As a qualified and experienced beauty therapist who now sits at a desk for a living, my love for all things beauty certainly hasn't faded (unfortunately for my bank balance). A peek into my bathroom cabinets hints at my past profession: the sheer number of products I've amassed would seem unwarranted to the average person, but they all have their place in my routine. And while I love testing out the latest formulas on myself, I personally prefer to buy those that haven't been foisted on any innocent, fluffy bunnies.

To be deemed officially ‘cruelty-free’, a brand commits to not testing it’s final products, nor the individual ingredients, on animals. While virtually every ingredient used in products has been tested on animals in the past, cruelty-free companies aim to produce products that are completely free from new, and unnecessary, animal testing. Typically accredited by a dedicated, third-party organization (for example, through the Leaping Bunny Program, Cruelty Free International, or PETA) and identified by specific, certified logos, companies applying for cruelty-free recognition must meet specified standards, sign legally-binding documents, and submit documentation to ensure compliance.  Though the terms are often used interchangeably, ‘cruelty-free’ is a separate distinction from ‘vegan’, which means a product is free from any animal-derived ingredients.

Below is a round-up of my favourite high quality beauty buys that are cruelty-free accredited, vegan, and – in my humble opinion – worth every penny.

Bybi Beauty is a cruelty-free brand that’s completely vegan (and also a Certified B-Corporation: read more about that here). Their novel approach to sustainability includes upcycling ingredients that would normally be discarded; the Strawberry Booster, for example, features strawberry seed oil derived from leftover seeds produced by fruit juice manufacturers, which would normally go to waste. It’s also a beautifully lightweight facial oil full of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids to repair a compromised barrier and soothe flaky skin; use on it’s own for thirsty skin, or add a few drops to your moisturizer for an extra-repairing boost. My top product is the Day Glow Brightening AHA tonic, which completely changed my approach to acids. I tend to have a ‘the stronger the better’ mindset, with the casualty being my poor skin barrier. This tonic, however, utilizes gentle, hydrating lactic acid to gently shed old, dull skin cells for a glowing complexion. Shiitake and reishi mushrooms and aloe juice make the formula super soothing, and I found my redness was immediately reduced. The thicker-than-expected texture means it can be applied with your hands like an essence, leaving skin plump and dewy.

Another virtuous brand that appears in my stash is Sensori+. Made in Melbourne using ethically sourced, certified Vegan ingredients, their products are housed in luxe, ornamental vessels (that are in fact mostly recyclable) and, as the name implies, designed to stimulate the senses. When my skin feels extra parched, I call on their ruby-hued Antioxidant Repair Serum-In-Oil. This nourishing bi-phase treatment combines a nutrition-packed fig & berry serum with a layer of soothing, omega-3 rich hemp, rose fruit and grape seed oils to soothe dull, dry and compromised skin. I love how a generous application gives my skin a dewy, glass-skin glow.

Synergie Skin has featured in my skincare routine for many years now, and it’s a company I absolutely love. They were cruelty free before it was ‘a thing’, and strike a rare balance between ethical and highly effective. Founded and formulated by an Australian skin scientist and cosmetic chemist, they utilize well-researched active ingredients without adding anything unnecessary, and I’ve never met a product of theirs I haven’t liked. Their firming, hydrating ReClaim moisturizer features peptides, hyaluronic acid, sea buckthorn oil and squalane, and the rich, balmy texture soothes my fussy skin while boosting collagen (which, having just turned 30, is something I now hold in high regard).

While skincare is my true love, I’m also a big fan of cruelty-free cosmetics. Hailing from New York City, the somewhat ironically-named Milk Makeup line is completely vegan. Always ahead of the game, their range is unique yet uncomplicated, with simple-to-use products that don’t take themselves too seriously. I struggle with my makeup disappearing (or worse, settling into creases) during the day, so I began using their Hydro Grip Primer. The 94% natural  formula features hemp-derived cannabis seed and blue agave extracts for hydration. It’s also oil, silicone and fragrance-free, which is perfect for my fussy skin. The slightly tacky gel texture glides onto skin and genuinely helps my makeup ‘grip’ to my skin and stay put for much longer. I found that I had less creasing around my nose at the end of the day, where my foundation typically ends up looking patchy.

I have also been using their Sunshine Under Eye Tint + Brighten, a concealer/eye serum hybrid that combines light-reflecting coverage with caffeine and vitamin C to brighten and firm, along with plant-derived squalane and hyaluronic acid to hydrate the delicate undereye area. A unique glass rollerball applicator gives tired eyes an extra little massage to truly target dark circles and general lack of sleep (and who among us is actually well-rested on a daily basis?). Though it’s described as a tint, I found the coverage was more than enough to disguise my genetically-blessed dark circles (thanks, Dad!) and it didn’t disappear mid-afternoon like most concealers in my arsenal. Plus, they’ve recently released refills, so no unnecessary packaging waste and you’re getting great bang for your buck.

A great vegan mascara is tough to find, and I’m all about the long lashes. I swear by tarte’s Big Ego™ vegan mascara (just FYI, while tarte’s entire range is cruelty free, not every product is vegan). The hourglass-shaped brush grabs every little lash and coats it with their signature intensely black, flake-free formula. I swear it looks like I’m wearing falsies after a couple coats! The formula includes glycerin and panthenol to condition, which is a bonus as I never go a day without loading up my poor little lashes.

Finally, I like to set my hard work in place with a great setting spray. Makeup mogul Charlotte Tilbury’s cult Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray is not only cruelty free, but contains no animal-derived ingredients (handy hint: check their website to see which other products are vegan-friendly). This light, super-hydrating mist leaves skin dewy, and keeps my makeup fresh All. Day. Long.

While I enjoy a multi-step skincare routine for my face, by the time I’ve applied all my serums and creams I’m ready to vacate the bathroom and lie on the couch. For that reason, my body care routine is much more streamlined. My eczema-prone skin demands a soothing lotion, and my go-to for a long time now has been Eco Tan’s Organic Coconut Body Milk. With a rich texture that falls nicely between ‘weightless’ and ‘leaves a sticky layer’, this unscented lotion hydrates and effectively soothes my angry skin, while still feeling luxurious (often not the case with eczema-friendly products). It’s also perfect for extending the life of your fake tan.

And of course, beauty being a head to toe affair, I try to keep my haircare ethical as well. Did you know the legendary Olaplex No.3 Treatment is vegan friendly? The OG that started the ‘bond builder’ craze, this creamy concoction goes on damp hair before washing to rebuild hair from the inside out, a literal game changer for those of us who bleach, colour and heat-style our strands (guilty!). My damaged hair also loves an extra-rich masque, and I’ve been leaning heavily on the Aveda Nutriplenish Masque Deep Moisture mask. Featuring a lavish blend of coconut oil, mango butter and pomegranate seed oil, this silicone-free treatment is thick, decadent, and is deliciously scented with cocoa extract and oils of ginger and cardamom. If your strands aren’t Hagrid-level unruly like mine, you may want to try the Light version for finer hair, as the Deep formula is pretty intense.

Last on my list is one of the most beautifully-fragranced hair care products I’ve come across. Ouai, a line of luxury products from celeb hairstylist Jen Atkin (whose hands have graced the strands of Kim Kardashian, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the Hadids, and more), recently popped up on Leaping Bunny’s Cruelty Free list, and you better believe I immediately added the range to cart. A standout is definitely their high-gloss Hair Oil, which features their Rue St. Honoré fragrance, a delicate blend of violet, gardenia, ylang ylang, and white musk (by the way, you can purchase each Ouai fragrance as a separate Eau De Parfum to complement your haircare routine if you’re feeling boujee). Lightweight but still hefty enough to smooth my damaged locks, this oil protects from both heat damage and UV exposure, and overall just feels incredibly luxurious.

Story by Karina Wharton. Holding shot via Instagram @sensoriplus

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