Give your make-up bag a vegan beauty makeover with our top picks

It’s safe to say that vegan make-up has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years. And it’s no wonder considering the demand. 

According to The Vegan Society’s 2021 Vegan Beauty Takeover report, a staggering 97% of UK shoppers said that they wanted more vegan cosmetics and toiletries, while data from Google Trends shows that interest in vegan beauty has been growing steadily worldwide over the last decade, with the UK leading the way. It’s a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the market intelligence platform, MarketGlass, predicts that the global vegan cosmetic industry will be worth a phenomenal $21.4 billion by the year 2027. 

Environmental and ethical reasons are among the most common motivators for wanting to switch to vegan make-up, mirroring those adopting a vegan diet. Looking to make a change? From how to tell if a product is vegan to how to differentiate between vegan and cruelty-free and the best vegan beauty must-buys, give the contents of your make-up bag a makeover similar to the one that many are giving their eating habits this Veganuary with our ultimate guide.

What does ‘vegan’ make-up mean?

While there’s no binding definition of what makes a cosmetic ‘vegan’ when it comes to product labelling, it generally means that a product doesn’t contain any animal by-products or animal-derived ingredients. 

Common animal-derived ingredients found in make-up include: carmine (in lipsticks, blushers or anything that looks ‘rouge’); beeswax (in lip balms and lipsticks); tallow (in foundation, nail polish and eye make-up); guanine (in glitter or sparkle make-up); collagen (in foundations); squalene, (in lip balms); lanolin (in some lipsticks and glosses); and animal hair (in make-up brushes). Check out The Vegan Society website for a comprehensive breakdown.

Which make-up brands are vegan?

How can you tell if make-up is vegan? This is where it can get a little complicated due to the lack of legal regulation offering a unified system of identification – it can certainly confuse things. In fact, a 2021 YouGov survey found 53% of UK adults were not confident in identifying a skincare product that contained ingredients derived from animals, so if you’ve had trouble deciphering what’s vegan and what’s not, you aren’t alone. 

What can help? A good port of call is to check its ingredients against the above list and see if it contains synthetic or plant-based versions, as well as checking the brand’s website to find out their vegan credentials and to gain a better idea of their values. The easiest way though, is to look out for products that have been certified with The Vegan Society and carry The Vegan Trademark, the world’s first vegan product labelling scheme of its kind that ensures everything from ingredients to processes and testing are free of animal use.

Does vegan mean cruelty-free?

People often get confused by ‘vegan’ and what it means in terms of ‘cruelty-free’. A product labelled vegan is one that doesn’t contain any animal by-products or any animal-derived ingredients, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cruelty-free. Only products accredited by associations like PETA or Cruelty Free international are cruelty-free.

THE BEST VEGAN MAKE-UP

If you’re looking to give your make-up bag a vegan makeover, you’ll be pleased to hear that synthetic or plant-based swaps needn’t be expensive or hard to find. Brands are constantly adding to their line-ups, providing options for every skin type, skin tone and budget. 

From the best vegan lipstick to the best vegan make-up brush set, here are some of our favourites to act as a starting point. 

Explore more great vegan make-up here.

Best vegan liquid lipstick

Try: NYX Professional Makeup Lip Lingerie XXL Long Lasting Matte Liquid Lipstick (£9)


• 24 shades 

There’s literally a shade for every occasion in this line-up. Like us, you’ll want them all. As well as the colour choice, we’re big fans of this pick’s flexible formula – it’s truly ‘lingerie’ for the lips.

Best vegan lipstick

Try: BarePro Longwear Lipstick (£20)


• Synthetic fragrance-free

• 17 shades


Lightweight, long-lasting and high impact, this lipstick has a lot going for it. Its creamy gel formula offers great coverage with just one swipe and its slim, angled bullet hugs every curve to provide brilliant definition.

Best vegan lip gloss

Try: XX Revolution XXtra Glow Lipgloss (£8)


• 6 shades

For full-on crystal shimmer, try this gloss. Its light-reflecting pearls add instant ‘oomph’ whether worn alone or on top of your favourite lipstick.

Best vegan lip pencil

Try: Lime Crime Velvetines Lip Liner (£14.50)


• 8 shades


Whether you’re looking to give your lipstick greater staying power or your Cupid’s bow a dash of definition, these velvety matte lip pencils fit the bill.

Best vegan eyeshadow palette

Try: e.l.f. Earth & Ocean Eyeshadow Palette (£14)


• Size: 18g

• 18 shades

This eye-catching palette’s assortment of cool and warm-toned shades is a treat for the eyes in every way. Mattes, satins and shimmers provide a range of finishes to experiment with.

Best vegan blusher

Try: Huda Beauty GloWish Cheeky Vegan Blush Powder (£18)


• Four shades

• Fragrance-free

• Non-comedogenic


This buttery and buildable blusher’s the perfect skin pick-me-up for adding a dose of rosey radiance. Enriched with antioxidants, shea butter and vitamin E, its benefits can be felt long after you take it off.

Best vegan bronzer

Try: Huda Beauty GloWish Soft Radiance Bronzing Powder (£27)


• Five shades

• Fragrance-free

• Non-comedogenic

A summer glow in winter? Yes, it’s possible thanks to this duo-tone, marble swirled bronzer. Its silky formula glides onto cheeks courtesy of ingredients like Damascus rose oil and plant-derived squalene, to ensure that it doesn’t feel drying. Its radiant finish makes it look like you’ve just stepped off a beach too. 

Best vegan liquid eyeliner

Try: KVD Beauty Tattoo Liner Trooper in Black (£18)


• Longwear


To master the perfect feline flick, this fine-tipped eyeliner is your go-to tool. Smudge proof as well as foolproof, its buildable formula allows you to build intensity with ease while its flexible nib is brilliant for creating both fine and bold lines. 

Best vegan kohl eyeliner

Try: Barry M Kohl Eye Pencil (£2.99)


• Three shades


Soft, smooth and without the eye-watering price of some of its counterparts, this kohl pencil’s a make-up bag staple. Its three shades offer great versatility whether you’re looking for definition or to add subtle brightness to the inner corners of the eyes.

Best vegan brow pencil

Try: NYX Professional Makeup Micro Brow Pencil (£10)


• Eight shades

• Dual-ended


Whether you’re looking to add fullness or shape, this pencil can help. Its ultra-thin tip is great for drawing on extra strands, while its spoolie end is very useful when it comes to keeping strays in check.

Best vegan mascara

Try: Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara (£24)


• Gluten-free


This mascara has a lot to live up to considering its name. However, with its hourglass wand and formula containing strengthening peptides and film-forming polymers, it certainly tries its best to deliver. Not to mention, it lengthens, volumises and curls – it’s an impressive multi-tasker.

Best vegan foundation

Try: KVD Beauty Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Foundation Balm (£29)


• 40 shades


Full coverage foundations can sometimes feel quite heavy and uncomfortable, which is why this particular pick is such a game-changer. It's hydrating and a little goes a long way - plus, it’s flashback-free. Easy to see why it’s created such a storm on TikTok.

Best vegan concealer

Try: NYX Professional Makeup Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Contour Concealer (£8)


• 24 shades


From blemishes to dark circles, this concealer’s got you covered. Its lightweight formula helps you to customise your coverage to suit whatever your skin’s in need of.

Best vegan highlighter

Try: Iconic London Illuminator (£30)


• Four shades


This super concentrated shimmer provides the type of high gloss sheen that transforms dull skin. Dab onto high points of the face (along the cheek and brow bones, for example) to show off your bone structure or mix in with your foundation or moisturiser for an instant glow.

Best vegan primer

Try: e.l.f Poreless Putty Primer (£9)

If you thought that primers were drying, this may make you rethink things. It contains squalane to keep skin hydrated throughout the day, while its velvety formula provides sufficient ‘grip’ to make sure that your make-up doesn’t slip.

Best vegan make-up setting spray

Try: Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray (£26)


• Oil-free


This setting spray is one of the best we’ve ever tried. Its nozzle dispenses a fine veil over your make-up, keeping disruption to a minimum, while its innovative Temperature Control Technology actually lowers the temperature of your make-up to keep it intact. Very clever indeed.

Best vegan make-up brush set

Try: EcoTools Daily Essentials Total Face Kit (£13)


• Contains five brush heads and two handles

• Reusable tin box

This eco-friendly make-up brush set boasts a range of impressive eco-credentials. As well as being housed in biodegradable paper and containing a plantable, seeded sticker that can be grown into wildflowers (yes, really!), its five brush heads can be used interchangeably with the two handles supplied to cut down on waste in a multitude of ways. With heads to fit blush, eye and base, it helps save the planet while helping you to save on space.

Best vegan make-up remover

Try: Boots Micellar Water for Sensitive Skin (£3)


• Fragrance-free


Remove a face full of vegan make-up with this gentle micellar water. The perfect pre-cleanse step, its fragrance-free formula can be tolerated by a range of skin types – including those who veer more towards the sensitive side.

All prices correct at date of publication