The Ultimate Guide to Cruelty-Free Hair & Skincare on a Budget

By November 25, 2018Beauty, Lifestyle

When we talk about cruelty-free products, what we’re really saying is we don’t want any living creature to suffer to make us look good.  What that means in practice is choosing products that are vegan – i.e. they don’t contain any animal products at all. That’s the first problem solved.  But what if you’re on a tight budget? Never fear, here’s your ultimate guide to cruelty-free beauty.

Before we look at the good stuff, here’s what to avoid

These non-vegan ingredients are common in hair and skin products, so always check the label:

  • Carmine a.k.a. cochineal, natural red 4, E120, and C.I. 75470 (made from crushed cochineal beetles to make red pigment used in nail polishes, lip products, blushes, and eyeliners)
  • Glycerine a.k.a. Glycerin, glycerol (sometimes derived from animal fats, sometimes used in soaps, haircare, makeup, and moisturisers)
  • Lanolin (a waxy substance in sheep’s wool, often used in lip products and hair products)
  • Beeswax, apitoxin (bee venom), honey, bee pollen
  • Collagen (derived from animal tissue, bones or skin, used in many anti-ageing and lip-plumping products)
  • Lactic acid
  • Shellac (made from lac bugs, used in nail products and some hair lacquers)
  • Casein a.k.a. sodium caseinate or caseinate (derived from cow’s milk, sometimes used in conditioning hair products and face treatments)
  • Elastin (protein extracted from the muscles, ligaments or aortas of animals, often used in anti-aging products)
  • Keratin (comes from the hair and horns of animals, often found in strengthening nail and hair products)
  • Stearic Acid (generally derived from pigs’ stomachs, sometimes used in deodorants, soaps, hair products, and moisturisers)
  • Guanine (fish scales, often used in sparkly nail polish, bronzers, highlighters and blushes)
  • Oleic acid a.k.a. oleyl stearate, oleyl oleate or tallow (animal fat, sometimes used in nail polish, soap, moisturisers and make-up)
  • Squalene (shark liver oil extract, commonly used in lip balms, deodorant and moisturisers)
  • Animal hair (often used in makeup brushes and false eyelashes)

The following brands are either certified by Choose Cruelty-Free or are officially listed by PETA as a brand that does not practice animal testing.


A great base is the key to keeping your makeup looking fresh and radiant. Choose a cleansing and moisturising routine that works with your skin type. This then ensures that your face is the best possible blank canvas.


Free from parabens and phthalates, and also 100% cruelty-free and vegan, the Alba Botanica Hawaiian Facial Toner purifies and minimises pores with soothing aloe vera, witch hazel, and cucumber extracts.

While a bit pricier, Lush offer a range of toners to suit any skin type that are made from mostly natural ingredients. Lush’s range includes bath bombs, bath oils, soaps, scrubs, face masks, lotions, and gels. They’ll leave your skin looking and smelling amazing.

You can also make your own vegan toner out of ingredients you can find in your pantry!

Facial moisturiser

The Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Beautiful Day Cream contains no artificial fragrances or harsh chemicals, so it’s perfect for those with sensitive skin. Made from 100% vegan, cruelty-free, certified organic and fair trade ingredients, this hydrating cream revives skin while bringing out that ‘rosy’ complexion.

Those with oily, acne-prone skin will love Alba Botanica’s Acnedote Oil Control Lotion. Affordable, cruelty-free and formulated with salicylic acid and willow bark extract. This lotion targets blemishes for a visibly clearer complexion.


Pacifica offers a range of affordable cleansers to suit any skin type. Their 100% vegan and cruelty-free Sea Foam Complete Face Wash combines coconut water and sea vegetables. Not only does it gently cleanse skin, but doubles as a makeup remover!

A new skincare trend that is gaining traction in the beauty sphere is the oil cleansing method. It’s simple –  Take your favourite organic oil, such as olive oil, coconut oil, tea tree oil, or lavender essential oil. Then massage it gently into your face for one to two minutes. The oil works as a great makeup remover and also picks the dirty out of your pores. Your complexion is therefore left clean and hydrated.


Now that we know the damage to our oceans cause by plastic microbeads,  face scrubs containing the problem particles are definitely out of the question.

But it’s super quick, cheap and easy to make your own face scrub out of ingredients you can find in your pantry!

Face mask

Pacifica has a number of affordable, vegan and cruelty-free face masks. Their Hot Vegan Probiotic & Spice Rehab Mask is the perfect antidote for when your skin is a bit under the weather. It combines coconut water, black pepper, ginger and Ayurvedic herbs to purify, therefore brightening and re-balancing stressed skin.

Have a spare minute? That’s how long it will take you to whip up one of these easy face masks out of ingredients you can find in your kitchen.

Lip balm

Did you know that it’s super easy to make your own organic vegan lip balm? Give it a go! Or for those of us a bit less adventurous, the Hurraw Balms are fantastic vegan, cruelty-free, organic alternatives to Chapsticks. They come in a huge range of scents and are available online and in stores worldwide.


Wet shampoo and conditioner

Lush offer a range of beautifully scented, natural and handmade shampoos, conditioners, and treatments to suit all hair types. While all Lush products are 100% cruelty-free, not all are vegan, but you will find those are clearly labelled.

Andalou Naturals offer a range of natural, vegan and cruelty-free hair care products.  They are all made from at least 70% certified organic and fair trade ingredients.

Dry shampoo

The Lush No Drought Dry Shampoo is made from 100% vegan and mostly natural ingredients including cornflour, grapefruit oil and lime oil to keep your hair feeling soft and looking fresh and clean.

The Pacifica Invisible Powers Dry Shampoo is great for all hair types, and will give your tresses some extra volume and texture. The formula is free from SLS, sulphates, parabens, aluminium, talc, petroleum and animal products.

Why not make your own 2-ingredient dry shampoo? All you need is cornstarch and lavender essential oil!


Hairspray can be full of nasty chemicals that leave your hair dry and frizzy. The Giovanni L.A. Hold Organic Hair Spray is a 100% organic, sulphate-free, cruelty-free and vegan non-aerosol spray that holds hair in place all day.

Made from at least 70% Certified Organic and Fair Trade ingredients, the Andalou Naturals Sunflower & Citrus Brilliant Shine Hairspray is rich in Vitamin E, which nourishes and conditions hair to give it a beautiful shine.

For those who want an effective cruelty-free hairspray that won’t break the bank, why not give this tried and tested recipe for an all-natural vegan hairspray a whirl?

Hair dye

Getting your hair dyed at a professional salon may be the safest option, but it ain’t cheap! Plus, it can also be tricky to find a salon that uses cruelty-free and vegan products. So why not do it yourself?

Lush offer a range of natural henna dyes made from essential oils and fair trade organic cocoa butter which makes your tresses glossy and soft. The dye develops differently according to your hair tone, to create your own personal shade.

For those wanting semi-permanent hair colour while avoiding ammonia or peroxide, Manic Panic create 100% vegan and cruelty-free hair dyes in a range of rock n’ roll colours.

Lime Crime is a certified vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand that make a range of ‘unicorn hair’ products. Therefore, as the name suggests they come in every colour of the rainbow!

Hair treatment

Lush offer a range of handmade hair treatments that will have your locks looking healthy and beautiful. Their Hair Doctor Hair and Scalp Mask combines moisturising seaweed, extra virgin coconut oil, peppermint, and rosemary extracts, Irish moss powder, chamomile blue oil and fuller’s earth. All of this goodness combines to gently cleanse the scalp and hydrate your hair.

The humble coconut oil really is a miracle product! Not only is it yummy, but it is an effective moisturiser, makeup remover, and hair product. Rub a handful of oil into your wet hair and leave it in for 15 minutes. When time is up, wash it out with shampoo to reveal shiny and healthy locks.



While they used to be owned by L’Oreal (which tests on animals), The Body Shop was sold to Natura in 2017. Over the past three decades, The Body Shop has worked alongside Cruelty-Free International in advocating for a worldwide ban on animal testing. The brand is also dedicated to sustainable practice and has helped restore rainforests and protect endangered species in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Though The Body Shop offers a huge variety of luxurious moisturisers, you can’t go past the classic Cocoa Butter Body Butter. It’s made from fair trade cocoa beans and enriched with Community Trade coconut oil. With this combo, it provides 48-hour ultra-rich moisture, which is perfect for dry skin.

Though a bit more expensive, Lush’s wide range of moisturisers are totally worth the investment. The Charity Pot Hand and Body Lotion is made from nourishing Fair Trade olive oil, Colombian cocoa butter and Shea butter, but most notably with every purchase, 100% of the price is donated to small, grassroots organisations.

Exfoliating scrub

Frank Body is a cruelty-free brand that offers a range of natural vegan body scrubs. They are made from coffee grounds which will have your skin feeling refreshed and full of life.


Lush offer a range of handmade deodorant powders and solid deodorant blocks. They use natural ingredients such as bicarb soda, cream of tartar, and essential oils.

Schmidt’s Naturals make award-winning certified cruelty-free and vegan deodorants that come in a range of packaging and scents.

Shaving cream

Lush offer a range of shaving bars and creams that will help you achieve that perfect, smooth shave every time.


Dr Bronner’s all-in-one soaps are biodegradable and vegan! Gentle and versatile, they can be used for washing body, face or hair!


For perfume, Lush has you covered. Not only do they smell amazing, but their bottle design is on point! They have a range of both solid and liquid perfumes in bottles so cute, you’ll have to repurpose them when they’re finished! All their perfumes are 100% cruelty-free and vegan.

Pacifica offers a range of paraben-free perfumes made from natural essential oils in roll-on, solid and liquid varieties.

For a heady scent without the hefty price tag, why not try and make your own perfume? You can make solid perfume with just 3 ingredients!

The takeaway here is that going cruelty-free and natural doesn’t need to break the bank.  There are even some products you can make at home that are much better than anything you’ll find in a shop  – and with much less waste too!

Editor’s Note: this article was updated in November 2018. Good On You was not compensated for mentioning any of these brands. All images via Unsplash.

Lara Robertson

Author Lara Robertson

Lara is a media student and writer at Good On You. She is a passionate vegan, bibliophile, fashionista and crazy cat lady, who hopes to spend her life writing about her passions and values.

More posts by Lara Robertson

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Katherine says:

    After having read the article, I don’t understand why being cruelty free means being all natural. If some chemicals are biodegradable, don’t harm even plants, are more resultative and predictable, why not use them?
    Need more realistic advice for a city girl that don’t want to immerse herself in coconut oil. Less hippie, more science, please.

  • Sarah says:

    I appreciate the time and effort it took to research and write this article. It’s fantastic to provide people with ethical alternatives! Being vegan myself, it’s something that’s close to my heart. However, I found a number of things very misleading and just plain bad advice throughout this article that I would strongly recommend editing so that people don’t damage their skin or hair (which may make they turn away from the great effort of ethical and sustainable beauty products).

    The first item I’d like to comment on is your “non-vegan ingredients”. You should note that lactic acid and oleic acid can also (and often are) derived from plant based materials. Lactic acid is found in high concentration in coconut oil and oleic acid can be found in safflower oil. These oil components can be refined out as separate ingredients to be added to various products.

    Regarding oil cleansing, simply because something is a popular trend and found everywhere on the internet doesn’t mean it’s good for you. In general, oil cleansing is great! As you wrote, it does help remove makeup and soften the sebum in your pores to help wash away any nasty dirt. However, you should NOT use Coconut oil as it is rated a 4 on the comedogenic scale meaning, even if you are washing with soap, any remaining coconut oil will cause clogged pores in the majority of the population leading to trapped dirt and acne. You should also NOT use pure essential oils such as tea tree or lavender oils. When these oils are highly concentrated they are very irritating to the skin for most people and can actually chemically burn the skin leaving red blotches that may take a few days to clear up. When oil cleansing you SHOULD use oils that are rated a 0 on the comedogenic scale such as Argan Oil, Safflower Oil (high linoleic acid only as the high oleic acid safflower oil can be comedogenic. Mountain Rose Herbs brand makes this distinction), Hemp Seed Oil, Sunflower Oil, Babassu Oil, Camellia Oil, Poppy Seed Oil.

    In the hair section, you offer a suggestion to go “no poo” and provide another good on your article. There is a lot of bad advice in this article. Yes, being free of phthalates, sulphates, parabens and other stripping chemicals is a good thing! However, just because something is in your kitchen cupboard doesn’t mean it’s not just as harsh. Baking soda, even when diluted, is extremely alkaline. This means that when placed on the hair shaft it opens up the follicles (like a pine tree having open branches) and strips away all the oil tucked inside the shaft. There are two problems with this: first, this is essential oils that help bind the hair proteins together and keep the shaft strong; second, hair is not built to continually open and close with acids and bases so harshly. So, you’ve stripped all your oil and then you force the shaft closed with a highly acidic solution of ACV. This may make your hair look shiny and clean because the follicles are closed and smooth but over time your hair weakens without the essential hair oils binding things together and eventually it will lead to breakage and straw like flat hair. You also can not use coconut oil to replace this essential oil. The coconut oil molecule is larger than our natural sebum oils (which is also why it’s rated a 4 on the comedogenic scale and why it stays in your pores), so the coconut oil just stays on top of the shaft but never penetrates to help bind the hair proteins. The hair will feel soft because you’re fingers are feeling left over oil residue that feels slippery. The two oils that are closest to our natural sebum are safflower oil and argon oil. If you already have damaged hair, you can repair it to some extent with a few drops of these oils spread throughout the hair (a minimal enough amount that you don’t need to wash it out).

    Overall, I think this article is fantastic but I wanted to mention the above items as they can do real damage especially to those who don’t understand the science behind skin care.

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