The Best Cruelty-Free Vegan Makeup Brush Sets
You’ve made progress in switching over your makeup to products that aren’t rubbed into the eyes or forced into the stomachs of rats, mice, and rabbits, and you’re no longer using products that contain milk products or lanolin from sheep.
Wouldn’t it be strange to apply this cruelty-free makeup with hair from a camel, goat, or a squirrel?
If you’re using traditional makeup brushes, chances are, you’re applying your makeup with the fur of some type of animal. If you wouldn’t wear a fur coat, you probably wouldn’t want to have fur in your makeup bag!
Let’s take a closer look at the history of makeup brushes, and a little more about what they’re made from today.
Traditional Makeup Brushes
Many makeup professionals tout “natural” brushes made from animal hair as superior tools, citing softness, the way they hold and distribute product, and their ability to create a natural final look.
The bristles for “natural” brushes come from goats, badgers, squirrels, minks, and ponies, all who unwillingly “donate” their hair for makeup brushes.
According to professionals, each of these has a unique function - a badger’s hair is stiff, and is often used to define and fill in eyebrows, while pony hair is typically used in eye or blush brushes. Squirrel hair - often considered the softest variety - is used for detailing and shading creases of the eye.
As effective as animal hair might be for makeup application, they come with a hefty dose of animal cruelty. Many people believe that animal hair is simply a byproduct of the meat industry, or that animals aren’t harmed to obtain these materials.
Additionally, the phrases “cruelty-free” and “vegan” aren’t interchangeable. Cruelty-free refers only to animal testing, but products and companies that are “cruelty-free” may include animal ingredients in the products.
Since makeup brushes don’t technically have to be tested on animals, companies can use the cruelty-free phrase and logo on their packaging while still selling things with animal hair.
Unfortunately, neither of these is true - animal hair “production” for beauty products comes with its own sad story of cruelty, pain, and exploitation.
“Natural” Makeup Brushes
As we mentioned, “cruelty-free” status only pertains to animal testing. While companies would have you believe that the hair that goes into natural brushes is obtained by giving the animals a “haircut,” in reality, the materials for these brushes come via methods that are just as cruel and painful as animal testing. In fact, procuring the hair for these brushes is closer to the fur industry than the makeup industry.
Mink and Sable, whose fur is used for coats in addition to makeup brushes, lead hellish lives in cages on fur farms. When it comes time to slaughter these animals, farmers choose methods that put the preservation of fur quality first and foremost. To keep the pelts intact, they use slaughter methods that cause extreme suffering - this includes beating, drowning, strangulation, electrocution, and even skinning animals alive (*warning* - extremely graphic images on the other side of this link).
Horse hair is obtained from horses slaughtered from their flesh, squirrels are hunted and trapped, and goats are shorn like sheep. In the case of goats, workers are often paid by volume, so the goats are sheared hurriedly, which risks injury to both the goats and the human workers.
Additionally, many makeup brushes are manufactured in countries like China, where there are few or no animal welfare regulations. What is often touted as animals getting “a simple haircut” is the product of misery and cruelty on farms that would turn even the strongest stomachs.
Because of the oftentimes vague and confusing labeling on makeup brushes as far as where the hair is sourced from, the only way to be absolutely sure you are not contributing to animal cruelty through your purchase is to buy brushes that are 100% synthetic.
What are the alternatives?
Luckily, there are tons of brands who carry synthetic makeup brushes that are so high quality; you won’t miss the fur!
List of Vegan Makeup Brush Sets
Each of the brands below offers at least one fantastic makeup brush kit that is made from 100% synthetic materials, and is therefore 100% cruelty-free.
You can purchase individual brushes from these companies as well, but we’ve focused on the kits here so you can phase out your animal-hair brush collection.
Missamé - 10 Pcs Makeup Brush Set
With soft premium bristles, Missame brushes are regular size, durable, and perfect for everyday use.
In the 10-piece makeup brush set, each brush serves a purpose and covers a wide spectrum of functions, so you don’t need a ton of brushes and kits to keep up your whole makeup regimen.
The 10-piece set includes a flat-top brush, kabuki brush, contouring brush, foundation brush, oval blush brush, dome blending brush, angled eye brush, concealer brush, tapered smudge brush, angled liner brush, and a guide explaining the function of each brush.
What We Love
The brushes are lightweight and offer superior product application. Reviewers note that, despite frequent use, they have no problems with bristles falling out, and the brushes themselves are easy to clean. Additionally, the company itself has superior customer service and is incredibly helpful and friendly.
Some reviewers on Amazon noted that these brushes tend to lose their shape and get harder to use after cleaning. Additionally, some people noted that these brushes are very soft, so if you’re looking for a stiffer brush, they may not be the set for you.
New Leaf Products - Eco Bamboo Kabuki Makeup Brush Set - 10 Pc
A designer bamboo makeup brush set, New Leaf’s makeup brushes are vegan, ethical, beautiful, and made from sustainable resources.
The nylon brushes are hypoallergenic and easy to clean, and the canvas carrying case they come in is just as washable as the brushes.
The 10-piece brush set includes an angled eyeliner/eyebrow brush, tapered eye brush, concealer/lip brush, domed eye brush, angled eye brush, foundation brush, contour/bronzing brush, oval blush brush, domed kabuki brush, and multi-function flat-topped kabuki brush.
What We Love
Reviewers note the short handles of the foundation blush help to stipple and blend foundation, which makes the blending easy for a smooth, professional look. The brushes are also incredibly soft.
Some reviewers on Amazon note that while the brushes are soft, some brushes, like the eyeliner brush, are a little too soft to be fully functional. A few people also complained about losing bristles, and that a lot of the strands tend to fall out over time, which can leave hairs on the face.
IT Cosmetics - Heavenly Luxe 6 Piece Brush Set
All IT Cosmetics products, including makeup and brushes, are certified by PETA as 100% cruelty-free, and the company vows that it has and will never test any products on animals.
This is like a slam-dunk for the vegan consumer because you know that not a single dollar of your purchase will go toward cruel testing on animals.
The company offers two levels of brush kits - a 3-piece “beautiful basics” face and eye set, as well as a “luxe” line, that comes complete with six essential brushes and beautiful packaging. The Heavenly Luxe Brush set includes a flat foundation brush, concealer brush, crease brush, allover eye shadow brush, brow brush and eyeliner brush all in a beautiful travel case.
What We Love
The brushes in the six-piece kit are the perfect size for travel, but not so small that they are “stumpy”. They lend themselves well to everyday or travel use. The bristles are also incredibly soft, and reviewers compare them to MAC and other high-quality brushes.
The only complaint reviewers on Amazon seem to have is that the powder brush is a little on the small side. It is smaller than most people are accustomed to, and won’t provide the large, buffing effect that a larger powder brush would provide.
Nanshy - Masterful Collection Makeup Brush Set
Nanshy offers a variety of brush sets depending on your makeup needs, with everything from a 5-piece Kabuki set for liquid, cream, and mineral makeup, a 7-piece eye brush set, and a “masterful collection” set, which includes twelve brushes of varying sizes and functions.
Nanshy brushes use high-quality polymer fibers that are densely packed onto a thick wooden handle.
The ferrules are made of copper instead of aluminum, so they will not bend or scratch with use.
Nanshy brushes are also PETA approved, and 100% cruelty-free.
What We Love
Reviewers love the versatility of these brushes - they are angled and perfect for applying any texture of makeup, including liquid, cream, and powder. They are soft but strong enough to use for contouring and blending for a smooth, professional finish.
Some Amazon reviewers noted that, while the pictures on the site are of actual Nanshy brushes, they received counterfeit products, which were not comparable in quality to the real thing. If you are looking to purchase this brand, you need to make sure that you are purchasing it directly from the Nanshy store on Amazon.
Kat Von D Kat Eye Brush Set
While Kat Von D’s brush sets are compassionate and cruelty-free, they are just as badass as Kat Von D herself! The brushes themselves are a glossy black with white floral outlines and come in a gorgeous vinyl carrying case.
This set is perfect for creating gorgeous eyes and gives you all the tools for creating smoky eyes to mysterious eyes, helping you smudge, blend, conceal, highlight, and apply full, smooth color.
It contains a smudge brush, blending brush, angled eye shadow brush, concealer brush, and foundation brush in the gorgeous vinyl case.
What We Love
These brushes are truly works of art, and are perfect for the makeup aficionado who loves to express herself. The quality of the brushes is right on par with the aesthetic beauty of the products, with soft bristles, a dense feel, and superior makeup application.
Some reviewers note that these brushes are a little pricey, and the cost makes them somewhat cost prohibitive. Because Sephora is the sole retailer, it’s difficult to find them for a deal.
The Body Shop Makeup Brush Set
The brushes are made from synthetic fibers and a slightly tapered handle that is made from Forest Stewardship Council wood for precise, controlled application.
What We Love
The Body Shop’s synthetic fibers are long-lasting and specially cut, so they are safe to use on very delicate skin. Some brushes can irritate delicate or sensitive skin, but The Body Shop’s brushes are gentle enough to use on even sensitive and easily irritated skin.
Reviewers on the travel kit note that the brushes in this kit are just a little too small to be practical, even for a travel kit. Some reviewers noted that it’s “a good idea as a stocking stuffer”, but probably not as a practical brush for everyday use.
EcoTools - 6 Piece Starter Set
A leader in eco-conscious beauty products, EcoTools is a company that every vegan can get behind! In addition to helping people look their best, EcoTools believes that making earth-conscious choices is part of helping people feel their best, too.
EcoTools are known for the soft, hand-cut bristles on their brushes. Each brush has a sleek bamboo handle and recycled aluminum ferrule, and is 100% cruelty-free.
The sets are excellent quality for the price and easy to clean, with a variety of shapes and sizes of brushes so you can get exactly the look you’re going for.
What We Love
In addition to being earth-friendly, EcoTools’ brushes are incredibly versatile, and can be used to apply powder, liquid, or cream makeup - no need for separate brushes for each of your different makeups! Reviewers on Amazon note that the brushes are incredibly sturdy and durable, and flawlessly apply makeup.
Some reviewers note that these brushes did not apply mineral powder makeup very well - it sometimes appeared blotchy, and didn’t always pick up a consistent amount of product. However, these accounted for a small number of reviews.
What are Vegan Brushes Made From?
While most “natural” brushes rely on animal hair for their bristles, synthetic brushes rely on nylon, polyester, and other manmade fibers for makeup application.
The handles are usually made from wood or bamboo, as many companies who offer vegan brushes are also concerned about sustainability and using as many earth-friendly products as possible.
Especially now that “organic” and “natural” are buzzwords, some people balk at the idea of using manmade fibers on their face instead of something that is found naturally.
However, there are many benefits to using synthetic brushes over animal hair, even beyond the animal cruelty argument.
What are the Benefits of Vegan Brushes?
On the whole, synthetic brushes made of nylon or polyester filaments are less likely to become damaged by the makeup itself or products you might use to clean your brushes.
For context, think about the way your hair would react to being constantly dipped in cleaning products! In fact, because synthetic brushes are not made from real hair, they don’t absorb as much makeup pigment as animal hair brushes. This means you save money because you’re using less product, and you spend less time cleaning your brushes and watching your expensive makeup go down the drain with the cleaning solution.
Synthetic brushes are also praised for their ability to create a soft, layered look with makeup.
Their soft texture helps to spread even liquid and cream foundation into a smooth base, avoiding any “patchiness” because all the product comes right off the bristles.
Lastly, synthetic brushes are a good idea for people who are sensitive or allergic to animal hair. When a housecat rubs against my face, it makes it itchy and irritated, even though I don’t have allergies.
Rubbing a squirrel, badger, or mink brush against your face during your makeup routine is the same idea, so brushes made from nylon or polyester are a good idea for those with sensitive skin or allergies.
Compassionate Cosmetic Brushes
Synthetic brushes have come a long, long way from the early days. They’re now soft, come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit your makeup needs, and are flawless at providing beautiful, smooth makeup coverage that leaves your foundation and eyeshadow in the jar or on your face - not left in the bristles.
By choosing a synthetic makeup brush kit, you’re doing a favor for yourself, as well as allowing beautiful animals to keep their skin and hair. Because synthetic brushes are available in the highest quality, cover a wide range of budgets, and are available in just about every size and shape for everything from full-face foundation kabukis to tiny eyeliner brushes, you can build a makeup brush tool kit that is 100% friendly to animals and the earth.