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Cruelty-Free versus Vegan -- What's the Difference?

September 09, 2018


Are you a conscious consumer? Curious about how your purchases impact the environment and our animal friends? If so, this post is for you!

There are a lot of buzz words out there, and two you've probably heard are "cruelty-free" and "vegan" -- but what's the difference?


Cruelty-free is the label that is given to cosmetic companies that do not harm or kill animals while producing and testing their products. These products proudly display a cruelty-free certification symbol (most often a leaping bunny) or guarantee to their customers that they do not test on animals or use suppliers that do.

Third party organizations usually require companies to make an official statement about their practices and pay to license their logo for recognizabiity.

Although cruelty-free cosmetics do not test on animals, they may still contain animal-based ingredients and animal derivatives. These could include things that some vegans may prefer to avoid, like milk or milk-derived ingredients, honey/beeswax or other bee ingredients, carmine or other insect/animal based colors, lanolin or other sheep derivatives, silk proteins, or various ingredients from marine life.


Vegan cosmetics are cosmetics that contain no animal products or animal derivatives. These products usually display a vegan certification symbol (most often a capital letter V).

And though cosmetics certified as vegan will not contain animal-based ingredients or derivatives, they could have been tested on animals unless noted by the company. 

If it is important to you that your cosmetics have not been tested on animals AND they contain no animal ingredients or derivatives, then you'll want to look for BOTH statements of being cruelty free AND vegan on your products and packaging.


Not all products are labeled are vegan (even if they are!) and not all people know what ingredients vegans avoid, so, when in doubt, you'll want to check the ingredient list.

Here is a helpful list of animal-derived ingredients to be aware of (the presence of any of these would make a product NOT vegan):

  • Beeswax – secreted by bees to make their honeycombs
  • Honey – drained away from the wax honeycombs and filtered for use in cosmetics 
  • Collagen (from animal tissue or marine organisms) – fibrous protein from vertebrates
  • Gelatin - obtained by boiling animal skin and ligaments and/or bones
  • Lanolin – the fatty substance found on sheep’s wool, obtained from sheared sheep or dead sheep
  • Cholesterol – steroid alcohol found in all animal fats and oils
  • Squalene/squalane – this ingredient can come from shark liver oil, but it can also be sourced from olives and other botanicals 
  • Carmine (cochineal dye) -  a red pigment from the crushed cochineal insect
  • Guanine - fish scales
  • Tallow (animal fat) – rendered from fatty tissues of slaughtered animals.
  • Ambergris - whale oil
  • Estrogen/Estradiol - urine from pregnant horses
  • Retinol – vitamin A; sometimes, but not always, derived from animals
  • Stearic acid – obtained from the fat of slaughtered animals but also available in plant-based and synthetic sources
  • Hydrolyzed silk – chemically altered proteins from silk, obtained from boiling silkworms
  • Keratin – fibrous protein that can be obtained from ground horns, hooves, claws, hair, scales, and feathers of animals

A few of these ingredients can be plant-based but this can be unclear on product ingredients lists. It’s wise to check with the company if you are unclear of how an ingredient was collected and it's important to you.


Silk is the fiber silkworms form to use as their cocoons. Non-vegan methods of taking silk can be achieved by boiling the silkworms (which kills them) in their cocoons to free the silk.

Labratory methods can be used to produce synthetic silk fibers. As natural silk fibers can be stronger than many forms of steel, this strength can be difficult to replicate in laboratory-created silks.

The unique properties of natural silk fibers have enthralled scientists for more than a century, leading them to develop synthetic silk fibers from various molecular studies.

The degradation rate of laboratory-made silk fibers can be adapted from months to years based on the processing method applied to the material’s structure. The thermal balance of silk biomaterials allows processing over a broad range of temperatures of up to around 250°C without the failure of functional stability.


Post-cocoon silk is the silk that forms the worm's cocoon. The worm spins the silk for its metamorphosis into a moth. The silkworm, very much like a caterpillar, forms a cocoon and climbs into it ready for the transformation to take place. Once it has transformed, it climbs out of the cocoon and leaves it behind, thus abandoning the post-cocoon silk.

Post-cocoon silk can be attributed to being vegan if the silkworms weren’t cultivated on a farm. Many silk producers collect the silk from natural sources after the silkworm has departed the cocoon. This can be considered vegan, as the silkworms weren’t harmed in the process of collecting the silk.

So, yes, silk can be cruelty-free, but only if it has been man-made or collected from uncultivated pods after the silkworm has departed.

And, yes, it can be vegan, but only if it is man-made in a laboratory.


Bee products such as propolis, honey, beeswax, and royal jelly are byproducts of bees, so, by definition, they are not vegan and most vegans avoid their consumption and use. 

However, some vegans believe that if the byproducts are collected in a such a way that it does not harm the bees, then they can be considered vegan. 

For example, if someone has their own bees and their honey has been harvested in a sustainable/minimally-invasive manner, then some vegans might consume or use this honey. When determining if a product is a good fit for you, it really depends on your personal beliefs and then educating yourself on what to use and what to steer clear of.


We use plant-based alternatives to animal-derived ingredients whenever possible. One example is our collagen choice. 

Collagen (also known as collagen hydrolysate, collagen peptide, and peptides) is a structural protein that helps to maintain the strength and flexibility of skin, bone, muscles, hair, ligaments, joints, etc. It often comes from the skin and scales of fish, making it a non-vegan ingredient.

Acacia collagen (also known as propylene glycol, acacia seyal gum extract, phenoxyethanol, potassium sorbate, and ethylhexylglycerin) is a plant-derived substitute for animal-based collagen. It’s a water-soluble protein with similar moisturizing properties as animal-based protein. Acacia collagen is used in our Diamond & Pearl Firming Gel Mask instead of hydrolyzed collagen!

It comes from the acacia seyal (Leguminosaetree which has a rust-colored bark and bright yellow flowers. The tree’s sap is called “gum arabic” and is light yellow in color. It is a complex polysaccharide and contains high amounts of the amino acids hydroxyproline, proline and serine. Those amino acids play an important role in the structure of collagen.

We also like to focus on including botanical ingredients that help support the actual formation and protectin of collagen. These include vitamin A and C (and extracts rich in them), sulphur, antioxidants, and nourishing emollients like avocado oil.


The products available at Herbal Dynamics Beauty are ALL cruelty-free. We do not test on animals. Most of our products are also vegan, but we do use a few ingredients in certain products that make them not vegan.

Not all our products are strictly vegan, though. We do our best to use as many natural and plant-based ingredients in our products as we possibly can. We continue to make sure all ingredients are of the highest standard with all products being sulfate free, paraben-free and phthalate free.

The non-vegan ingredients we use in some of our products are:

  • Diamond and Pearl Mask:
    • Mother of pearl powder – from pearl oysters and abalone (sea snails), the lining of both the discarded shells is crushed to form an iridescent powder
    • Pearl powder - an altered (via a chemical reaction with water) form of pearls 
  • Body Balm and Face Balm:
    • Beeswax - the wax structure of honeycombs (pictured above)
  • Revitage Antioxidant Night Cream & Vitamin K Brightening Eye Cream
    • Silk amino acids/silk protein hydrolysate - from silkworm pods

All of our other products contain vegan ingredient sources.

We hope this clarification of cruelty-free vs. vegan cosmetics helps you when choosing your cosmetics. If you have any questions on ingredients or products, feel free to get in touc.