5 cruelty-free skin-care products that help control my acne, oily skin, and dark circles

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cruelty-free skincare

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Herbivore Facebook

  • Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about products that haven’t been tested on animals, which are just as effective as those that have been and infinitely more ethical in my eyes.
  • There are thousands of cruelty-free skin-care products on the market, and I have found these five to be effective in addressing my skin-care concerns of acne, dark circles, and hyperpigmentation.
  • To see if the products you’re using are cruelty free, be sure to read labels and brand websites for details, and double-check with organizations like Leaping Bunny and PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies.

Animal testing began in 1933 after a dozen women were blinded and one died after using mascara with an untested ingredient. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the only way to safely test any cosmetics then was on animals. Thankfully, alternative safety tests were developed in the ’80s and animal testing in cosmetics went down by 90%. The practice is becoming increasingly outdated as cosmetic brands seek more humane alternatives in response to customer demands.

For anyone who still believes that companies should test on animals, memorize this – the way a skin-care product or its ingredients have been tested has no correlation to how effective it is. “Cruelty-free skin care is just as effective as traditional products. The only difference is the way that the products are developed and tested,” says dermatologist and Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai Hospital Dr. Joshua Zeichner.

In fact, here are five cruelty-free skin-care products that have been effective for my skin concerns.


A gentle exfoliating cleanser that won’t dry out the skin

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Kate Somerville Facebook

Buy the Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash for $38 at Sephora

This cleanser from Leaping Bunny-approved Kate Somerville was recommended to me back during my acne-ridden days because it’s one of the few cleansers out there that deep cleans without stripping the skin of its natural oils.

For that reason alone, I’ve been using it both day and night for the past couple of years, even now that my acne has gone away.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it “cured” my acne, but the combination of chemical acids and fruit enzymes make this product efficacious without drawing out the good oils from the deeper layers of my skin. Glycolic and lactic acids penetrate my pores to clean beneath the surface, and a combination of pineapple enzymes and orange peel oil leave my skin feeling soft and moisturized – not to mention smelling great.


A fast-absorbing serum that gently exfoliates and clarifies the skin

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Herbivore Facebook

Buy the Herbivore Prism Exfoliating Glow Potion for $62 at Sephora

This Leaping Bunny-approved serum has gained a cult-following for its fast-absorbing, lightweight texture and potent formula packed with fruit acids. This was recommended to me when I was at Sephora looking for something to get my oily skin under control, but I found it did so much more.

My skin mostly gets oily because I have large pores around my cheeks and nose. Throughout the day, dirt and pollution get trapped in the pores, causing my skin to get oily and pimples to form.

The sugar cane glycolic and willow bark in this elixir naturally clarify my skin so well that for the first time in almost a decade, I don’t come home from work just to see a new pimple in the mirror. The natural, aloe-derived salicylic acid treats and prevents blemishes without irritating my sensitive skin too.

While it did control overall oil production on my skin a bit, I would highlight it mostly for its ability to prevent acne without irritating my skin.


A glow-inducing moisturizer that makes skin look dewy instead of greasy

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FirstAidBeauty Facebook

Buy the First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Coconut Skin Priming Moisturizer for $28 at Sephora

As an oily-skinned girl, I used to run from any face product advertised to make me glow until one day, I ran out of my stand-in moisturizer and had a sample-size of this PETA-approved product sitting on my vanity.

Not only can I skip primer now, but I don’t even need my post-lunch powder touch up. I’ve been using it for three months and I don’t even carry blotting sheets in my purse anymore.

The coconut water moisturizes lightly so your skin doesn’t have to overcompensate for dry skin with excess oil production. “Coconut water is rich in vitamins that calm inflammation while quinoa protein forms a protective barrier for the skin,” says Dr. Zeichner.

I’ll wear this alone without foundation or concealer if I’m not in the mood to wear makeup but still want a healthy glow that makes me look like I put more effort into my appearance than I really did.


A three-step at-home facial for uneven skin tone and texture

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OleHenriksen Facebook

Buy the Ole Henriksen Power Peel Transforming Facial System for $50 at Sephora

This PETA-approved at-home facial was inspired by a service offered at the Ole Henriksen spa. A celebrity client begged for an on-the-go version of her favorite facial to use while filming on location, and thus, the Power Peel system was born. The system consists of three products, each divided into six single-use packets. I actually split each into two uses to get the most out of the system – and my wallet.

The first step is an exfoliant that sloughs off dead cells on the skin’s surface so that the next step – the lemon AHA peel – can penetrate deeply into the skin. Then you top it off with a soothing chamomile and evening primrose mask that restores moisture to the skin.

The first time I used the system, my skin felt extra soft and my foundation looked smoother on my face. The tiny bumps on my cheeks were far less noticeable too. Just be sure to put on sunscreen if you’re going out after using this because the AHAs make your skin hyper-sensitive to the sun.

After the second time I used this, I began to see the scarring along my jawline lighten. I get the best results when I use this twice a week, every three days or so. Because I get two uses out of each packet, one facial system lasts me about three months – just enough time to see pretty dramatic results in the scarring along my jawline, and in the texture of my skin.


An SPF eye cream that prevents under-eye circles from getting darker

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Supergoop! Instagram

Buy the Supergoop! Advanced Anti-Aging Eye Cream for $32 at Sephora

Supergoop!’s entire skin-care line is sunscreen-focused, so when I started looking for an eye cream with SPF but without the animal cruelty, I naturally gravitated toward this brand.

As an Indian woman, I’m predisposed to dark under-eye circles, so I wanted to start wearing SPF under my eyes to prevent the pigmentation from getting any worse. As is common with minerals SPF skin care, I was afraid this would give the dark circles under my eyes a white cast, which would highlight them even under my concealer. I was also nervous that oils found in chemical formulas would make my skin greasy.

But according to Dr. Zeichner, the natural sunflower and safflower seed oils in Supergoop!’s formula are actually fine for the sensitive skin under my eyes. It’s also the reason this is a must-have for me when I’m on a beach vacation or out in the sun for long periods of time.

A little goes a long way with this and one tube lasts me almost an entire year, so even though I’ve only purchased this product twice, I’ve really been using it for nearly two years.

My favorite part of the eye cream is the metal applicator. It provides a cooling sensation on my skin that is extremely satisfying, and it’s a great way to push the product into the delicate skin under my eyes more gently than with my fingertips.