Walking down the cosmetics aisle of any store these days can be a bit overwhelming. There are hundreds of products offered by hundreds of different brands, creating a sea of tubes, compacts, and brushes that can be hard to navigate. Our abundance of options isn’t really surprising when you consider that in 2018, the U.S. was considered the most valuable beauty and personal care market in the world, generating just under 90 billion dollars in revenue. That is no small chunk of change. So where to begin?
Finding the right makeup brand can often depend on your skin type, color, and style or application preference. Another important factor to consider is whether the brand is cruelty-free, vegan, or both. After serious injuries were suffered by individuals exposed to unsafe beauty products in the 1940s, widespread animal testing became the cosmetic norm. These tests include skin and eye irritation tests, force-feeding studies, and “lethal dose” tests.
You know the rest of the story: hundreds of thousands of animals have been mistreated, tortured, and killed since the implementation of these tests. Luckily, these testing methods are ultimately unnecessary and hundreds of cosmetic brands have since ditched these inhumane practices — it just takes a little extra digging to find them. We speak for all the bunnies, mice, and guinea pigs of past and present when we say it’s certainly worth the effort.
From super cheap to top-of-the-line, we’ve compiled our favorite cruelty-free and/or vegan cosmetic brands, all of which guarantee to put your best face forward without sacrificing any of our furry friends.
e.l.f. Cosmetics: $
Products left to right (clockwise): Clear Brow and Lash Mascara, $2; Jelly Pop Face and Eye Gloss, $6; Liquid Glitter Eyeshadow, $5
When we say e.l.f. is for the thrifty MUA, we’re not exaggerating. Featuring a multitude of everyday products under $5, this brand has some secret gems hidden in their long list of budget products. Don’t let the super small price tag fool you, these products pack a huge punch and last far longer than the price would suggest.
e.l.f.’s Clear Brow and Lash Mascara is a makeup bag essential for those who prefer to rock the natural look, effortlessly enhancing your eyelashes and eyebrows without extra tint, weight, or clumpiness. To achieve a high-fashion, glossed-over look without breaking the bank, try their Jelly Pop Face and Eye Gloss. Finally, you’ll want to buy every color of e.l.f.’s ultra-pigmented and long-lasting Liquid Glitter Eyeshadow. Thankfully, one bottle will only set you back five bucks.
Flower Beauty: $
Products left to right: Blush Bomb Color Drops for Cheeks, $10; Miracle Matte Universal Finishing Powder, $11; Supernova Celestial Skin Elixir, $16
Founded by Drew Barrymore in 2012, Flower Beauty offers affordable cosmetics and can be found at many major retailers across the country, including Wal-mart, Kroger, and Ulta. We especially love the fact that Flower Beauty provides an ingredient list for every product on their website.
Our favorite Flower products include their perfectly layerable Blush Bomb color drops, which allow you to have complete control over your cheeks’ rosy hue; a universal ultra-matte finishing powder; and a luxurious-but-affordable skin elixir packed with antioxidants and pearlescent pigments.
Pacifica Beauty: $
Products left to right (clockwise): Animal Magic Eyeshadow Palette, $24; Cosmic Reflect Hemp-Infused Eye Shadows, $19; Moonflower Otherworldly Eyeshadows, $18
Featuring whimsical, West Coast-inspired packaging, Pacifica is a 100% vegan, cruelty-free cosmetics brand that offers a wide range of makeup, skincare, suncare, fragrance, and beauty supplement products.
Our personal favorites are their bold and unique eyeshadow palettes, all of which are insanely affordable compared to similar high-end products. Their new Animal Magic palette features gorgeous glittered turquoise and versatile nudes, while their Moonflower palette boasts celestial silvers, magentas, and blues. Pacifica also offers an extensive hemp-infused line which includes this Cosmic Reflect palette — hemp oil has a non-comedogenic rating of zero, meaning you can use these pigments all over your face without worrying about clogged pores or breaking out.
NYX Professional Makeup: $$
Products left to right: Matte Finish Makeup Setting Spray, $20; Color Correcting Palette, $12; Wonder Stick, $12
NYX Professional Makeup is a great starting point for those looking to explore higher-end cosmetics. Once only found in department stores and specialty cosmetic stores, NYX has now made its way to the more accessible shelves of grocery stores and pharmacies.
We’re huge fans of NYX’s face products, including their critically acclaimed Matte Finish setting spray (a staple of my makeup bag for years now) and compact, 2-in-1 Wonder Stick tool. For an even skin tone over sunburns, dark spots, pale and tired skin, or acne, we also recommend their creamy Color Correcting Palette.
Fenty Beauty: $$
Products left to right: Match Stix Glow Skinstick, $25; Body Lava Luminizer, $59; Stunna Lip Paint Longwear Fluid Lip Color, $25
Rihanna took over the make-up industry with the release of Fenty Beauty in September of 2017, and rightly so — her line of face, eye, and lip products are designed with all skin types and tones in mind while remaining lightweight, packed with pigment, and long-lasting. We already had a million and one reasons to stan Rihanna, but this seals the deal.
One of the first Fenty Beauty products to gain major popularity in the make-up world was the Match Stix Glow Skinstick, a compact, easy-to-apply product packed with dazzlingly bright pigment that can last you years of regular use. That same glistening sheen can be found in Fenty’s Body Lava Luminizer, a must-have if you’re wanting to maintain a warm-weather glow this fall. Finally, we recommend Fenty’s Stunna Lip Paint, a long-wear, soft matte liquid lipstick available in nine eye-catching colors.
Too Faced: $$
Products left to right: Just Peachy Mattes Velvet Eye Shadow Palette, $45; Better than Sex Mascara, $26; Chocolate Soleil Bronzer, $32
If you were to take classic early 2000s Bath and Body Works beauty products and combine them with modern, reasonably priced, high-quality make-up, you would get Too Faced cosmetics. Featuring cute, fun, and flirty packaging with delicious scents like peach, cinnamon, and chocolate, Too Faced beauty products are as lovely in their packaging as they are on your face.
We recommend the 12-color Just Peachy shadow palette first and foremost: this peaches and cream-scented palette offers warm pinks, peaches, and browns in a soft, long-lasting matte finish. For voluptuous, dark lashes, we recommend the cult-favorite Better Than Sex mascara. Finally, Too Faced’s delicious, cocoa powder-infused bronzer gives you a warm, chocolate-scented glow without added shimmer or highlight.
Anastasia Beverly Hills: $$
Products left to right: Brow Primer, $21; Dipbrow Pomade, $21; Micro-Stroking Detailing Brow Pen, $22
Anastasia Beverly Hills is often synonymous with fierce eyebrows, and there’s a reason why. Their extensive line of pomades, pens, pencils, and stencils have helped people everywhere achieve the big, bold, beautiful brows of their dreams. The best part? Those Insta-worthy brows can be yours at no risk to any furrier-browed creatures.
Whether you like big and bushy or sleek and angled, ABH’s brow primer is a must-have. Keep your arches looking snatched all day long with this simple (but oh, so crucial!) wax pencil. We also love the Dipbrow Pomade and Micro-Stroking Detailing Brow Pen for perfectly constructed brows down to the very last strand of hair.
Naked Cosmetics: $$$
Products left to right (clockwise): Mother Nature Collection of Six, $59.99; Blending Kit, $13.99; Limited Edition: Pick Your Own Colors Custom Collection, $39.99
Originally started as a professional wholesale cosmetics company, Naked Cosmetics have since opened their online stores to the individual consumer. Lucky for us, too, because this 100% cruelty-free company specializes in eye-catching pigments, make-up application essentials, and they just so happen to be running a sale on their website.
If you’re looking for the perfect fall eyeshadow palette, look no further than the 6-color Mother Nature Collection. With hard to find shades of olive green and brick red, these warm, earthy pigments can be used on any skin tone with gorgeous results. Or, create a customizable palette with their limited edition pick-your-own custom collection. We also recommend grabbing a blending kit for nails, lips, and eyes while it’s still on sale for less than $20.
100% Pure: $$$
Products left to right: Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream, $29; Fruit Pigmented Cocoa Butter Matte Lipstick, $28, Vitamin C Serum, $42
Although not the cheapest on the list, 100% Pure’s line of cruelty-free and vegan make-up, skincare, haircare, and wellness products are well worth the investment. Saturate without worry with their long line of fruit pigmented make-up, or hydrate and rejuvenate your skin with one of their vitamin and antioxidant-packed serums. 100% Pure also provides a detailed list of ingredients for every product they sell — another huge bonus for seekers of completely organic and chemical-free beauty products.
We recommend 100% Pure’s Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream to naturally de-puff, brighten, and rejuvenate tired eyes. For a matte look without any of the crustiness, smudging, or fading, try their Fruit Pigmented Cocoa Butter Matte Lipstick (which also happens to come in a staggering 24 colors). And with the extra stress that the pandemic has added to everyone’s lives, we could all use a pump or two of their firming, brightening, and hydrating Vitamin C serum.