Leaping Bunny Cruelty Free Logo – Pinterest

Cruelty-free perfumes and vegan perfumes have been trending for a while now, along with a growing interest in “clean” beauty products. So what is a vegan perfume, you may be thinking, and how does this differ from cruelty-free fragrances.  It took me a while to fully understand the difference between vegan and cruelty-free perfumes and I confess to using them interchangeably until I figured it out.

Well, most of us know that a person that identifies as vegan doesn’t consume meat, seafood, dairy, eggs or honey and doesn’t purchase or wear leather, fur, wool or silk. A vegan perfume is simply one that doesn’t contain any animal derived ingredients. If a brand is 100% vegan, that is noted next to the brand name.

Many people don’t even consider the use of animal ingredients in perfume, however many fragrances contain lanolin, castoreum, musk, ambergris, and hyraceum. These materials are used for their earthy, animalistic and sensual qualities and are highly effective in balancing other ingredients and helping them last longer.

If you’ve never heard of these terms you should know:

  • Ambergris is produced in the digestive system of sperm whales.
  • Castoreum is a secretion produced by beavers and sourced from the anal gland.
  • Lanolin, also called wool wax or wool grease, is secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals.
  • Hyraceum is a solidified mixture of urine and feces produced by the Cape Hyrax, also known as the rock badger.
  • Musk is a commonly listed ingredient that can come from many different animals, including deer, beaver and civet, and is extracted from anal glands or glands in the mouth.

“Cruelty-free”refers to products that are not tested on animals. This means no form of animal testing at any point in the creation of the brand’s products. There’s a sneaky little way to get around this by companies not testing the final product on animals, but to test it along the way or to use ingredients that have been tested by a third party. Some companies may state “We do not test on animals” but this is misleading to consumers if animal testing has merely been farmed out to others.

Virtually every ingredient, even water, has been tested on animals in the past. The Leaping Bunny program seeks to prevent future animal testing so companies must agree not to conduct any animal testing after a fixed cut-off date. The Leaping Bunny logo is the only internationally recognized symbol guaranteeing consumers that no new animal tests were used in the development of any product displaying it. The company’s ingredient suppliers make the same pledge and the result is a product guaranteed to be 100% free of new animal testing. Many Leaping Bunny companies are also vegan but this isn’t a requirement and it’s up to the consumer to discover whether the products are vegan or not.

One of the things I’ve learned is that the majority of designer perfumes are not cruelty free. A lot of designer fragrances are licensing deals and (not surprisingly) the licensers are industry behemoths that test on animals. For example, Proctor & Gamble has a lot of licensing deals which include Gucci, Dolce & Gabanna and Escada – among many others. Coty is another industry giant that owns Chloe, Marc Jacobs and Vera Wang – plus others. Even many niche fragrances aren’t entirely cruelty-free and that list includes Atelier Cologne, Acqua Di Parma, Malin+Goetz and Jo Malone (although I’m not sure Jo Malone still falls into the niche category).

If you think that it might be difficult to find a perfume that is cruelty-free and vegan, you’ll be happy to know that there are quite a few out there at all price points. Here are some fragrance brands to choose from:

Low End ($30 and Under):

  • Coastal Classic Creations
  • Flower Beauty
  • H & M
  • Herban Cowboy
  • Pacifica
  • Terra Nova
  • Tru Fragrance

Mid Range ($30 to $70)

  • Arbonne International
  • Aroma Bella
  • Baudelaire
  • Caswell-Massey
  • C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries
  • Elizabeth and James
  • Harvey Prince
  • Lush

High End ($70 and Up)

  • JOSEE Organic Beauty & Perfume
  • Le Labo
  • Osmia Organics
  • Pour le Monde
  • Red Flower
  • Tova

Any brand that sells its products in mainland China, where it is required by law to test on animals, is obviously not on the cruelty-free list. Companies such as Aveda and Bath & Body Works – which many believe are cruelty-free brands – do not come out openly and say that they test on animals, knowing that it’ll hurt their bottom line. Instead they issue statements such as: “Aveda does not conduct animal testing, nor ask others to do it on its behalf, except when it is required by law.” On their website, Bath & Body Works states:”Bath & Body Works policy prohibits the testing of our branded products, formulations and ingredients on animals except in rare cases when required by government regulation.”

If you. are unsure whether or not a company tests on animals, you can easily do a cruelty-free search on the Leaping Bunny or PETA websites.

Until the next time,





  1. Felix says:

    This is really valuable information here. I didn’t even know there exists a difference between vegan and cruelty-free. My wife is vegan and I’m sure she will be happy to get some new vegan AND cruelty-free brands on her perfume shelf. Honestly, really helpful. Also like the hint to check out any brand at Leaping Bunny. Thanks!