Home » Skincare » Cruelty Free Korean Skin Care: 7 Best K-Beauty Brands (2021 Update)

Cruelty Free Korean Skin Care: 7 Best K-Beauty Brands (2021 Update)

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So, you finally decided to jump on the K-Beauty bandwagon and now you’re looking for cruelty free Korean skin care brands.

After all, K-Beauty is really hot right now.

It’s known for its effectiveness, while also being natural and gentle to the skin.

That sounds awesome, right?

But there’s one problem:

If you only use cruelty free and vegan products in your skin care routine, K-Beauty can get really complicated.

Most brands don’t share a lot of information about their animal testing practices, and don’t have any certifications that we’re already familiar with.

Even worse: when it comes to vegan products, you’re out of luck as the most famous K-Beauty ingredients are snail mucin and horse oil.

As a matter of fact, animal testing has been banned in South Korea since 2018. However, that has not stopped animal testing.

Additionally, animal testing is still mandatory for all products sold in mainland China, and therefore, all K-Beauty brands that are imported in China can’t be cruelty free.

So, let’s dig a little deeper.

I did the research by contacting brands and collecting available information from various sources, and came up with this list.

7 best cruelty free Korean skin care brands:

  1. Purito (100% vegan)
  2. A-True
  3. RE:P
  4. Klairs
  5. Benton
  6. COSRX
  7. iUNIK

Skincare is very personal, so trying Korean skin care products for the first time is definitely a bold choice.

I encourage you to try some of these cruelty free brands, that high-quality, ethical and affordable.

They might just raise the bar and change your skin care routine forever!

Let’s dive right in.

Purito – 100% vegan

Purito is one of the cleanest Korean skin care brands out there, completely focused on pure and natural ingredients.

And they’re cruelty free + 100% vegan!

This brand’s philosophy is best explained by their name. It’s derived from “pure” and “to”, a Chinese character for “soil”.

This is what it means:

By going back to basics, Purito’s goal is to provide gentle skincare that won’t irritate your skin, while still being highly effective in repairing and nourishing your skin and caring for its long-term health.

Check out this short video that explains their brand story:

Ingredients:

Carefully-selected plant extracts are the star ingredients in all Purito products.

The Purito Centella line is an awesome example of that.

Centella has amazing antioxidant properties and is excellent for skin hydration, helping the long-term health of your skin.

More good news:

If you have very sensitive skin, you’ll love Purito, as they have unscented versions of their most popular products.

Additionally, Purito products only contain ingredients rated levels 1 and 2 according to the EWG (Environmental Working Group).

So, basically they’re free from toxins such as parabens, synthetic fragrances, ethanol, mineral oil, and other harmful chemicals.

Ethics:

Purito is not just cruelty free and vegan, but they’re also actively helping to end animal cruelty:

They donate a portion of their profits to the Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare organization dedicated to:

  • ending the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters
  • promotion of pet adoption
  • no-kill animal rescue
  • spay-and-neuter practices

and similar issues.

Purito is 100% vegan:

At first, I wasn’t entirely sure as they used to have one product with snail filtrate, so I reached out to them:

Could you clarify whether all Purito products are 100% vegan? Or, in other words: does Purito have any products that contain animal by-products or animal-derived ingredients?

My confusion stems from the PURITO Snail Repair Advanced Serum, which contains snail filtrate.

However, it seems that this product is not available anymore neither on your website, nor on Amazon and YesStyle.

Does Purito still produce and sell this product? Are all Purito products 100% vegan?

This is what they answered:

We decided to discontinue all the products which contain the snail filtrate to be 100% vegan brand. 

We replaced all ingredients to other vegan ingredients for the new products.

Overall, we can confirm that all products of our brand are 100% vegan. 

Source: an excerpt from an email by a Purito representative

I’m extremely happy that they’re completely committed to being one of the rare brands that are 100% vegan.

And, as if that’s not enough – they’re also environmentally friendly!

All of their products are packaged in recycled packaging and boxes. Plus, the packaging of Purito products is biodegradable and recyclable.

Overall:

Purito is a conscious and responsible brand that cares about skin health, environmental sustainability, and the well-being of animals.

They’re definitely my favorite brand on this list.

If you want to learn more, I have an entire dedicated post about Purito.

Products:

First of all, Purito products are very affordable, especially when we take the high quality into consideration.

They have a wide range of skin care products, including toners, serums, creams, cleansers, BB cream and even sun care. Additionally, they have an entire Centella Line.

I love the PURITO Centella Green Level Unscented Sun SPF50+ which absorbs really fast into the skin and moisturizes your skin, leaving it protected from the sun for long periods of time.

Another great product is the PURITO Centella Unscented Serum, a rejuvenating serum from the Centella line.

You can buy Purito products on Amazon.

A-True

A-True is one of the bestselling cruelty free K-Beauty brands, whose motto is “No! Water, Yes! Black Tea Water”.

This natural skin care brand puts black tea in the spotlight.

All A-True products feature only the finest leaves of Compagnie Coloniale’s premium black tea, the first ever, and oldest premium black tea brand in France.

Why is this so important?

Black tea has a massive amount of benefits for skin care. It has proven to be an amazing antioxidant and has a brightening and refreshing effect on skin.

Polyphenols are micronutrients that black tea has in particularly high concentration. Not only are they packed with antioxidants, but they even have antibacterial properties, which is highly effective for acne-prone skin.

One thing to note is that A-True products are scented, but it’s very mild and disappears pretty quickly, so it shouldn’t be an issue even if you have very sensitive skin.

And the best part:

A-True uses only safe and proven ingredients and their products have passed several dermatological tests.

That’s why A-True products are proudly labeled as causing “100% no irritation”.

Their products contain no: parabens, ethanol, phenoxyethanol, benzophenone, talc, mineral oil, petrolatum… and anything else that you definitely don’t want anywhere near your skin.

Products:

All products come in convenient packaging with elegant design, which isn’t a surprise for a sophisticated brand such as A-True.

You can buy A-True products on Amazon.

RE:P

RE:P stands for Real Elemental Practice, and is all about nature and sustainability.

RE:P calls this their “smart” natural power – delivering the best skin care benefits with the best natural ingredients, through products that protect nature.

How does RE:P do that?

They apply an environmentally conscious philosophy literally to everything they do – from sourcing of ingredients, to manufacturing and packaging.

Botanically-based ingredients are at the core of each RE:P product, which promises pure and natural treatment of your skin and the environment.

Their star ingredient is flower water, based on different plants such as lavender, chamomile and rose.

RE:P is completely cruelty free and most of their products are vegan-friendly.

Even the packaging is developed with the best considerations in mind.

Each ingredient is carefully selected and their products never contain toxic chemicals such as parabens, BHT, sorbic acid, benzyl alcohol, propylene glycol, etc.

And, yes, it’s true!

RE:P the only cruelty free K-beauty brand that is Leaping Bunny approved.

Products:

Some popular RE:P products include moisture and relief masks, BB cream, tonic and face cream.

You can buy RE:P products on StyleKorean and Amazon.

Klairs

Founded in 2010, Klairs is one of the leaders in the cruelty free Korean skincare scene.

If you have sensitive skin, you will literally adore them!

This brand’s philosophy is very interesting: “Simple but enough. Basic but ultimate. Mild but powerful.”.

What does this mean?

Their uniqueness is in that they only use the most effective and necessary ingredients to provide the most value for your skin, with the least amount of complications and fluff.

By omitting harsh chemicals, they ensure that the products will never irritate sensitive and problematic skin. At the same time, the focus is on the active ingredients that are super effective in soothing and nourishing irritated skin.

Their formulas are high-quality, healthy for your skin and respectful to planet Earth.

Klairs is also very committed to making their products affordable so they can be accessible for everyone.

Almost all of their products are vegan:

Klairs is well on their way to becoming fully vegan in every aspect of their production.

While in the past, Klairs products contained components like snail mucin and beeswax, the only animal-derived ingredient used in their products currently is honey due to its beneficial properties for the skin.

Klairs is always researching ways to reformulate or replace this ingredient with one that is vegan.

Source: Klairs Cosmetics

Klairs is approved by the Korea Animal Rights Advocates – KARA (which is basically the Korean version of PETA) as a cruelty free skincare brand.

The bottom line is that Klairs is an awesome brand that’s going in the right direction, so go check them out!

Products:

You can buy Klairs products on Amazon.

Benton

Benton was founded in 2011, and has been one of the cruelty free Korean skin care cult favorites ever since.

Let’s start with one surprising fact:

This brand is named after the 2008 movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, directed by David Fincher. This movie tells the story about Benjamin Button, a guy who ages backwards and gets younger each year.

Being inspired by this movie, Benton’s goal is to “turn back the time” for your skin, making it look and feel younger and healthier.

They use clean and healthy ingredients, and are very conscious about the environment.

Benton delivery boxes are eco-friendly, made from 100% recycled paper, the packaging is biodegradable, and even the print is done with soy-based ink.

Benton is 100% cruelty free, and is certified by PETA’s “Beauty without Bunnies” cruelty free program.

However, if you’re looking for vegan products, Benton might disappoint you as they use snail mucin and bee by-products as ingredients in a lot of their products, which is common for Korean skincare.

They do have some vegan products, such as the Benton Aloe Hyaluron Cream and others. Always check the ingredients to make sure there are no surprises.

You can buy Benton products on StyleKorean or Amazon.

Products:

COSRX

COSRX is absolutely the cult favorite when it comes to Korean skincare. And they’re cruelty free!

This brand’s name says it all:

It comes from COSmetics and RX (prescription), which best describes their goal of creating effective products with real, scientifically-proven ingredients.

COSRX offers astonishing, high quality skincare without breaking the bank.

Their ingredients are healthy, simple, hypoallergenic and dermatologist tested to ensure they’re safe and won’t irritate the skin.

Ethics:

When it comes to ethics, one thing to note here is that COSRX is not a vegan brand. One of their star ingredients is snail mucin, which obviously isn’t vegan. 

If you’re concerned about this ingredient, it seems that there are ethical ways to extract snail mucin:

A CosRX spokesperson told the K-beauty blog The Klog that its mucin is sourced from a company called CoSeedBoPharm Co. “The snails are placed over a mesh in a dark and quiet room,” a CosRX spokesperson told the website. “For about 30 minutes, the snails are left alone to freely roam the net, leaving mucin in their trails. Throughout the process, there is no external process applied to the snails or the mesh to force mucin production.”

Source: The Outline

Although the extraction process they described isn’t too unethical, snail mucin is still an animal by-product, so it can’t be vegan.

However, COSRX does have some vegan products as well. These include the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, and others.

If you want to learn more, I have an entire dedicated post about COSRX.

You can buy COSRX products on StyleKorean and Amazon.

iUNIK

iUNIK is an awesome skincare brand entirely focused on minimalism, simplicity and natural ingredients.

This brand has been one of the leaders in Korean skincare, ever since its founding in 2016.

This brand really impressed me:

Their products contain only the most necessary ingredients. Some iUNIK products literally have only 2 ingredients!

Why does this make sense?

Well, if you get rid of all the unnecessary stuff, the products only have to contain a couple of highly effective active ingredients.

That’s how iUNIK products usually have insane concentrations of these active ingredients, which are usually over 70% concentration.

That makes their products super effective, because every single one of the ingredients targets a specific skin issue.

Some ingredients help with skin soothing, others with nourishing and moisturizing.

But you’re not paying for those useless ingredients that just add to the volume and don’t provide any benefit for your skin.

And you know what else?

Having only a small number of highly effective ingredients also results in safer products, which won’t cause skin irritation, inflammation and allergic reactions.

What I love the most about this brand is that their products are very high quality, but the prices are very affordable!

Plus, all serums are packaged in glass containers, which means they’re recyclable and help save the environment.

iUNIK doesn’t test on animals and is completely cruelty free, but is not a 100% vegan brand. However, most of their products actually are vegan, so when in doubt, check the ingredients.

Products:

You can buy iUNIK products on Amazon.

Conclusion

Korean skin care and K-Beauty in general has been gaining a lot of popularity recently. The Korean cosmetics market is estimated to reach $21.8 billion by 2026.

But with great power, comes great responsibility.

A lot of K-Beauty brands still test on animals and there are almost no vegan brands.

Most brands still use ingredients such as snail mucin and horse oil in a huge number of their products. The extraction methods they use remain unknown, and are probably unethical.

However, the fight against animal cruelty for the cosmetics industry in South Korea is still in its infancy.

We need to raise more awareness about these issues, and demand more responsibility.

I hope that more Korean skin care brands will start to follow the example of the amazing brands listed above.


Now, I’d like to hear from you!

Have you tried any vegan or cruelty free K-Beauty product? What is your go-to cruelty free Korean skin care brand?

Let me know in the comments below!

3 thoughts on “Cruelty Free Korean Skin Care: 7 Best K-Beauty Brands (2021 Update)”

  1. Pingback: Is Purito Cruelty Free and Vegan? (2021) - Cruelty Free Only

  2. Pingback: Is Benton Cruelty Free and Vegan? (2021) - Cruelty Free Only

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