When I was in college over 12 years ago, veganism looked like this: waif-thin, black-rimmed glasses, hardcore band T-shirts, tattoo sleeves and sometimes a very militant attitude to put the image over the edge. As a vegetarian at the time, I certainly had respect for the vegans I knew for having the conviction to eschew any and all animal products. But it definitely felt radical, even to someone as progressive as myself. In those days, the lifestyle had everything to do with politics and, for the most part, very little to do with clean eating and skin care.
Fast forward to 2017 and wow—veganism looks more like Jessica Chastain and Liam Hemsworth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly giving celebs credit for putting that cruelty-free life on the map years after predecessors who’ve been woke were already entrenched in it. But I’d be lying if I said that the new social acceptance of veganism in the last couple of years didn’t influence me to take the leap for myself.
Before I even gave up dairy and eggs, I was already vigilant about avoiding beauty products that are tested on animals. To me, there’s just no sensible reason for the archaic practice to continue. Also, if formulas are loaded with synthetic additives that need to be tested, I personally feel it’s risky to put those chemicals on my skin—and on my eyes! When I went vegan last year I felt I had to streamline my beauty arsenal even more. (Full disclosure: Don’t be mad, but there’s at least one staple I haven’t let go of yet that has beeswax.)
Are “natural” and vegan products less effective? Well, many beauty marketers and some aestheticians and dermatologists might say so if conventional skincare is what they’re selling. I simply don’t buy that. Plant-based products harness the power of organic ingredients that are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients (natural chemicals that protect plants from environmental stressors). Veggies and fruits are pretty indisputably the healthiest foods to nourish from within, so it makes sense that they do good on the outside, too.
Look, I know vegan skincare isn’t for everyone, but the trend toward organic living and ingredient-conscious skincare is undeniable. Considering so many amazing brands could be vegan if it weren’t for one small piece of the ingredient puzzle (e.g. honey, lanolin and carmine), disrupting the narrative around this once niche market is important because those who want high-performance plant-based beauty would love more options. Thankfully, here are six luxury skincare brands that are 100-percent vegan.
A brand that fuses French luxury with green California living—does it get any more covetable than that? Odacité (the French play on the word “audacity”) believes that fresh ingredients are the most active. In fact, their formulas contain absolutely zero preservatives, which is why you use their products within six months — when the nutrients are most active. This ethos allows them to craft products that meet high standards for both efficacy and purity. Their concentrated serums are blends of the most potent plant extracts and oils to manifest the skin of your dreams: green tea and lemongrass for radiance; black cumin and cajeput to banish blemishes; rosehip and ylang ylang to smooth deep wrinkles; and many more. The whole point is you can feed your skin based on what it’s asking you that day. (For example, if you’re hungover, you can add a few drops of the green tea and lemongrass concentrate into your moisturizer to resurrect your dull skin.) Genius! Their formulations are truly audacious, and I love that.
The goddess Aphrodite is the inspiration for this eponymous brand (Kypris is what the people of Cyprus once called the Greek goddess of love). With a nod to the femininity and sensuality of a beauty regimen, the Kypris aesthetic is totally swoon-worthy. But it’s not all about looks. Everything is made with organic, sustainably sourced plant oils and extracts that are rich in skin-protective phytonutrients. A look at the ingredients in the Glow Philtre Mask says it all: pomegranate for cell renewal, sea vegetables to plump and brighten, silver ear mushroom to hydrate and softening neroli to “romance your senses.” Yes, please!
OSEA was founded on the idea that the ocean’s full spectrum of minerals and trace elements could be powerfully healing and restorative to the body. Seaweed, which has evolved over thousands of years to withstand constant UV exposure, is one of the superhero ingredients. The Ocean Cleanser, Undaria Algae Oil and Sea Minerals Mist are a few of the brand’s most dynamic elixirs powered by the sea.
This one’s for those sensitive (skin) types. Not only are Pai products vegan-friendly, but they’re also completely free of parabens, alcohol, phenoxyethanol, petrochemicals, detergents (SLS/SLES), artificial fragrance and any other potentially irritating additives. The full range of moisturizers and toners and gentle offerings like the Kukui & Jojoba Bead Exfoliator and Rosehip BioRegenerate Rapid Radiance Mask will be just as kind to your skin as the brand is to the animals.
Inspired by ancestral traditions and knowledge from Morocco, Kahina Giving Beauty ethically sources only the best, authentic argan oil as its crown jewel, along with other time-honored Moroccan ingredients like prickly pear seed oil (boosts collagen production and improves skin elasticity), rhassoul clay (detoxifies skin and tightens pores) and blue tansy (anti-inflammtory and acne-fighting). One of the best things about vegan brands is social responsibility is often built into everything they do. Kahina Giving Beauty takes as much pride in producing luxurious elixirs—like the certified-organic and fair trade argan oil and a face cream that combines the anti aging properties of argan oil and red wine grapes—as they do in elevating the Berber women who’ve harvested argan oil in Morocco for centuries.
This California-based company has roots in Iceland, where medicinal plants have been used forever. Think superfoods for your skin. Nothing watered down, ever—only the purest botanical oils, restorative plants and mineral clays, all crafted in small batches and packaged in violet glass containers to maintain freshness and the highest potency. How many conventional luxury brands go to such great lengths to ensure their offerings are this pristine? With serums to balance the complexion and enhance youth and masks to detox and revitalize, Root Science is high-performance skincare at its finest.