cleanser for everyone, especially for sensitive and dry skin. It's also formulated to remove light makeup and other oil-based residue so it can also be used at night.
- COSRX One Step Pimple Clear Pads: Pre-soaked in Betaine Salicylate, a natural BHA ingredient, and Willow Bark Water that exfoliate without drying out or sensitising the skin. These pads completely remove the excess sebum, polish away old dead skin cells that cause acne and remove makeup wastes. Using these pads will help brighten skin tone and purify the skin without irritation and will help reduce the number of pimples and control skin breakouts. Exfoliation, sebum control & hydrating all at once, it is the ultimate all-in-one pad for all! It can also be used for blemishes on the chest and back.
- COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Intensive Cream: An intensely hydrating cream filled with bountiful hydrating ingredients like sea-buckthorn, and hyaluronic acid that help boost hydration of the skin without feeling greasy or heavy. It also contains other active ingredients that help protecting the skin from dehydration while balancing the skin’s water and oil content.
Whamisa places an emphasis on using organic, fermented ingredients and products that utilise an interesting range of botanical extracts. This brand focuses on preserving the benefits of natural ingredients and have spent years perfecting natural skin care products so they are effective, safe and have an extended shelf life. Not only are their products BDIH certified, EWG Verified and cruelty-free, many are also vegetarian and vegan friendly too.
TOP 3 Cruelty Free and Vegan Whamisa Products:
- Whamisa Organic Flowers Deep Rich Essence Toner: A rich, serum-like, fermented toner enriched with 97.4% organic ingredients for a boost of hydration and nourishment. Botanical extracts from aloe maculata leaf and chrysanthemum are used instead of water to maximise benefits. It also includes fermented Dandelion and Argan Oil to improve skin texture and leave skin dewy, deeply rehydrated and rebalanced after cleansing.
- Whamisa Organic Flowers Cleansing Oil: A gentle yet effective oil cleanser enriched with 59.4% organic ingredients that removes makeup and cleans with minimum skin irritation, leaving skin cleansed and balanced. Formulated with a blend of botanical oils such as Hazel Seed, Olive Fruit, Avocado, Jojoba Seed and Argan Oil that deep cleanses skin and declogs congested pores. Chrysanthemum, lotus flower and dandelion ferment filtrates help to soothe and condition skin.
- Whamisa Organic Flowers Hydrogel Mask: A luxurious hydrogel mask enriched with 95.0% organic ingredients that helps brighten, lift and moisturise the skin. This mask is soaked in camellia sinensis extract, dandelion root, chrysanthemum and lotus flower extracts to help brighten your complexion, rehydrate and calm dull, depleted skin, protect the skin from daily damage, and improve skin's elasticity.