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The Best Vegan Lipsticks For Rich, Long-Lasting Color

by Charlotte Pointing

Aug 29, 2022

People have worn lipstick for centuries. In fact, historians believe it can be traced all the way back to the men and women of Ancient Sumeria, who crushed precious stones and bugs and spread the fragments over their lips. Crushed red bug lipstick was also likely a favorite of Ancient Egypt's Cleopatra, and much later, a Max Factor dark red lip became Marilyn Monroe's signature.

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Today, lipstick is still considered a timeless beauty staple. It can pull a whole makeup look together, and quite frankly, change your mood too.

One 2017 survey found that more than half of British women apply lipstick to feel better about themselves, while 35 percent said putting it on made them feel cheerier.

In the US, more than 122 million women use lipstick or lip gloss. By 2024, it'll be more than 124 million. (While these studies focused on women, it's important to note that, of course, lipstick use isn't limited to one gender.)

It seems lipstick has always been, and will always be, a big market. But what is actually in it?

Well, Cleopatra died in 30 BC, but it seems her favored method of using crushed bugs for lip color is still around today. And that's not only the only animal product found in lipstick either.

But good news: there are plenty of vegan products on the market now too. We've gathered our top picks, but first, let's take a look at the non-vegan ingredients regularly used by lipstick brands.

What animal products are in lipstick?

To give your pout a pop of color, lipstick needs a rich pigment. And quite often, that comes from bugs. To this day, cosmetic scientists regularly use carmine, which comes from Cochineal beetles, an insect native to Latin America.

The beetles are farmed, harvested, and dried out in the sun before they are crushed and boiled. The resulting bright red dye is extracted and added to cosmetics.

Carmine is the third most commonly used colorant in the beauty industry, and the market is huge: in 2021, it was valued at more than 43 billion. (Carmine is not just used in cosmetics, but also in the food industry.)

Cochineal beetles aren't the only insect used in cosmetics. Beeswax is also often added to lipstick because of its emulsifying properties. It also helps with structure and shape.

Many argue that the use of beeswax is unethical because it's made by bees for their own use: it helps to mold honeycombs in their hives. To obtain the wax, these hives must be melted and boiled.

Another common lipstick ingredient is lanolin oil, often used for gloss and shine. A byproduct of the wool industry, lanolin is the grease secreted by a sheep's sebaceous glands. As a natural water repellent, the primary purpose of lanolin is help the animals stay dry.

The lanolin market is worth more than $222 million and is also used in the pharmaceutical and baby care industries.

Finally, there's shark liver oil. Yes, you read that correctly.

Squalene is a conditioning agent, and while it can come from plant-based sources, it can also come from the livers of sharks. For the marine animals, the oil serves as a natural buoyancy aid in the absence of a swim bladder, but in the cosmetics world, it's often used as a natural moisturizer.

It's important to point out that shark-derived squalene is becoming less and less common. Now, cosmetic scientists often use olives or sugarcane to obtain the ingredient instead. (In its stabilized form, squalene is labeled squalane.)

Vegan ingredients in lipstick

If you'd prefer to keep bugs, sheep secretion, and shark oil out of your cosmetics, don't worry: there are plenty of vegan ingredients that work just as well when added to lipsticks.

For example, soy wax or candelilla wax can replace beeswax, as they have very similar functions and properties to the latter.

Anthocyanins (fruit-based compounds), beetroot, and herbal agents like lycopene (which comes from fruits like tomatoes and papayas) can rival beetles when it comes to providing deep, rich pigment.

And when it comes to adding moisture, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and shea butter are all common ingredients in vegan lipstick too.

Best vegan lipsticks

To help you find the best vegan lipstick product for you, we've gathered some of our favorite options on the market. As always, every item on this list is cruelty-free. Animal testing has no place in the beauty industry.

Sustainable packaging elementsRecycled aluminum
Parent company tests on animalsYes - Clarins
100% vegan brandNo
BenefitsHydrating, creamy, long-lasting

ILIA pulls together organic castor seed oil, mango seed butter, apricot oil, and sunflower seed wax to create a nourishing, hydrating, and creamy formula that will leave your lips feeling moisturized, soft, and nourished.

With a rich pigment (thanks to the castor seed oil), long-lasting color is another stand-out element of this product. You can choose from a number of different shades too, from Amberlight, a classy, neutral French pink nude, to Rumba, a classic, dark, oxblood red.

Sustainable packaging elementsNone specified
Parent company tests on animalsNo
100% vegan brandNo
BenefitsLightweight, long-lasting, matte finish

Colourpop truly lives up to its name with this bold, bright formula. Available in a number of shades, from muted pink beige to vampire-esque purple-red, the formula is thin and lightweight, but still provides a rich pigment.

The brand also claims this long-lasting lipstick is "100% kiss-proof," so if you're out on a date, you can pucker up without worrying about the dreaded smear.

While most of Colorpop's ultra matte lipsticks are vegan, a few shades (like Trap, Flurries, Avenue, Most Likely To, and Tulle) do contain carmine, so check the ingredients list before settling on a color.

Sustainable packaging elementsNone specified
Parent company tests on animalsNo
100% vegan brandNo
BenefitsMatte finish, softening, long-lasting

Not only will this creamy formula soften, hydrate, and moisturize your lips (thanks to moringa oil and candelilla wax), but it'll also look great in your handbag, thanks to the chic rose gold bullet packaging.

But obviously, the biggest reason you buy lipstick is for the color, and this product doesn't disappoint. From warm sweet pink tones to strawberry-inspired red, this long-lasting formula offers a rich pigment whatever the shade.

Best for the planet:

Sustainable packaging elementsPlastic-free
Parent company tests on animalsNo
100% vegan brandYes
BenefitsHydrating, contains antioxidants

If you love trying new products but are also conscious of your plastic use, Axiology is your brand. It doesn't use any traditional lipstick packaging, like a bullet or a tube. Instead, its Balmies come in the form of crayons covered in recyclable paper.

But don't be fooled: this product is just as nourishing, long-lasting, and colorful as any lipstick that comes in a tube.

Made with nine natural ingredients (including hemp seed oil, organic castor oil, kokum butter, and sunflower seed wax), the crayons will hydrate and smooth not just your lips, but also your eyes and cheeks too, because, you guessed it, they're multi-use.

Best budget:

Sustainable packaging elementsNone specified
Parent company tests on animalsNo
100% vegan brandYes
BenefitsSilky texture, moisturizing

You don't have to break the bank to achieve beautiful lips. It may be the cheapest product on this list, but e.l.f. Cosmetics' Sheer Slick Lipstick does not compromise on results.

The easy-to-apply sheer formula gives more of a glossy, shiny finish. Available in six shades of pink and red, it's ideal for those who aren't a fan of a big bold lip and prefer something a little more subtle.

Plus, it contains moisturizing meadowfoam seed oil and softening vitamin E.

Easiest application:

Sustainable packaging elementsNone specified
Parent company tests on animalsNo
100% vegan brandNo
BenefitsMatte finish, soft edges

Blotting is an essential part of lipstick application. Or is it? Glossier's Generation G gives you that "just-blotted" look, without having to do anything at all.

While some say this formula can feel a little dry, others are big fans of the matte texture and easy-to-apply formula. The finish is buildable, so you can apply a few swipes without worrying about overdoing it. Keep going until the shade looks right for you.

But one important note: your natural lip color will show through with this lipstick, due to the subtle hint of pigment. That means the final shade will look different on everyone, so you won't know exactly how each color will look until you've tried it for yourself.

Sustainable packaging elementsNone specified
Parent company tests on animalsNo
100% vegan brandYes
BenefitsPigment-rich, lightweight, long-lasting

Another affordable find, Barry M's Velvet Matte Lip Paint delivers high-end results at just a fraction of the price.

With a semi-matte finish, the pigment-rich formulas are creamy, long-lasting, and extremely satisfying to apply: they just glide straight onto your lips. The range of shades covers several bases too, from cool pink to deep brown.

The formula also includes jojoba oil, which helps to give your pout a burst of hydration thanks to its fatty acid content.

Sustainable packaging elementsNone specified
Parent company tests on animalsNo
100% vegan brandNo
BenefitsSmudge-resistant, creamy, hydrating

This offering from bareMinerals is the first "clean, mineral-infused" vegan lipstick on the market. As the name suggests (and the reviews can testify), it's a super hydrator, so you don't have to worry about dry lips at all with this product.

The finish is a color-rich and creamy satin effect, but the way your lips will feel is the real selling point. You can expect your pout to feel smooth, moisturized, and soft after use.

Choose from a variety of shades, including Balance (a peach beige), Energy (a fire engine red), and Joy (a candy pink).

Sustainable packaging elementsRecycled packaging
Parent company tests on animalsNo
100% vegan brandYes
BenefitsLong-lasting, smooth application

Pacifica's Plushious Mineral Lipstick is simple and effective. If you're looking for a full-coverage lipstick that is easy to apply, hydrates your lips, and lasts a long time, it ticks all of the boxes.

Plus, it smells delicious too, thanks to the additions of coconut and vanilla. Choose from six shades, including deep red Velvet Kiss and purple-toned Bae.

Best for dry lips:

Sustainable packaging elementsNone specified
Parent company tests on animalsNo
100% vegan brandYes
BenefitsLong-lasting, hydrating, moisturizing

The feeling of dry lips under lipstick is the worst. Luckily, with Milk Makeup's Lip Color Hydrating Matte Lipstick, you don't have to worry about dryness. That's because the formula contains a hydrating dream team combination of shea butter, coconut oil, and grapeseed oil.

The final result is a comfortable-to-wear, long-lasting, highly pigmented, moisturizing, matte finish. Honestly, what more could you need?

Fun fact: the matte finish is helped along by a blurring powder derived from bamboo.

The verdict:

A timeless beauty staple, it's no surprise that the lipstick market is huge. But unfortunately, a lot of the products on the market contain animal products like carmine, which comes from crushed beetles. But the vegan beauty market is growing, which means there are plenty of animal-free options to choose from too.

To summarize, our favorite picks are:

Best for...

The planet: Axiology Vegan Multi-Use Balmie Set
Dry lips: Milk Makeup Lip Color Hydrating Matte Lipstick
Budget: E.l.f. Sheer Slick Lipstick
Easy application: Glossier Generation G Lipstick

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