Home Accessories 13 of the Best Cruelty-Free Moisturizers — and Why You Should Try...

13 of the Best Cruelty-Free Moisturizers — and Why You Should Try Them

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A moisturizer is a vital step in any skincare routine. For some people, the stress of finding the right formula starts and ends with skin type. For others, it’s a bit deeper than that. Unfortunately, there’s a real ugly side to the beauty business: animal testing. That’s why we’re here to discuss cruelty-free moisturizers (or a cruelty-free lotion if you prefer) and the associated brands that are saying “no” to animal testing. 

Why consider a cruelty-free face moisturizer or a cruelty-free moisturizer with SPF? Even in modern times, half a million animals are used to test various cosmetic products worldwide each year. That means more than 1,369 little critters were sacrificed today alone. 

However, the reality is that animals don’t need to go through inhumane testing to come to this conclusion. There are alternative methods of testing used to determine a product’s efficacy and skin safety that doesn’t involve animals at all. These formulas are known in the industry as cruelty-free moisturizers — or products. However, they may or may not be considered vegan moisturizers, too. 

If you’re not quite sure what defines a cruelty-free lotion and why it’s different from a vegan face moisturizer, we’ve got you covered. Here at Deep Science, we’ve reviewed hundreds of brands with a scientific lens to ensure you’re crafting a skincare routine that’s safe and effective. 

The good news is that more and more cosmetic companies are becoming certified as cruelty-free every day, meaning you’re no longer limited to a small number of brands that are choosing ethical practices. 

Let’s take a closer look at what cruelty-free means and how you can start to integrate these products into your skincare routine, starting with the number one staple: a moisturizer.

Cruelty-Free Moisturizers: The List

Formulyst Ideal State Moisturizer, $80

Carrot & Stick The Moisturizer, $50

Burt’s Bees Sensitive Daily Moisturizing Cream, $14.99

Fenty Skin Instant Reset Overnight Recovery Gel-Cream, $40

Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream, $68

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Oil-Free Moisturizer, $12.98

Arcona Wine Oil, $58

The Body Shop Vitamin E Moisture Cream, $21

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, $36

Skyn Iceland Oxygen Infusion Night Cream, $68

Pai Skincare Avocado and Jojoba Hydrating Day Cream, $58

Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream, $265

Herbivore Botanicals Pink Cloud Rosewater Moisture Cream, $48

The Definition of Cruelty-Free

The purpose of animal testing is to determine whether or not a product is safe for human use and won’t cause an allergic reaction, irritation, or (worse) cancer. As you might imagine, on top of the cruel testing, the conditions at these test labs are far from those of petting zoos, open-air farms, animal sanctuaries, or even shelters.

Sure, cruelty-free means not testing on animals, but it goes a bit deeper than that. The term represents an animal rights movement in which a company’s products or activities don’t harm or kill animals anywhere globally, including

  • Finished Products: Finished products are not tested on animals by the company or any other company.
  • Ingredients: Absolutely no ingredients are tested on animals by the company or any other company.
  • Suppliers: None of the company’s suppliers test ingredients, raw materials, or finished products on animals.
  • Third Parties: No third party is testing their finished products or ingredients animal on the company’s behalf.
  • Required by Law: A company doesn’t test on animals where the law requires it, and products are not sold in mainland China.

How to Identify the Best Cruelty-Free Moisturizers

Unlike in the past, today, you can find numerous cruelty-free brands that offer a wide range of products. In fact, The global cosmetics market is seeing an increased demand for cruelty-free options. According to a report by Future Market Insights, this is due to a rising concern around health and safety and increased aversion amongst the general public towards animal-tested products. The market is forecast to witness surging sales via online channels in the coming years.

Educate Yourself

Organizations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), Humane Society International, Choose Cruelty-Free, Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics support and provide consumer education on the topic of cruelty-free. Cruelty-Free International continuously releases lists of cruelty-free products and cruel products to boycott. 

Certification

When it comes to certification, the Leaping Bunny has been the only international third-party cruelty-free certification program since the 1990s. You’ll know the moisturizer you’re looking at is legitimately cruelty-free if it bares the organization’s iconic leaping bunny — but if only it were that easy. 

Buyer Beware

Be aware that many brands trick consumers by putting a fake cruelty-free bunny image on their packaging, not the legit cruelty-free logo. The reality is there is currently no regulation in the U.S. or Canada for the term “cruelty-free.” 

Unfortunately, this means a company can make claims about being cruelty-free or not being tested on animals — they can even put a bunny image on a label to make consumers think they are purchasing an authentic CF product. Search for Leaping Bunny cruelty-free brands before shopping for your skincare and cosmetics if you’re unsure if a product is genuine.

Additionally, just because a company uses cruelty-free practices in the States or other countries doesn’t mean they are in companies like China, where animal testing is required. 

Cruelty-Free Versus Vegan

Here’s the thing: A vegan moisturizer is not the same as a cruelty-free moisturizer. It is essential to distinguish between the two because people often use these terms interchangeably. Just because a product is vegan doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cruelty-free — and vice versa. A vegan formula such as a milk vegan moisturizer implies that it does not contain animal-derived ingredients. 

In contrast, a cruelty-free formula ensures the consumer that all of the ingredients in the final product were not tested on animals. The good news is that more vegan cruelty-free moisturizers are coming to the market so that you can get the best of both belief systems.

How Cruelty-Free Moisturizers Are Tested

If you’re curious about how cruelty-free moisturizers and other products are tested for safety, here’s the biggest takeaway you need to remember: The following alternative methods are not only more ethical but are also less expensive and more accurate than tests performed on animals.

In Vitro Human Tissue Models

This method has been researched for decades to put a stop to animal testing while developing more accurate safety tests. Scientists take human skin recovered from plastic surgery to isolate cells and grow them to complete skin tissues. 

The result is artificially created living skin that enables scientists to test the safety and efficacy of cosmetic products sans animals. EpiSkin is known as one of the pioneers in developing this technology. Today, their models have safety approval for testing products worldwide.

Computer Predictions

Computer predictions rely on the fact that hundreds of thousands of known chemicals have already been tested on animals. So when a new ingredient needs to be tested, its virulence can be predicted with existing data via a technique known as read-across. In a nutshell, the properties of a chemical compound will be manually checked and compared to other chemicals of a toxic nature based on their similarities.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health added information for approximately 10,000 chemicals into a machine-readable database to test this method. Next, a computer algorithm was conducted to identify relationships between similar ingredients. When these findings were tested, it was determined that the computer predictions about the toxicity of various chemicals were more accurate than animal tests.

Human Organs-on-Chips

Organs-on-chips are artificial, smaller, 3D microfluidic cell culture versions of human organs. They are made from human cells grown to mimic human organs, so they are incredibly reliable and accurate for testing purposes.

Human Volunteers

In the advanced, final stages of cosmetics testing, human volunteers can step in to test a product using a technique called micro-dosing. Minimal doses of an ingredient are applied to the skin, and the effects are observed. This technique is both safe and precise.

The Best Cruelty-Free Moisturizers

Formulyst Ideal State Moisturizer, $80

This intensive cruelty-free moisturizer is formulated to address the vulnerabilities of mature skin. Powerful complexes containing peptides, plant stem cells, vitamin A and ceramides help skin look firmer and tighter, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Neptune kelp, hemp seed oil, hyaluronic acid, shea butter, and vitamin E provide hydration at a deep level. Reishi mushroom, ginseng extract, Kakadu plum extract, and Gotu kola contribute adaptogenic and antioxidant properties that help combat environmental stress and promote a brighter, more even-looking complexion.

Carrot & Stick The Moisturizer, $50

This lightweight antioxidant formula is a hydrating powerhouse that leaves skin feeling remarkably smooth and radiant. Overflowing with potent plant proteins, vitamins, peptides, and amino-collagen, plus a stem cell extract from hardy alpine roses, delivers multi-level hydration. 

Carrot & Stick’s active complex of three natural bio-ferments supports greater nutrient density and more efficient absorption. Caffeine adds an energy boost that revitalizes the skin, while five distinct coconut elements promote overall conditioning. Along with being powered by plants and not harsh chemicals, this clean moisturizer is cruelty-free.

Burt’s Bees Sensitive Daily Moisturizing Cream, $14.99

Burt’s Bees Sensitive Daily Moisturizing Cream is a soothing blend of botanical extracts to moisturize sensitive skin all day without causing redness or irritation. It contains 98.9% natural ingredients and is fragrance-free. 

One of the key ingredients in this cream is Gossypium Herbaceum (cotton) flower extract, which is known to help to soothe and protect the skin. Cotton flower extract may also assist in improving skin barrier function.

It should come as no surprise that none of Burt’s Bee’s ingredients, formulations, or finished products are tested on animals anywhere in the world. Burt’s Bees is also certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny.

Fenty Skin Instant Reset Overnight Recovery Gel-Cream, $40

Rhianna’s cruelty-free is also green and clean and has several unique formulations, such as this rich gel-cream nighttime moisturizer. It instantly hydrates and reduces fine lines and wrinkles while improving the look of pores and dark spots in just one week. Key ingredients include glycerin, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, panthenol (provitamin B5), vitamin E, and watermelon seed oil.

Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream, $68

Cruelty-free brand Drunk Elephant has several top-rated products, including this unique cream.

Abundant with proteins and nutrients such as nine signal peptides with growth factors, amino acids, and pygmy water lily, it replenishes and restores the skin to a robust and healthy state. The skin looks visibly more toned, firm, and texture is improved with regular use.

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Oil-Free Moisturizer, $12.98

Alba Botanica’s goal is to seamlessly blend health and beauty by creating products that are eco-friendly and packed with botanical ingredients — but they are also cruelty-free. This oil-free facial moisturizer provides optimal hydration, thanks to plenty of humectants in the formula. It has a lightweight, silky texture that doesn’t leave a greasy feeling on the skin. There are also antioxidants in this moisturizer from aloe, green tea, Gotu kola, and cucumber extracts.

Arcona Wine Oil, $58

Within the Arcona skincare product line, you won’t find any common additives like fillers, binders, or stabilizers. To top it all off, the brand is cruelty-free. With a formula as luxurious as it sounds, the Arcona wine oil is crafted with several powerful, natural-based ingredients. 

Antioxidant-rich resveratrol helps protect the skin against environmental stressors, while oleic and linoleic acids provide deep hydration. Reparative grape seed oil mends any damage, and cinnamon leaf oil is a wonderful stimulator to help gently tone the skin. The Arcona Wine Oil as a daily moisturizer makes the skin stronger, healthier, and more youthful over time.

The Body Shop Vitamin E Moisture Cream, $21

The Body Shop is a certified B Corp. Its manifesto touches on ideas including rejecting beauty stereotypes, creating uplifting products but never making false promises, reducing its environmental footprint, and never testing on animals. Designed for all skin types, this best-selling moisturizer is formulated with nourishing ingredients like vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, and wheat germ oil to provide hours of hydration.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, $36

This best-selling nourishing cream is ideal for those who are prone to sensitivity, redness, and dryness. It’s formulated with nourishing emollients like shea and jojoba, which create a protective layer on the skin to help prevent trans-epidermal water loss while you’re sleeping. 

Colloidal oatmeal (5%) and licorice soothe and reduce redness, hyaluronic acid hydrates, and peptides soften the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and texture. It’s an excellent choice for those with extra dry skin or eczema.

Skyn Iceland Oxygen Infusion Night Cream, $68

When the skin is stressed, it appears dull, flaky, irritated, clogged, and bumpy, so it needs extra TLC — especially at nighttime when the skin repairs itself. The Saponaria pumila and gosulin agave in this rescue formula replenish and repair while improving fine lines’ appearance. Rejuvenating micro-encapsulated oxygen works to put life back into depleted skin, resulting in a healthier, brighter, and more youthful appearance. Skyn ICELAND never tests finished products or ingredients on animals, and neither do their suppliers or any third parties.

Pai Skincare Avocado and Jojoba Hydrating Day Cream, $58

This day cream is Pai’s best-selling product, as it’s non-greasy and provides long-lasting hydration, leaving the skin calm, supple, and soft. It’s formulated with jojoba oil, which mimics the skin’s natural sebum more closely than any other oil, improves the skin’s barrier function, and helps to prevent transepidermal water loss. It also has proven anti-inflammatory effects and can impart soothing effects upon application. Cruelty-Free International and the Vegan Society accredit the brand’s entire range of products.

Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream, $265

This celebrity and beauty editor’s favorite moisturizer was created by Augustinus Bader, a world-renowned physician and researcher in the biomedical field and an expert in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. 

This ultra-hydrating face cream (an upgrade to the original formula, The Cream) stimulates the skin’s natural rejuvenation process to reduce the signs of aging, including the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. The brand is cruelty-free and doesn’t export its products to mainland China and/or other countries, where animal testing is required by law.

Herbivore Botanicals Pink Cloud Rosewater Moisture Cream, $48

Founded by a husband and wife team in their Seattle kitchen, Herbivore Botanicals has morphed into an internationally recognized natural and cruelty-free beauty brand. This cruelty-free lotion deeply plumps, smoothes, and reduces the appearance of redness, thanks to rosewater, aloe water, and white tea extract. The skin is left glowing and with a slightly dewy finish.

Elta MD UV Elements Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 44, $36.50

This cruelty-free moisturizer with SPF is suitable for all skin types (even sensitive.) The two-in-one formula contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (a broad spectrum of 44) to provide superior sun protection and hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate and soften the appearance of fine lines. To top it all off, It has a flattering natural tint.

Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion, $60

If you’re on the hunt for a cruelty-free moisturizer for combination skin, this one’s for you. As with many other moisturizers, this formula features hyaluronic acid, which delivers moisture without heaviness. However, the pièce de résistance is Japanese marine algae harvested from the Blue Zone of Okinawa. 

Otherwise known as “sea grapes” or “green caviar,” you’ll feel the texture of this moisturizer break away into your skin as it turns into a water-like gel-cream. The results? Moisture minus the shine, improved elasticity, and a reduced appearance of fine lines over time. The brand is a proud member of PETA’s Caring Consumer Project, so rest assured that animal tests are neither conducted nor commissioned for our products, formulations, or ingredients.

Cruelty-Free Moisturizers: The Bottom Line

Animal testing is conducted in the cosmetics industry to determine whether or not a product is safe for human use and won’t cause an allergic reaction, irritation, or (worse) cancer. However, the reality is that animals don’t need to go through inhumane testing to come to this conclusion. There are alternative methods of testing used to determine a product’s efficacy and skin safety that doesn’t involve animals at all. These formulas are known in the industry as being cruelty-free.The good news is that more and more cosmetic companies are becoming certified as cruelty-free every day, meaning you’re no longer limited to a small number of brands that are choosing ethical practices. However, be aware that many brands trick consumers by putting a fake cruelty-free bunny image on their packaging, not the legit cruelty-free, “leaping bunny” logo. Search for Leaping Bunny cruelty-free brands before shopping for your cruelty-free moisturizer if you’re unsure if a product is authentic. If you’re feeling extra passionate about the cause, you can donate to help end animal testing.

FAQs

Cruelty-free products tend to be eco-friendly. This is primarily due to their ingredients; since most cruelty-free products tend to be natural or have fewer chemicals, fewer toxins are contained in the by-products released into the atmosphere.

According to PETA, animals in the highest-dose groups often endure severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, convulsions, seizures, paralysis, or bleeding from the nose, mouth, or genitals before they ultimately die or are killed.

The use of non-predictive animal experiments can cause human suffering in at least two ways: (1) by producing misleading safety and efficacy data and (2) by causing potential abandonment of beneficial medical treatments and misdirecting resources away from more effective testing methods.

Unfortunately, not every South Korean product is cruelty-free yet. Brands that sell in brick-and-mortar stores in China must test animals by Chinese law, meaning that brands like Etude House and Laneige are out. On the other hand, brands like Neogen, Klairs, and CosRX are all in the clear!

Cetaphil products do not contain animal-derived ingredients and are not tested on animals.

Dove — one of the world’s most widely available personal care–product brands—has banned all tests on animals anywhere in the world and been added to PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies cruelty-free companies list.

Sources:
”Which Animals Are Used in Cosmetic Tests,” Cruelty-Free International.
”Vegan Cosmetics Market Key Research Findings”,Future Market Insights, July 2020.
Database Analysis More Reliable Than Animal Testing at Predicting Chemical Toxicity in Consumer Products,” John Hopkins University.



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