Is The Ordinary Cruelty-Free and Vegan? (How Is It So Affordable?)

July 27, 2022

The Ordinary is a skincare industry disruptor that refuses to waste money on unnecessary marketing or glamorous products – instead, it lets effective formulas speak for themselves! But is it as transparent about its cruelty-free and vegan policies? We did some digging…

The Ordinary 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. The Ordinary is also 100% vegan – it doesn't use any animal-derived ingredients.

Did you know that when The Ordinary (or TO, as its fans call it) was launched in 2016, it was never intended to be a commercial brand? It was meant to be a marketing exercise set up by its eccentric founder, Brandon Truaxe.

Truaxe made a controversial and influential move by ditching lyrical marketing descriptions, glossy ads, and celebrity endorsements. The Ordinary product names were so to the point that they read like pharmaceutical jargon.

While beauty enthusiasts may have known all about Hyaluronic acid, retinol, and Vitamin C, this Canadian line was among the first to introduce us to active ingredients like Matrixyl and Pycnogenol.

Moreover, the price points were drastically lower than any other beauty brand using high-performance ingredients.

The Ordinary had a $2.2 billion evaluation in late 2020 before Estee Lauder bought its parent company DECIEM.

In other words, by cutting half the BS claims that most skincare brands try to sell you, Truaxe delivered equally effective products for a fraction of the cost.

But why did such a simple brand prioritize cruelty-free policies and veganism? And can we trust them?

Is The Ordinary Cruelty-Free and Vegan?

The Ordinary Collection Display

The Ordinary 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.

The Ordinary really makes a clear and proud cruelty-free statement! It is part of PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program and has Leaping Bunny certification.

This is the only internationally recognized certification that guarantees a genuinely cruelty-free brand!

Unfortunately – there is one tiny downside – The Ordinary is owned by Estée Lauder, which is absolutely not a cruelty-free company.

This means it is associated with another brand that does animal testing when required by law and not that it conducts anything of the sort itself.

This brings us to our next point:

The Ordinary is Vegan

Yup – this well-priced and accessible skincare brand is entirely vegan. It does not use any animal-derived ingredients in any of its products.

However, it's worth knowing that The Ordinary is the exception, 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.
  • Collagen – is an essential protein that plays an integral role in strengthening skin, as well as in elasticity and hydration.

    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.
  • 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. (Find the best vegan squalane products here.)

    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 the best The Ordinary vegan products or finding  brand alternatives – keep reading or click on this link: The Ordinary vegan products

Animal Testing Policy and History

The Ordinary has been committed to creating effective and affordable cosmetics that are also cruelty-free. This has been its intention since it was founded.

Under Estee Lauder’s ownership, The Ordinary has retained its cruelty-free and vegan accreditation.


Cruelty-Free Status in 2022

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

The Ordinary Cruelty-Free Website Claim


The Ordinary is Leaping Bunny and PETA certified.

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 it sells.
  • 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 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 The Ordinary Sold Where Animal Testing is Required By Law? 

The Ordinary 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.

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?

Best Vegan The Ordinary Products 

You can only imagine how many effective vegan products The Ordinary has since it’s all about letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

The brand is a platform that creates "clinical formulations with integrity."  It prides itself in developing a product with you (the consumer) and the planet in mind.

To save you some time, here are some of its most popular skincare products that people rave about:

  • Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
  • Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
  • Squalane Cleanser
  • Buffet
  • 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil

You can find a complete list of The Ordinary’s vegan products on its website.

Vegan Alternatives to The Ordinary 

We love what The Ordinary represents.

It's 100% cruelty-free, vegan, and affordable. Buyers are obsessed with how effective it is too.

But if the brand is not easily accessible to you, here are some other options to choose from:

Is The Ordinary Natural and Organic? 

The Ordinary does claim to use safe, simple, and clean ingredients. However, it is not considered natural or organic.

Its whole ethos is to make formulas and 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 egg whites, for example) doesn't mean you should rub it on your skin and risk a salmonella infection!

All products use a certain amount of synthetic ingredients in their formulas. The Ordinary 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.

A few naturally-derived ingredients The Ordinary uses to enhance its cosmetics include:

  • Hyaluronic acid is a substance found naturally in our skin that helps maintain moisture, and boost tissue regeneration and wound healing.

    As we age, we produce less hyaluronic acid – making it an essential ingredient in our beauty products.
  • Niacinamide, or Vitamin B3, has been shown to reduce the appearance of blemishes and skin congestions. It also repairs the skin barrier, increases smoothness, and boosts radiance.  
  • Squalane is so versatile it can be used on almost any skin type – from oily to acne prone, sensitive and aging. It’s anti-inflammatory, hydrating, promotes healing, and restores the skin's natural barrier.

    This is because its moisture composition is identical to the skin.
    The Ordinary uses 100% plant-based Squalane, but you read about this ingredient's frightening origins here.

Does The Ordinary Use Safe Ingredients?

According to Skin Safe, The Ordinary has a 91- 100% allergen-free ranking across 88 products. This is pretty exceptional!

All of its products are free of parabens, sulfates, and mineral oil. However, it also does its best to avoid top common preservatives, coconut, gluten, nickel, soy, Propylene Glycol, Balsam of Peru, fragrance, irritants, and dye.

Reading the ingredient list is crucial because The Ordinary is not 100% hypoallergenic or non-comedogenic, and it does 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

We don’t want to scare you, but you HAVE to read up on any product’s ingredient list before you make a purchase – especially if you live within the United States. The reason why will shock you.

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!

Luckily, The Ordinary sets a stellar example of what true clean beauty is meant to be, and you shouldn’t have to worry about any serious hidden nasties in its products.

But it’s still worth knowing that with skincare and cosmetics, you want to avoid these ingredients:

  • DEA, MEA, and TEA
  • DMDM
  • Hydantoin and urea (that often release formaldehyde)
  • PEG (Polyethylene glycol)
  • Phthalates
  • Propylene glycol (pg) & butylene glycol
  • Triclosan
  • Butylated compounds
  • Benzophenone compounds
  • 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 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 The Ordinary Sustainable and Ethical? 

The Ordinary doesn’t consider itself a sustainable company, and its reasoning makes a lot of sense.

Firstly, it doesn’t have all the answers.

Secondly, The Ordinary is honest about the fact that it’s near impossible to be a sustainable consumption-based business.

It says it constantly strives to improve its sustainability policies and ethical initiatives.

Don’t you love that blunt, honestly?

The Ordinary clearly shows how it is improving with social and racial injustice on multiple levels – not just within its workforce.

From a sustainability view, the brand is:

  • Using more responsible packaging.
  • Doing its best to fight climate change by making conscientious manufacturing decisions.
  • Improving its overall waste management.
  • Improving water conservation.
  • Sourcing responsibly throughout a product's lifecycle.

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 The Ordinary is taking strong environmental accountability is by:

  • Responsibly sourcing Palm Oil (RSPO certified) and using it sparingly in formulas.
  • Having an active in-store recycling program that is easy for customers to follow.
  • Partnering with TerraCycle® (an effective recycling program) in the UK, USA, and Canada.
  • Incorporating recycled and recyclable e-commerce store packaging.
  • Developing some refillable, long-lasting packaging and reduced plastic refills.
  • Having a net-zero greenhouse gas emission policy.
  • Using renewable energy in stores and offices in the UK and the Netherlands.
  • Having carbon footprint off-sets purchased in regions where energy can’t be sourced directly.
  • Introducing carbon-neutral e-commerce shipping.
  • Bridging the gender pay gap within the company.
  • Reducing internal e-waste through tech refurbishment and donations.

Final Thoughts

The Ordinary didn’t just change our understanding of what skincare can be and herald change throughout the entire industry. It also considers various ethical factors.

The fact that it is cruelty-free is a step towards a more sustainable future in skincare. Being 100% vegan just re-enforces its commitment toward that future.

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

The Ordinary is a reasonably good choice for activists. The only issue you may have is that the brand uses palm oil as an ingredient (even if it's sustainably sourced), and we cannot confirm where it sources its mica from.

But please don’t dismiss them based on this. If you’d like to see more from The Ordinary, reach out to the brand and share your thoughts. It’s most likely going to respond positively to you.

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