Is e.l.f. Cosmetics Cruelty Free, Vegan, and Sustainable?

various e.l.f. cosmetic products including eyeshadow eye brow and putty primer

Treehugger / Lindsey Reynolds

Gen Zers might know it as the mastermind behind Chipotle burrito-inspired beauty kits and the viral #eyeslipsface TikTok dance challenge, but Millennials know e.l.f. Cosmetics as the brand they could always count on gracing the shelves of CVS or Walmart. Since 2004, e.l.f. has been one of the more trustworthy drugstore makeup brands.

Not only is it cruelty free and fully vegan, e.l.f. has a strong brand purpose. It's known for putting its money where its mouth is, donating thousands to charities supporting animals, women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community over the years.

Find out how e.l.f. Cosmetics performs under each of Treehugger's Green Beauty Standards.

Treehugger's Green Beauty Standards: e.l.f. Cosmetics

  • Cruelty Free: Certified by PETA and Leaping Bunny
  • Vegan: Fully vegan
  • Ethical: e.l.f.'s human rights policy strictly prohibits forced and child labor
  • Sustainable: Eliminated a million pounds of waste from packaging from 2019 to 2022

e.l.f. Cosmetics Is Certified Cruelty Free

e.l.f.'s cruelty free status plays a large role in its brand identity. It is certified cruelty free by both Leaping Bunny (since 2022) and PETA (since 2005). PETA has confirmed that the company "has never conducted, commissioned, or paid for tests on animals anywhere in the world." While e.l.f. products are sold in 17 countries globally, they are not sold in China, where animal testing is lawfully required.

To further show its support for animal welfare, the brand created a To the Rescue Eyeshadow Palette to benefit the Los Angeles dog rescue organization Angel City Pit Bulls. The shades were named after real-life adopted dogs, and a total of $15,000 went toward "creating a better future for pit bulls through education, public advocacy, adoptions, and owner support."

In the past, it has partnered with various influencers to donate to the animal charities of their choice.

100% Vegan Makeup

In addition to being cruelty free, e.l.f. Cosmetics is also fully vegan. Beeswax, commonly used in conventional cosmetics, has been replaced by a synthetic alternative, and the lanolin (sheep wool oil) by a vegetable-derived emollient. The brand uses only synthetic fibers—no animal hair—in its brushes and false eyelashes.

Is e.l.f. Ethical?

Although e.l.f. doesn't sell in China to evade the country's animal testing policies, many of its products are made there. On the company's website, it says it requires that "all third-party suppliers in China... annually sign our Supplier Policy Statement that confirms compliance, among other things, with maintaining a safe and healthy workplace environment, prohibiting the use of child and forced labor, prohibiting discrimination and observing principles of human rights in the workplace." Its supplier certifications are listed clearly on its website.

e.l.f. does not address specific ingredients and how they're sourced, but it does note that its suppliers must "fairly and competitively compensate their employees in compliance with local and national laws" and not allow employees to work more than the maximum number of legal hours.

It's the brand's policy "to not purchase from any supplier known to employ child, forced, or prison labor."

e.l.f. Cares

e.l.f. is well-known for its charity work, usually done under the umbrella campaign e.l.f. Cares. For Black History Month 2022, the brand sold a limited-edition face sponge, and 100% of proceeds went to the Pull Up For Change Impact Fund. Through its partnership with the It Gets Better Project, e.l.f. aimed to empower and connect LGBTQ+ youth through storytelling. It donated more than $75,000 to food banks and mental health organizations around the country when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Sustainability Initiatives

In the past, e.l.f. has partnered with the National Forest Foundation to plant 10,000 trees, and it continues to seek ways to reduce its waste through sustainable packaging.

As part of its Project Unicorn, the brand has so far removed secondary cartons, vacuum-formed trays, and paper insert cards, eliminating a million pounds of waste within the first three years of the project. Following its launch, e.l.f. also executed a marketing campaign around National Recycling Day urging its customers to support sustainable, low-impact beauty.

e.l.f. products are made without phthalates, parabens, triclosan, hydroquinone, and nonylphenol ethoxylates; however, products claiming sun protection are formulated with octinoxate, which is not reef-safe.

Fan Favorite e.l.f. Products

e.l.f. Cosmetics is one of the only fully vegan drugstore beauty brands on the American market. It's also double-certified cruelty free and says to be taking significant steps towards sustainability. Here are some of the brand's most beloved products.

Poreless Putty Primer

This primer is e.l.f.'s hero product. The brand claims it's the No. 1 "bestselling primer in America." It has a 4.5-star rating and 1,500 reviews.

Instant Lift Brow Pencil

This dual-ended spoolie-pencil combo is the only brow product you need. It comes in a highly inclusive six-shade range and is made with moisturizing ingredients like vitamin E and grapeseed oil.

Bite-Size Eyeshadow Palette

One of the most popular palettes on TikTok, this "bite-size" quad is just $3 and has even better reviews than America's "bestselling primer." It comes in 10 combos, each a mix of matte color and shimmer.

View Article Sources
  1. "e.l.f. Cosmetics, Inc." Leaping Bunny.

  2. "Why e.l.f. Cosmetics Brushes and Eyelashes Are PETA-Certified and Cruelty Free." PETA. 2019.

  3. "Vegan. Cruelty-Free. Committed." e.l.f. Cosmetics.

  4. "FAQs." e.l.f. Cosmetics.

  5. "Human Rights Policy." e.l.f. Beauty.

  6. "Supplier Code of Conduct." e.l.f. Cosmetics.

  7. "e.l.f. Cares." e.l.f. Cosmetics.