A Complete Guide to Vegan and Cruelty-Free K-Beauty

If people asked me, I wouldn't be able to give an accurate answer of how many times I've talked about K-beauty products lately. However, these days I had a surprising conversation with a friend. I had asked her whether she had ever tried K-Beauty products and she responded that she hadn’t. She said she is only willing to buy Cruelty Free products and 'I figured out they are weren't Cruelty Free'. It’s a fair assumption, there has been a misconception, mainly from westerners that are interested in beauty, that Korean skincare and makeup brands are all testing on animals because it’s an “Asian” country. Korean beauty is known for incorporating products like bee extracts and venom, honey, snail extract, and milk into its products. Therefore people might not want to try any Korean brand because of that.

In 2016, the bill passed stating that all Korean beauty brands/companies must stop testing cosmetics and ingredients on animals by the end of 2018. As a result, more and more brands are also making vegan products. 

What defines a vegan product?

It’s first important to talk about what being vegan really means. Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes use of animal products for food, clothing, or other purpose (including skin care and makeup). Vegan products cannot use egg, milk, snail extract, bee extracts including honey and royal propolis, or any other animal product.

So, what is cruelty-free? And why are products in China not considered cruelty-free?

Vegan is not synonymous with cruelty-free, contrary to popular belief. Cruelty-free implies that at any given stage of development, a product was not tested on animals. It is possible for a product to be vegan, but not cruelty-free and vice versa, however, many vegans consider products not to be vegan if they are tested on animals.

Even though Korea has mandated that all its cosmetics and skin care brands go cruelty-free in 2018, mainland China still requires animal testing of imported cosmetics. However, as of 2017, there have been major changes made to these requirements. Products directly mailed to consumers from overseas for personal use do not require animal testing. Hong Kong does not require animal testing and therefore imported products that are sold through Hong Kong for personal use do not have to be animal tested. Personal use is important in these changes, meaning that any product sold in brick and mortar stores in mainland China will not be cruelty-free.

Additionally, when you get fake Korean products on a bad website, or on an unofficial website, then you have a higher chance of getting non cruelty free products. Be careful of where you buy your products, and make sure to use a trustworthy website like The Magic Glow Co.

Why switch to vegan products?

There are many people who use vegan products without adopting a plant-based diet. It’s important to remember that health is not one size fits all, neither is skin care. Adopting a vegan lifestyle may not be a cure-all for your skin but it is false to think that vegan products are less effective than their non-vegan counterparts simply based on formulation.

So, which K-Beauty brands actually are vegan or have vegan products?

Despite veganism still being a pretty rare phenomenon in Korea, vegan products and brands do actually exist. Because some brands can choose not to be certified and most K-Beauty brands cannot be certified vegan, we made sure to reach out to some of our favorite brands directly to make sure that their products were suitable for vegans as well as check their cruelty-free status.

Our favorite vegan brand is Mamonde

Mamonde’s line of floral-infused products are all vegan-certified. Some of our favorites are the Rose Water Toner, which made from Bulgarian Damask Rose cultivated in the Mamonde Garden renders a pure rose water extract that is more hydrating than water itself for a superior skin soothing and moisturizing effect on even the driest of skins. Our other favorite from the brand is Pore Clean Clay Mask, which is a silky clay wash-off mask texture featuring natural Eoseongcho leaves and walnut shell powder that gently remove excess sebum and help minimize the appearance of pores.