Finding ethical beauty brands and products can sometimes be overwhelming as there's a lot of misleading information companies can put out there to make you believe they're an ethical company. This article will explain how you can know for sure that the products you buy can truly be deemed one of the great ethical beauty brands doing their bit to support and protect the people and the planet. It will also talk about why being a more ethically-conscious consumer with your purchases is vital if you care about the indirect effect your purchases can have on people and animals alike.

It can take hours of research to find these ethical beauty brands, at which point, it feels easier to just buy any old product. This is your ultimate, straight-forward guide to the key issues, why ethical beauty is important, what buying ethical actually means, and how to find these ethical beauty brands.

You can rest assured that the next company you buy from are exactly who they say they are, and your hard-earned money is not being put towards anything that could cause harm to another being on our planet.

We hope that this makes your ethical beauty brands search a lot easier and less confusing! 

Four Pillars of Sustainable and Ethical Ingredients

What do truly ethical beauty brands do to be truly ethical? There are various aspects to consider when looking at the ingredients a company will use. The more boxes these companies tick, the better. An ethical question mark looms over brands that do not fulfil all four of these pillars. A company may make one or two ethical choices, but then slack in another area. This can be confusing. What are the exact definitions of these terms and how can we check for a truly ethical product? 

  • Cruelty-free

Firstly, a company has to be cruelty-free. This means that none of the ingredients have been tested on animals at any stage of their development. It's important to be wary of companies that claim to be cruelty free, as this is a term that can be branded about on websites and packaging, even if it's not strictly true. No wonder we are all confused!

For a company to be worthy of the term cruelty-free, they have to meet the following criteria simplified by the blog Cruelty Free Kitty: (1) they don't test finished products on animals at any point during production, (2) their suppliers don't test raw materials or ingredients on animals, (3) no third-party tests on animals on their behalf, and (4) they don't test on animals where the law requires it, i.e. mainland China.

The three major cruelty free organisations are Leaping Bunny, PETA and Choose Cruelty-Free. The only internationally recognised one is Leaping Bunny. But remember that some cruelty-free companies may not be certified, but they still meet the standards of these organisations. This is when it can be useful to contact the company directly to ask about their animal testing policy.

When a company is transparent about their ethical policy on their website, they're more likely to be honest and trustworthy, as untrue claims will simply look bad on them when the truth is found out (and it always is).

If palm oil is one of the ingredients, then that product is not completely cruelty free. The production of palm oil is responsible for the destruction of thousands of hectares of rainforests, destroying the home for many animals. Products that are certified organic by a reputable certifying body are less likely to have caused any harm in their production, as high ethical and sustainable standards have to be met to attain these organic certifications. The main organic certifying body for the UK is The Soil Association.

In the UK, if you want to be absolutely certain that your money is not supporting the practice of animal testing, you can either contact the company directly or look for the Leaping Bunny Certification. 

  • Vegan

A vegan product is one which does not contain any animal products. However, just because a company labels a product vegan, does not necessarily mean they are a 100% ethical beauty brand. For example, a vegan product may contain palm oil, which the production of causes death and destruction for the wildlife and rainforests.

Another thing to consider is that a vegan product may still contain harmful ingredients which can be damaging to our environment, our health, and animals. A shocking thing to consider is that a vegan product may still be tested on animals, despite all the values you would assume come with veganism. Unless a product ticks the box of cruelty-free, a vegan product does not guarantee no animal testing. 

  • Organic and Natural Products

Products certified organic contain no GMOs, artificial fertilizers, artificial or synthetic colours, preservatives or harmful chemicals. These ingredients can be damaging to both ourselves and our environment. When a product is certified organic, it does not necessarily mean it's cruelty free or doesn't contain any animal by-products or palm oil.

However, if the product is certified by The Soil Association, the UK's major organic certifying body, you can be reassured that the practices of production are of a high standard, sustainably and ethically. The Soil Association state on their website that they ensure ˜the highest possible standards of animal welfare, environmental and wildlife protection, so we have our own higher or stricter standards in key areas.   

  • Palm Oil

If a product is palm oil free, the product may still be tested on animals or contain animal by-products. And whilst these products may support the rainforest, they may still contain not so safe or environmentally friendly ingredients. Just because a product says it is palm oil free does not deem it organic or natural-lead. 

So, when consciously considering if the product you are about to buy is ethical enough for you, look for how many of these four pillars meets. For products that meet all four, you are on to an absolute ethical winner. These are the outstanding companies that are really doing their bit for the people and the planet, and when you buy from them, you can be sure that you are not indirectly causing harm to any tree, person or animal. In fact, your money may even be supporting certain causes that an exceptionally ethical company might get behind, which leads us on to talking about sustainable and ethical business practices.

Four Pillars of Sustainable and Ethical Business Practices 

  • Charitable giving

Many ethical brands give back what they can to charity, often to causes that aligns with the brands vision and values. Some may give a percentage of earnings to charity, some support certain charities by giving to them, and some even set up their own charities as they care about using their brand to promote positive change. Companies who do any of these things will often state it on their website in their ethical policy. 

  • Ethical Sourcing

Ethical sourcing means buying ingredients in a responsible way. This involves paying a fair price for ingredients, an awareness of their supply chains, making sure that their suppliers are offering safe working environments and also align with their values for protecting the environment and/or promoting social justice. 

  • Thoughtful Packaging

Zero waste is an ethical movement that is currently gaining more exposure as people are becoming more aware of the effect of waste on our planet. Brands that use recyclable and biodegradable packaging care about the impact their packaging has on the planet, and they would prefer it to make a positive impact by reducing waste. 

  • Vigorous Waste and Resource Management

Brands with exceptional waste and resource management policies, such as going plastic free, care about their actions and how they will either make a positive or negative impact on the environment. These companies may reduce any manufacturing by-products, and control water and energy management, among many other factors that only environmentally-conscious brands would consider.

Consider the business practice of a company when searching for ethical beauty brands by checking how many of these four pillars they meet. Companies that fulfil all eight bullet points of this article are exceptional. Others that meet a few are more conscious that brands who meet none, and small steps to make a difference are better than not making any.


Be Wary of Greenwashing

Greenwashing is the term used when a company markets themselves as ˜natural and ˜organic when in actual fact they contain harmful ingredients that have been proven to be a cause of cancer. A company can label themselves as ˜natural and ˜organic even when they not certified organic. Green beauty and a clean beauty are also terms that are commonly used.

These are buzzwords that sell, because more people are starting to care about what they put on their skin and the impact their spending choices have on the world around them. And some of the brands that use terms like this are what they say they are. But others are misleading and hiding a few truths along the way. Others may want you to believe that they care about their carbon footprint, or contain beautiful safe ingredients, but they don't. It's all too easy to believe a brand that calls themselves natural and organic. Another form of greenwashing is when a company says that they're cruelty free. They can get away with using this term if their final product hasn't been tested on animals, even if the ingredients they sourced for the product were tested on animals.

Being diligent about greenwashing and thoroughly researching the company you're thinking of buying from is useful for making sure you understand if the company is transparent and true to what they say on the tin, so to speak. Ethical beauty brands are often open and honest as they have nothing to hide.

Now you know the ins and outs of finding your new favourite ethical beauty brands. Let us know if you have any questions about finding ethical and organic products. We know that there's an overload of information out there and we hope that this was helpful in unravelling all the confusion. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. We would be more than happy to help.


Written by Jess Burman