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Cruelty-free shopping: Your guide to saving time and money


Learn how to save money and time while shopping cruelty free by taking advantage of credit cards rewards and store loyalty programs.

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Half a million animals die due to cosmetic testing each year — and that’s just in one industry alone.

Fortunately, many are starting to take action against these cruel practices. The European Union, for example, banned the use of animal testing over 15 years ago. In 2013, they also banned any imported products that use animal testing in their procedures.

Though our country has yet to enact a similar ban, California legislators did pass the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act just last year. Another 250 American companies have also banded together to endorse the Humane Cosmetics Act, which would end animal testing on cosmetics products across the nation.

But until these and further laws are enacted, the responsibility lies on consumers to research, purchase and utilize brands that steer clear of animal testing and other harmful practices — as well as avoid those who do use them. In this guide, we’re showing you exactly how to do that and how to do so frugally, by taking advantage of credit cards rewards and store loyalty programs.

Why should you shop cruelty-free?

At its simplest, shopping cruelty-free means buying products that are not tested on animals. Companies that utilize animal testing do so in a variety of ways, often requiring the animals to ingest toxic ingredients, exposing their eyes and skin to harmful products or subjecting them to months- or years-long force-feeding to gauge long-term side effects.

There is no unilateral legal definition of “cruelty-free”. In the cosmetics industry, one way to be sure you’re shopping cruelty-free is to look for the Coalition for Consumers Information on Cosmetics “Leaping Bunny” logo. This certifies that the product and its ingredients were not tested on animals, nor will they be in the future.

To be clear, a cruelty-free product is not the same as a vegan product. While cruelty-free products aren’t testing on animals, they may still contain animal-derived products, such as beeswax, honey, gelatin, collagen and more. Vegan products, on the other hand, contain no animal products at all.

How to save money when shopping cruelty-free

Many consumers worry that shopping cruelty-free will be difficult — that it will take up too much time, cost too much or not offer the same variety of options that shopping traditional brands would. Fortunately, that’s not the case — especially as more and more companies and legislators join the fight against inhumane animal testing.

If you’re looking to make a difference by shopping cruelty-free (but can’t afford to break the bank while doing so), these tips can help:

Utilize loyalty programs – You can use store and brand loyalty programs to earn points toward future purchases when buying cruelty-free. Sephora, Smashbox and Ulta all have reward programs you can sign up for. Over time, you’ll get credits to use on additional cruelty-free makeup and product purchases.

Use a rewards card to pay for your purchases — Using a cash-back, mileage or other rewards card will give you added value when buying cruelty-free products. You can also use grocery card rewards programs to help cover cruelty-free cosmetic and household products, or leverage store-specific credit cards (like Sephora’s new card) to enjoy bonuses and extra discounts on those purchases. It is important to note that store credit cards tend to have higher interest rates and a lower rewards value than rewards credit cards. Do your research to figure out which would be a better fit for you. Some credit cards, including American Express, for example, also have online shopping portals that reward you for shopping at specific stores.

Try cash-back apps – There are a handful of apps that actually give you cash back when shopping. Ibotta, for example, gives you money for shopping offers from specific grocery stores, while Paribus does the same with online shopping. You can also use store-specific apps like Walmart’s SavingCatcher to earn cash back as well.

You can also check your drawers, cabinets and closets for cruelty-free products you might already have. Check logos and tags for commonly known cruelty-free brands like Too Faced, Lush, Lululemon or Paul Mitchell (check this list for even more brands to look for.)

How to save time when shopping cruelty-free

Don’t have hours and hours to research, call up customer service reps and compare all your cruelty-free options?

Fortunately, there are a handful of shortcuts you can use to make cruelty-free shopping quicker, more efficient and, most importantly, less of a hassle. Try these tips on for size:

  1. Look for certain logos and certifications. The Leaping Bunny logo is one you can look for, as is PETA’s pink cruelty-free rabbit. There are also a number of certifications that indicate a product is safe to buy for a cruelty-free shopper. These include certification from PETA’s “Beauty without Bunnies” program and Choose Cruelty Free’s “Not Tested on Animals” program.
  2. Watch the verbiage. Sometimes, it’s not easy to spot a product that’s been tested on animals. A label might say “We do not test on animals,” but that could mean the brand just had another company do it for them. Take claims that aren’t backed by a trusted certification with a grain of salt or, better yet, steer clear.
  3. Have a few go-to brands in each category. It helps to have a number of trusted brands you can buy from when you’re in a pinch, so start to build out a list of cruelty-free brands you like. Having some you can buy on Amazon is particularly helpful, especially if you’re a Prime Member and enjoy free one- and two-day shipping.

Be sure to use our chart below to help determine which brands you might want on your go-to cruelty-free shopping list.

Cruelty-free brands

Face and Makeup
  • ELF Cosmetics
  • CoverGirl
  • MadHippie
  • Sprouts Farmers Market
  • Burt’s Bees
  • Colourpop
  • Wet n Wild
  • EcoTools
  • NYX
  • Physician’s Formula
  • Ardell
  • Annabelle
  • Milani
  • Pacifica
  • Sonia Kashuk
  • Real Technique
  • Too Faced Cosmetics
  • LimeLife by Alcone
  • Jeffree Star Cosmetics
  • Naked Cosmetics
  • Arbonne
  • bareMinerals
  • Beautycounter
  • ButterLondon
  • Kylie Cosmetics
  • Lime Crime
  • Stila
  • Supergoop
  • Tarte
  • Urban Decay
  • Milk
Skin Care
  • Yes To
  • Dermalogica
  • Pacifica
  • MadHippie
  • Sprouts Farmers Market
  • Bliss
  • Kiss My Face
  • Nourish Organic
  • Derma E
  • Andalou Naturals
  • LUSH
  • LimeLife by Alcone
  • Glossier
  • Naked Cosmetics
  • True Botanicals
  • Beautycounter
  • Murad
  • REN
  • Shiseido
  • Kate Somerville
  • Sunday Riley
  • Rodial
  • Goop
  • Dermadoctor
Household Products
  • Method
  • Sprouts Farmers Market
  • Mrs. Meyers
  • CleanWell
  • Seventh Generation
  • Biokleen
  • Ecover
  • Sunny & Honey
  • Better Life
  • Williams-Sonoma
  • Ecos
  • Grab Green
  • Puracy
  • The Good Home Company

The bottom line

The truth is, buying your favorite clothes, make-up or household products shouldn’t come with a side of guilt. So if you do make the decision to begin shopping cruelty-free (or already are), you’re now armed with the right tips and tricks, proving it doesn’t have to be nearly as time-consuming or expensive as you thought.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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