A thing that I feel guilty about but not guilty enough to actually change is my tendency to enjoy the dietary consumption of animal products. In other words, I love bacon. And steak. And chicken nuggets. The list goes on. I love animals and I deeply respect people who are able to cut them out of their diets, but I am not strong enough to make that lifestyle change just yet.
Instead, I found that I was able to make a personal change I feel good about, and that is using primarily vegan and all cruelty-free products in my skin and hair care regimens.
I have a 15-year-old dog at home named Holly that I deeply adore, and I have a hamster at school named Pickles who also holds a small, fuzzy spot in my heart. The thought of either of them having cosmetic products tested on them is enough to bring actual tears to my eyes.
However, a sad reality is that many cosmetic companies still do test on animals, or they sell their products in countries whose laws require animal testing –– China, I’m looking at you. It only takes a little bit of online research and awareness to switch to a beauty routine that does not harm animals and also does not sacrifice how amazing you are capable of looking.
Another thing to bear in mind is that all-natural, vegan products typically tend to be incrementally pricier than non-natural and nonvegan products. I justify this by feeling better about the fact that I’m applying natural ingredients instead of cheaper chemicals to my skin and hair, and it comes with the added peace of mind knowing that I’m not harming animals with my purchases.
Shampoo: Big (Lush, $29.95 for 11 oz.)
This shampoo is an investment, but it comes in an 11 oz. container that lasts forever — I think I bought my last one six months ago. I love the application, which requires scooping the product out of the pot with your fingers and massaging it in your scalp and hair. The texture is gritty due to large grains of sea salt that volumize your hair at the root, and creates a bubbly lather that smells like fresh air after it rains.
Conditioner: American Cream (Lush, $35.95 for 17 oz.)
I am almost reluctant to share this product with you all, because I am often complimented on my hair smelling good and this conditioner is the sole reason why. Fragrant and creamy, this conditioner makes my hair slippery smooth and the scent sticks around for days due to the vanilla pods and fresh strawberries in the formula. Note: This conditioner contains lanolin, which is an emulsifier that is extracted from sheep wool. This technically makes it vegetarian and not vegan, but I am going to pick my battles here, folks.
Dry Shampoo: No Drought (Lush, $8.95 for 2 oz.)
I literally carry this stuff in my backpack with me. It is so good, it doesn’t come in an annoying aerosol container, and it doesn’t make me look like a Founding Father wearing a powdered wig after I use it. This dry shampoo makes it practically impossible to tell that I can never remember how many days it’s been since I’ve washed my hair.
Face wash: Milky Jelly Cleanser (Glossier, $18 for 6 oz.)
I made the switch last year from my standard Neutrogena face wash (a brand to avoid since their parent company Johnson & Johnson allows animal testing on products in China) to Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser. At the risk of sounding dramatic –– and I am never, EVER dramatic –– this face wash is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. You can use it on wet or dry skin. I usually use it in the shower, but it’s also good on dry skin for removing stubborn mascara at the end of the night. The main ingredient is poloxamer, which is one of the main ingredients in contact solution, so it’s inherently gentle and safe on your eyes. My favorite thing about this face wash is that it’s the first one I’ve ever used that doesn’t make my skin feel tight and dry after using it.
Body wash: Body Hero daily oil wash (Glossier, $18 for 8.4 oz.)
I like this stuff because instead of a standard gel body wash, it’s actually an oil that has cleansing properties. A combination of grape seed, sunflower seed, and sesame oils lift grime and dirt from the skin and create a soft, frothy clean that smells of orange blossom and neroli. Delicious. This oil is dermatologist and gynecologist approved, so it’s safe to use everywhere. The negative online reviews of this product say that it smells like a grandma. If your grandma smells like this body wash, congratulations: you have a good-smelling grandma.
Lip balm: Herbal lip balm (Hempz, $8.99 for .25 oz. tube)
It’s especially tricky to find a good vegan lip balm because many lip moisturizers contain petroleum jelly, which is a thick moisturizer that is a byproduct of oil refinement and most definitely not vegan. The moisturizing agent in Hempz’ lip balm is 100 percent pure and natural hemp seed oil, which I have found to be equally as hydrating as petroleum jelly and has the added benefit of being gluten-free, if that’s your thing. Additional ingredients in this natural lip balm include shea butter and avocado oil, and my favorite flavor is peppermint vanilla.
Mascara: Better Than Sex Mascara (Too Faced, $12 for .17 oz.)
Here’s what I’m not going to do: substantiate the claim that this mascara is better than sex. However, I can tell you that this is the best vegan mascara I’ve found –– the brush is nice and curvy and applies the product in a way that doesn’t clump. This mascara also doesn’t flake down my face in a way that many cheaper, nonvegan ones tend to do after a long day.
Face mask: Cup O’ Coffee (Lush, $11.95 for 5.2 oz.)
I’m a face mask freak. I am convinced that the regular use of face masks will boost my grades, mend my relationships, and turn me into the most beautiful and glowing version of myself. I love trying new face masks, but Lush’s Cup O’ Coffee is the only one that I’ve found I gravitate toward again and again. Thick, brown, and grainy, this mask feels like mud and smells like — you guessed it — a strong cup of coffee. Caffeine stimulates blood flow in your skin which refreshes your face and increases the turnover rate of skin cells, and the granular texture sloughs away dead skin and clears up dry, dull spots. I maximize the experience by drinking coffee while wearing this coffee mask, which creates an invigorating start to any morning.
Foundation: Perfecting skin tint (Glossier, $26 for 1 oz.)
I don’t use foundation for several reasons, the most important being that I don’t know how, but I also don’t like to cover up my freckles. My Instagram explore page wants me to believe that perfect skin is the result of painting layers of foundation on my face, but this product proves that idea wrong. This skin tint is a perfect, minimal-coverage alternative to foundation that is sheer enough that your skin can breathe, but tinted enough to minimize redness and other discolorations. I usually apply it with my fingers right after moisturizer so it melts in seamlessly in an attempt to “perfect” my skin.
Highlighter: Feeling Younger (Lush, $19.95 for .7 oz.)
If your highlighter doesn’t have the capability of making your face look like a luscious glazed doughnut, you need to re-evaluate your highlighter. Lush’s “Feeling Younger” skin tint is a pearlescent, white jelly that comes in a cute little glass pot. I use my finger to swipe it across the highest points of my cheeks and under my brows, and I am immediately lit.
Unless you just won the lottery, I’m thinking it’s probably not feasible for you to go out and entirely replace all of your skin and hair products tomorrow. However, it’s quite possible to make a gradual change toward a more natural routine over the course of a year, and I can confidently say that it’s improved the health of my skin and hair. Most importantly, I’ve enjoyed the process of becoming a more responsible and conscious consumer. These are just a few of the small steps everyone could take to create a better planet for ourselves and for the animals we share it with.