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Smell Divine With These Cruelty-Free, Vegan Fragrances

by Charlotte Pointing

Oct 24, 2022

Finding a vegan, ethical fragrance can be tricky. Popular designer perfumes are often not considered cruelty-free. On top of that, some fragrances on the market also contain non-vegan ingredients, like beeswax. But all is not lost. Plenty of conscious, cruelty-free brands prove it is possible to make deliciously scented, guilt-free fragrances. Here are some of our favorites.

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Animal testing in the perfume industry

Every year, it's estimated that more than 115 million animals are tested on around the world for various reasons, reports the Humane Society International (HSI).

In the cosmetics industry, animals like guinea pigs and rabbits often have to undergo skin and eye irritation tests. In these experiments, potentially corrosive substances are rubbed into their skin or dripped into their eyes, often with no pain relief.

A number of popular perfume brands, like Dior, Marc Jacobs, and Armani, are not considered cruelty-free, because they allow their products, including their fragrances, to be tested on animals when required by law.

For example, Chanel—which created one of the most popular perfumes of all time, Chanel No. 5—notes in its animal testing policy: "Chanel does not use animals for product testing."

But then, it adds: "Product testing on animals may be carried out by ingredient suppliers in the case of some raw materials (that are used in other industries as well as the cosmetics industry), but only when there are no other, so-called alternative, substitute methods available that could guarantee consumer safety."

Why are some perfumes not vegan?

In the past, the perfume industry relied heavily on ingredients sourced from animals.

Musk used to be sourced from the preputial glands of male musk deer. Civet was sourced from, you guessed it, civets (a small nocturnal mammal from southeast Asia). And ambergris was taken from sperm whale intestines.

Luckily, most of these ingredients have been replaced with synthetic versions now. But some animal ingredients are still used in the perfume industry.

Beeswax, for example, is used for its sweet, honeyed notes. But while many in the industry claim that the ingredient is cruelty-free (sourced from matured hives and extracted carefully by hand), as an animal byproduct, it is not vegan.

Many also maintain that beeswax (which is secreted by young worker bees) should be left for the pollinators themselves. After all, they don't make it for humans. Rather, it helps them to construct honeycombs, which are used to store essential pollen and honey, as well as larvae.

Lanolin, a wax secreted by sheep to keep their wool dry, is also sometimes present in perfume formulas.

Best vegan fragrances

But if you're on the hunt for a new vegan, cruelty-free scent, you'll be pleased to know there are plenty of perfume brands that do not engage with animal testing or use animal-derived ingredients. Here are our top vegan fragrance picks.

Best luxury:

NotesCentifolia roses, cedar, vetiver, musks, guaiac wood
Sustainable packaging?Refillable
100% vegan company?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?Yes - Estée Lauder

Based in New York, Le Labo is known for its luxurious, finely-crafted perfumes, all of which are 100 percent vegan.

With notes of centifolia roses and "warm and spicy" cedar, Rose 31 is one of its gender-neutral cult classics. The roses are harvested from Grasse, a town on the French Riviera, where they bloom for five weeks before they are hand-picked by farmers.

This fragrance is ideal for those who love the sweet, subtle scent of honey, but prefer to keep their fragrances totally beeswax-free.

For this and all of its perfumes, Le Labo offers refills, which cuts down on packaging waste for everyone. If you're based in the US, you can send your bottle for a refill in the mail using its Online Refill program. Everyone else can visit their nearest Le Labo store for a top-up.

NotesWhite musk, bergamot, Italian lemon, violet, rose de mai
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable glass bottle
100% vegan company?No
Parent company tests on animals?Yes - Procter & Gamble

As you can probably guess from the name, this floral scent from OUAI was inspired by Australia's North Bondi.

Located in Sydney, the suburb isn't far from the country's famous Bondi Beach, which is known for its laidback surf culture, fluffy white sand, and clear blue sea. And that's exactly where OUAI hopes to transport you when you spray this floral fragrance, which has notes of bergamot, violet, and Italian lemon.

But if Bondi isn't your bag, all of OUAI's fragrances are named after iconic locations, like Rue St. Honoré in Paris or London's Dean Street.

While the glass perfume bottle can be recycled, make sure to separate the non-recyclable collar, sprayer, and cap.

NotesVanilla, sandalwood, neroli
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable
100% vegan company?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

Created by Australian clean beauty fanatic Rosie Jane Johnston, By Rosie Jane specializes in nontoxic, vegan fragrances that prioritize people and the planet.

With notes of vanilla, sandalwood, and neroli, this fragrance aims to whisk you away to one of Johnston's favorite places: Lake Tahoe.

The comforting, fresh, cool fragrance could become your new signature. That said, you may want to be a little generous with the application, as some reports state the initial scent can start to fade quite quickly.

As proven by a certification from the nonprofit Carbon Neutral, By Rosie Jane has invested in carbon credits to offset its emissions, as well as taken steps to reduce its own supply chain emissions.

Plus, its packaging is recyclable.

Best for the planet:

NotesVetiver, benzoin, ozonic, ginger, mint, musk
Sustainable packaging?Wooden cap, recyclable glass bottle
100% vegan company?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

There are few scents more comforting than the smell of fresh laundry, which is why the Clean Beauty Collective decided to capture it in a bottle, with this Warm Cotton fragrance.

But this perfume is more than just its deliciously clean, fresh, and relaxing odor. It has also been developed carefully, with the planet in mind. The packaging is recyclable, and the ingredients have been thoughtfully sourced.

Benzoin, for example, is a balsamic resin traditionally taken from tree bark. The Clean Beauty Collective has partnered with harvesters in Laos to support them and their families, but also to ensure that the ingredient is extracted with great care and attention to detail.

NotesRose, geranium, lemon
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable glass bottle
100% vegan company?No
Parent company tests on animals?No

Rose is one of the most loved perfume ingredients. In fact, it crops up in nearly three-quarters of all fragrances marketed to women. It's classic, sweet, and earthy, which is why Lush chose to use it in its Rose Jam perfume.

The long-lasting fragrance, which is slightly more affordable than many other perfumes on the market, also features notes of geranium, a citrusy fragrance close to rose in scent, as well as zingy lemon.

If you love the scent of this perfume (which smells a little like Turkish Delight), Lush also offers Rose Jam body spray and shower gel.

Plus, if you're trying to cut down on packaging waste, you could also opt for the brand's solid version of this perfume.

NotesMandarin, bergamot, bellini accord
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable and refillable (in select locations)
100% vegan company?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

British brand Floral Street is all about creating sustainable fragrances that don't compromise on quality or scent. Its vegan perfumes come in recyclable, refillable packaging, and it is transparent about its commitment to ethical ingredient sourcing.

The perfume company is also passionate about creativity, which is why it partnered with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The resulting unique, floral scent is inspired by the artist's famous sunflower works, of which there are 11.

Just like the flower itself, this fragrance is bright, fresh, and vibrant, with notes of mandarin, bergamot, vegan honey accord, and bellini accord. The latter, it claims, is its own "fantasy" ingredient, designed to "mimic" the fragrance's "fruity mood."

If you'd prefer a smaller quantity to sample first, the Sunflower Pop Eau De Parfum is also available in a smaller roll-on bottle.

NotesOrange, lemon, sweetie grapefruit, lime, basil, petitgrain
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable glass
100% vegan company?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

The 7 Virtues is not your average perfume brand. It was created in a bid to empower women farmers around the world, and liberate them from exploitative situations, like the illegal poppy crop industry in Afghanistan.

This sweet, citrusy Grapefruit fragrance is one of its "peace perfumes," and contains essential oils that are ethically sourced from the Sharon Region of Israel and the Shiraz Region of Iran.

You can find out more about The 7 Virtues' journey and mission in the 2016 documentary Perfume War.

NotesLicorice, cherry, violet, cistus labdanum
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable box
100% vegan company?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

Fans of Lolita Lempicka's fragrances are often after two things: a fairytale-inspired, shelfie-worthy bottle, and its signature licorice scent. With its Mon Premier Parfum (which translates to "my first perfume"), both of those boxes are ticked.

Other notes featuring in this particular fragrance include cherry accord, anise, violet, orange blossom, praline, and tonka bean. The brand describes the scent as "an ode to feminity," which has the "sensual signature of Lolita Lempicka."

This is a sponsored listing.

NotesLavender, peppermint, thyme, neroli, jasmine, tobacco, oakmoss
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable glass
100% vegan company?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

If you're after a truly unique fragrance to add to your collection, Wit & West could be the brand for you.

The Colorado-based perfumery utilizes rare and distinct ingredients in its scents, all of which are vegan, natural, and handcrafted.

Take Brumaire Woods, for example, which really delivers on its earthy name thanks to the addition of thyme, tobacco, and oakmoss. It was inspired by the treetops of the Columbia River Gorge, which, located in Oregon, is one of America's most impressive canyons.

Other featured notes in this fragrance include lavender, peppermint, neroli, and jasmine.

If you want to sample before you commit to a larger bottle, the brand also offers this scent in a 15ml option.

NotesLemon blossom, lotus flower, freesia
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable carton
100% vegan company?No
Parent company tests on animals?No

Sophisticated and floral, this fragrance by perfume pioneer NEST is ideal for those who want to smell like they've just walked through an English flower garden. (That could be, in part, because it was actually inspired by the former Duke and Duchess of Windsor.)

With notes of lemon blossom, lotus flower, and freesia, the fresh and floral scent is ideal for the warmer months, when you want something that's light, breezy, and not too overpowering.

On that note, if you want to take it off on summer vacation, the brand also offers the Citrine scent in a travel spray bottle.

This is a sponsored listing.

NotesCappuccino, pure vanilla, caramelized cedar
Sustainable packaging?Box, bottle, and cap recyclable
100% vegan company?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

All of Skylar's scents are vegan, cruelty-free, hypoallergenic, and inspired by life in California, where the brand is based.

With notes of bergamot, sweet orange, vanilla, cinnamon bark, and cappuccino, Vanilla Sky (which is one of the brand's best-sellers) is all about capturing those relaxed mornings, walking about town, sipping on your favorite coffee. Other fragrances, like Salt Air and Capri Summer, also aim to capture the essence of life on the breezy, sunny coast.

If you're not sure which to try first, you could sign up for Skylar's Scent Club, take a quiz, and be sent a new rollerball fragrance ideal for you every month.

NotesLilac, magnolia, heliotrope, ylang-ylang, hyacinth, nectarine
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable glass
100% vegan company?Yes
Parent company tests on animals?No

Pacifica is known for its affordable, vegan makeup and skincare products. But the popular cruelty-free brand also offers a range of fragrances, including this French Lilac Spray Perfume.

The traditional, French-inspired formula has notes of lilac, magnolia, ylang-ylang, and hyacinth, and delivers a light, fresh scent. The fragrance is subtle, yet long-lasting, and just strong enough to earn you a compliment from everyone you meet.

If you love the smell, the brand also offers a French Lilac Roll-on Perfume, as well as a French Lilac Perfumed Hair & Body Mist.

Best budget:

NotesShea
Sustainable packaging?Recyclable bottle
100% vegan company?No
Parent company tests on animals?No - Natura

While perfume is often associated with luxury and high-end prices, smelling great shouldn't have to break the bank.

The Body Shop's sweet and simple Shea Eau De Toilette has a fresh, unique, nutty scent that suits pretty much any occasion, from workday to wedding guest. Plus, it's priced at a very reasonable $14 USD.

All of The Body Shop's shea products (which also include Shea Body Mist, Shea Shower Cream, and Shea Body Butter), use ethical, sustainable shea butter, which is sourced through its own bespoke program, called Community Fair Trade.

The Verdict

Unfortunately, animal testing is still rife in the cosmetics industry, which means there are a number of non-cruelty-free perfumes on the market. But that doesn't mean that vegan, cruelty-free fragrances are hard to find. In fact, the number of options is growing by the day.

To recap, here are some of our top picks:

Best luxury: Le Labo Rose 31 Eau de Parfum
For the planet:
Clean Warm Cotton Eau de Parfum
Budget: The Body Shop's Shea Eau de Toilette

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