Is Hourglass Cruelty-Free and Vegan in 2022? (Is it Worth the Splurge?)

June 10, 2022

Hourglass is a brand that seems to have it all – it’s cruelty-free, relatively sustainable, and highly effective. It also claimed to be 100% vegan by 2020 but have they stuck to their word?

Hourglass 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. While Hourglass does offer a range of vegan cosmetics, it is not considered a vegan brand.

Hourglass’s early-2000s launch sounded too good to be true at the time. Founder Carisa James developed a luxury cosmetics brand using breakthrough technology and absolutely no animal testing.

Not only has Hourglass vowed to be cruelty-free, but it also donates a lot of its proceeds to organizations that secure fundamental animal rights.

And the brand must have done something right because it was sold to Unilever in 2017 for an estimated $250-300 million. (Not bad – huh?!)

Hourglass has said it would be 100% vegan by 2020, but we wouldn’t start shopping yet if we were you. Read on to see what we discovered after some extensive digging.

Is Hourglass Cruelty-Free and Vegan?

Hourglass Cosmetics Range

Hourglass 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.

Hourglass has been proudly cruelty-free from the start. The brand is so passionate about the cause that it even donated 1% of its annual profits to the Nonhuman Rights Project, which is an organization that supports animal rights.

However, there are two things to consider:

  • It has accreditation from PETA – while this is a great start, it’s not the gold standard of cruelty-free certification. We’ll explain why later.
  • The brand is owned by Unilever – which is not a cruelty-free company by any means. Some of its other brand's test on animals or sell in countries that require animal testing by law.

In these instances, it’s up to you to decide whether you feel comfortable supporting a brand owned by a parent company that is not cruelty-free.

We will do our best to provide you with the facts so keep reading 🙂

This brings us to our next point:

Hourglass is Not Vegan

Hourglass is not completely vegan yet – but it’s in the cards for the near future.

Over the last few years, the brand has been taking all their non-vegan products, including their best-sellers, to reformulate them into vegan products. One good example is their Illume Sheer Colour Trio.

Hourglass also invested in research to develop a vegan alternative to carmine, which uses thousands of crushed beetle shells to get a red color. Their Red O is a refillable, vegan lipstick in the ‘perfect’ bright red, released in 2021.

Unfortunately, not all of their products have been converted into vegan formulas yet, but they’re making progress. What’s great is that all new formulas are made vegan from the get-go.

If you want to see whether something you love is vegan or not, you can open its individual product page and check under “features and benefits.” 

Here’s an example to show you:
Hourglass Beauty Vegan Product Website

Here are the animal-derived ingredients that are still in some Hourglass products:

  • Honey & beeswax both these ingredients pose many health benefits to your skin and well-being. They have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and are loaded with essential vitamins
  • 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.

If you're interested in which products are vegan or finding vegan brand alternatives – keep reading or click on this link: Hourglass vegan products

Animal Testing Policy and History

The cool thing about newer brands is that it’s much easier to track their animal testing history, and Hourglass has an exemplary one!

The brand has been committed to creating breakthrough formulas with a luxury cosmetics experience and staying cruelty-free since it was founded.

Cruelty-Free Status in 2022

Here is a screenshot of Hourglass's official statement regarding its cruelty-free policies and vegan products, taken from their website:

Hourglass website cruelty-free claim


Hourglass is PETA certified, which is not a bad start. However, it would be nice to see more certification from them since they’re 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 is very strict and reliable, which ensures 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, is considered and evaluated.

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 Hourglass Sold Where Animal Testing is Required By Law? 

Hourglass does not distribute any of its products to China or any country that requires animal testing on any cosmetics by law.

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.

Here’s how to find cruelty-free cosmetics in China: Are Cosmetics Made in China Cruelty-Free?

What Hourglass Products Are Vegan?

Although Hourglass is almost entirely vegan – we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they adopt a strictly vegan policy soon (they’re just so close)!

Nonetheless, their vegan range is extensive and seems to keep growing. All their brushes and tools are 100% vegan. 

But to save you some time, here are some of its most popular vegan cosmetics:

  • Voyeur Waterproof Gel Eyeliner
  • Volumizing Glossy Stick
  • Confession Ultra-slim High-Intensity Refillable Lipstick
  • Ambient Lighting
  • Equilibrium Instant Plumping Eye Mask

For a full list of Hourglass vegan products, you can visit their website.

Vegan Alternatives to Hourglass

Hourglass is a luxury brand option for all cruelty-free supporters out there. It’s also a decent option for vegans. They have invested in developing great vegan alternatives that other brands haven't cared to try yet.

Hourglass is one of the few brands to create a dazzling signature red lipstick without the use of carmine at all.

For a multimillion-dollar brand – its transparency is commendable.

However, this a brand that isn't entirely vegan, yet it claims to be, and it’s also owned by a company with a history of animal testing.

So for some activists, Hourglass might not be your first choice.

If you're looking for 100% vegan cosmetics that are in the same price range, here are some similar alternatives within the same price range:

Is Hourglass Natural and Organic? 

Hourglass is not natural or organic, but it does claim to use safe and clean ingredients.

Its whole ethos is to make technologically advanced formulas and ground-breaking products that anyone can use.

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" doesn't mean it's good for you. Take gluten, for example. It's a natural protein found in wheat that certain people are highly allergic to. Even topical application can lead to terrible health issues.

All products use a certain amount of synthetic ingredients in their formulas, and Hourglass 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 for us. Its purpose is to preserve the stability of a beauty formulation.

Does Hourglass Use Safe Ingredients?

According to Skin Safe, Hourglass has between 91-100% allergen-free ranking across 73 products.

Many of Hourglass’ products are free of allergens such as top common preservatives, parabens, coconut, MCI/MI, nickel, gluten, and soy.

Reading the ingredient list is crucial because Hourglass is not 100% hypoallergenic or non-comedogenic, and they do not claim to be.

However, 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!

With skincare and cosmetics, you want to avoid these ingredients:

  • Butylated compounds,
  • Benzophenone compounds,
  • Triclosan,
  • Phenoxyethanol,
  • 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 animals.

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 Hourglass Sustainable and Ethical? 

Hourglass has some sustainability and ethical initiatives that tie in with the company values. This is mostly done through donations to animal rights groups.

As recently as 2021, Hourglass faced controversy and calls for a boycott for having a limited shade range.

Beauty influencers and shoppers alike say that while Hourglass foundations come in a diverse shade range, other skin products like bronzers, blushers, and highlighters don’t.

These products should also come in different tones for darker skin but are only being released in lighter shades.

They noted that this happened repetitively, over a long time, despite complaints online. Hourglass has yet to address this on their social media pages or in response to the press.

As it stands, the brand:

  • Helps create ethically developed products, and
  • Donates to Non-Human Rights Projecta US non-profit that works to secure basic rights for animals.

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.

Some of the ways Hourglass is taking strong environmental accountability is by:

  • Prohibiting the use of synthetic microbeads that pollute our waters and harm marine life.
  • Offering refillable products so that people can replace used cosmetics without wasting their containers.

But they could do so much more by looking at:

  • Using more natural ingredients and biodegradable formulas that are kinder to the environment.
  • Using ethically mined MICA sourced without the use of child labor.
  • Developing more sustainable products, shipping boxes, and bags that are all recyclable.
  • Having green initiatives like net-zero greenhouse gas emission policy, carbon-neutral shipping, or renewable energy use in manufacturing.
  • Using Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil (RSPO certified).
  • Improving their packaging sustainability with FSC-certified papers and boards.

Final Thoughts

The glamorous look of Hourglass’ products, its clean online presence, and upstanding cruelty-free principles are wonderful.

We appreciate the fact that it has a relatively transparent supply chain and is open to the public about its testing, purchasing, and distribution policies.

The fact that they are certified cruelty-free and working towards being fully vegan is a step towards a more sustainable future in cosmetics.

We also love that they offer refillable luxury cosmetics and support causes aligned with their animal-friendly ethics.

But to say that they are vegan when ingredients for certain products and shades aren’t vegan takes two steps back. We’re not angry; we’re just disappointed.

We also believe that they should branch out their makeup range to include shades for every skin tone – that’s something Fenty got right!

Finally, Given that Hourglass is owned by Unilever – it might not be the best choice for activists who go the extra mile.

But we wouldn't shut it down so quickly if we were you. This brand is developing and has multimillion-dollar backing to make changes, so keep following its movements.

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