Is Elemis Vegan and Cruelty-Free in 2022 (No – Here’s Why?)

November 9, 2021

Elemis is well-known for its take on clean yet effective cosmetic ranges. This brand has flourished since its conception in 1989 and has been proudly cruelty-free since it was sold to a new parent company. Here's what's changed. 

Elemis is no longer cruelty-free. Although it doesn't conduct animal testing on its products, it does distribute its cosmetics where animal testing is required by law. While Elemis offers a range of cosmetics free of animal byproducts, it is not considered a vegan brand.

Elemis was founded by a group of entrepreneurs who wanted to develop a brand with clean ingredients as close to their natural form as possible. Their animal-testing policy was an important aspect of their ethos. 

Before deciding on what to buy, here's what you need to know about Elemis's current animal testing policies, product ranges, formulation, and sustainability.

Is Elemis Cruelty-Free and Vegan?

Elemis is NOT 100% Cruelty-Free

It does not:

  • Test any of its products or ingredients on animals; or
  • Purchase any ingredients tested on animals within its supply chain. 

However, it does: 

  • Distribute its products to any countries that require animal testing by law.

Elemis is a British company that makes all of its products within England, where it is illegal to test and sell cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients on animals.

However, it cannot get any cruelty-free certification since it was bought by a new parent company.  

In 2019 Elemis was sold to L'Occitaine, a brand that is not cruelty-free, for about $900 000.

Since then, the brand has begun distribution to China, where animal testing is required for any cosmetics coming into the country.  

By our standards, products cannot be tested on animals anywhere in the world to consider them cruelty-free.

This brings us to the next point:

Elemis is Not Vegan

Although Elemis claims to have vegan ranges, it's hard to consider any of its products that are free of animal-derived ingredients as "vegan" because it's no longer 100% cruelty-free.

Does it have products that are free of any animal-derived ingredients? Yes many.

Are these products considered holistically vegan? Not in our opinion.

When Elemis does use animal-derived ingredients, it's usually quite limited. Some of the most common ones it uses include:

  • Honey & beeswax these ingredients pose many health benefits to your skin and wellbeing. They have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and are loaded with essential vitamins.
  • Milk – this is a commonly used ingredient because it contains lots of Vitamin B and, most notably, lactic acid – which you might find in your cleansers labeled as AHA (alpha hydroxy acid).

    Although it may help exfoliate the skin and regenerate new cell growth – in its raw form, milk is also a common allergen that can cause serious skin irritation too.

    It's also hard to find ethically sourced milk. Before buying a beauty product with milk, here's what you need to know: Can Dairy Ever Be Cruelty-Free?
  • Eggs – eggs contain nutrients like lutein, essential fatty acids, and albumin that help with hydration, tissue repair, and elasticity. In saying that – there are some downfalls.

    Beyond the fact that they may also contribute to the cruel egg industry, in their raw form, eggs can cause severe allergic reactions or infections. This is why it's not recommended as a raw beauty ingredient anymore. 

If you're interested in which brands are similar to Elemis but are cruelty-free and vegan – keep reading or click on this link: Vegan Alternatives to Elemis

Animal Testing Policy and History

Animal testing on cosmetics has been banned in the UK since 1998. Since Elemis is based in the UK, they are considered cruelty-free. However, this status has shifted because of its distribution policy.  

Cruelty-Free Status in 2022

Elemis has a lengthy statement on its website explaining its cruelty-free policy now that it exports to China. 

Website statement from Elemis on Cruelty-Free Policy

The statement explains that the company is against animal testing and has never tested its products on animals or purchased ingredients tested on animals.

It also partners with the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS), a non-profit research and testing laboratory that promotes cruelty-free testing methods, which also has a program in China. 

Yes, the laws in China are slowly changing in favor of animal-testing alternatives.

However – it's not quite there yet, and Elemis has chosen to support its current laws by exporting its products there now. 

It's important not to support any form of animal test – including distribution if we want the practice to stop. This is why Elemis cannot be considered cruelty-free or 100% supportive of the cause.


Elemis has no cruelty-free certification. It is currently covered by the UK legislature, which is an ideal start. However, certain loopholes in the law make it far more reliable if a third party were to get involved. 

And, as much as it would be nice to see cruelty-free certification – it cannot happen as long as the brand distributes to China.

No cruelty-free organization would promote a product that does not adhere to the following strict criteria: 

  • No animal testing is conducted on the ingredients, formulas, or final products they sell.
  • No animal testing is conducted by the brand suppliers or on their ingredients or formulas. 
  • No animal testing is done by someone else that the company itself paid for. 
  • Any other form of testing (beyond ingredient and consumer safety), such as worker safety and environmental health, are considered and evaluated. 

If you want to support a brand that doesn't conduct animal testing – ensure that they have the cruelty-free symbol at the back of their products, usually marked by a rabbit.

Besides PETA, you can trust organizations like Leaping Bunny or Choose Cruelty-Free, which both have tough (but excellent) criteria.

Is Elemis Sold Where Animal Testing is Required By Law? 

Yes, Elemis distributes its products in China, where animal testing on cosmetics is required as products arrive at the border.

Unfortunately, this is a new step for Elemis as they did not distribute here before 2019. 

China has a shocking track record. It is the country with the most animal testing globally, with over 20 million animals used per year.

However, if you live in China or are concerned about its cruel beauty policies, there are a couple of loopholes to be aware of. Here's how to find cruelty-free cosmetics in China: Are Cosmetics Made in China Cruelty-Free?

What Elemis Products Are Vegan?

We don't consider Elemis's vegan ranges holistically vegan because the brand is not 100% cruelty-free anymore.

In saying that, it does have many popular products that are free of animal-derived ingredients. 

Pro Collagen is one of Elemis's most popular ranges since it launched in 2003. Quite a few of this range's best-selling products are free of animal-derived ingredients. Including:

  • Pro-collagen Marine Cream
  • Pro-collagen Overnight Matrix
  • Pro-collagen Advanced Eye Treatment

The Superfood range also has a few best-selling products that are free of animal-derived ingredients. Including:

  • Superfood Cica Calm Cleansing Foam
  • Superfood Facial Oil
  • Superfood Day Cream

For a full list of Elemis's products that are free of animal-derived ingredients, you can find them here: Elemis Vegan Product List

Vegan Alternatives to Elemis

If you are vegan or are a strong advocate of cruelty-free cosmetics – Elemis may not be the right brand for you anymore. 

Luckily, there are many alternatives you can find that are certified cruelty-free and vegan to choose from.  

If you're looking for brands that are 100% vegan and cruelty-free, here are some great options. 

Remember that there are distinct differences between vegan and cruelty-free products. So it's worth understanding exactly what they mean before you buy your next beauty product.

This article will help you: Are Cruelty-Free Products Vegan?

Is Elemis Natural and Organic? 

Elemis is not 100% natural or organic, but it claims to use safe and clean formulas that harness the best aspects of natural ingredients. 

Elemis states that it uses 'natural bases' to develop its skincare. Meaning it takes key active ingredients from natural products and refines them so that they're safe for your skin.  

Take eggs and milk. Both have nutrients that are great for skin, but they can trigger reactions or infections in their raw form. By extracting their key nutrients, you minimize this risk altogether. 

All products use a certain amount of synthetic ingredients in their formulas, and Elemis is no exception, but they use clean synthetics. 

Clean synthetic ingredients are safe and non-toxic, which actually preserve the stability of a beauty formulation.

Does Elemis Use Safe Ingredients?

Elemis has a great range of naturally-derived ingredients that can benefit your skin. It also avoids using any preservatives that could be harmful where possible.

According to Skin Safe, Elemis has an 82% - 91% allergen-free ranking for each product.

Many of Elemis's products are free of allergens such as common preservatives, gluten, nickel, parabens, soy, coconut, dye, MCI, and lanolin.

It claims to avoid artificial fragrance where possible, but it is still present in many products, which isn't ideal. 

Reading the ingredient list is crucial because Elemis is not hypoallergenic or non-comedogenic, and they do not claim to be.

The UK & EU Have Stricter Ingredient Regulations

Since Elemis is based and made in the UK and EU – ingredient regulations are much stricter than in the US. 

This is because the FDA has only banned or restricted 11 harmful chemicals from cosmetics. Europe, on the other hand, has banned 1,328!

Some common skincare ingredients that are banned in the EU and UK but not in the USA include:

  • Butylated compounds,
  • Benzophenone compounds, 
  • Carbon black,
  • Formaldehyde, and 
  •  Lead or other heavy metals. 

Are Cruelty-Free Ingredients Safe?

If you’re worried about how safe it is to use cosmetics not tested on animals – please relax and take a sigh of relief.

There is no reason why cruelty-free products shouldn’t be as safe as anything tested on an animal.

Not only is it easy to test ingredients without using animals altogether, but there are so many pre-approved ingredients you can use to make cosmetics that there really is no need.

If you’re interested, here’s more on the subject: Are Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Safe?

Is Elemis Sustainable and Ethical? 

Elemis has arrived a bit late to the sustainability and eco-friendly movement that newer generations are pushing for. 

Two things they have confirmed transparently include:

  • Signing the modern slavery and human trafficking statement. Committing to ethical business dealings throughout their supply chain. 
  • Actively working towards closing the gender pay gap. Their detailed report shows the percentage of female employees at the company and part of their financial plan. 

But for the rest of it – there's still a long way to go. 

It's no secret that the world has a huge waste problem, and cosmetic brands are only making it worse by using unsustainable packaging and harmful ingredients.

At the end of 2020, the newly appointed sustainability officer at Elemis claimed that she was looking at ways to develop a more sustainable business model. 

She states that bringing down the brand's carbon footprint is a top priority. Everything from product development, recyclability, and social-economic initiatives will be considered. 

Currently, their latest Superfood range is FSC certified, and the packaging is recyclable. By 2025, it aims to have 100% recyclable packaging. 

But that's as far as their initiative goes so far. More details around the brand's big sustainability strategy should be released soon – so we're keeping an eye out for that. 

The brand also uses palm oil, so we're very interested to see if they consider that as well. 

Final Thoughts

Elemis is a luxury skincare brand that is well-known for its naturally-derived formulas. Up until 2019, it was completely cruelty-free and complied with the UK laws that prohibit animal testing on cosmetics. 

Since it was bought by L'Occitaine and began selling in China, its cruelty-free status was compromised. 

While the brand does not conduct any animal testing or source ingredients that are tested on animals, it now distributes to China, where its products must be tested on animals on entry to the country.

As much as Elemis claims to be actively against animal testing, they chose to distribute to China, which is a direct conflict of interest.

For this reason, we cannot consider its products that are free of animal-derived ingredients as holistically vegan either. 

We hope to see a change in this issue, but it is unlikely right now.  

On a positive note, we are looking forward to seeing how Elemis plans to improve its sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives. Given they are behind on this cause which needs our help right away.  

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