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Is Korean Skincare Cruelty-Free?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Published on:

Korean skincare keeps evolving – maybe you’ve noticed that there’s also skincare that’s cruelty-free.

Either way, Korean skincare has become so big that there are all sorts of products available everywhere.

These days, you can find cruelty-free skincare almost everywhere, including in South Korea.

But not all brands offer cruelty-free skincare.

Let’s take a look at why they don’t and which brands do.

Why Aren’t Korean Skincare Products Guaranteed Cruelty Free?

Unfortunately, not every Korean skincare product is cruelty free. While there are many you can trust to be free of harm to animals, ones that advertise such things aren’t necessarily cruelty free either. For those who demand these kinds of cosmetics and skincare, you will have to do serious sourcing if the products.

The bonus here, however, is that South Korea banned cosmetic and ingredient testing on animals in 2018. Regardless, it doesn’t mean that all K-beauty products are ethical. So, it does get a little confusing when wading through the sea of Korean skincare options.

Finding Cruelty-Free Korean Skincare Products is Confusing

Because Korean skincare products are so popular, many countries have adopted their ingredients and formulations. This means varying countries subject their cosmetics manufacturers to different requirements and standards.

For instance, China is one of the biggest consumers of K-beauty skincare products. As such, they have their own versions of it. But Chinese law requires animal testing of all cosmetics produced within the country. Yet this requirement isn’t standardized in Hong Kong, which is part of China but separate from it. [1]

However, if a product is available in an actual store in mainland China, the product doesn’t have to undergo animal testing if it comes from Hong Kong.

How Do You Know Which Korean Skin Care Products Are Cruelty-Free?

Some K-beauty skincare products have a seal of approval from PETA or Leaping Bunny. Both organizations set a standard to verify a product is free of animal testing. But, not every company chooses to become part of these.

Cruelty-Free Statements on Packaging

Also, even with official approval seals apparent on packaging, statements like “not tested on animals” and “cruelty free” are insufficient to their meaning.

On the one hand, it can denote the product didn’t undergo animal testing but the ingredients did. But the opposite can also be true. The ingredients are cruelty free but the product itself is not. And with other products it can mean cruelty free all the way around.

But there’s no way to know this with certainty unless you dig for the information. It’s important to note too that many skincare ingredients have undergone animal testing in the past. So, “cruelty free” and “not tested on animals” only refers to the present time with the hopes of preventing it in the future.

Premarket versus Post-Market Testing

What’s more, there’s premarket testing and post-market testing for products and ingredients to be cruelty free. The company is usually the one that does premarket testing to source all their ingredients to ensure no animals came to harm. They then put it into their formulation, which is also cruelty free.

Post-market testing is what Leaping Bunny and PETA do. They inspect the product after manufacturing according to their respective checklists for what they deem and consider being cruelty free. So, when you look around on websites that talk about cruelty-free Korean skincare products, there are varying opinions and standards.

Does Cruelty Free Also Mean Vegan Friendly?

A misnomer many people have is that labels that say “cruelty free” or “not tested on animals” means it’s also good for vegan lifestyles. This is simply isn’t true. Several K-beauty skincare brands boast being both cruelty-free and vegan, but they will advertize this fact prominently on their packaging. [2]

Cruelty Free but Not Vegan

Some products can definitely be cruelty free and not vegan while others can be vegan and still tested on animals. For instance, some creams will contain things like honey, royal jelly, snail secretions or donkey milk. These are animal byproducts, which mean the cream isn’t vegan friendly.

However, the same cream and all its ingredients never harmed any animal in the process of manufacturing it. It just contains things produced by animals and they weren’t destroyed during the procurement of the ingredients.

Vegan Yet Not Cruelty Free

Likewise, the components of an eye cream may be 100% vegan, meaning there are no animal byproducts in the ingredients. But, because of how some countries regulate their cosmetics, such as is the case with China, the product undergoes animal testing. Therefore, it’s not cruelty-free.

Unfortunately, some brands from China will still promote their products as being cruelty-free. But they do this based on what the Chinese government standardizes. They do not do this according to organizations like PETA or Leaping Bunny. [3]

Which Korean Skincare Brands Are Bona Fide Cruelty-Free?

Fortunately, many dedicated beauty gurus around the web have investigated the matter as thoroughly as they could. The following list of Korean skincare brands are truly cruelty free. From the ingredients they use to the formulations they devise, no animals came to harm via testing.

The ones with an asterisk (*) next to it indicate K-beauty brands that are or have some products that are both cruelty free and vegan.

  • A-True *
  • Aromatica
  • AXIS-Y
  • Beauty of Joseon
  • Benton *
  • By Wishtrend
  • CLE Cosmetics *
  • COSRX *
  • E Nature
  • Dear, Klairs *
  • Glow Recipe *
  • Hip Chic
  • I’m From *
  • Isntree
  • iUNIK
  • Kaja *
  • Krave Beauty *
  • Laneige
  • L.O.C.K. Color
  • OTZI Skincare *
  • Peach & Lily *
  • PURITO *
  • re:p *
  • Rovectin
  • Saturday Skin
  • Sioris *
  • Soo’AE
  • Sweet Chef *
  • The Vegan Glow *
  • Then I Met You *
  • TonyMoly *
  • Whamisa
  • With My *

Which Korean Skincare & Cosmetic Brands Aren’t Cruelty-Free?

The K-beauty brands listed below are not cruelty-free. While some may have a few products without animal testing, others are questionable. Therefore, the entire brand cannot fall under the category of being cruelty-free. So, consumers will have to do their own digging into the ingredient list of individual products.

  • 3CE
  • Acwell
  • AmorePacific
  • Annick Goutal
  • A’Some
  • Aritaum
  • Banila Co
  • Belif
  • Dr. Jart+
  • Espoir
  • Etude House
  • Grey Melinda
  • Hada Labo
  • Hanyul
  • Happy Bath
  • Hera
  • Illiyoon
  • Illi
  • I’m Meme
  • Innisfree
  • Iope
  • It’s Skin
  • Laniege
  • Leaders Insolution
  • Lirikos
  • Lolita Lempicka
  • Mamonde
  • Mirepa
  • Missha
  • Odyssey
  • PH Drop
  • Pony Effect
  • Primera
  • Skinfood
  • Son & Park
  • Sulwhasoo
  • Too Cool For School
  • Verite

Which K-Beauty Brands Are Questionably Cruelty-Free?

All the other Korean skincare and cosmetic brands could be cruelty-free but then again, they might not be. In some cases, the company doesn’t respond to direct inquiries. If they do, they don’t reveal or are not very transparent about animal testing.

In other situations, the company labels their products cruelty free, but they don’t have a seal of approval. This is because some manufacturers don’t believe they have to prove validity with a seal.

Ergo, the following brands are questionably cruelty-free. Discerning consumers should take care when choosing to purchase a product from them. The asterisk (*) after some of these indicate promoting vegan-friendly products.

  • 16 Brand
  • 23 Years Old
  • 9 Wishes
  • A.H.C.
  • A’pieu
  • Abbamart
  • Abib
  • Acropass
  • Aida Cosmetics
  • Amh
  • April Skin
  • Avajar
  • Beatiqlo
  • Beauty Recipe
  • Bebecell
  • Beyond
  • B-Lab
  • Blithe
  • Blossom Jeju
  • Bonajour
  • Botanic Farm
  • Briskin
  • By Ecom
  • Byherb
  • Chica Y Chico
  • CLIO
  • CNP Laboratory
  • Commleaf
  • Coringco
  • Coslys
  • D’Alba Piedmont
  • Daily Skin
  • Dermasby
  • DHC
  • Double Dare
  • Dr. Oracle
  • Easydew
  • Eglips
  • Everain
  • Femmue
  • Heimish
  • Huxley
  • Hygeee
  • I Dew Care *
  • Karadium
  • Label Young
  • Leegeehaam
  • Nakeup face
  • O’Sum
  • Onsiya
  • Peripera
  • Pyunkang Yul
  • Sevendrops
  • Skin& Lab
  • Skincure Inc.
  • Some By Mi
  • Swanicoco
  • Thank You Farmer
  • Tia’M
  • Touch in Sol *
  • Treeannsee
  • WellDerma

Final Thoughts

Closing in most Korean skincare brands offer cruelty-free skincare. Now, if you’re just starting out, it’s handy to look at the list above. This is a curated list of almost all Korean skincare stores/brands that offer cruelty-free skincare.

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    About The Author

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    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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