Is Tarte Cruelty-Free, Ethical, and Sustainable?

Tarte makeup brand various makeup products including mascara and powder

Treehugger / Catherine Song

Tarte is the makeup, skin care, and beauty giant responsible for that iconic purple-capped Shape Tape Concealer that's achieved cult status in the U.S. It's known as the concealer that sells every 12 seconds, or the concealer that's managed to amass more than 13,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating on Ulta Beauty. So, it's popular—but is it cruelty free? Is Tarte ethical and sustainable, in general?

While the brand has been deemed cruelty free by the animal advocates at PETA, it hasn't been given the same certification by the ultimate authority, Leaping Bunny. It's not fully vegan but the brand clearly identifies its vegan products.

Here's how Tarte performs in every category of Treehugger's Green Beauty Standards—its environmental victories, its pitfalls, and the lingering questions about ingredient sourcing.

Treehugger's Green Beauty Standards: Tarte

  • Cruelty Free: Certified as cruelty free by PETA but not Leaping Bunny.
  • Vegan: Not fully vegan but offers almost 300 vegan products.
  • Ethical: Uses controversial ingredients, like mica, without disclosing where they come from.
  • Sustainable: Tarte claims that certain ingredients, like its popular Amazonian clay, are sustainably sourced and supports the Sea Turtle Conservancy as a way of giving back to the environment.

Tarte Is Cruelty Free, but Its Parent Company Isn't

Tarte products feature PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies logo. The animal rights organization has confirmed that the cosmetics brand and its suppliers do not conduct, commission, or allow animal testing. On its website, Tarte says it's been cruelty free since 2000.

However, Tarte has not received cruelty free certification from the Leaping Bunny Program, widely regarded as a more selective accreditation body. Tarte is owned by the personal care company Kosé, which PETA says does test on animals.

Vegan Ingredients

Although Tarte is not fully plant-based, the brand's website lists 286 items—including the cult-favorite Shape Tape Concealer—as "vegan friendly." A 2021 press release says the brand is 85% vegan.

Products not clearly marked as vegan may contain beeswax (common in eye products), carmine (a red pigment from the insect cochineal), honey, glycerin (animal fat), or animal-derived collagen (vegan collagen is specified as such).

Is Tarte Ethical?

Tarte uses ingredients that have been linked to unethical and unsustainable practices, such as mica, shea butter, and coconut oil. The brand does not disclose where these ingredients come from, so it's impossible to say whether they're ethically sourced. Treehugger reached out to the brand for clarification but didn't receive a response.

As far as charity goes, Tarte founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Heart to Tarte to support "female empowerment, equality, anti-bullying, animal rescue, environmental conservancy, and disaster relief." Campaigns include #stormoflove, which donates to organizations like Habitat for Humanity and ASPCA when natural disasters hit; #bullyfreebeauty, aiming to end cyberbullying; and #mybigego, inspiring female leadership.

Sustainability Initiatives

Tarte prides itself as a "natural" and "good-for-you" brand that avoids harmful ingredients such as parabens, mineral oil (aka petroleum), phthalates, triclosan, sodium laurly sulfate, and gluten—all rife in cosmetics. Still, not all natural ingredients can be considered sustainable because of harmful mining practices, overharvesting, and so forth.

Here's how Tarte stacks up in the sustainability sector.

Mining of Natural Ingredients

Amazonian clay is ubiquitous in Tarte products (there's even an entire line dedicated to it). The substance comes from the Amazon River, the main artery of the largest and most biodiverse rainforest on Earth. Clay extraction causes "ecological and agricultural imbalances, erosion, silting of rivers and lakes, and deforestation," according to a Brazilian study.

Tarte says its CEO, Maureen Kelly, "sought out cooperatives to work with to ensure that everything is harvested in a sustainable way, as well as to support and empower local communities where the ingredients are found."

With regards to maracuja oil, another Tarte-favorite ingredient, the brand says it has "partnered with a cooperative in the rainforest to develop an all-female farming community" that presses oil from seeds that would otherwise be wasted.

Support of the Sea Turtle Conservancy

Tarte uses marine-sourced ingredients like algae and "sea water extract" in a few of its products. The brand gives back to the ocean by sponsoring a loggerhead turtle in the Sea Turtle Conservancy's annual Tour de Turtles, a three-month event that tracks endangered turtles to make sure they make it from their nesting beach to the sea.

Plastic Use

In a 2012 statement about sustainable cosmetics packaging, CEO Maureen Kelly said the brand's packaging could be "reused and recycled in one form or another after use." For instance, Kelly said consumers could turn lip gloss packages into "business card holders, travel-jewelry boxes, and runway-inspired clutches." Kelly also cited the bamboo caps used for Tarte's Amazonian Clay foundation and that the box containing a blush and cheek tint duo is made from 50% post-consumer recycled plastic.

The brand has made no recent statements on sustainable packaging initiatives and appears to still use a large amount of plastic.

Alternative Cruelty Free Brands to Try

Tarte is a fairly sustainable and ethical company that has been deemed cruelty free by PETA, but there are still some aspects that could deter an eco-conscious cosmetics consumer: questionable ingredients sourcing, a parent company that tests on animals, and so forth. So, here are some alternatives you can feel wholly good about supporting.

River Organics

River Organics makes a vegan, Leaping Bunny-certified, and zero-waste concealer that comes in paper packaging and a biodegradable sugar cane label. How's that for sustainability? The concealer doesn't have quite the color range of Shape Tape—only eight hues in total—but it is one of the cleanest and most eco-conscious on the market.


Elate is a Treehugger favorite known for its all-vegan, Leaping Bunny-certified, and low-waste cosmetics range. Most of its packaging is made from bamboo, and some products—like the eyeshadow palettes—are refillable. The brand even sells its flawed products at a discounted rate.

Juice Beauty

The skin care and cosmetics brand Juice Beauty is not only Leaping Bunny-certified and fully vegan, it's also at least 95% USDA-certified organic.

If you're looking for a greener alternative to Tarte's Shape Tape Concealer, look no further than Juice Beauty's PHYTO-PIGMENTS Correcting Concealer made with jojoba, coconut, and champagne grape seed oil. The product is packaged in recyclable glass.

View Article Sources
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