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MAC cosmetics is one of the leading global makeup brands. They’re one of my personal favorite makeup brands. I especially love their lipsticks and I own several colors from multiple collections. I’ve also used their foundation, eyeliner, and more — I especially love their liquid eyeliner.
But is MAC cruelty-free? I often ask myself this question. I’m a big animal lover and I try to support cruelty-free brands as much as I can. But with different legislature regarding animal testing, it can be difficult to know whether or not a brand truly tests on animals.
Here, I will answer all of your questions regarding MAC’s stance on animal testing, veganism, and more.
Bottom line up front
Even though MAC started as a cruelty-free brand, they started testing on animals after selling their products in China.
As of 2021, China stopped requiring animal testing on foreign products, so MAC no longer tests on animals. However, if their past decision deters you from wanting to use their products, I completely understand. I don’t like MAC’s past stance on their animal testing practices, so you’re completely justified in that decision.
Is MAC Cruelty-Free?
Yes and no. MAC only tests its products on animals when required. But when you perform a search on Google, you’ll find several websites stating that MAC isn’t cruelty-free because they sell their products in China. China updated its stance on animal testing last year, I will cover that more in another section.
MAC Animal Testing in 2022
MAC offers an animal testing statement on its website. TL;DR? They don’t test on animals and they state they don’t go through third parties for animal testing. MAC is also a partner of the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS), which expands the use of non-animal testing methods worldwide.
However, MAC isn’t clear about whether or not their suppliers test on animals or if any of their ingredients are tested on animals (they definitely don’t test their final products on animals). In addition, MAC is not certified cruelty-free by any organizations.
Does MAC test on animals? I would say no and I do believe they’re distancing themselves from animal testing. However, they are unclear about some of their animal testing habits, such as if their ingredients undergo animal testing.
MAC’s Animal Testing History
Ever since the company was formed in 1984, MAC has never conducted any animal testing. They also never owned any animal testing facilities and never hired third parties to test on animals. Not only that but the brand was vehemently opposed to testing on animals.
That all changed in 2005 when MAC started selling its products in China. At the time, China required all foreign cosmetics imports to undergo animal testing. While MAC never conducted animal testing, they did have to sign up for animal testing registration in China. All tests were done in a government facility and MAC had no knowledge of the animal testing methods used.
MAC said in that statement they never tested on animals except when certain jurisdictions require it. They believed in selling their products in China because they didn’t want to exclude anyone from buying their products.
MAC’s Animal Testing Statement
MAC has received criticism for saying they’re cruelty-free but also sell their products in China, which required animal testing on all foreign cosmetic products. They started selling their products in China in 2005. In order for foreign cosmetic brands to sell their products during this time, brands had to pay to register for animal testing.
Why did MAC make this change? They don’t want to leave out customers. Plus, China has a massive beauty market. MAC also said they’re advocating for change so they no longer need to make that decision again.
At the time when China was performing animal testing, they only used their government-run labs. This means no cosmetic brand, including MAC, knew what occurred in those labs. Different animal rights groups were able to infiltrate these labs. I will spare you the gruesome details, but it’s really sad what those animals had to go through.
However, change is occurring and brands like MAC can inspire a new approach to product safety. For example, Estee Lauder owns MAC and is a partner in the IIVS as well as the Industry Council for the Advancement for the Regulatory Acceptance of Alternatives (ICARAA), a group that offers demos and lectures that promotes non-animal testing methods.
Estee Lauder invests heavily in China. They also lobby stakeholders and have trained hundreds of scientists, which all helped lead to China changing these policies.
China Animal Testing Update in 2022
In 2021, China ended the policy that required animal testing on imported cosmetics. However, the country still requires animal testing on products used by children and animal testing on any new ingredients.
Do these rules still have you fuming? Believe it or not, the US has similar requirements. While this is for food products, not cosmetics, the FDA still requires brands to test new food ingredients on animals. Even the vegan meat alternative brand Impossible had to undergo animal testing for their genetically engineered heme ingredient.
How Does MAC Test Product Safety?
MAC uses in vitro testing, which is when ingredients are tested on human tissue and blood samples. This type of testing does more than test the safety and efficiency of cosmetics. In vitro testing can detect diseases and monitor a person’s own health. MAC also conducts tests on human volunteers.
Do I Recommend MAC?
It really depends. I wouldn’t recommend MAC if you live a vegan lifestyle or if you’re weird about using ingredients that contain animal ingredients. While MAC likely no longer tests their products on animals, they seemed to choose profit over animal welfare back when China was testing foreign products on animals.
If you live a strict cruelty-free lifestyle and don’t want to support MAC at all, I understand. I didn’t support MAC for many years because of this. However, I started using MAC products again a year ago. Now that China no longer requires foreign brands to test on animals, I can see past their money-grubbing priorities. That and they have some of the best lipstick I’ve ever used.
As of now, I recommend MAC because they no longer test on animals and they make high-quality products. But they also use animal products in their ingredients, so this can be another reason to avoid them.
Cruelty-Free Alternatives to MAC Bestsellers
MAC has been around for nearly 40 years and has garnered some serious bestsellers. But if you’re passionate about buying only cruelty-free makeup, you may be looking for some dupes to popular MAC products. Here are a few that I recommend.
Charlotte Tilbury K.I.S.S.I.N.G. Lipstick: Alternative to MAC Cremesheen Lipstick
There’s nothing better than applying soft, creamy lipstick. This is why MAC’s Cremesheen lipstick has been a bestseller for as long as I can remember. I’ve used these lipsticks before. I love the texture but also love how they’re not too heavy or glossy. But these lipsticks still aren’t perfect. They rub off easily and you need to coat your lips a couple of times for the best color payoff.
The best cruelty-free and high-quality alternative to MAC’s Cremesheen Lipstick is Charlotte Tilbury’s K.I.S.S.I.N.G. lipstick. I love all of the color selection options you have. The lipsticks are super creamy and moisturizing, with a slight satin finish that still lasts for hours.
The packaging is also gorgeous — the lipstick tube is gold with rhinestones and there’s a heart carved into the lipstick. The only complaint is customers said this lipstick feathers, but as long as you wear a lip liner you should be fine.
Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extension Mascara: Alternative to MAC Magic Extension 5 mm Fiber Mascara
If you want lash extensions without going to a salon, MAC promises a mascara alternative to this treatment. This is a bestseller because it can make even the sparsest lashes look sky-high. However, customers have had complaints. It smells bad and irritates sensitive eyes. Customers also said the mascara clumps. Plus, it’s a little more expensive than other mascaras on the market.
I wouldn’t try the MAC one because I have sensitive eyes. That’s why I’m recommending the Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extension Mascara.
It’s an award-winning mascara that has raving reviews from so many customers, especially if you want length from your mascara. Thrive Causemetics is a vegan and cruelty-free brand. The formula contains Orchid Stem Cell Complex, which improves lash health.
NYX Powder Puff Lippie Lip Cream: Alternative to MAC Powder Kiss Liquid Lipcolour
Liquid lipstick has been all the rage for the past few years. If you really want that powdery matte look, then MAC’s Powder Kiss Liquid Lipcolour is a product that so many people gravitated towards. This product is available in a variety of beautiful colors and has a velvet texture. It also doesn’t dry out your lips, making this a cult favorite for all liquid lipstick lovers.
If you’re looking for a cruelty-free and affordable alternative to MAC’s Powder Kiss liquid lipstick, I suggest trying NYX’s Powder Puff Lippie Lip Cream. Like the MAC liquid lipstick, the NYX one has a velvet texture. It’s also available in a wide color selection. The main complaint that customers have is the packaging — it’s apparently harder to use than the MAC product.
ULTA Adjustable Coverage Foundation: Alternative to MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation
Many of MAC’s Studio Fix products are in the bestsellers category, but especially the Studio Fix powder foundation.
It truly is a full/buildable coverage powder foundation that doesn’t irritate even the most sensitive skin types. The foundation is available in nearly every skin color. However, the $36 price tag can deter customers from buying this one — plus the vague cruelty-free guidelines.
As an alternative, ULTA’s powder foundation is nearly half the price. It also has impressive coverage and a wide shade range. I do think the MAC foundation has a better shade range, especially in regard to users with darker skin tones. It’s also great for mature skin types that are also oily. I wouldn’t recommend this product to those with dry skin, since reviewers complained about this powder is very drying.
ELF 16h Camo Concealer: Alternative to MAC Pro Longwear Concealer
This concealer is known for providing great coverage. It’s buildable and doesn’t crease or dry out the skin. It’s also ideal for users with mature skin since the concealer doesn’t crease into lines. The concealer also lasts all day. However, customers complained that it doesn’t long as long as competitors and the packaging is terrible.
ELF is one of the best and most affordable cruelty-free brands out there. While this concealer doesn’t have the coverage like MAC’s, it does have an impressive shade range. I’m mainly including this for the packaging; MAC customers were complaining about the pump dispenser, but ELF offers an easy-to-use wand to apply the concealer.
While a little goes a long way and the concealer does last, customers have complained that this concealer creases. This concealer does have a slight scent, so I wouldn’t recommend this concealer to those with sensitive skin.
Bareminerals BAREPRO Performance Wear Liquid Foundation: Alternative to MAC Studio Fix Fluid Foundation SPF 15
I always hear raving reviews about the MAC Studio Fix Foundation. It’s great for oily skin since it has a matte finish. It has medium-to-full buildable coverage that lasts all day. And a little goes a long way. Even with its full coverage, it feels light on the skin. However, there have been some complaints. Some customers feel this looks cakey, so it may not be the best for dry skin types.
I’m honestly iffy about Bareminerals. I’m not a huge fan of their powder foundations. However, their liquid foundations are AMAZING! I actually really want to try the BAREPRO Liquid Foundation since they discontinued the one I loved (can’t remember what it’s called).
What makes BAREPRO stand out? First, the coverage is perfect. It’s a full-coverage foundation that gives you a “better than your normal skin” look. Like the MAC foundation, a little goes a long way. It has a matte finish but looks more natural than cakey. I’m also reading mature reviewers who said it worked with their skin type.
Cruelty-Free Alternatives to MAC
Fortunately, there are many cruelty-free alternatives to MAC. I also tried to include brands that are vegan.
Tarte is the number one MAC alternative I recommend. They have devoted themselves to being cruelty-free at the very start. Plus, there are many vegan Tarte products (but not all of them are vegan). Many of their products are best-sellers and they have expanded into skincare. Tarte products are easy to find; I buy them from Sephora and their website, but you can also find Tarte products at Ulta.
As far as their products I concern, I can say at least half of the products I use are from the Tarte brand. I have very sensitive and acne-prone skin. I can seriously only use Tarte’s mascara because every other mascara brand irritates my eyes.
I also have acne-prone skin and my skin has reacted well to nearly every Tarte face product. I do have to say, I’m not a fan of the new formula of the Amazonian Clay Foundation. It makes my face very greasy; even though I have dry skin, I don’t like the dewy look.
Urban Decay is the most prestigious makeup brand I discovered. As a teenager, I was immediately drawn to their crazy colors and fun products. That and I never realized what good eyeliner was until I tried the 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil (I still use this product religiously). Plus, Urban Decay has always been cruelty-free. I even read that UD would go through third parties to sell in China while avoiding the animal testing requirement (UD products are more easily accessible in China now).
Keep in mind that not every UD product is vegan. They do have a few selections, though!
Kat Von D (KVD) beauty has not only always been cruelty-free but has been 100% vegan ever since 2016. Founded by tattoo artist Kat Von D, they create high-quality cosmetics products. I personally swear by the KVD Tattoo Liner. While I wouldn’t recommend their face products, KVD does make crazy-pigmented makeup products that last forever. I have a ton of her eye products and a whole collection of her lipsticks.
If you’re looking for vegan and cruelty-free makeup that’s on the more affordable side, I suggest considering Pacifica. All of their products are 100% vegan and they’re PETA-certified. On the plus side, they’re completely sustainable and eco-friendly. I’ll be honest, I’ve never used this brand, but I hear nothing but great things about both their skincare and makeup products.
Covergirl is one of the most recognizable cosmetic brands in the world. They have a wide product range and are very affordable. While Covergirl isn’t my favorite brand, I do like some of its products. For example, I’ve used a couple of their lip glosses and I can recommend them.
I can’t say the same about their lipsticks — they’re pigmented but don’t last long at all. I also do NOT recommend any of their foundations, especially if you have acne-prone skin.
Covergirl is cruelty-free and leaping bunny-certified. They used to sell their products in China when they were owned by Procter & Gamble, but since then they have new ownership and they stopped testing their products on animals. While not all Covergirl products are vegan, all of the products in the Clean Fresh Collection are.
I love Colourpop! I have several of their eye shadow palettes and lip makeup products. I especially love their Blowin’ Smoke palette. I’m a sucker for a classic smoky eye and this palette has all of the beautiful grays and blacks you need to achieve that perfect vampy look. When they were selling these products, I got a lipstick and palette from the Hocus Pocus collection.
I use that Hocus Pocus palette on a regular basis now. Colourpop and ELF are the two affordable brands I recommend most. Colourpop sells worldwide and they have some best-selling products.
There are many other reasons why I love Colourpop. They have a great variety of products, everything I’ve used was highly pigmented, and all of their products have incredible staying power. They have become a cult favorite for so many people.
NYX is a brand I’m so-so about. I love their eyeshadows and their concealer works pretty well. However, I’m less than impressed with their foundation primers, brow pencil, and eyeliners. I still say they’re a good alternative to MAC, especially their eyeshadows. NYX is also cruelty-free and they offer a whole collection of vegan products.
ELF has been one of my favorite brands ever since I was a teenager — before I could really afford to buy high-quality makeup. Actually, I still use their primer, and it’s amazing. They’re a budget substitute for many brands, including MAC. All of the products I’ve used have been flawless and never irritated my sensitive skin. ELF has always been vegan and cruelty-free and has received the PETA stamp of approval.
Question: Who owns MAC?
Answer: Estee Lauder owns MAC Cosmetics. I’m reading they’re not cruelty-free. However, I noticed a lot of these vegan beauty blogs aren’t updating their content to the latest law changes in China. The only thing I will say is this brand isn’t vegan.
Question: Is MAC vegan?
Answer: MAC uses animal-derived ingredients such as beeswax and carmine (carmine is an ingredient derived from insects). Therefore, they’re not vegan.
Question: Is MAC vegetarian?
Answer: Most MAC products are vegetarian. However, some of their products contain animal products such as carmine, gelatin, silk powder, and lanolin. Keep in mind that you’re obviously not eating these ingredients. So only use MAC products if you’re comfortable using these products.
MAC received a lot of criticism for switching to animal testing when they sold their products in China. However, China no longer requires animal testing for foreign brands, so you can buy MAC products and know they no longer test on animals. They also don’t own any animal testing facilities and don’t pay third parties to test their products on animals. Keep in mind that many MAC products aren’t vegan.