Is Kristin Ess Cruelty-Free and Vegan? (And Can We Trust Them?)

July 13, 2022

Kristin Ess Hair sounds like a dream. It markets itself as an affordable luxury brand that helps you to embrace perfectly-imperfect modern hair. But are its cruelty-free and vegan policies a rude awakening? Here’s what you need to know before you shop.

Kristin Ess Hair is cruelty-free. It doesn't conduct animal testing on its products, nor does it distribute its products where animal testing is required by law. Kristin Ess Hair does offer a range of vegan haircare, but it is not considered a vegan brand.

Kristin Ess is a top hairstylist and colorist that worked with celebs, magazines, and more for over 22 years.

In 2017, she decided to bring her expertise to the public and launched an affordable and accessible luxury haircare brand.

We love that Kristin Ess Hair can be used as a collection or on its own. This means you can integrate it into your hair care routine and never feel limited by your options. Evidently – others loved it too.

In just two years, Kristin Ess Hair expanded from 15 hair care products to hot tools, accessories, and more.

But how clear is the brand about its cruelty-free policies? And can we trust its vegan ranges? Make sure you have all the facts before shopping at Kristin Ess Hair.

Is Kristin Ess Hair Cruelty-Free and Vegan?

Kristen Ess Curl Hair care

Kristin Ess Hair 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.

Don’t get us wrong – whenever a brand is truly cruelty-free, it’s like music to our ears. But the type of certification it has really makes a difference.

That’s where Kristin Ess Hair falls a bit short. It holds PETA certification (a good start), but it’s not the best internationally recognized certification.

We’ll look at this further under Kristin Ess Certification.

The brand is also owned by Maesa, a smaller beauty holdings company that strives to associate itself and promote meaningful beauty brands. Luckily – they’re not associated with any animal testing either.

This brings us to our next point:

Kristin Ess Hair is Not Vegan

Although the brand is not entirely vegan, Kristin Ess Hair has an extensive range of vegan products from which to choose. Seriously ­– even some of their nourishing masks are vegan!

You can easily find out if something is vegan after you’ve made your product selection on the website. Just scroll down the page, and you’ll see all the product's essential information on your right.

Here’s an example:

Kristin Ess Vegan Product Finder Website

The only animal-derived ingredient that Kristin Ess Hair uses is:

  • Keratin – A common ingredient in non-vegan products, this protein is a natural part of human hair and nails. It’s also found in other animals. Adding it to hair products strengthens the hair shaft and smooths its appearance. This is why it’s often labeled a ‘repair’ ingredient.

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

Animal Testing Policy and History

Kristin Ess has been committed to creating cruelty-free products since the beginning. It was one of their key selling points when they launched, and it remains that way today.

Cruelty-Free Status in 2022

Here is a screenshot of Kristin Ess Hair’s official statement regarding its cruelty-free policies and vegan products, taken from its website:

Kristin Ess Website Cruelty-Free Claim


Kristin Ess is PETA certified, which is not a bad start. You are likely to find the little cruelty-free PETA bunny next to each one of its products.

However, it would be nice to see more certification from Kristen Ess 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 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 Kristin Ess Hair Sold Where Animal Testing is Required By Law? 

Kristin Ess does not distribute any of its products in retail stores in mainland China or any country that requires animal testing on 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.

Please note that while Kristin Ess does manufacture some items 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?

What Kristin Ess Hair Products Are Vegan?

Kristin Ess Hair has an impressively large range of vegan products that keeps on growing.

It has been undergoing a process of reformulating products so that most of its range is vegan!

The only exceptions are the formulas with keratin which Kristin Ess Hair uses to ‘zip together’ split ends and repair damage.

To save you some time, here are some of Kristin Ess Hair’s most popular and award-winning products to choose from:

  • Bubble Mask
  • Dry Shampoo
  • The One Signature Shampoo
  • Air Dry Crème
  • Curl Shampoo

For a full list of Kristin Ess Hair’s vegan products, you can visit its website.

Vegan Alternatives to Kristin Ess Hair

Kristin Ess Hair is some great vegan options and provides an alternative to animal-derived formulas that other brands haven't cared to try yet.

They have a clean track record and reasonably good transparency with their consumers. For a multi-million dollar, female-founded brand – it's commendable.

But keep in mind that other hair care brands, like Virtue Labs, have used biotech to find a vegan keratin alternative that can repair split ends.

If you won’t support a brand that isn't entirely vegan, Kristin Ess Hair might not be your first choice.

 Here are some 100% vegan alternatives in a similar price range:

Is Kristin Ess Hair Natural and Organic? 

Kristin Ess Hair is not natural or organic and does not claim to be.

However, it uses clean ingredients to make sophisticated formulas and gorgeous 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" is not necessarily good. Just because an ingredient is natural (take lemon juice, for example) doesn't mean you should rub it on your skin.

All products use a certain amount of synthetic ingredients in their formulas. Kristin Ess is no exception – but it does choose to use better or clean synthetics.

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

Does Kristin Ess Hair Use Safe Ingredients?

According to Skin Safe, Kristin Ess has a 73%-100% allergen-free ranking for each product.

All Kristin Ess Hair products are free of gluten, parabens, phthalates, and gluten!

Reading the ingredient list is crucial because Kristin Ess Hair is not 100% hypoallergenic and does not claim to be.

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!

Kristin Ess has good ingredient policies so you shouldn’t have to worry about nasty hidden toxins in your products.

However, here are some harsh chemicals to watch out for when shopping for haircare:

  • DEA, MEA, and TEA
  • DMDM Hydantoin and urea (that often release formaldehyde)
  • PEG (Polyethylene glycol)
  • Phthalates
  • Propylene glycol (pg) & butylene glycol
  • Triclosan

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 is no need.

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

Is Kristin Ess Hair Sustainable and Ethical? 

Well, this is awkward….

Kristin Ess Hair doesn’t mention sustainability or the environment – not even once.

We were really rooting for you, Kristin!

In desperate need to find something – we also dug around to see if Maesa, Kristin Ess Hair’s parent company, has any sustainability and ethical initiatives.

The beauty brand incubator has released its 2020 gender equality data – which is encouraging but outdated. Not to mention that’s as far as their ethical practices go.

While some of the other brands under the parent company have sustainability policies… Kristin Ess Hair does not. ☹

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

So we’ve listed some ways Kristin Ess Hair could start taking strong environmental accountability:

  • Using natural ingredients and biodegradable formulas that are kinder to the environment.
  • Using Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil (RSPO certified) or none at all.
  • Offering refillable product options to minimize waste.Using PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic.
  • Having green initiatives like net-zero greenhouse gas emission policy, carbon-neutral shipping, or renewable energy use in manufacturing.
  • Improving their packaging sustainability with FSC-certified papers and boards.

Final Thoughts

Kristin Ess Hair is a well-developed haircare brand that has a transparent supply chain. It's open to the public about its testing, purchasing, and distribution policies.

We love that!

Kristin Ess Hair is not 100% vegan and glosses over environmental and ethical concerns.

We don’t love that.

With this in mind, Kristin Ess Hair might not be the best choice for activists who go the extra mile.

There are baby steps that could be implemented one at a time. We’d love to see this cheap and chic brand on par with competitors in the same price range.

Why not replace their only animal-derived ingredient with the vegan substitute that is currently available? 

Finally, it would be fantastic to see further cruelty-free accreditation. Let’s talk to the brand and see if we can push to make that happen.

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