The Ethical Guide to Shopping Beauty

Shopping ethically and environmentally-conscious is on most people’s minds these days. Greener is better.

Make-up and skincare products have a dark history of testing on animals. Many consumers are challenging beauty houses to reconsider their practices regarding animal testing. A few years ago, beauty giant MAC was called to task about selling their products in China, a country that does mandatory animal-testing on all products.

But it’s not just the brutal testing on animals. Consumers are also looking to purchase products that have minimal environmental impact. This includes zero-waste, recyclable/compostable packaging, ethically sourced materials, avoiding controversial ingredients like palm oil or plastic micro-beads. And of course – shopping locally!


Sustainable Jungle proposes that the following are good indicators to look for when buying beauty/skincare products.


Cruelty-Free: Cruelty-free generally refers to whether the product has been tested on animals. Despite being “cruelty-free” this is no indicator of whether animal by-products have been used in the making of the product.

Vegan: Vegan products contain no animal by-products. Common animal products used in cosmetics and skincare are gelatin or honey/beeswax and many others. Vegan beauty products attempt to look at plant-based alternatives to these ingredients.

Non-Toxic: Products that do not contain any GMOs, manufactured herbicides, artificial fertilizers, preservatives, parabens or any other toxic ingredients.

Palm-Oil Free: Palm oil is found in a number of different products from cosmetics to food to fuel. This is due to its extreme versatility, but the ecological impact is devastating. It is a huge contributor to deforestation and threatens the habitat of many endangered animals, such as the Orangutan and Sumatran Rhino. 

Business Practices:

Zero/Minimal-Waste Packaging: These days it is impossible to be ignorant of the plastic pandemic. Many countries are cracking down on the use of single-use plastics. A lot of companies are also looking at ways to make packaging that is recyclable and re-usable. I found this Kickstarter for a soap company that makes a shampoo bottle out of soap itself. Amazing!

Ethical-Sourcing: sourcing ingredients from suppliers who are local or that have policies in places to reduce their environmental impact ensures that the product you are purchasing is ethical in every step of its manufacturing.

Waste Management: when making any product, waste is inevitable. It would be counter-productive to have a plastic-free product if the production itself is damaging to the earth. Look for companies that have policies regarding minimizing their carbon-footprint, as well as responsible waste disposal.

Charitable Giving: Many ethical companies invest in eco-charities that combat deforestation, saving endangered species and research into sustainable living.


Now this seems like a lot to take into consideration when buying a product. A brand may not be able to tick all of the boxes above, but even if they only get some of these things right, they are making a big difference. Being knowledgeable as a consumer allows you to make an informed choice with your purchasing and every small change counts.

Luckily, many companies are getting on board with producing ethically-made products – many consumers already purchase cruelty-free products as a standard. With more companies trying to minimize their ecological impact, the more accessible and affordable it is becoming to find brands that can be purchased guilt-free. 


Within South Africa, Beauty Without Cruelty is “an animal rights organisation with a primary objective to educate and inform the public about the exploitation, abuse and suffering of animals and to offer humane,  non-animal alternatives to replace cruel and harmful lifestyle choices.”

They offer accreditation to companies who match their strict criteria for ethical products. For the consumer, looking out for the BWC rabbit logo on the back of products is a good step towards purchasing wisely.

Included on their site is a long list of local brands who have accreditation with them. These brands cover beauty, skincare, hygiene, household and pet products.


Rain: Since their beginnings in 2005, Rain has opened stores not only across South Africa but also in Ireland and USA as well. Their production uses solar-power, locally sourced ingredients and their packaging is made by trained crafters. In addition to being certified with Beauty Without Cruelty, they also have World Fair Trade Organization – one of the few skincare brands to have achieved this globally.

African Extracts Rooibos: After recognising the many benefits of Rooibos tea, African Extracts set out to create an affordable skincare range. Their classic Moisturising Day Cream SPF15 is South Africa’s top-selling 75ml essential care daily moisturiser. 

Love My Hair: It’s hard to imagine hair dye without chemicals, but Love My Hair have achieved just that. Not only is it great for those looking for ethical hair dye, but also for those who may be allergic to PPD, which is found in most commercial hair dyes.

Bella Baci: a brand that we have featured before, Bella Baci is a company that focuses on the benefits of cupping. Not only a product for spas, but they also offer home cupping kits. Bella Baci offers plant-based products that are 100% natural.

Soil: Both approved by Beauty Without Cruelty and The South African Vegan Society, Soil produces essential oils as sustainably as possible. Unlike many companies, they farm and harvest plants themselves. No petrochemicals, no parabens, no synthetic fragrances or colorants.They also make use of biodegradable and recyclable packaging.

Aside from these brands, we also recommend Faithful to Nature as a great online store that has a strong focus on ethical products. Their search options allow consumers to select a number of categories from “100% Plastic-Free”, “Cruelty-Free”, “Certified Organic” and so on, making it very easy to find brands suitable for you.

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