How to buy cruelty-free makeup on a budget

Photo by Kate G. Bustamante

There’s no ethical consumption in capitalism, but even your local drugstore carries affordable beauty products that cause less harm.  

Testing on animals is a practice that should be considered ancient in today’s makeup world. Labels can be misleading, even with claims like “cruelty-free” and “not tested on animals” displayed on products for advertising purposes. 

“Cruelty-free” makeup is considered any beauty product with ingredients that do not test on animals, according to PETA. “The unrestricted use of these phrases by cosmetic companies is possible because there are no legal definitions for these terms,” reads a warning on the FDA website

 With the recent trend of conscious consumerism, many companies paste false buzzwords on merchandise for more sales. Then customers go home with a product they think is free of animal testing. 

 “I didn’t even know all the testing that happens on animals,” says Amy Alvarez, sophomore Santiago Canyon College student. “I’ve seen labels that say cruelty-free or something like that but I always just thought they were too expensive.”

Luckily, many drugstore beauty brands are hopping on this wave for real. Look for the Leaping Bunny seal to find actual cruelty-free and no-animal-testing products. The seal is a voluntary pledge cosmetic product companies make that cuts animal testing from all stages of product development, including their ingredient suppliers and manufacturers. 

“I try my best to buy products that don’t test on animals,” says Jazmin Rodriguez, a freshman at SAC. “I saw a video once that showed how bad they can treat them and I didn’t want to be a part of that.”

Check the “cruelty-free” label:

Look for these common phrases to know your product and verify what these logos mean on the “cruelty-free” makeup products you buy.


The product and product suppliers do not test on animals. However, a product can sell in China if they are made there. This means they are subject to animal testing. Managed by Peta.

Crueltyfree logo
"Not tested on animals" logo

Not tested on animals

This only guarantees the finished product has not been tested on animals. All makeup products in the U.S. must abide by these laws anyway so it is the least reliable. 

Just the BASE-ics:

Here are some inexpensive finds that are free from animal testing — and make you look good.  

Milani SPF BFF SPF 30 Primer


COST: $10 Best for dry skin but suitable for all skin types. It has a tacky finish, good for gripping the foundation and locking it in. Apply sunscreen before the primer for extra protection from UV rays.

e.l.f. Flawless Satin Foundation product shop

FOUNDATION:  ELF Flawless Finish

COST: $6 Works for all skin types, with a buildable finish that is semi-matte. It works best for oily skin and is a liquid type. If you have dry skin or areas, it’s best to apply a thinner layer.

Wet N' Wild Photofocus Concealer


COST: $5 Get creaseless under eyes, with light to medium coverage. The price is cheap and the portion is small, for when you’re in a pinch. Limited shade range. 

ColourPop loose setting powder product shot

POWDER: COLOURPOP Loose Setting Powder

COST: $11 Suitable for a full day of class with its weightless finish. Also good for a night out, with no flashback for those back camera selfies. They offer 6 different shades.

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