When world-renowned makeup artist, Pat McGrath, launched a decadent cosmetics line – beauty junkies from around the world swooned in. But has this beauty giant compromised ethics to become one of the biggest names in makeup artistry? Their questionable cruelty-free and vegan policies confirm a lot.

Pat McGrath Labs is not cruelty-free. It may not test its final products or ingredients on animals. However, the brand cannot confirm if its suppliers or any other third party conduct animal testing. While Pat McGrath Labs has products free of animal-derived ingredients, it is not considered a vegan brand.

Dame Patricia Anne McGrath is a legend in the makeup industry.

After 25 successful years working for fashion houses, magazines, and runways – Pat McGrath set her sights on a brand of her own.

With so many credentials in the industry – it didn’t surprise us when her first product, GOLD001, sold out within minutes of release in 2015.

Since then, London-based Pat McGraths Labs has produced boundary-pushing products and collaborations that break sales records. But amid this growing success lie some shady business practices we’re not very happy about.

We know the products might be jaw-dropping – but you really need to understand Pat McGraths cruelty-free and vegan policies before going anywhere near a makeup display.

Is Pat McGraths Labs Cruelty-Free and Vegan?

Pat McGrath Labs Palettes and Lipgloss

Pat McGraths Labs is Not Cruelty-Free

It does not:

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

But, it may: 

  • Purchase ingredients tested on animals within its supply chain.

There isn’t enough information to say whether Pat McGrath Labs purchases ingredients tested on animals within its supply chain, but it is possible.

Since the brand is reluctant to share more information on this subject, we cannot consider them cruelty-free at this stage.

This brings us to the next point:

Pat McGraths Labs is Not Vegan

Although Pat McGrath Labs claims to have vegetarian and vegan ranges, it’s hard to consider any of its products that are free of animal-derived ingredients as “vegan” because it’s not 100% cruelty-free.

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

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

Pat McGrath Labs also doesn’t list its ingredients on product pages. So unless you have the product in your hand, you wouldn’t be able to know what’s gone into it.

Here are some commonly used animal-derived ingredients that could be lurking in Pat McGrath Labs cosmetics and skincare:

  • 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?
  • 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.

    To find out why carmine is so cruel and the shocking amount of products that use it, you need to read this: Is Carmine Cruelty-Free and Vegan?
  • Squalane ­­– is a cosmetic ingredient predominantly harvested from sharks' livers but can also be derived from plant sources.

    Squalane is an excellent ingredient because it mimics your skin's natural oils. It's anti-inflammatory, packed with antioxidants, and non-comedogenic.

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

Animal Testing Policy and History

The line previously allowed animal testing when selling to stores in mainland China. But luckily, today, it no longer sells to China. (One small win.)

Pat McGrath Labs still has a stance on cruelty-free cosmetics and do not test ingredients or finished products themselves.

As you’ll see soon, this still leaves loopholes for animal testing to occur.

Cruelty-Free Status in 2022

Here is a screenshot of Pat McGrath Labs’ official statement regarding its cruelty-free policies and vegan products, taken from its website:

Pat McGrath Labs cruelty-free statement website claim

Warning – be careful of clever phrasing!

Can you see that the brand only tells you it doesn’t test on animals? But it doesn’t give you a definitive answer saying whether it’s cruelty-free!  

Many other parties in its supply chain could still conduct animal testing without Pat McGrath ever lifting a finger.  


Pat McGrath Labs has no cruelty-free certification.

It would be nice to see cruelty-free certification. But it cannot happen if the brand cannot confirm whether its suppliers or any other third parties conduct animal testing.

If we stick to Leaping Bunny’s gold standard for cruelty-free cosmetics – it would not support any organization that didn’t adhere to these 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, is considered and evaluated.

One of the easiest ways to support a brand that doesn’t conduct animal testing is by checking whether it has the cruelty-free symbol at the back of its products. While not all cruelty-free brands use this system – it’s a good start.

Is Pat McGraths Labs Sold Where Animal Testing is Required By Law? 

As of 2020, Pat McGrath Labs does not distribute any of its products to 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.

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 Pat McGraths Labs Products Are Vegan?

Pat McGrath Labs doesn’t share its ingredient or disclose whether a product is vegan or not online. So it’s difficult to confirm these things for yourself without reaching out to the brand directly.

Although the brand claims to have some “vegan products,” we cannot consider these ranges holistically vegan because the brand is not 100% cruelty-free.

Nonetheless, here are some of its most popular plant-based products for you to try if you want to invest in the brand:

  • Sublime Perfection Blurring Under-Eye Setting Powder
  • Sublime Perfection Foundation
  • Bridgerton Skin Fetish: Sublime Skin Highlighter
  • Star Volumizing Mascara
  • PermaGel Eyeliner Pencil

If you want to know more about their plant-based products, you can email customer service ([email protected]), and they will send you a list telling you exactly what you want to know.

Vegan Alternatives to Pat McGraths Labs

If you are vegan or are a strong advocate of cruelty-free cosmetics – Pat McGrath Labs is not the right brand for you.

Shady cruelty-free policies are not something you need to put up with, and many brand alternatives speak to your needs!

We’ve searched hard and wide for certified cruelty-free and vegan products, and here are some of our favorite options for you to try:

Is Pat McGraths Labs Natural and Organic? 

Pat McGrath is not a natural or organic brand, nor does it market itself as such. However, it claims to use safe, simple, and effective ingredients.

Its whole ethos is to make high-impact formulas and products 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 a good thing. 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. Pat McGrath Labs is no exception – but it can 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 Pat McGraths Labs Use Safe Ingredients?

Absolutely! According to Skin Safe[SB1] , Pat McGrath Labs has a 91- 100% allergen-free ranking!

Many of Pat McGrath Labs’ products are free of allergens such as parabens, fragrance, lanolin, topical anti-biotics, coconut, MCI/MI, nickel, gluten, soy, Propylene Glycol, oil, and irritants.

Reading the ingredient list is crucial because Pat McGrath is not 100% hypoallergenic or non-comedogenic, and they do 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 making a purchase – especially if you live in 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 Morphe has a pretty good track record of using safe ingredients, it’s worth noting that you should avoid the following ingredients in any cosmetic products you buy:

  • Butylated compounds
  • Benzophenone compounds
  • Carbon black
  • Triclosan
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Formaldehyde
  • 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 is no need.

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

Is Pat McGraths Labs Sustainable and Ethical? 

Pat McGrath Labs doesn’t mention sustainability or ethical initiatives on their website. Some skincare products have up to 97% natural ingredients, which is a good start.

A deep dive scrolling through the brand's Instagram account didn’t reveal donations to causes close to Pat’s heart either.

And there must be causes the beauty industry veteran cares about. To be a black British woman with over 25 years of experience and global success means Pat’s seen some things and likely faced discrimination.

We aren’t used to seeing brands who aren’t at least starting to address sustainability and ethics within their company, so it’s a surprise.

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.

Some of the ways Pat McGrath Labs could take strong environmental accountability is by:

  • Using more natural ingredients and biodegradable formulas that are kinder to the environment.
  • Developing more sustainable products, shipping boxes, and recyclable bags.
  • Introducing as many refillable makeup options as possible.
  • Switching from virgin plastic to PCR where possible for all new launches.
  • Having green initiatives like net-zero greenhouse gas emission policy, carbon-neutral shipping, or renewable energy use in manufacturing.
  • Having an active recycling program where customers are encouraged to waste fewer product containers.

Final Thoughts

Pat McGrath Labs’ 5-star reviews reflect that the products excel. The packaging is gorgeous, and it’s envy-inducing to imagine whipping one of her products out for a touch-up in public.

This cosmetics brand has $60 million of investments, so it’s really disappointing that:

  • We cannot see any ethical concerns the brand supports.
  • It doesn’t have a transparent supply chain.
  • It isn’t making any eco-efforts or drives to a more sustainable future.
  • We cannot confirm its cruelty-free statement at all.  

Pat McGrath Labs claims to be actively against animal testing. Still, they aren’t transparent enough for us to know what that means. Just because you’re against it doesn’t mean you don’t allow it.

Gaining cruelty-free accreditation could change this and introduce a whole new market to the line.

We hope to see a change in this issue, but it is unlikely right now. As consumers, it is up to us to stand for what we will and won't accept from our cosmetics. This is something we cannot accept.

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