Awareness and demand in Japan for vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics is low (particularly vegan), and as such there are very few vegan and cruelty-free Japanese cosmetic brands, especially at the lower end of the price spectrum and in drugstores. There may be very few or no vegan and cruelty-free choices in typical drugstores or grocery stores. It may be easier to purchase Western or Korean import brands. Online shopping is another option, especially for the budget-conscious.
Although brands sometimes release information about their own animal testing policies, this information is not necessarily applicable to their suppliers, and they may also sell in physical stores in China, where their products may be subject to pre- or post-market animal testing, without disclosing that information. This means their animal testing policy may refer only to if animal testing is performed in product development, and not to if they pay for animal testing to be conducted so they can sell in a particular country.
Where we have any information about this, we will share it below.
As of May 1, 2021, China implemented changes to its laws meaning, according to Ethical Elephant, “some cosmetics may qualify to be exempt from their animal testing requirements.” Check the Ethical Elephant blog here for more detailed info and an easy-to understand chart in English.
With the possible exception of Lush, shop staff probably won’t know which cosmetics are vegan, so it will probably be necessary to consult the overseas versions of the websites of imported cosmetics to check if they have the vegan item marked. You may find it helpful to keep your phone with you and open it to the overseas version of their website when shopping in-store, if it lists the vegan options.
For those who do not live in Japan, products sold online on Rakuten Ichiba can be shipped to other countries via Rakuten Global Express (English), Rakuten’s official overseas delivery service (click here for Rakuten Global Express in Japanese). They will combine your Rakuten Ichiba (Japanese) order with orders from other shopping websites, including those that do not ship overseas, and send everything to you. Sign-up is free. Learn how to use the service here (English). Those in Japan can purchase any product that is carried on Rakuten Ichiba directly, of course without using Rakuten Global Express, which is only for overseas shoppers.
Most of the big, famous brands such as Shiseido officially claim to be cruelty-free, but continue to retail in physical stores in mainland China, where animal testing is required by law (although some cosmetics may be exempt from the requirements as of May 1, 2021). Many products also contain animal products such as beeswax/ミツロウ/mitsurou, royal jelly/ローヤルゼリー/rōyaruzerī, collagen/コラゲーン/koragēn, carmine/カルミン/karumin, horse oil/馬油/bāyu, etc.
When our volunteer contacted Japanese companies in late 2020, one well-known company responded that they don’t use any animal derived ingredients and that they don’t consider beeswax and carmine to be animal ingredients so they do use them. Also, it isn’t uncommon for company websites to state something like “Uses no animal ingredients (except for honey, etc.).” The lack of understanding some companies have about what animals and animal ingredients are creates an environment where shopping for vegan cosmetics is difficult, even for those who do read and speak Japanese.
That said, a few cruelty-free and vegan options do exist.
Awake is a mid-range vegan skincare and cosmetic brand that is a sister brand to the US company Tarte Cosmetics. (Note that Awake is owned by the parent company Kose, which is not vegan or cruelty-free.) The Brand Concept section of their website states that they do not use animal ingredients or ingredients derived from animal testing, nor do animal testing.
A mid/high-end Japanese brand using minerals and whole plant and fruit ingredients and free from ingredients including synthetic fragrance, synthetic color and synthetic preservatives.
Some of their products contain beeswax/ミツロウ/mitsurou, royal jelly/royaruzerī/ローヤルゼリー and carmine/カルミン/karumin. MiMC can be found in various department stores across the country, as well as branches of Cosme Kitchen. Vegan products are marked as such with the below mark on the individual product pages.
Regarding animal testing, the FAQ section of their website says (from autotranslate):
“Q: Do you carry out animal experiments?
A: We have not conducted animal experiments on the raw materials and products used in MiMC.
The same applies to skin care products and other products.
Since the raw materials used by MiMC are only naturally occurring raw materials, there is no need to carry out animal experiments like new types of organic raw materials.
Therefore, neither MiMC nor raw material manufacturers are conducting animal experiments.
Also, please be assured that there are no plans to do it in the future.”
Images of vegan mark and products from MiMC’s website.
Shojin Cosme （精進コスメ）
A small brand of vegan and halal cosmetics. The line consists of lip balm, lipsticks, lip gloss, blush, and eyeshadow. The products bear the UK Vegan Society mark. From the Vegan Society’s website (English): “The Vegan Society’s standards for the Vegan Trademark includes both no animal ingredients, and no animal testing (at the initiative of the company or on its behalf, or by parties over whom the company has effective control)…”
They appear to only be sold online.
Online shopping link: Shojin Cosme website (English; links to Amazon Japan (page language can be set to English) for purchase)
Uzu is a drugstore brand. Some of the colors of the UZU Eye Opening Liner (link to the English-language Philippines site) are vegan. According to the company’s customer service, the bristles are made with four kinds of synthetic hair. The packaging on the vegan colors says 100% cruelty-free and vegan in English. It can be found at many major drugstores. The products were used in the 3.1 Phillip Lim February 2019 show in New York.
The company confirmed to our volunteer in 2020 that they don’t do animal testing, don’t outsource animal testing to other companies, don’t use ingredients that were tested on animals and have no plans to do so in the future, and don’t sell their products in countries or regions where animal testing is mandatory. They stated that they use ingredients that have a history of safe use on humans and perform tests on new ingredients with machines.
Vegan colors (links to the English-language Philippines site):
The other UZU products are not listed as vegan. The Mote Mascara Vol. 6, Mote Mascara Vol 8, and Mote Mascara Vol. 9 are clearly not vegan as they contain beeswax/mitsurou/ミツロウ per the ingredient lists.
Korean brands available in Japan
Amuse – the product “Skin Tune Vegan Cover Cushion” is their first product to receive EVE Vegan certification (Expertise Vegane Europe), which certifies that the product is free of animal ingredients and not tested on live animals (English). The English-language product page states that the formula and package are free of animal products or by-products and that it is 100% cruelty-free. The other Amuse products are not listed as vegan. It does not appear to be sold in physical stores in Japan.
Online purchase link: Rakuten Ichiba
Athé (English-language link) is a line of skincare and makeup which is also vegan certified by EVE. EVE’s list of vegan certified products in the line is here (English). Isuta has an article about the line.They do not seem to be sold in physical stores in Japan.
Dear Dahlia (link is to the global, English-language site) is a luxury vegan beauty brand that sells products for the lips, face and eyes. The brand is certified cruelty-free by PETA. They are particularly strong in the lip product category. They also sell makeup goods such as brushes and micellar water. Check the list of locations in Japan that carry their products here.
Online purchase link: Rakuten Ichiba
Fity – the product Sweat Proof Slim Fit Vegan BB Cream (English-language link), certified vegan by EVE, is available for online purchase.
Unleashia (English-language link) is a vegan makeup brand specializing in glitter products that is certified cruelty-free by PETA. In December 2020, it was spotted in Loft Ginza in Tokyo. Check the Unleashia Instagram here.
Online purchase link: Rakuten Ichiba
Western brands available in Japan
Bare Minerals is cruelty-free and has both freestanding shops and counters in Japan. Not all products are vegan, but their UK site has a vegan section. Bare Minerals is owned by Shiseido, which is not cruelty-free.
The Body Shop has over 100 stores across Japan. They are a 100% vegetarian, UK company and were the first ever company to receive Leaping Bunny cruelty-free certification. They are cruelty-free but not all products are vegan- around half of all the products they make are, according to their UK website. Vegan products are usually not clearly labeled. However, a list of their vegan products (English-language link) can be found on their UK website. According to Plant Based News (English-language link), they will go 100% vegan by the end of 2023.
You can check the makeup products that the Japan shops carry here, but be sure to check that they’re vegan before purchasing.
DYP Cosmethic is a vegan French brand, certified by PETA, and available for online purchase in Japan. Check their Japan-specific Instagram here.
Online purchase link: DYP Cosmethic
Garnier has gone cruelty-free. Some of their products are being sold on Amazon Japan, but as of a review of the site in March 2021, we could only locate one product from their vegan list (English-language link) for sale, the SkinActive Water Rose Micellar Cleansing Water, which seems like it would be useful for removing makeup. The product listing photo also shows the product labeled as vegan.
Online purchase link: Amazon Japan (page language can be set to English)
Kure Bazaar is a vegan and cruelty-free nail polish brand reported to be found in places like @Cosme in Harajuku and Lumine 1 in Shinjuku, as well as available for online sale. Check their Japan-specific Instagram account here.
Online purchase link: Forte Online Store
Lush is very popular in Japan with more than 70 branches in the country. It is 100% free from animal testing and all products are vegan or vegetarian. Check for a vegan mark to find their vegan products, or their online list. They make some refillable products. Check their makeup here. The biggest selection of makeup will most likely be found at the Shinjuku flagship store in Tokyo. Smaller branches may not carry much of a makeup selection. As they do have many vegan products, it might be more efficient to check the vegetarian section of the website to make sure the product you want to purchase is not in there. Not all the makeup is vegan- they do make a non-vegan mascara with beeswax/ミツロウ/mitsurou called Lush Lashes. It appears that they only use sugar that is not processed with bone char for their products- in 2020 they issued a product recall in Japan for lip scrubs that mistakenly used bone-char refined sugar (English-language link).
100% Pure is a California-based company with a concept of using pure and organic ingredients. Many products use fruit pigments as colorants, so this is a good place to buy lip products (which often contain carmine when made by other brands). They are cruelty-free and most of their products are vegan. Vegan products are clearly labeled on both their U.S. website (English-language link), as well as on the Japanese 100% Pure Shop linked below. This brand sometimes turns up in higher-end shops in Japan such as Primal Color/プライマルカラー.
As of early 2021, on their English-language website, to the question “Is 100% PURE vegan and cruelty-free?” they answer:
“All of our products are cruelty-free, and most are vegan. We’re currently in a transitional phase and are moving to become a fully vegan brand.
Some products contain animal-derived ingredients, like milk enzymes, beeswax, or honey. Products with these ingredients will be phased out and replaced with vegan alternatives in the future.
All ingredients are listed on each product page. We don’t hide animal-derived products, so it’ll be very easy to see if a product is vegan or not.”
In the image below, the Fruit Pigmented Ultra Lengthening Mascara (marked with an x) is not vegan as it contains beeswax.
Online purchase link: 100% Pure Shop
Too Faced is a cruelty-free brand, certified by PETA (English-language link), that is available at various department stores in Japan and at their flagship stores in Tokyo. A store locator and a vegan product list can be found on their Japanese website. Their parent company, Estee Lauder, is not cruelty-free, according to PETA and the Ethical Elephant website (English-language link).
Photos from website.
Zao Essence of Nature is a makeup brand made in Europe using certified organic ingredients. They have completed the process of veganizing their line by removing the last ingredient of animal origin they previously used, beeswax. PETA lists them as a totally vegan brand (English-language link) and certifies them as cruelty-free. Their products come in sustainable (and sometimes refillable) bamboo packaging. Some products use RSPO certified palm oil to make certain ingredients, and those ingredients are identified in the FAQ section of their UK site. A shop list can be found on their Japanese website.
Online purchase link: Zao Online Store
You may also be able to find a few vegan nail polish brands that self-report on their websites as being cruelty-free such as Sundays and Green by Manicurist at stores like Loft, the Cosme Kitchen chain or @cosme Tokyo in Harajuku, Tokyo. Sundays’ website FAQ section states “Are your products vegan and cruelty-free? Yes, none of our products and ingredients are derived from animals, and they have not been tested on animals.” Green’s website FAQ section states “Q: Are your products vegan and cruelty-free? Of course! Our products contain no ingredients of animal origin or that have been tested on animals.”
Websites where overseas vegan/cruelty-free brands can be bought
Many mainstream websites such as Sephora will ship to Japan. Below are a few examples of promising ones with large selections of vegan products. Note that not all of the beauty brands stocked are vegan and cruelty-free, so check your order carefully when purchasing. Except for California Organic House and the Japanese version of Lookfantastic, all websites are in English (or can be set to English, in the case of iHerb and YesStyle).
California Organic House – An online shop based in Los Angeles, California, importing small makeup brands made in the West Coast of the United States to Japan. All items are vegan and cruelty-free.
FeelUnique – Sells many western and some Korean brands. Check for vegan products here. They list cruelty-free products separately (they are not all vegan and vice versa). They carry brands with many vegan/animal-ingredient-free options such as Cosrx, Dear Klairs and The Inkey List.
iHerb – A popular website importing supplements, foreign foods and health foods, as well as western and Korean toiletry and cosmetics brands. More affordable choices are often stocked here. Many products are cruelty-free and vegan. Product search results can be filtered by running the search, then checking the boxes for vegan and cruelty-free products in the “certification and diet” section. (The check boxes will only appear if items in your search are actually vegan and/or cruelty-free.)
Lookfantastic – Western brands with some vegan products such as NYX, 3INA, and many more can be purchased via the Japanese version of this UK-based website. You can also browse in English on the UK version of the site.
Love Lula – Has a vegan section. Reported to ship to Japan for free if the order is over 3500 jpy and discount the 20% sales tax at checkout when shipping to Japan as well as often giving 10% off for new orders.
Naturisimo – Has a vegan section. Reported to ship to Japan for free if the order is over 3500 jpy as well as often giving 10% off for new orders.
Petit Vour – A totally vegan beauty website that can ship anywhere in the world. They also carry other vegan products like bags and shoes. Offers a vegan beauty box subscription.
YesStyle sells Korean cosmetics, including Unleashia. Product search results can be filtered by running the search, then checking the boxes for vegan and cruelty-free products in the “featured” section. (The check boxes will only appear if items in your search are actually vegan and/or cruelty-free.)
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