Cruelty free is on fleek. (Did we use that word right?)
What we mean to say is that conscious, cruelty free beauty is catching on. Color us even more impressed than the one time we managed to get our eyeliner perfectly symmetrical.
But with so many fantastic vegan, cruelty free makeup brands, why are we still using natural makeup brushes? Is it just us, or is it outrageous to use animal parts to apply animal free product?
For years, people have shied away from synthetic bristles, quite literally brushing them off as inferior and cheap, like “Barbie doll hair”. That’s why animal hair applicators on the whole have long outlived animal ingredients in the makeup itself.
It’s time to uncover the truth behind makeup brushes (so that you can more humanely apply your cover-up). That’s why we’ve sought out the best cruelty free vegan makeup brushes to give you the tools (literally) to make your ENTIRE makeup routine absent the animals.
And if you want to take your face to next level sustainability, check out our coverage of the best zero waste makeup brands.
NATURAL MAKEUP BRUSHES VS. VEGAN MAKEUP BRUSHES
This is one of the few instances where we DON’T want to see the word “natural” printed on the package. Natural makeup brushes are typically not vegan friendly, because their “natural” bristles are simply various types of animal hair.
The type of animal varies for different brush purposes with the stiffness of their fur. For instance, stiff badger hair is used in brow brushes while softer pony hair is used for blush application. Other animals getting unwilling bobs for beauty’s sake include goats, horses, boats, squirrels, and minks.
Even more troublesome than the idea of wiping animal fur on your face is that many of these brushes are still labeled as cruelty free, because technically, “cruelty free” only pertains to animal testing. You’ll find the “cruelty free” label is often meaningless when applied to makeup brushes.
Because while animals aren’t subject to product testing, they ARE still hunted from the wild (squirrels and badgers), shorn too short (goats), kept in cages (ALL), and even slaughtered in ways that least damage the pelt. Not to get too gruesome, but that can include drowning, electrocution, strangulation, and even skinning alive, especially in common fur trade countries where animal welfare laws are lax to non-existent. If that doesn’t sound like cruelty, we don’t know what does.
Some companies claim that harvesting the hair doesn’t hurt the animals. If only we could believe them! The truth is, the animal fur used in makeup brushes is either a product of the extremely problematic fur industry, or equally problematic meat industry.
A VEGAN MAKEUP BRUSH IS THE ONLY TRULY CRUELTY FREE MAKEUP BRUSH.
The ethical gap between vegan and cruelty free is never more apparent than when it comes to makeup brushes. If it seems nonsensical to you that something can be “cruelty free” yet contain animal byproducts, that’s because it is.
So how do we get around this giant labeling loophole that allows cosmetic companies to cage and yank out animal hair with one hand, while writing “cruelty free” on the box with the other?
We turn to fur free (AKA synthetic) makeup brushes!
WHY SYNTHETIC IS SUPERIOR.
Animal welfare completely aside, synthetic bristles are better than natural brushes on several levels. All those rumors about them not performing as well? It’s just not true anymore.
For one, synthetic bristles are more durable and resistant to damage. For the same reason that human hair can’t handle repeated chemical treatment and washing, animal hair also quickly degrades under these circumstances. Animal hair also absorbs a lot more makeup than non-porous synthetic bristles. That means they’re way easier to clean, and you’ll find yourself washing less makeup down the drain. Save a mink AND some money.
This non-porous nature also makes them more resistant to bacteria and less prone to drying out, which will feel better on your skin. That’s in addition to being hypoallergenic.
And if nothing else, synthetic fibers just plain deliver better performance! They don’t break, shed, lose flexibility, and work over a wider variety of makeup types.
The softer synthetic texture also lends them to creating a more blended, less blotchy overall finish. Smokey eyes and soft, blended contours are all the rage, and no brush does a better layered look than a synthetic one.
MAKING YOUR SYNTHETIC BRISTLES MORE SUSTAINABLE.
The one valid area of concern regarding the synthetic bristles. Since these bristles are made of things like nylon, Taclon, and polyester, they don’t exactly have a good “end of life” outcome. Synthetic fibers take years and years to biodegrade, and they’re definitely not compostable.
And while there are plenty of wood and bamboo makeup brushes out there (see below), there are thus far no options with entirely plant-based bristles. That means if you want to compost your bamboo makeup brush (as we hope you do!), you’ll need to remove the bristles first.
We’re still of the opinion that when a choice has to be made, concern over potential waste must take a backseat to animal welfare. However, we also believe in not being haphazard about your brushes.
Especially with the second section of brushes on our list, the ones with either less sustainable wood or totally non-compostable handles as well as bristles, it’s important to get as much life out of these brushes as possible.
So how to go about making the most sustainable choice when it comes to makeup brushes? Start by sticking to what you have. The most sustainable makeup brushes are the ones you already have. Do you REALLY need to buy new brushes?
If the answer is unequivocally yes, can you buy a second had set that has been well looked after?
If you don’t already own makeup brushes and can’t find any second hand options, the next best thing is to buy high quality vegan makeup brushes, and only buy what you need. Minimalism also means minimal impact! While the vegan makeup brush sets below are great, you might not need a full 12-piece set if you already own some brushes or don’t apply tons of makeup.
Proper brush care and maintenance can also help drastically improve the lifespan of your vegan makeup brushes. This means washing your brushes thoroughly and often, and letting them fully dry out. Leaving your makeup to cake and clump in the bristles is the shortest path to early brush retirement (and smudged makeup).
When your brushes finally do start losing bristles or just don’t work as well anymore, try to repurpose them rather than just throw them away. Maybe you have or know children that could use them for arts and crafts! If not, see if a local school or daycare could use them.
Now that we’ve all brushed about on the facts, let’s get down to business with the top vegan makeup brushes.
THE BEST VEGAN BAMBOO MAKEUP BRUSHES
About EcoTools Vegan Makeup Brushes
EcoTools make a huge selection of brushes and are widely available at tons of major retailers worldwide. With one stop, you could easily build a bamboo makeup brush kit fit for a king.
All brushes feature hand cut “stunningly soft” synthetic bristles attached to a recycled aluminum ferrule and bamboo handle. Their retractable brushes (great for travel and on the go touchups!) come in a fully recycled aluminum case. Not sure which brush is best for you? Have a look at their Brush Guide to find the perfect match by makeup type. Then look at the tutorial for exactly how to best use the brush.
Just about every individual brush falls under $10 (and most significantly under), so these are incredibly affordable vegan makeup brushes.
If you’re less the IKEA, and more the “no assembly required” type, EcoTools also sells many pre-assembled sets, like the Travel Set, a 4 piece bamboo makeup brush set.
Since their upstart in 2007, EcoTools has operated under the motto, “Look Beautiful, Live Beautifully”. Sisters Jen and Stacy started this PETA certified vegan and cruelty free company to promote #MyTrueBeauty.
According to the company, this women’s empowerment movement “inspires us to give back and live more sustainable lives while supporting growth and development around the globe to help make the world a more beautiful place.” Their most recent #MyTrueBeauty initiative was a $100,000 donation given to Glamour Magazine’s The Girl Project.
Across all their makeup brushes, hair brushes, and bath / spa tools, they use as much recycled metal and plastic as possible. They use Tree-Free paper made of a 80% bamboo and 20% cotton for some of their packaging. It looks like the rest of their packaging is in plastic though, would love to see them replace that too!
2. ELATE BEAUTY
About Elate Beauty Vegan Makeup Brushes
A name that will sound familiar to our regular readers, Elate Beauty creates a perfect minimalist 6-brush lineup of affordable bamboo makeup brushes. This includes liner/brow, cheek/contour, brow/liner, blending, eye color, and a larger multi-use brush.
Because these brushes lack all the super specific frills and usages, they’re the perfect beginner vegan makeup brushes. Don’t think that means they sacrifice quality for simplicity. With antibacterial Taklon bristles, these brushes are high performing and sustainably made to boot, featuring a sustainably sourced bamboo handle and recyclable aluminum ferrule, glued together with biodegradable eco-resin.
To buy at a discount per brush, try their 5 piece bamboo brush set, which even comes with Canvas Brush Roll Up. This protective brush case for your bamboo makeup brushes is super durable for travel and toting, but can also be composted if necessary.
About Elate Beauty
Elate Beauty is a Canadian company deeply impassioned by the “conscious beauty movement”. They’re certified vegan by PETA and Cruelty free international and do not sell into China:
We believe no animal or person should ever be harmed to make beauty products. The opposite of kindness is not cruelty, it is inattention, and we are paying attention […] Know that you are a perfect and whole being, and that we are here to support you on your journey to a more intentional lifestyle and conscious beauty.
And what good are makeup brushes without the makeup? Elate also sells a full range of cruelty free cosmetics, including pressed and loose eye powders, zero waste mascara (which we’ve covered before), eyeliner, face makeup, and lipstick. All are made using 90% organic ingredients and the other 10% are due to a prioritization of fair trade over organic. The whole product line isn’t palm oil free (they use RSPO certified palm suppliers).
In addition to their brush handles, their compacts and palettes are also bamboo and are totally refillable. Every refill comes in plantable seed paper: just wet, plant, and water!
They also offset all their emissions with Bullfrog Power and give back to multiple local and women’s-based charities, like the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (they sponsor three elephants named Maisha, Dololo, and Larr – which we love!).
3. EVERYDAY MINERALS
About Everyday Minerals Vegan Makeup Brushes
If you’re looking for good quality vegan makeup brushes on a modest budget, look no further than Everyday Minerals. These plush brushes are made of super soft synthetic bristles arranged in high density to provide maximum performance and coverage.
Choose between 16 different vegan face makeup brushes and 9 different vegan eye makeup brushes.
What we find unique about these bamboo vegan makeup brushes is the variety in their handle design. So many brushes have one handle slapped together with all sorts of different heads. Everyday minerals customized the handle to more practically fit the brush’s use. These handles are designed with comfort and control in mind for application. For instance, their face brushes feature short, stubby handles that are more ergonomic and easier to hold for large face strokes. The eye brushes feature variable skinnier handles to give you more control.
About Everyday Minerals
Everyday Essentials creates just what the name says: simple and pure ways to achieve confidence and comfort. Carina Menzies started the company after working for several cosmetics companies and finding “simple” just wasn’t an option.
As per their vegan and cruelty free PETA certification, they require every part of their supply chain to sign a yearly affidavits against the practices of animal testing:
“Everyday minerals has never participated in the activity of animal testing on our ingredients and or finished products, nor do we do business with any supply chain that participated in the act of animal testing.”
Aside from using recycled packaging, they also encourage you to “Recycle your Empties”.
4. ANTONYM COSMETICS
About Antonym Cosmetics Vegan Makeup Brushes
Antonym’s line of 20 brushes make up some of the top vegan makeup brushes on the market. Made of professional-grade laser cut synthetic bristles, these are supposedly go-to brushes for many celebrity makeup artists. Each brush is designed for seamless performance in both powders and creams.
Aside from being certified vegan and cruelty free, these makeup brushes have compostable bamboo handles and a black aluminum ferrule. All black is back! Then again, it never really went out of style.
About Antonym Cosmetics
Founded in 2013 by Miami-based celebrity makeup artist Val Giraud, Antonym makes luxury certified organic makeup.
They’re Leaping Bunny-certified cruelty free and The Vegan Awareness Foundation-certified vegan. Their packaging and marketing material is all done on FSC certified compostable paper.
OTHER CRUELTY FREE VEGAN MAKEUP BRUSHES
5. THE BODY SHOP
About The Body Shop
You’ve probably heard this name before. Think back to just about any shopping mall you’ve walked through!
This certified B-corp operates entirely cruelty free (though only vegetarian due only to some beeswax and honey). Check out their 2018 sustainability report. The Body Shop is now owned by Natura, who are also a B-Corp and Certified Cruelty Free.
The Body Shop’s “Nature Inspired Beauty” includes any and all things related to fragrance, skincare, haircare, and makeup, which they been perfecting since starting up in Brighton, England all the way back in 1976.
Since then, they’ve started the Trade Not Aid partnership (which partners with local ingredient sourcing communities to provide scholarships and well paid job opportunities for local women), as well as numerous other social and environmental campaigns. There’s too many to go into detail here, but follow the links for more info:
- Community Trade Recycled Plastic
- Childhood Dreams for the Future – This one is so pure and wholesome!
- Forever Against Animal Testing – They’re actually partnering with Cruelty Free International here to petition the UN to internationally intervene in countries where animal testing is legal/mandated.
- Re-Wild the World
For a concise visual timeline of all their sustainable business milestones, see here.
Most notably, in 2016 they initiated Enrich Not Exploit, a vow to become to world most ethical and sustainable business by hitting 14 primary targets by 2020.
Part of how they measure their progress toward these goals is by literally scoring the environmental impact of product families by measuring things like biodegradability, how renewable the natural ingredients are, the ratio of “green chemistry” vs. more impactful processing methods, and how recyclable the packaging is. From 2016 to 2017, they decreased the environmental impact of their product line by 5%!
In the words of Founder Anita Roddick:
“The business of business should not be about money. It should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.”
Lastly, their rewards club is called the Love Your Body Club, which fits so well into their theme of female empowerment. By joining, you can either use rewards earned through purchases to either buy to donate them to one of two wildlife conservation charities.
6. 100% PURE
About 100% Pure Vegan Makeup Brushes
100% Pure makes 11 “eco-luxe” vegan makeup brushes found at Amazon and many other places. These face and eye brushes have extremely fluffy white bristles and pastel pink handles. Just holding one will make you feel pretty as a princess. Check out their full cruelty-free makeup brush guide to help decide.
What’s especially unique about these antibacterial bristles is that, beyond being vegan, they’re made from recycled PBT plastic bottles.
About 100% Pure
100% Pure is another of our best eco friendly makeup brands. They were co-founded and run by three individuals that prioritize change and responsibility.
For every order placed, 100% pure donates either one bowl of vegan dog food to animal shelters to plants one tree through Trees for the Future (your choice!). So far they’ve donated 183,293 bowls of dog food and planted 256,563 trees!
Also, did you know a bowl of vegan dog food can save 2 livestock animal, 90 lbs of grain, 2000 gallons of water, and 60 sq. ft. of rainforest? Neither did we! Yet another important way to move toward a zero waste dog!
7. INIKA ORGANIC
About INIKA Organic Vegan Makeup Brushes
INIKA Organic’s vegan makeup brushes combine super soft synthetic fibers with sustainable forestry-sourced wooden handles. Because every element of these brushes is top quality, prepare to pay a little bit more for them. Their Vegan Kabuki Brush, for instance, is a particularly spendy at $45 but it did win gold in The Green Parent 2018 Natural Beauty Awards.
Each individual brush product page comes with suggested makeup pairings and how-to instructions.
If you’re more interested in a cruelty free and vegan makeup brush set, consider their Professional Vegan Brush Roll. It includes 8 of their most staple brushes neatly contained in a canvas roll-up bag.
About INIKA Organic
Australian owned INIKA has been pioneering the organic revolution since 2006. Their face, lip, and eye makeup are now globally trusted and sold in 25+ countries and have won 35+ awards product awards (often over big traditional beauty companies).
They hold tons of ethical certifications, such as:
- Certified Organic by Australia’s Organic Food Chain (this means at least 70-95% of ingredients are certified organic)
- Vegan by UK Vegan Society
- Halal by Australian Federation of Islamic Councils
- Cruelty Free by Australia’s Choose Cruelty Free
They choose botanicals that utilize less soil and water, harness renewable power, and package in recycled/recyclable material.
About Lush Vegan Makeup Brushes
From beginner vegan makeup brushes to professional grade, Lush’s selection of 13 vegan, cruelty free makeup brushes has got you covered for everything from cover-up to contouring. They’ve even written a handy guide to help you choose which one will best suit your glamorizing needs.
They also have a Roll With It brush set, one of the best vegan makeup brush sets we’ve seen in terms of completeness and value. Plus it all comes in their It’s a Wrap organic cotton wrap made by Re-wrap, “a social enterprise whose purpose is to create organic, hand crafted textile products that will have the most positive impact on people and the environment”.
Despite Lush’s huge product line and demand, know that each multi use brush is still handmade. Each is constructed with synthetic bristles, wood handles, vegan glue, and a plant-based cellulose lacquer finish that gives these brushes a classy, chic finish.
Unfortunately, these brushes are not yet available on Lush’s US site.
Lush is one of the premier (and first) names in conscious beauty. Having been making cruelty free cosmetics for over three decades, they’ve had a lot of time to develop an extensive line of perfume, makeup, hair care, dental care, and so many more personal care products.
Just note that for many of their cosmetics and personal care products, they’re not 100% natural or palm oil free, though you can find options that are both.
We especially love that Lush not only combats cruelty free cosmetics on a brand level, but on an industry wide one. Since 2012, Lush has sponsored the annual Lush Award, a £250,000 prize given to those working in whatever way (i.e. scientifically or politically) toward eliminating animal ingredients in cosmetics.
About Furless Vegan Makeup Brushes
What makes Furless synthetic bristles unique is that they’ve been crimped to mimic animal hair. This makes then a little coarser, but far better at picking up and holding powder makeup. Don’t think that means they’ll feel rough though. They promise to “never sell you a cheap, ugly, scratchy brush, EVER!”
As for design, Furless makes brushes for every fancy. The Must Haves feature lovely blue handles with gold ferrules. For those who want to channel some punk-rock vibes into their makeup routine, the Perfectly Pink and Purple lines sport sleek black handles and either pink or purple topped bristles. The list goes on.
We especially love the classic all-black noir vibe of the Couture line. These are Furless’s “Powerhouse” brushes, feature more durable and intense bristles for bolder looks.
We also think Furless makes one of the best vegan makeup brush sets. Their Must Have Professional Makeup Brush Set comes with 20 brushes for only $170. This is an excellent deals either for cosmetologists just building their toolbox.
Furless all started in the Land Down Under, but they’ve since expanded considerably to having a separate USA branch. Aside from makeup tools, they also make actual makeup.
If you couldn’t tell from the name, Furless is passionate about separating animals from cosmetics: “We believe that cruelty for the sake of art or vanity just ain’t cool.”
That’s why they bear not just one but several vegan and cruelty free accreditations, including Choose Cruelty Free, Fur Free Retailer, and PETA. They do not sell to China and other animal testing mandated countries. Instead, they believe in alternative, superior, and voluntary methods of cosmetic testing. This link of theirs has tons of reference material if you STILL need more convincing that we should adopt a vegan or bust brush mentality.
Lastly, Furless believes in empowering women by boosting their self-esteem, leading them away from the problematic body image mainstream society holds, and lauding achievements over looks. Check out their Mind Image Blog for more.
About Nanshy Vegan Makeup Brushes
Nanshy specializes purely in professional grade yet affordable vegan makeup brushes, including eye, face, and lip brushes, sponge applicators, brush maintenance supplies, and bags to store it all.
Consisting of a dense collection of extra fine nylon polymer fibers, these brushes are smooth, soft, and strong. Reviews also claim these brushes are super versatile; whether your makeup is liquid, cream, powder, or a combo of everything, these brushes perform equally well.
Most brushes have wooden handles with a copper ferrule. You can then choose between Onyx black and Pearlescent white finishes.
Store your brushes in their Standup Brush Holder, a rigid cylinder that doubles as a storage display for at home and protective tote for on the go.
They also sell a wide selection of vegan makeup brush sets, available on Amazon as with their single brushes. The best for both value and quality seems to be The Necessities Collection, which won its category in OK! magazine’s 2017 Beauty Awards. With metallic brown beechwood handles and brass ferrules, this set is both glam and earthy.
Just a quick word of caution: From some reviews we’ve read, there are quite a few counterfeit Nanshy brushes out there on Amazon. If you’re ordering from there, make sure it’s from the official Nanshy store.
This UK based company specializes in cosmetics tools and tools alone. Rather than divide their attention and resources to produce what they see as an already “over-saturated” cosmetics market, Nanshy helps people find “their look” through tools of the trade.
After all, even with the finest paints, what good is the painter without his brush? That’s essentially Nanshy’s philosophy regarding cosmetics. The “Nanshy way” is to bring consumers the finest tools made from top materials gathered from reputable suppliers. They’re constantly taking strides to improve these materials through regroups research and extensive testing.
But not on animals! Nanshy “guarantee[s] no animal has been killed, tortured or harmed during the production.” This statement is PETA verified.
11. KAT VON D
About Kat Von D Vegan Makeup Brushes
Kat Von D brushes are versatile and user friendly so that even beginners can use them with ease. According to reviews, the bristles possess the perfect blend of softness and density that both delivers precision performance for pros, and forgiving flex for beginners. “Fur free artistry” for all!
The Kat Eye Brush Set in particular is a great kit that includes everything you need, but not anything superfluous. This vegan makeup brush set contains a smudge brush, blending brush, angled eye shadow brush, concealer brush (which would perfectly complement these vegan and cruelty-free concealers), and foundation brush. All contained in edgy yet elegant vinyl clutch.
Since Kat Von D has an exclusive deal with Sephora, you can also find these vegan makeup brushes at Sephora, online or in store!
About Kat Von D
Kat Von D, named for the founder, owner, and all around business bad*ss, toes the line between luxury and edgy. Kat herself is a bold and outspoken individual and her brand is a direct reflection of that. No wonder, considering she prides herself on being a crucial part of product development. She tests everything on herself first and foremost and follows through all the way to package artwork and design.
As we mentioned above, Kat Von D makes cruelty free perfumes and vegan makeup (newly absent of non-vegan ingredients like beeswax and carmine).
More than anything, Kat Von D believes in “makeup made with love, not animals”, and that cruelty free PETA certification extends even to their parent company, Kendo (which is NOT always a given in big brand cosmetics). Neither sell into China and uphold strict ethical sourcing policies that lead them to do business only with companies that follow the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010.
ARE THERE SOME VEGAN MAKEUP BRUSHES MISSING?
In addition to the vegan makeup brush brands above, we found a few others that we really did like and debated about whether to include. But for one reason or another, whether it be lack of consistency, lack of reviews, or limited availability due to lack of stockists, we decided they didn’t quite make the cut.
Marc Jacobs, for example, makes some luxury vegan makeup brush sets, like the “Your Place or Mine?” but the company still sells their cosmetics into China, which mandates animal testing. Therefore even though the brushes themselves are cruelty free and vegan, they’re still supporting non cruelty-free business practices.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON VEGAN MAKEUP BRUSHES
Close your eyes and picture this: You’re just about to put the finishing fine stroke on the most perfect cat eye you’ve ever drawn. Suddenly, your cat jumps up on your vanity and bumps your arm. Perfect lines ruined.
Animals and makeup just don’t mix.
We hope this guide has helped not only convince you that animal fur doesn’t belong anywhere near our faces, but given you the necessary alternatives to it.
Let us know if you try any of these brushes and what you think! Or maybe you have a favorite vegan makeup brush not on here. Either way, hit us up! We love learning (and sharing) all the best secrets to smokey eyes and sustainable beauty.