The word from the bird.

Cruelty free and sustainable cosmetics buying guide

3rd December 213 mins
By Toucan

Sustainability: Beauty’s new battleground

When picking up your favourite self-care, personal hygiene or beauty products, have you personally checked to see whether they are sustainable? Everyone wants to do their bit for the planet, but how aware are you of the impact your chosen products are having?

We know how bad fast fashion can be and now the beauty and cosmetic industry has been placing particular importance on sustainability. The movement has permeated the industry faster and more extensively than any other recent trend – as it should. The industry has awoken to consumers’ desires and passion for sustainable products with eco credentials.

But what are the main talking points around sustainability in the beauty industry, and what tangible action is happening? We discuss sustainability and cruelty-free products to help you understand more about the drive to be eco-friendly in the beauty industry.


There is no way that a beauty product is not doing some degree of harm somewhere in the supply chain or along its lifecycle. However, brands are beginning to put measures in place – such as increasing their transparency when it comes to sustainability, offsetting their carbon contributions, sourcing ingredients more sustainably and reducing the amount of virgin plastic used in packaging; a huge step in the right direction. 

However, people are still confused. A study undertaken by Provenance found that 61% of people struggle to tell if their hair and skincare products are ethical from the packaging. Many brands are jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to green claims without delivering on their promises. It could be misleading you to make purchases that actually harm the environment, rather than being planet-friendly – adding even more to the confusion!  

Beauty products are known for giving consumers the feel-good factor. But, how can you feel good when you find out you are contributing to the social and environmental problems rather than being part of the solution? 

To help you make responsible choices with your products, here are some ways to tell if they are sustainable:

  • Look for how ingredients are sourced

  • Assess if the packaging is environmentally-friendly

  • Check for sustainable certifications

  • Ensure products are cruelty-free

If you use cotton pads or face wipes, try to make a simple swap for a reusable option. When you choose a single-use beauty product, you are adding to the land waste problem which is a prime issue in the climate crisis. It is also worth taking note of brands certified to consider environmental and social factors, such as B Corp certified brands. 


Ever been confused by the term cruelty-free? It’s not surprising as there is no standardised definition, nor one regulatory body that governs the use of the term. Does it mean the finished product hasn’t been tested on animals, or no part of the whole production process involves animals? 

Generally, if you want a cruelty-free product, you’ll be looking for something that hasn’t been tested on animals at any point or which requires an ingredient to be extracted from an animal in a way that could cause harm or distress. For the most part, any cosmetic product currently sold in the UK will be cruelty-free. The European Union banned the testing of ingredients and finished products on animals in 2009, and in 2013 it prohibited companies from marketing products and ingredients that have been tested on animals. 

You have probably seen the two widely recognised cruelty-free check marks on some products in-store or in your cabinet: Cruelty Free International’s leaping bunny, and the PETA Global Beauty Without Bunnies programme. Brands must audit their supply chains to ensure that no testing on animals takes place, and with more than 5,600 beauty brands with PETA certification, there’s plenty of choices you can find. 

Now you know what to look out for when shopping, you have no excuse to not make sustainable choices! You might not be able to change the world, but you can certainly play your part and create a better world for tomorrow.

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