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While most people would whole-heartedly agree that the need to be eco-friendly and animal-friendly is more important than ever, everyone has their own ideas as to what the best approach is. You might not want (or be able) to go all the way and swear off all animal products, but we can certainly strive to be greener and more animal-friendly in our skincare routines by choosing vegan and cruelty-free options.

There are some good reasons to choose vegan skincare, even if you aren’t specifically trying to avoid animal products. If you’re sensitive to parabens, alcohol, and fragrances, you may find that vegan products are less likely to contain irritating ingredients. They also tend to be less processed, meaning the ingredients used are closer to their natural state, and have lost less nutrients. 

Worried about having to make major changes to your product lineup? You might be surprised to find that some of your favorite products may already be vegan, cruelty-free, or vegan-friendly. These options are becoming more and more accessible.

How can I be sure a product is vegan?

There are still some tricky waters to navigate. A product with vegan ingredients is not necessarily cruelty-free. Products labelled “natural” and “organic” may not be vegan either. Here are some guidelines and suggestions on how to ensure you are actually choosing a vegan/cruelty-free product:

  • For a product to truly be vegan, it must not contain any products from animals, or any products made by animals. This means things produced by animals, like lanolin, snail extract and bee products (honey, propolis, royal jelly, or beeswax) are not 100% vegan, even if the animal isn’t harmed in the process.
  • Some ingredients may or may not be vegan, depending on how they’ve been derived. Squalane is a commonly used skin conditioner and moisturizer, however it can be extracted from shark liver oil, or olives and wheat germ, depending on the product.
  • Just because a brand isn’t certified vegan, doesn’t mean it isn’t. Certificates are notoriously costly, and have to be renewed every year. In fact, you likely won’t find any vegan certified K-beauty brands, because certified products must be made by companies in the United States, a US territory, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. 

How can I be sure a product is cruelty-free?

This is a relatively easy-to-answer question. In Korea, a bill was passed in 2016 that required all beauty brands to be cruelty-free in 2018, or face hefty fines. Therefore, you won’t have issues with any law-abiding brand. However, there is a major caveat: mainland China still requires animal testing on all imported cosmetics. Therefore, if your K-beauty product was purchased from a store in China, it isn’t cruelty-free. This doesn’t apply to Hong Kong (as a special administrative region), or to products directly mailed to a consumer for personal use. In short, a Korean product bought online and shipped to China to an individual can be cruelty-free; a Korean product bought in a brick-and-mortar store in China is not.

Product suggestions, please!

Now that you know how to tell if a product is vegan and cruelty-free, here are some trusted brands and great products you can try!

Brand: E Nature - All their products are vegan, with the exception of the Cicaherb Multi-Balm, which contains beeswax. They are cruelty-free and don’t have any stores in China.

  1. Moringa Cleansing Balm - This raved-about sherbet cleanser is not only vegan and cruelty-free, but also features eco-friendly packaging. It melts away makeup and dirt without leaving your skin feeling tight and dry.
  2. Juniper Pore Grip Emulsion - Struggling to keep your oily skin in check? This formula is made to balance your skin, controlling the production of excess oil, but moisturizing as well. Juniper is an anti-inflammatory that soothes skin, leaving it smooth and calm.


Brand: Klairs - Almost all of their products are vegan, except for the Manuka Honey & Choco Body Soap, and their Midnight Blue Calming Cream. These two products use honey and beeswax, and therefore aren’t strictly vegan. However, they are all cruelty-free, and sell in China solely online, meaning they are exempt from animal testing there as well.

  1. Supple Preparation Unscented Toner - If you were worried about having to ditch your beloved toner, you need not fear! This unscented version of their original bestseller is excellent if you have a lot of sensitivities, as it omits the essential oils that can cause irritation. It’s also full of great things like sodium hyaluronate, centella, and licorice root, which moisturize, soothe, and brighten. (Note: The original Supple Preparation Facial Toner is vegan as well.)
  2. Rich Moist Soothing Serum - Need extra moisture this winter? This serum is packed with sodium hyaluronate, which helps to hold moisture in your skin. It also calms and conditions irritated, sensitive skin with centella and aloe extracts.


The following are some great products that are vegan, but don’t come from all-vegan brands: 

  1. Huxley Be Clean, Be Moist Cleansing Gel: This low pH cleanser uses Huxley’s signature prickly pear cactus oil to cleanse and moisturize. Citrus extracts are full of vitamins and will help your skin look bright and feel clean!
  2. Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Green Tea Pads: Convenient and easy-to-use, these exfoliating pads use AHAs to chemically remove dead cells and dirt from your skin. The pads are quilted, and gently buff away debris, leaving skin smooth and soft.
  3. Bonair Rose Illuminator Oil Drop: Want soft and glowy skin? This fermented rose hip oil and herbal mixture nourishes skin with vitamins and antioxidants, while soothing and hydrating - all without any greasiness.