Is e.l.f Cruelty-Free and Vegan in 2022?

May 5, 2022

e.l.f is the sassy and kinda bad ass-y cosmetics brand that makes a product for every person, mood, and skin. They are proud to be cheap and chic – but at what cost? Find out whether the brand has compromised on its cruelty-free, vegan, and sustainability claims.

e.l.f is cruelty-free. It doesn't conduct animal testing on its products, nor does it distribute its cosmetics where animal testing is required by law. e.l.f is also 100% vegan – it doesn't use any animal-derived ingredients.

e.l.f. was launched in 2004 by Joseph Shamah and Scott Vincent Borba in Oaklands, California. The duo had initially met two years earlier at a party and found out they had a shared passion for high-quality and affordable makeup.

Together, they came up with the name eyes-lips-face (e.l.f), and the rest is history!

Today, their product ranges vary from bath and skincare products to mineral-based makeup, professional tools, eyeliners, lipsticks, blushes, bronzers, mascara, and more.

e.l.f has been reviewed by some of the best publications worldwide like Glamor and Allure. It is also sold in more than 15 countries.

They must be doing something right because, in 2017, e.l.f’s current revenue sat at an estimated $295 million!

Before deciding on what to buy, here's what you need to know about e.l.f's current animal testing policies, vegan ranges, formulation, and sustainability.

Is e.l.f Cruelty-Free and Vegan?

e.l.f cosmetics cruelty-free and vegan

e.l.f is 100% Cruelty-Free

It does not:

  • Test any of its products or ingredients on animals;
  • Purchase any ingredients tested on animals within its supply chain; or
  • Distribute its products to any countries that require animal testing by law.

e.l.f does not test any of its products on animals. The brand believes that beauty should be cruelty-free and is proudly PETA certified.

The brand even quotes: “e.l.f. Beauty stands with every eye, lip, face, and paw.”

While this is a great start – it’s not the most trustworthy accreditation, and we’ll tell you why shortly.

e.l.f is also not tied to any parent company associated with animal testing.

This brings us to our next point:

e.l.f is Vegan

Yes! e.l.f is 100% vegan. It does not use animal-derived ingredients in any cosmetic products or tools. 

It always gives us pleasure to say that a well-known brand is vegan – but in this case, we’re twice as happy because it’s easily accessible and well-priced.

It's worth knowing that e.l.f is the exception and not the rule.

Most mainstream skincare brands are not 100% vegan. These are certain animal-derived ingredients to look out for in general:

  • 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.

    Just because beeswax isn't vegan, it doesn't mean it can't be cruelty-free. Find out more here: Can Beeswax Be Cruelty-Free?
  • Lanolin – this ingredient, like honey and beeswax, is used in skincare and cosmetics because it is incredibly hydrating. It is basically the waxy oil that comes from sheep wool. Lanolin can be cruelty-free – follow this link for more details.
  • Carmine – this ingredient is the red pigment made from the crushed female cochineal insect. A little gross, no? But it is completely harmless and is used in makeup to get those rouge tones.
  • Collagen – an essential protein that plays an integral role in strengthening your hair as well as firming and strengthening the roots.

    Naturally, collagen can only be found in connective animal tissue. But today, it's possible to make vegan collagen by genetically modifying yeast and bacteria.

If you're interested in finding e.l.f's best vegan products or finding vegan brand alternatives – keep reading or click on this link: e.l.f vegan products

Animal Testing Policy and History

e.l.f is committed to encouraging inclusive self-expression without harming any animals. This has been its intention since it was founded almost two decades ago.

Cruelty-Free Status in 2021

Here is a screenshot of e.l.f official statement regarding its cruelty-free policies and vegan products, taken from their website:

e.l.f Website cruelty-free claim


Currently, e.l.f is PETA-approved which is not a bad start.But we would love to see more certification from them since it’s a proudly cruelty-free brand.

While you might know PETA very well – it surprisingly doesn't hold the strictest cruelty-free regulations. It seems only to require a brand's written consent that abides by the PETA code of conduct.

Certification from Leaping Bunny is ideal because it holds rigorous standards and does regular audits to ensure they are upheld.

The Leaping Bunny association’s strict and reliable regulations stipulate that:

  • 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.

But some certification is better than nothing at all.

If you see a bunny stamp on the back of your product bottle – that's an excellent sign. But don't let the image itself fool you. A lot of brands are using fake logos to deceive consumers.

Do your homework and see which products are genuinely cruelty-free first. This article will help you: Which Cruelty-Free Logos Can You Trust?

Is e.l.f Sold Where Animal Testing is Required By Law? 

e.l.f does not distribute any of its products in retail stores in mainland China or any country that requires animal testing on cosmetics by law.

They do sell products online, which means these items would not be tested upon entry to the country, but go straight to the shoppers’ delivery address.

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

Please note that while e.l.f is manufactured in China, it does not test on animals.

This law is purely enforced on international cosmetic products entering China and not on products made within the country itself.

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

The Best e.l.f Vegan Products

e.l.f has a great range of professional quality, affordable vegan products that continues to expand.

It prides itself in developing a product with the conscious consumer who’s on a budget and won’t compromise their ethical standards.

To save you some time, here are some of its most popular skincare products:

  • Power Grip Primer
  • Acne-Fighting Spot Gel
  • Poreless Putty Primer
  • Enhancing Lash and Brow Serum
  • Sheer Slick Lipstick
  • Lash It Loud Mascara

For a complete list of e.l.f vegan products, you can find everything on their website.

Vegan Alternatives to e.l.f 

e.l.f has some great vegan options that are well-priced and relatively accessible.

We need to commend this multi-million dollar brand – for its highly ethical approach to cosmetic developments.

e.l.f 100% cruelty-free, vegan, and users give it raving reviews.

But if the brand is not easily accessible to you, or if you’re looking for more natural products, here are some alternatives we recommend:

Is e.l.f Natural and Organic? 

e.l.f is not natural or organic, and it doesn’t claim to be. However, it does use safe and clean ingredients in all of its formulas.

Clean vs. Natural Ingredients

The term "natural" is not regulated for cosmetics and skincare. In other words, it doesn't hold one specific meaning.

Usually, it means a product is free of certain more toxic synthetic ingredients, including parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and more. But people also interpret "natural" to mean ingredients of immediate plant origin.

Here's the thing: "natural" is not always good. Just because an ingredient is natural doesn't mean you should rub it on your skin. Poison ivy is natural – but we wouldn't recommend rolling in a field of that stuff!

All products use a certain amount of synthetic ingredients in their formulas, and e.l.f is no exception – but it can choose to use better or clean synthetics.

If a synthetic ingredient is "clean," it is safe and non-toxic. Its purpose is to preserve the stability of a beauty formulation.

Does e.l.f Use Safe Ingredients?

According to Skin Safe, e.l.f has an 82- 100% allergen-free ranking across 546 products.

When it comes to affordable makeup – this is hella impressive.

E.l.f’s products are free of allergens such as phthalates, parabens, nonylphenol ethoxylates, triclosan, triclocarban, sulfates, and hydroquinone.

It’s even restricted over 1600 ingredients that they don’t consider to meet their clean beauty standard. 

e.l.f also avoids all irritants like common preservatives, fragrances, nickel, MI/MCI, soy, Propylene Glycol, and Balsam of Peru.

But reading the ingredient list is crucial because e.l.f is not 100% hypoallergenic or non-comedogenic, and they do not claim to be.

Certain products are specifically for these concerns, so make sure you buy what your skin needs.

The EU/UK Have Stricter Ingredient Regulations

As a conscientious shopper, you must read up on any brand's ingredient list before you make a purchase – especially if you live within the United States.

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

While e.l.f does have some great ingredients regulations – there are no laws stopping them from using more harmful irritants or toxic ingredients.

You should always check that they don’t use the following ingredients:  

  • Butylated compounds
  • Triclosan
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Formaldehyde
  • Lead or other heavy metals
  • Benzophenone compounds

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 just 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 e.l.f Sustainable and Ethical? 

e.l.f has some strong sustainability and ethical initiatives that reflect the company values.

Some things include:

  • Supporting the LGBTQI+ community through employment, conversation, campaigns, and donations.
  • Committing to assisting with Black Lives Matters through education, action, allyship, and donations.
  • Having a strict policy that commits to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. They actively try to even out their workplace demographics. In fact, 77% of their workforce is female.
  • Adhering to the California Supply Chain Transparency Act that opposes human trafficking, forced labor, child labor, harassment, and abuse. 

It's also 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.

 As it stands, e.l.f is taking some environmental accountability is by:
  • Launching a program called Project Unicorn that aims to cut down on packaging waste. To date, they have eliminated 1 million pounds of excess packaging waste.
  • Redesigning their packaging to be more sustainable by cutting down excess use of paper or plastic where they can.
  • Educating the community on sustainability impact and the importance of eco-friendly beauty.  

Final Thoughts

e.l.f takes beauty into consideration for every eye, lip, face (and paw). They’ve successfully managed to build an affordable makeup brand that’s elegant, sassy, and 100% ethical.

You cannot often combine low prices with high standards, but e.l.f gets it right.  

The brand embodies an inclusive and ethical vision by being vegan, cruelty-free, and supporting many social causes.

Their Project Unicorn is an excellent step towards a more sustainable future for the beauty industry. Still, we would love to know more about their packaging changes.

The only thing we’d like to see is more information on their carbon and greenhouse gas emission policies, Mica mining policies, and palm oil sourcing.  

We’d also like to see some Leaping Bunny certification from e.l.f since it’s so passionately cruelty-free and vegan – it would be the cherry on top!

If you feel the same way, don’t hesitate to kindly reach out to the brand and share your thoughts. The more we demand their standards rise, the likelier they will listen.

We think e.l.f could become an even bigger powerhouse once they’ve addressed these concerns.

But for now – you’re welcome to get those affordable products in your shopping cart and enjoy some cruelty-free beauty.

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