OH HAAAAAY, it’s Part II of Kelly’s Cruelty-Free beauty series — enjoy!
I have started my article off with a terrible communist dad-joke. I am not a parent. I am a …faux pa. [Ed.: Groaaaaan, eye roll.]
If you’re still here after that atrocity, chances are you’re interested in this non-dad’s recommendations for the best cruelty-free beauty products that you can find for drugstore prices!
Cruelty-free beauty options can be difficult for the Proletariat. They own no means of production of their own, must use the means of production that are property of others to produce, and, consequently, earn their living. This isn’t an article on Socialist Pedagogy & Revolution (even though I could go on forever about stagnant wages, corporate greed, and pay gaps till I’m blue in the face), this is an article about buying pretty things for little money! Most drugstore options do test on animals, so finding quality items that simultaneously satisfy your wallet AND your conscience can be a lot trickier at that level. However, armed with a Target Visa and an Amazon Prime Visa, I’ve tried a lot of things and have wisdom to impart!
I use a pretty balanced combination of high-end and drugstore products. I prefer to shop drugstore because I don’t make a ton of money, but there are a few things I like to splurge on. That said, I’ve found a ton of quality products at low prices.
Face Wash: Burt’s Bee’s Brightening Daily Facial Cleanser, $7.50 / 6 oz. [Note: Owned by Clorox, which is not CF, but does not sell in China]
This cleanser claims that it can reduce dark spots/ pigmentation. I don’t believe that any cleanser can do this because you only have this on your face for a minute or so, so file this tidbit under Nonsense. That said, it’s a damn good cleanser. It comes in a squeeze tube with cap for easy product dispensing, and it smells HEAVENLY. It’s like sticking your face in an orange grove. A glance at the ingredients list shows it does use added fragrance and essential oils, which could be a no-no for some (in which case, I recommend the Sensitive Skin Facial Cleanser by Burt’s Bees… also really nice, but no scent!). For me, it’s non-irritating and non-drying, so it’s a win! I don’t love the design of Burt’s Bee’s products, like, AT ALL, but sometimes quality > appearances. Sometimes.
Moisturizer: Acure Organics Sensitive Facial Cream, $17 / 1.7 fl. Oz.
I love Acure Organics so much, I want to shout their name from a mountain top. They have TONS of affordable facial cleansers (their Brightening Scrub is top notch), face oils (which Finch has covered beautifully), shampoos/conditioners, and moisturizers. Literally the only thing I don’t like about any of their lotions is that they don’t contain SPF. I have added sunscreen separately during my time using these products, but I am lazy and I like the ease of a combo product. All products come in sleek squeeze tubes, and the sensitive skin formula feels like you’re being swaddled in the lotion equivalent of dreams. A+, but WEAR SPF.
Face Mask, Clay: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, $8 / 1 lb
There’s a reason this stuff has a cult following. Its ability to pull gunk to the surface of your face is unparalleled, plus it gives you a “pulsing” sensation as it sits on your face. Be careful that it’s actually light pulsing and no “dear god it’s burning.” This product might not be for the weak-skinned. It gives me some light redness after use, but that goes away quickly after toning & moisturizing. Mainly, I hate how it smells mixed with Apple Cider Vinegar, but vinegar smells like butts and you can’t convince me otherwise. It comes in powder form in a huge plastic jar; you mix equal parts of the clay with either raw ACV or water (there are debates as to whether water is better or worse for more sensitive types because the ACV provides specific pH-altering qualities, YMMV). Slop it on your face and rock that golem chic while watching an episode of Bob’s Burgers, and then rinse off for gorgeous skin.
Face Mask, Hydrating: nügg Hydrating Face Mask, $15 for a 4-pack
There are a variety of treatments in these little pods, but the Hydrating formula is my favorite. The pods’ lids tear off and are therefore not resealable, but I found I could get 2 or 3 uses out of one pod, so I would just rubber-band the top on to seal it in and pray the Beauty Gods couldn’t see me. (I’m Frugal AF.) That may be too germy for you, but I didn’t experience any breakouts by doing this. As for the formula, it’s thick but sinks in over time. Definitely not something I would leave the house wearing, but excellent for an end-of-the-night pamper sesh while you chill out before bedtime.
Blush: Milani Baked Blush, $7.50 / .12 oz.
I will swear on my rabbit’s life that this stuff is as good as NARS blush. The textures differ, but the shades are gorgeous and they’re seriously long-lasting. I love the shade Luminoso (which might be a dupe for Orgasm, albeit a tad peachier), but you cannot go wrong with these. Milani is a brand where the products are great but I hate the packaging; the gold plastic is gaudy and it comes with a brush that’s virtually useless. But the blush itself more than makes up for it! It’s not densely pigmented, so you do have to layer if you want a real pop of color. But I don’t like a lot of blush, so this is actually perfect for me!
Highlight: Colourpop, $8 / ? oz.
Colourpop is probably my favorite cruelty-free makeup company. It’s affordable, the variety of products / formulas / shades are second to none, and it’s pretty consistently good quality. It’s an online-only store, but no single product is more than $8, which is amazing. Plus all orders come with an adorable handwritten note! The highlighters (as well as the blushes and some of the eyeshadows) come in a cute white case with a screw-off top. The formula itself is a powder-crème hybrid that I’ve never experienced before. And the color options? You can try Lunch Money, which is a basic but gorgeous champagne shimmer … or Hippo, a lavender silver highlight for Alien Queen Realness ™. It’s easy to apply with fingers and build coverage to reach your shimmery goals. Did I mention it’s only $8?
Eyebrows: NYX Micro Brow Pen, $10 / .003 oz.
This is supposedly a dupe for the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz Pen, and I would agree! It’s a super thin, retractable product with a spoolie on the opposite end for all your eyebrow needs. In my experience, this product is the only one that has ashier colors for the cooler-browed. The Ash Brown shade is still a little warmer than the Medium Brown ABH shade (then again, my eyebrows are so cool they’re almost gray), but it’s hardly discernible once product is applied. It’s super easy to apply and create the Power Brows of your dreams!
Eyeliner: NYX Epic Ink Liner, $8 / .02 oz. [Note: While NYX is cruelty-free, it is owned by L’Oreal, which is decidedly not]
This is the newest liquid eyeliner offering from NYX. It’s a brush liner, one that many are calling a dupe for Kat Von D’s Tattoo Liner. And for the most part, they’re absolutely right! For less than half the price, you get a formula that’s as black as my soul and a brush that makes gorgeously sharp wings. There is one smallish caveat, which is that the formula itself is a little liquidier than it needs to be. Meaning it will sometimes feather and sink into fine eyelid lines (which is a thing I didn’t even know I had until I tried this, I’m old plz halp). It’s an annoying issue, but not a terribly noticeable one. I’ve already bought a second one for when this runs out, even knowing about this issue. It’s still a great deal!
Honorable Mention: Physician’s Formula Eye Booster 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Liquid Eyeliner, $10 / .016 oz.
This was my ride or die pre-NYX. This does not have NYX’s slight feathering issue, but it’s also not as dark black. The pen comes in both Black and Ultra Black (I prefer the latter) but I still needed to go over my line to achieve the Ultimate Black Hole shade. It’s also a brush pen for optimal Amazonian spear-tip eyeliner wings. The packaging is a shiny silver chrome, which looks fancy as hell, a lot like the LORAC Front of the Line Pro liquid eyeliner (which is also very good, probably the most precise eyeliner pen I have ever used, but it’s $23. I wear too much eyeliner daily to live that life).
Lipstick: Colourpop, ranges from $5-6 depending on formula and size.
I’ve already babbled about how much I love Colourpop’s prices, formulas, and shade range, but for me the lipsticks are their real MVPs. I have colors in almost every formula, from the Lippie Stix (in Matte, Matte X, Satin), to the Liquids (Ultra Satin, Ultra Matte, Ultra Blotted, Ultra Metallic), to the Blotted Lips (I believe the formula is a dupe for Glossier Generation G). Their lasting power ranges depending on the formula, with the Ultra Matte Liquid Lipstick able to withstand the sloppiest meals. This brand is particularly great for those trendy colors that you don’t know if you can pull off / don’t know if you’ll actually wear. Want to get into black or blue lipstick? They have it! Don’t like it? You’re only out $6. I have gotten so many people into this brand, I feel like they should pay me.
Eyeshadow: NYX eyeshadow, $3-7 depending on formula
I don’t wear a lot of eyeshadow, and with the exception of one Anastasia Beverly Hills-shaped incident, I don’t buy the fancy stuff because I will rarely wear it. I love NYX (honestly, this drugstore guide is just a NYX/Colourpop appreciation post, SORRY NOT SORRY). NYX has a ton of eyeshadow offerings, from nude palettes to acid bright colors, from pressed powder to cream stick to loose pigment. This is another great brand to use as a jumping point for weird things you want to try!
Tried any of these? Love or nah? What are your favorite cruelty-free drugstore picks? Share!