Growing awareness of what goes in and on our bodies has bolstered the vegan beauty niche in the beauty market to an almost mainstream necessity — and we are all for it! The saturated playing field has allowed us to evaluate the conscious choices we make in our purchases. Are our dollars going towards a brand we stand by? 

If you feel deeply for the environment and animal-related causes, then vegan beauty might be on your radar. At least, it was for me! But my late-night Google forays only brought up foreign brands and a wall of information that is unhelpful in the local context. In fact, many around me see veganism as a western fad with a high barrier of entry. But it can be easier than you think! So here’s all I’ve gleaned from trying to build a vegan routine, and the Singaporean brands that are making this transition easier: 

First Things First: Vegan vs Cruelty-free 

While these terms may seem synonymous to the layman, they are actually separate descriptions. The key difference is that the ‘vegan’ label relates to the product’s formulation while the ‘cruelty-free’ label refers to the production process

Vegan

Vegan products are free of any animal products or animal-derived ingredients. This includes common skincare ingredients such as honey and beeswax from bees along with lanolin, which is derived from sheep’s skin. Common animal-derived makeup ingredients to look out for are red dyes like carmine (from beetles) and gelatin (from the boiled bones of animals). 

PETA has a comprehensive list of animal-derived ingredients to look out for. But such skincare jargon can be confusing, especially when we are just trying to do a quick shopping run. That’s where the nifty ‘vegan’ logos and marketing words come into play: 

Products that claim “100% animal-free” without these logos are not verified and run the risk of being faux friendly towards the animals/environment. Another common pitfall is the parent company. Some non-vegan conglomerates own vegan brands or subsidiaries. However, this is a grey area that is heavily dependent on personal choice. It is up to you whether you choose to support them or not! 

Important note: While many vegan brands tend towards botanical ingredients, that is not true for all. There are also vegan brands that replace animal ingredients with synthetic, lab-made counterparts. 

Cruelty-free

The cruelty-free label determines whether a product was tested on animals. If you have not already guessed from its name, animal-testing is a brutal process that subjects these animals to stressful, and oftentimes harmful, conditions. However, cruelty-free products are not necessarily vegan — the brand could still include animal-derived ingredients and are thus not vegan. Here’s a list of cruelty-free logos to look out for: 

Why Your Purchase Matters

Transitioning into a niche area makes for an isolating experience: not everyone sees the importance or impact of your decision. You could even be berated for it. But take it from me that it is definitely a rewarding choice that has a gradual, but significant, impact over the course of your life. 

Purchasing vegan products signal to the market of growing demand and the underlying causes (animal rights and environmentalism) that drives this increase. While your singular buy might seem trivial in the big picture, the small impact slowly stacks. 

Let’s say you replace your moisturiser with a vegan alternative, and you purchase two per year. In two years, you would have made four conscious purchases that did not contribute to animal slaughter. Perhaps you also influenced those around you to try out the vegan moisturiser. The key is to stick by it, and hopefully, normalise it around your social circle so that it can then spread to others. If five people were influenced by your decision, that equals 20 vegan purchases!  

The Vegan Beauty Myth and Why It’s Dated

While vegan beauty has been around for a long time, there are still misconceptions that have become dated stereotypes. I was also once afraid to venture into the world of vegan products due to these “problems”, but have since found my worries unfounded. Here’s why: 

Myth #1: Vegan Products Are Not As Effective As Mass-Produced Ones 

This especially applies to makeup products — the idea that vegan pigments are not as vibrant has plagued this sub-category for years. However, the advancement in research on vegan substitutes has made this sentiment dated. 

Similarly, with skincare, vegan products have gotten the bad rep for being chock-full of synthetic ingredients. But that’s not always the case! Many are plant-derived, clean and gentle enough for sensitive skin. The research that has gone behind vegan skincare, which combines botanicals and biochemistry, has elevated vegan products to be just as effective, and sometimes more so, than their mass-market counterparts. 

Myth #2: It Is Too Expensive 

Admittedly, veganism itself is a privileged movement that stems from the luxury of choice. Not everyone needs to indulge in vegan-only routines if they feel that it is out of their budget. However, the idea that all vegan beauty is more expensive than their counterparts is definitely a dated one! Many brands, through extensive R&D, have found the perfect balance between animal-free formulas and affordability. In fact, a quick scan of the drugstore shows that many products are starting to become vegan as well. If you do have the option of choosing between products, then why not choose something that is kinder towards the world around us? 

Vegan Beauty Brands in Singapore

The western front of veganism might have created the impression that vegan-friendly beauty is only easily accessible overseas. But in actual fact, there are many Singaporean brands that advocate for clean, vegan formulas: 

Alche{me}

Pictured: Acne + Oil Control Serum, $98

A vegan bespoke experience catered just for you. Alche{me} provides custom skincare tailored for your skin concerns through comprehensive surveys and consultations with in-house experts. In this way, Alche{me} follows a demand-driven model that is sustainable and eco-friendly. A plus point that I’m sure environmentalists would be excited to stand behind! The brand says it best: you shouldn’t need a shelf-full of products and a free evening for your skincare routine. Aside from the made-to-order concept, their packaging is also consciously made with recyclable and eco-friendly wood and glass. 

The ingredients Alche{me} employs do not fall short either! Made with the finest and most potent botanical extracts and vitamins, their personalised formulations are manufactured in a state-of-the-art lab with proven clinical results. From toners and cleansers to serums and moisturiser, Alche{me} has all the essentials you require. 

Balm Kitchen

Balm Kitchen

Pictured: Super Fruit Defense Facial Oil Serum, $28

It is clear that Balm Kitchen is a reflection of founder Teresa Foo’s personal values — and we are all for it! As someone who has always been interested in a sustainable and plant-based lifestyle, Teresa’s search for a natural alternative to steroid cream for her son’s eczema led to the formation of her first product: Skin Soothing Body Balm. But it was not a product she pushed out willy-nilly. Teresa embarked on online courses from the UK and obtained a diploma to educate herself on the know-how or organic skincare science. 

The result is a line of cruelty-free vegan products focused on Asian botanical ingredients. From skin tonics that utilises the natural goodness of mushrooms, ginseng and goji berries, to antioxidant-rich serums that repair the skin — Balm Kitchen has a solution for all skin types in Singapore’s humid weather.

Unsurprisingly, Teresa also extends her care towards the environment she lives in. Her raw ingredients are sourced from suppliers that play active roles in the preservation of the environment. Balm Kitchen also actively contributes back to society by contributing regularly to charities and working with Fair Trade organisations. And all this is the product of a one-woman team — it goes without saying that we are awe-struck! 

Handmade Heroes

Pictured: Beauty Warrior Face Mask, $24.90

Handmade Heroes is the fun kid on the block — with vivid colours and bold typography, they are bringing to the table vivacious natural and clean formulas. Their extensive R&D process shines in the ingredient lists of their product, which is succinctly rooted in all-natural ingredients with zero preservatives. It is hard to believe that Handmade Heroes’ presently extensive range (from nursing balms to clay masks) started out as a passion project by Lynsey Lim. 

As someone who has always been conscious of what goes onto her skin, Lynsey’s first forays into organic beauty were not fruitful. Many brands were either too expensive or were not completely natural. This sparked her interest in creating her own concoctions of balms and creams. Fast-forward 5 years later, and Handmade Heroes is one of the best-selling natural skincare brands that consistently churns out efficacious products that are kind to the user and its environment. We particularly appreciate how they remain affordable throughout the years, dispelling the common myth that vegan beauty is an expensive indulgence! 

Individual Collective

Pictured: Discovery Kit, $128, Spark Joy Powder Brush, $28, Rose de Mai French Artisanal Candle, $86

A celebration of individualism — that’s what Individual Collective stands for in their customisable loose powders. A bespoke approach to vegan makeup, their powders are tailored for your individual preferences and needs. All skin tones and skin types will be able to find a suitable fit for them. Known as their Custom Beauté range, there are two options to pick from: either their Bespoke Customised Powder, which is prepared for you, or be your own beauty-chef and mix in the ingredients yourself with their Discovery Kit.

Individual Collective was founded by Marilyn Ng, a makeup artist with over two decades of experience in beauty under her belt. Her expertise is reflective in the loose powders she brings to the table. Talc-free, non-comedogenic and vegan, the powder gives users a guilt-free filtered look. The days of failed shade-matching attempts or incompatible formulations are over — here’s to perfected skin through personalised makeup!

IRÉN Skin

Pictured: Glow-Getter Renewal Serum, Quench-Up Hydrating Serm, Skin Reboot Antioxidant Serum, $58/each

Japanese skincare has long been the face of efficacious skincare products, but rarely are they wholly vegan. IRÉN Skin draws inspiration from the strict standards of the Japanese beauty industry and repurposes it to create a line of skincare that is clean, cruelty-free and free of any animal derivatives. The result? A line of products free from toxic ingredients that penetrate deeply into the skin to solve a myriad of concerns. 

The brand also believes in ingredient list transparency: you should not need to have preexisting knowledge in chemistry to know what products are good for you! The primary driver behind this philosophy is Kristin Chen, IRÉN Skin’s co-founder. After her attempts with “holy grail” products in the market failed to clear her complexion, she ventured into understanding skincare ingredients and omitting the harmful ones. Needless to say, it worked wonders! IRÉN Skin was thus created to bring easy-to-comprehend products to the market for those who faced similar (skin) trials as Kristin once did. 

Kew Organics

Pictured: Sugar Cane Royal Flush Exfoliant, $73.20

Kew Organics — the result of marrying nature’s skin-friendly ingredients and expertly designed medi-aesthetics tech. Better known as remedies for skin ailments, their products are made from freshly-bred organic and vegan ingredients to help treat a range of concerns (from ageing to acne scars). Their formulations are housed in Miron Violet Glass bottles, which helps to activate the molecules of its contents for maximum efficacy. Talk about effectiveness inside and out! The goal of their water-based skincare (The world’s first!) is to help you achieve complexion that encourages you to go #makeupfree. 

Founder Lily Kew was spurred by her fruitless search for targeted organic skincare to create Kew Organics. Tired of alcohol-laden and chemical-filled products degrading her skin barrier, she ensured that her products produced lasting, visible effects. Her transformative skincare also creates real impact in the industry through donations to charities and nonprofits. 

Kuby Beauty

Pictured: Matte Love Liquid Lipstick, $22

Kuby Beauty is a showcase that luxe reds don’t require carmine (a.k.a crushed beetles). Releasing a line of vegan, cruelty-free matte liquid lipsticks, Kuby Beauty champions inclusivity in beauty. Following their philosophy closely, they ensure that their formulations are a universal-fit-for-all that works with the skin, not against it. 

Individuals of all shades, cultures, attitudes and ethnicities will be able to find a flattering shade in their range. Pair that with their strict no-nasties guideline (this includes parabens, sulphates and artificial colours) and you are left with a truly guilt-free lip-dulgence. 

While ‘matte’ may seem like a daunting affair if you have dry lips (like me!), Kuby Beauty’s Matte Love Liquid Lipstick collection showcases that matte liquid formulas can be an easy glide on without emphasising flakiness. With a satin feel, the ultra-pigmented colour is smudge-resistant, long-wearing with a velvety matte finish. 

Liht Organics

Pictured: (Left to right) Infinity Lash Maschara, ~$50, Color-Intense Liquid Lipstick ~$49, Youth Elixir Liquid Foundation, ~$81, Dusk to Dawn Liquid Liner, ~$50

Liht Organics is for the modern woman who plays many roles in her life — a mother, daughter, wife, career woman and more. Their brand reflects this multifaceted quality with multifunctional products that are efficient and safe for all skin types. They are so safe that the brand encourages you to have a (literal) taste of their cupcake-scented foundation! For daily makeup wearers, Liht Organics has got you covered. Infused with skin-nourishing ingredients, their natural and harmful chemicals-free formulations care for the skin without compromising on high-performance longevity. 

Founder Nerissa Low started Liht Organics as she wanted to bridge the gap between organic makeup and accessibility. She also wanted to debunk the prevailing stereotype that makeup is bad for the skin, when in reality, it could heal your skin too! This passion led her to leave her finance job to pursue beauty full-time. In four years, she has crafted a vegan line that empowers women globally. 

(Psst: stay tuned to our interview feature with Nerissa, coming soon!) 

Oasis:Skin 

Pictured: Baby Soft Clay Mask, $26

Experience the magic that a vegan beauty kitchen brings through Oasis:Skin. Think of it as a space where aromatic products are carefully crafted from plant-based ingredients such as cold-pressed plant oils, premium clay and wild-harvested herbs. The result? Products that are kindly made to be gentle on the skin and environment. No fillers, zero chemicals — only a rich concentration of plant actives that improves the skin. 

Pop by their kitchen and you will likely find founder and beauty chef, Hildra Gwee, hard at work. Their organic skincare are made in-house several times a week. You can be sure that every order is fresh and effective for the skin! The in-person store also functions as a refillery. Customers are encouraged to bring their own bottles and jars back for a refill with a 10% discount. They even provide complimentary sterilisation of containers before products are filled into them! 

Solos Cosmetics

Solo Cosmetics-2

Pictured: Splitstix, $14

For the simple, the bold and everyone else teetering in between. Focusing on creating makeup that enhances the individual you are, Solos Cosmetics’ eclectic range includes sleek eyeliners and a spectrum of lippies. Each product is designed for the free-spirited mind — innovative, travel-friendly and easy on the wallet. 

Solos Cosmetics’ backstory seems straight out of the 2000s. Two friends’ road trippin’ adventures turned into a discussion on planet Earth and how their carbon footprint has impacted it. The two-hour conversation about vegan diets and ethical makeup led to their brand today — high performance, long-lasting, hypoallergenic makeup that is transparent, ethical and sustainable. (Psst: it’s HYPEBAE approved too.) 

Soul Good Project

Pictured: Daily Boost, $36.90, Miracle Glow, $39.90, Blue Tansy, $43.90

Soul Good Project is all about self-love, which encompasses your outer and inner wellbeing. Founder Amanda Moo reached this conclusion from first-hand frustration with the limited accessibility of products that suited her eczema-prone, gluten- and lactose-intolerant skin. With the philosophy that nurturing healthy skin is to be conscious of what is applied to it, Soul Good Project handcrafts its products with naturally sourced ingredients and pure essential oils. 

Urbanites and city-dwellers looking to pare back their routines will love Soul Good Project for its simplicity. All their products’ ingredient lists are straightforward and only consisting of the essentials. A breath of fresh air from our increasingly cluttered skincare routines. 

Two Halves

Twohalves-1

Pictured: Better Balance Soothing Hydration Essence, $85

Two Halves is a charming name that reflects its founding story. A vegan brand launched by a mother-daughter team, Jo Yong and Ashley Yong both have their fair share of experience in the beauty sphere. Jo Yong has had an extensive run in Estee Lauder companies before embarking on Two Halves. Ashley, following in her mother’s conscientious footsteps, has been establishing herself in the beauty business during her school holidays. Their heartening origin primes their edge: an intergenerational perspective of what is truly quintessential in beauty and skincare. 

Though the brand presently only carries one product (Better Balance Soothing Hydration Essence), it is the perfect encapsulation of what the brand stands for. Vegan formulation free from any harmful substances, the essence strives to bring balance to your skin for an overall healthy and glowing complexion. Their product is meant to be a repurchase — it helps you achieve supple skin that withstands the test of time with none of that sly marketing that promises instantaneous, but not long-lasting, effects. 

With its transformative promises (I really enjoyed their essence!), I am excited to see what Two Halves will bring to the skincare table and will definitely be keeping up-to-date with their happenings! 

While vegan beauty may seem like a Western-dominated sphere, our sunny island has a fair share of homegrown brands that make it accessible and suitable for our climate. It is definitely heartening to see our beauty landscape shift towards a more conscious and kind one. I am sure that this growing niche will one day become the norm. When that happens, our beauty purchases will truly become a guilt-free experience!

For our in-depth product recommendations of these Singaporean vegan brands, head on over to our ultimate local beauty guide (Brands A-M | Brands N-Z)! 

With love,
Cheyenne

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