Is Maybelline Cruelty Free and Sustainable?

Maybelline products, from left: Master Prime Primer, The 24k Nudes eyeshadow palette, Glass Spray, FitMe blush, and Super Stay Active Wear foundation.

Treehugger / Lindsey Reynolds / Maybelline

Maybelline has been called the "No. 1 makeup brand in the world." It's the mastermind behind the iconic pink- and green-bottled Great Lash mascara and more than 200 other products. It dominates drugstore beauty aisles in 129 countries, from Kazakhstan all the way to New Zealand.

But what's in its beloved bottles (spoiler: animal products and crude oil), and why aren't they stamped with the famous bunny logo? If Maybelline says it's "committed to a world without animal testing," doesn't that mean it's cruelty free? Not exactly.

Learn all about Maybelline's murky animal testing policy, its ingredient sourcing, and sustainability initiatives below.

Treehugger's Green Beauty Standards: Maybelline

  • Cruelty Free: Not cruelty free
  • Vegan: Vegan options, including the fully vegan Green Edition collection
  • Ethical: Petroleum byproducts are omnipresent
  • Sustainable: Aims to use only renewable energy and recycled materials by 2030

Maybelline Is Not Cruelty Free

Maybelline is not Leaping Bunny-certified and, according to PETA 's Beauty Without Bunnies database, the cosmetics brand does test on animals.

On its FAQ page, Maybelline says it complies with its parent company L'Oréal's animal testing policy: "L'Oréal no longer tests any of its products or any of its ingredients on animals, anywhere in the world nor does L'Oréal delegate this task to others. An exception could only be made if regulatory authorities demanded it for safety or regulatory purposes."

But here's the thing: Some countries do demand it "for safety or regulatory purposes." Maybelline sells in mainland China, the most well-known example of this.

Vegan-Friendly Formulas

Maybelline does have vegan-friendly formulas, but they are not always easy to decipher from those containing animal products. The only exception is the Green Edition, a collection (originally containing only three products: Mega Mousse Mascara, Balmy Lip Blush, and Superdrop Tinted Oil) that's fully vegan and made of at least 70% "natural-origin ingredients." Green Edition is the brand's first—and so far only—collection to be granted Cradle to Cradle certification, meaning it has minimal social and environmental impacts.

Outside of that collection, Maybelline offers less than 30 vegan products. The brand's cult-favorite Great Lash mascara is not one of them (because of beeswax and shellac). It's said that one tube of this widely adored mascara sells every five seconds.

Clashing Ethical Practices

From the outside, Maybelline seems to have high ethical standards. The brand was making 40-shade foundation ranges before it became an industry standard, showing its commitment to diversity. It operates a philanthropic platform around mental health education called Brave Together, launched in 2020, which connects people in need to crisis counselors and provides resources for talking about anxiety and depression.

Look on the inside, though, and you'll see that even though Maybelline claims its shea butter, cocoa butter, rice bran oil, and sesame seed oil come from "supply chains which respect biodiversity and help limit their environmental impact," it can't say the same about its use of petroleum byproducts.

Paraffin, extracted during the crude oil purification process, is rife amid Maybelline products, sometimes in such concentrations that it's the second ingredient listed (just look at its bestselling Colossal Mascara). The same goes for parabens, hormone-disrupting preservatives also derived from petroleum.

The crude oil industry is famously unsustainable, yes, but also harmful to animals. Drilling for oil wreaks havoc on wildlife habitat and creates "ocean noise" that confuses, injures, and even kills. Then there are the spills—which alone kill more than half a million birds globally every year.

Mica and Palm Oil

The controversial ingredients mica and palm oil are also omnipresent in Maybelline products. The brand itself does not disclose where they come from, but its parent company, L'Oréal, provides source profiles for each. According to the company's Inside Our Products database, it uses only Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil-approved palm oil and mica that meets the standards of the Responsible Mica Initiative.

Maybelline's Sustainability Goals

Maybelline claimed to have replaced 600 tons of virgin plastic with recycled plastic between 2018 and 2022. As part of its Conscious Together sustainability initiative, it has vowed to make all opaque tubes sold in the U.S. and European Union at least 24% post-consumer recycled content and its glass jars at least 20% so. By 2030, the brand aims to use only recycled plastic for packaging. Currently, it has achieved 95% recycled packaging through its Green Edition collection.

Maybelline has partnered with the climate finance group South Pole to "help develop makeup recycling technologies and processes," aiming to make its own packaging less wasteful. Though not available in the U.S., European versions of the brand's website feature a "store finder" function in which you can search for local makeup recycling locations.

Plastic aside, Maybelline has also reduced its manufacturing-related greenhouse gas emissions by switching to LED lighting and renewable energy and seeking LEED certification. It plans to use 100% renewable energy by 2025.

Cruelty Free Alternatives to Maybelline Products

Sadly, Maybelline is not cruelty free, and its products often contain concerning ingredients like parabens and paraffin. Discover cruelty free and vegan alternatives to the brand's most iconic cosmetics.

CoverGirl Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara

Who didn't have a bottle of the world-famous Great Lash Mascara growing up? The clean version of Lash Blast by Treehugger-approved CoverGirl is just as accessible, just as effective, and it's vegan.

e.l.f. Poreless Putty Primer

Did you know that e.l.f. Cosmetics is fully vegan and certified cruelty free by both Leaping Bunny and PETA? Turn to this drugstore brand's bestselling Poreless Putty Primer for an alternative to Maybelline's Baby Skin Instant Pore Erasure primer.

Milani Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Foundation and Concealer

FIT ME! Matte + Poreless Foundation is one of Maybelline's hero complexion products, but it's packed with parabens. Not Milani's Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Foundation and Concealer, though, which can be found at your local big-box store.

bareMinerals BAREPRO Longwear Lipstick

bareMinerals' BAREPRO lipstick can take the place of Maybelline's Superstay 24 Matte Ink Lipstick. You'll get equally inky lip color and a paraben-, paraffin-, and artificial fragrance-free formula.

View Article Sources
  1. "Maybelline New York." The L'Oréal Groupe.

  2. "Is Maybelline (L'Oréal) Cruelty Free?" PETA Beauty Without Bunnies.

  3. "Conscious Together FAQ." Maybelline.

  4. "Birds and Oil Spills."

  5. "Inside Our Products: Mica." The L'Oréal Groupe.

  6. "Inside Our Products: Palm Oil." The L'Oréal Groupe.

  7. "Conscious Together." Maybelline.