Is Urban Decay Cruelty Free, Ethical, and Sustainable?

Urban Decay makeup products - lipstick, eye shadow palettes, and more

Treehugger / Catherine Song / Urban Decay

Urban Decay is the brand behind Naked, an eyeshadow palette-turned-bonafide beauty legacy that now spans nine products, not including limited editions. The original neutral palette from which the collection spawned was launched in 2010 and has since been taken off shelves, to the dismay of devoted Urban Decay followers.

Those followers can feel good about dipping their brushes into the brand's lip, eye, and complexion products knowing the brand does not test on animals. Urban Decay is, indeed, certified cruelty free by PETA and offers a range of vegan products to boot.

Here's how it performs in each of Treehugger's Green Beauty categories, plus some of its most adored sustainable products.

Treehugger's Green Beauty Standards: Urban Decay

  • Cruelty Free: Certified by PETA, not by Leaping Bunny.
  • Vegan: Not fully vegan but offers dozens of clearly labeled vegan products.
  • Ethical: Compliant with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and Responsible Mica Initiative.
  • Sustainable: L'Oréal has ambitious goals to phase out virgin, landfill-bound plastic by 2025.

Urban Decay Is PETA-Certified Cruelty Free

Urban Decay is certified cruelty free by PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies program but not by the famous accreditation organization Leaping Bunny. Leaping Bunny historically does not grant cruelty free certification to brands owned by parent companies that test on animals. Urban Decay's parent company, the L'Oréal Group, does.

In 2012, around the time the brand was acquired by L'Oréal, it announced plans to expand to China, where animal testing is required by law. It later reversed its decision "after discussions with PETA," the animal rights organization said, and has avoided China's animal testing regime since.

That isn't to say it has completely avoided the Chinese market, though. Urban Decay products have long been available via cross-border e-commerce platforms that allowed the brand to bypass China's animal testing policy. Following the country's 2021 decision to exempt imported cosmetics from animal testing, Urban Decay launched its Naked palettes—and a few other signature products—at two Chinese duty-free plazas.

L'Oréal claims it has been working with Chinese authorities to establish nonanimal testing methods for the past 10 years. PETA says it's "important to support cruelty free companies such as Urban Decay" to send a message to L'Oréal that "compassionate cosmetics are popular," which could lead the company to pursue cruelty free testing methods for all its brands down the line.

Extensive Vegan Selection

Not all Urban Decay products are vegan. The company uses carmine, a red color derived from insects—in its eyeshadows. It uses beeswax in some mascaras. But vegan products—of which there are about 40—are clearly labeled and set apart from nonvegan products online. These include much of the ever-popular Naked lineup and several lipsticks, eye pencils, and mascaras.

The brand says it works with its laboratories "to not only create shades (and entire product lines) that are vegan from the start, but also to identify which of our nonvegan products can be converted." Entire collections, like the Wild collection and Stay Naked, are vegan.

Ethically Sourced Ingredients

Besides being PETA-certified cruelty free and partially vegan, Urban Decay seems to also be an ethical brand. While it does use controversial ingredients like mica and palm oil, L'Oréal is relatively transparent about where these ingredients come from thanks to its Inside Our Products database.

L'Oréal is a member of the Responsible Mica Initiative, a coalition working to end child labor in India's mica mining industry. As for palm oil, Greenpeace International named L'Oréal as one of the 12 brands sourcing from palm oil groups associated with rainforest deforestation. The company has been publishing palm oil sourcing reports since 2016 and now claims to be 100% compliant with Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil standards.

Urban Decay Gives Back

Urban Decay's charity work includes its global initiative for female empowerment, The Ultraviolet Edge, launched in 2015. In the past, 100% of proceeds from limited-edition products have been donated to organizations supporting women in developing countries under this initiative. The brand also supports anti-bullying organizations like The Cybersmile Foundation and Stop Bullying Now through its Online Bullying Hurts IRL campaign.

Is Urban Decay Sustainable?

Although certain Urban Decay products aim to protect skin from environmental pollutants, the brand itself does little to reduce plastic pollution. That said, as a subsidiary of the L'Oréal Group, Urban Decay must comply with its parent company's Plastic Packaging Policy, which states that 50% of plastic packaging will be recycled or bio-sourced and 100% will be refillable, rechargeable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

L'Oréal's ambitious sustainability goals extend beyond plastic waste, too, such as its commitment to switching to 95% biobased ingredients derived from "abundant minerals or from circular processes" by 2030. Currently, some of Urban Decay's makeup brushes are made from recycled aluminum and synthetic hair made from plastic bottles.

Cruelty Free and Ethical Urban Decay Products

Urban Decay is certainly not the most ethical and sustainable makeup brand on the market, but it meets at least the minimum of Treehugger's Green Beauty Standards. It's PETA-certified, offers dozens of vegan products, and sources ingredients approved by the Responsible Mica Initiative and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

Here are a few Treehugger-approved (and, yes, vegan) Urban Decay products.

Naked3 Mini Eyeshadow Palette

This mini version of the third iteration of Urban Decay's iconic Naked eyeshadow palette includes six versatile rose-colored shades.

Wild Lash Mascara

Wild Lash Mascara is made with 99% natural ingredients, such as cassava starch, colza, and coconut, avocado, and sunflower seed oil. No beeswax, parabens, petroleum, or silicones to note.

All Nighter Setting Spray

This fan-favorite setting spray is award-winning for its ability to extend the life of makeup. It claims to protect vibrant color for up to 16 hours.

UD Pro Optical Blurring Brush

You won't find animal hair in this blurring brush. Not only are its bristles made of old plastic bottles, its handle is also made from recycled aluminum.

View Article Sources
  1. "Is Urban Decay (L'Oréal) Cruelty Free?" PETA Beauty Without Bunnies.

  2. "Is L'Oréal USA Cruelty Free?" PETA Beauty Without Bunnies.

  3. "Urban Decay Pulls Out of China." PETA. 2012.

  4. "Care about your skincare? So do we." The L'Oréal Group.

  5. "Is Too Faced Cosmetics Still Cruelty Free?" PETA. 2016.

  6. "The Final Countdown: Now or never to reform the palm oil industry." Greenpeace International. 2018.

  7. "Inside Our Products: Palm Oil." The L'Oréal Group.

  8. "Plastic Packaging Policy." The L'Oréal Group.