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The Non-Toxic Makeup You Need To Know About


Non-toxic, cruelty-free and vegan are just a handful of terms that have become commonplace in the beauty industry. The idea of our beauty products being ‘clean’ (apologies for the generalised term) is no longer just an added benefit, it’s a requirement for a lot of us. 

“The wellness boom has shone an impactful spotlight on claims surrounding toxicity, and will continue to drive the message home around the world,” says Lisa Payne, beauty editor at trend forecasting company Stylus. “Equally, the rise in veganism globally has naturally catalysed interest in cruelty-free beauty products.”

Non-toxic makeup has previously received a bad rep. “The performance has typically been lacking in comparison to products that do not contain them,” agrees Lisa. “Pigments have often come from animal sources (especially for eye colour), and synthetic ingredients leave a better slip and feel on the skin.”

Change is afoot though; formulas are improving, (as anyone who has tried Hourglass’s NEW Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara can attest to) and as a result our interest has piqued. Last year, market research company Mintel revealed that 36 percent of us actively look for cruelty-free eye makeup and that figure was two percent higher for base products. 

A rise in Google searches for ‘non-toxic beauty’ throughout lockdown indicates that these figures could be higher now. 


If you’ve emerged from lockdown determined to tick the vegan and cruelty-free boxes with your future purchases but don’t know where to start, then you’re in the right place. From deciphering the terms to the brands leading the way on non-toxic makeup, here’s our guide…

What Does Non-Toxic Mean?

The word ‘non-toxic’ has been thrown around loosely in the industry these days but it really has no valid definition,” says Rose-Marie Swift, founder of RMS Beauty. “Water can be toxic if you drink too much and even herbs can poison you if used improperly.”

While there is no set definition, it’s widely accepted that brands will steer clear of ingredients that are deemed as potential skin irritators. Usually this means the formulas will be free from silicones, preservatives and emulsifiers. Non-toxic makeup tends to be packed with plants, vitamins, minerals, and botanical extracts. The ingredients list tends to be pared back to reduce any risk of irritation.


What Does Vegan Mean?

In the same way that a vegan diet is free from animal by-products, so are beauty buys labelled ‘vegan’. “About 80 percent of our formulas were vegan when we decided to become a completely vegan brand. We knew it was possible, but that didn’t mean it was easy,” says Carisa Janes, founder of Hourglass.

“The biggest challenge was finding comparable replacements for non-vegan ingredients widely used in the industry,” Carisa admits. 

Take carmine as an example; the red pigment requires up to 1,000 crushed female insects to create one tube of lipstick. To ensure Hourglass lipsticks offered the same colour pay-off, Carisa created a new pigment.

Having put the brand’s Confession Ultra Slim High Intensity Refillable Lipstick in I Crave (a pillarbox red) to the test, we can confirm that it has serious staying power. Even after scoffing your way through breakfast, lunch and copious amounts of coffee. 

What Does Cruelty-Free Mean?

Cruelty-free makeup means that the product has not been tested on animals. “We made a conscious decision that “cruelty free” would, for us, mean no animals harmed in any part of the production process,” says Carisa.

Hourglass has gone one step further by donating five percent of the profits from its Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara to the Nonhuman Rights ProjectOther brands including Nailberry, Charlotte Tilbury and RMS also have a wide range of cruelty-free makeup. 


There is one important point to mention; a product can be cruelty-free and still contain animal derived ingredients, and therefore not vegan. A product can also be vegan, but tested on animals too.

The Brands To Look Out For

While becoming cruelty-free, vegan and non-toxic is a goal shared by many beauty brands, there are a handful leading the way when it comes to makeup. “The range of toxic-free makeup available today is amazing and you don’t have to compromise the texture or pigment at all,” says makeup artist Anna Payne.

“In fact, some of my favourite products happen to be toxic-free,” adds Anna. “I’m a huge Hourglass fan, the foundations and concealers are second to none, and RMS highlighters and blushers are my go-to for a natural glow.”

Here are just a few of our favourite brands and the products that we love…



Established by Carisa Janes in 2004, Hourglass is best known for its world-famous lighting powders. While the Vanish Airbrush Concealer might have only launched earlier this year, it has fast become a top seller. We’re convinced that this is because the smallest amount makes light work of concealing dark circles, blemishes and unwanted marks.


Ilia was one of the first clean, non-toxic makeup brands to really champion the importance of colour pay off. The lipsticks and blushers proof that using non-toxic makeup doesn’t mean you have to compromise. It was last year’s launch of the True Skin Serum Foundation that took the beauty world by storm though.

The feather-light texture combined with a broad shade selection made this a go-to for anyone who wants a natural-looking finish that covers imperfections, but still looks like skin.



Rose-Marie has been a staunch advocate of non-toxic, clean makeup for years. The brand’s Living Luminizer is iconic and you’ll find it in almost every makeup artist’s kit bag. With the subtlest of shimmers and zero glitter, it leaves you with a healthy, glossed finish when the light hits your face. Add a dot into the inner corners of your eyes to lift dark circles.

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