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Are Cruelty Free Brands Actually More Expensive: An eye-opening analysis

Chart comparing the average prices of cruelty free vs. non-cruelty free makeup brands

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One of the most common misconceptions about cruelty free brands is that they are more expensive than brands that test on animals.

A lot of people have used this very misconception as an excuse to give up their cruelty free journey or to just postpone it for a time when they think they’ll be able to afford it.

Today I’ll try to bust this myth and answer one of the most commonly asked questions in the cruelty free community:

Are cruelty free makeup brands actually more expensive than non-cruelty free brands?

The short answer is: NO. Generally, the cruelty free status of a brand doesn’t have an impact on the price of its products.

After all, animal testing alternatives are not just ethical and more accurate, but also cheaper.

However, a lot of people are skeptical and don’t agree, as there’s no data to prove this.

I tried to look online, but I couldn’t find any price comparisons for cruelty free vs. non-cruelty free makeup products.

So, I decided to do the research myself. The results were astonishing!

The methodology:

I wanted to compare only brands within the same levels of quality and price range, so I started off with 3 categories of makeup: drugstore, mid-range and luxury.

It wouldn’t be fair to compare the prices of drugstore brands to the ones of luxury brands, regardless of whether they’re cruelty free or not – luxury ones will obviously be more expensive.

For each of those categories, I randomly chose 6 popular brands that fall within them – 3 cruelty free, and 3 that test on animals.

I chose 3 makeup products to include in the price comparison: foundation, mascara and lipstick.

Most of the brands are sold in Ulta and/or Sephora, so I checked the prices there.

For the rest of the brands that are not sold there, I took the prices off of their official websites.

In the end, I “normalized” them to the “price per ounce” – it wouldn’t be fair to compare a foundation which comes in a huge container to one that’s almost half its size.

Cruelty free vs. Non-cruelty free brands: the data

The following table shows the average prices for each of the product types (foundation, mascara and lipstick) for all of the brands, along with the quantity of product in the packaging.

Price rangeAnimal testing policyBrandFoundationMascaraLipstick
Drugstore / low-endBrands that test on animalsL’Oreal$12.99
(1.0 oz)
$10.99
(0.25 oz)
$10.99
(0.13 oz)
Maybelline$7.99
(1.0 oz)
$9.99
(0.32 oz)
$7.99
(0.1 oz)
Revlon$13.99
(1.0 oz)
$8.99
(0.3 oz)
$8.49
(0.15 oz)
Cruelty free brandse.l.f$6
(1 oz)
$4
(0.25 oz)
$4
(0.11 oz)
Essence$5.99
(0.56 oz)
$4.99
(0.41 oz)
$3.99
(0.12 oz)
NYX$10.00
(1.01 oz)
$8
(0.23 oz)
$8.5
(0.12 oz)
Mid-range / professionalBrands that test on animalsbenefit$30
(1.0 oz)
$25
(0.3 oz)
$18
(0.2 oz)
NARS$49
(1.01 oz)
$24
(0.21 oz)
$24
(0.12 oz)
MAC$31
(1.0 oz)
$24
(0.28 oz)
$19
(0.1 oz)
Cruelty free brandsUrban Decay$39
(1.0 oz)
$25
(0.4 oz)
$19
(0.11 oz)
Too faced$39.00
(1.0 oz)
$25
(0.27 oz)
$21
(0.23 oz)
Tarte$39
(1.01 oz)
$23
(0.24 oz)
$18
(0.1 oz)
Luxury / high-endBrands that test on animalsDior$64
(1.0 oz)
$37
(0.33 oz)
$46
(0.12 oz)
Chanel$60
(1.0 oz)
$35
(0.21 oz)
$40
(0.12 oz)
Yves Saint Laurent$74
(1 oz)
$41
(0.28 oz)
$50
(0.15 oz)
Cruelty free brandsMarc Jacobs$70
(0.75 oz)
$35
(0.36 oz)
$35
(0.15 oz)
Hourglass$56
(0.84 oz)
$29
(0.35 oz)
$28
(0.10 oz)
Ellis Faas$82
(1.014 oz)
$31
(0.277 oz)
$33
(0.095 oz)

To make sure the comparisons are fair, I calculated the price per ounce for each of the products.

This table shows the same prices as above, but normalized per ounce:

Price rangeAnimal testing policyBrandFoundation (per ounce)Mascara (per ounce)Lipstick (per ounce)
Drugstore / low-endBrands that test on animalsL’Oreal$12.99$43.96$84.53
Maybelline$7.99$31.22$79.90
Revlon$13.99$29.97$56.60
Cruelty free brandse.l.f$6.00$16.00$36.36
Essence$10.70$12.17$33.25
NYX$9.90$34.78$70.83
Mid-range / professionalBrands that test on animalsbenefit$30.00$83.33$90.00
NARS$48.50$114.20$200.00
MAC$31.00$85.71$190.00
Cruelty free brandsUrban Decay$39.00$62.50$172.73
Too faced$39.00$92.59$91.30
Tarte$38.60$95.83$180.00
Luxury / high-endBrands that test on animalsDior$64.00$112.12$383.33
Chanel$60.00$166.66$333.33
Yves Saint Laurent$74.00$146.43$333.33
Cruelty free brandsMarc Jacobs$93.33$97.22$233.33
Hourglass$66.67$82.86$280.00
Ellis Faas$80.87$111.63$347.37

Cruelty free vs. Non-cruelty free brands: price comparison

The following charts show a side-by-side comparison of the average prices (per ounce) of different makeup products for cruelty free and non-cruelty free brands.

Chart showing a price comparison of foundation, mascara and lipstick between drugstore makeup brands: cruelty free vs. non-cruelty free.
Non-cruelty free makeup brands: L’Oreal, Maybelline, Revlon
Cruelty free makeup brands: e.l.f, Essence, NYX
Chart showing a price comparison of foundation, mascara and lipstick between mid-range makeup brands: cruelty free vs. non-cruelty free.
Non-cruelty free makeup brands: benefit, NARS, MAC
Cruelty free makeup brands: Urban Decay, Too Faced, Tarte
Chart showing a price comparison of foundation, mascara and lipstick between luxury makeup brands: cruelty free vs. non-cruelty free.
Non-cruelty free makeup brands: Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent
Cruelty free makeup brands: Marc Jacobs, Hourglass, Ellis Faas

As you can see, cruelty free brands are sometimes even cheaper than non-cruelty free brands!

The difference is especially massive in drugstore brands, where e.l.f and Essence are the most affordable makeup brands out of all brands included in this analysis. And they’re cruelty free!

In mid-range and luxury brands, the difference is more subtle.

It also turns out that mid-range and luxury cruelty free foundation is a tiny bit more expensive than non-cruelty free in the same price range categories.

This proves that cruelty free makeup doesn’t have to be more expensive – there are several factors that determine makeup price, and the cruelty free status of a brand, generally, isn’t one of them.

In case you might be asking yourself about the general price comparison – the following chart shows the average price for makeup products for all makeup brands, sorted from the cheapest to the most expensive:

Chart showing a comparison of the average prices of makeup products for cruelty free and non-cruelty free brands.
Cruelty free (purple) vs. non-cruelty free (pink) makeup brands

Why are some cruelty free products more expensive?

Simply put:

cruelty free products are, generally, NOT more expensive than their competitors that test on animals.

However, there are examples where cruelty free brands actually can be more expensive.

But usually, that’s because of different reasons and not solely because the brand is cruelty free.

These are the reasons why some cruelty free products are more expensive:

Cruelty free brands don’t sell in mainland China

China is the second largest cosmetics consumer in the world, only behind the United States. This rapid-growing market was estimated at $37 billion in 2018.

The problem? Animal testing of cosmetics in China is required by law.

As a result of that, all of these brands that are cruelty free can’t allow their products to be tested on animals in China.

Cruelty free brands have given up on this huge, lucrative market, which costs them profits.

Leaping Bunny certification

Although the certification itself is free, brands do have to pay for a license to use the Leaping Bunny logo on their packaging. The price can range from $500 to $4,500, depending on gross annual sales for the company.

Leaping Bunny certified brands must also commit to independent audits on an annual basis, which are also free, but can be operationally expensive for the company itself.

Cruelty free brands tend to be more ethical generally

They care about the wellbeing of their employees, too.

They make sure their employees aren’t underpaid and exploited, and that they’re working in appropriate conditions.

Some of them invest in the development of the local economy, create jobs for the local communities and source their ingredients locally instead of importing them, even though importing is usually cheaper.

Vegan, natural and eco-friendly brands usually are cruelty free

There is a correlation between vegan, natural and eco-friendly brands, and cruelty free brands.

These brands use high quality ingredients, which are obviously more expensive.

Vegan, natural, non-toxic and organic ingredients are harder to obtain and have shorter shelf-life, which increases their price.

These brands usually also try to follow sustainable manufacturing practices and use environmentally friendly packaging (usually glass) which is more expensive than cheap plastic containers.


Of course, not all of the above points apply to all cruelty free brands, but sometimes, they can be the reason why a brand is more expensive.

Conclusion

As you can see, cruelty free makeup brands usually are not more expensive than non-cruelty free brands. And in the rare occurrence when they are, it’s totally worth it.

Using the price as an excuse is really not an option anymore, especially since we have brands like e.l.f. and Essence that offer foundation and lipstick for as low as $3!

Help save animal lives, go cruelty free!


Now, I’d like to hear from you!

What do you think about the price range of cruelty free products?

What are your go-to affordable cruelty free makeup brands?

3 thoughts on “Are Cruelty Free Brands Actually More Expensive: An eye-opening analysis”

  1. Pingback: 12 Best Luxury Cruelty Free Brands: The Ultimate Guide (2021)

  2. Pingback: 5 Reasons Why Cruelty-Free Makeup is Better In 2021

  3. Thank you for sharing this project- great data and format! I especially enjoyed the post chart reasoning on additional considerations for cruelty free cosmetics that are more expensive.
    The Only subject that left my brain thirsty was product cost in Addition to MSRP/list price.That would be as interesting and helpful to discover as learning our world is actually Flat!

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