Top Cruelty-free and Vegan Skin Care Products for Acne


cruelty-free vegan skin care for acne

After so many years of working in the skin care industry and being a health and beauty writer, I picked up a few things about skin care products. Plus, with my personal experience struggling with acne, I know exactly what to look for in cruelty-free and vegan skin care products for acne.

I can rattle off which ingredients are amazing for certain skin types and warn you about products that will exacerbate your issues, but I didn’t always know what kind of skin care was best for my skin type and concerns.

Let’s talk about one skin condition that MILLIONS of people, including myself, struggle with: Acne.

It’s painful. It’s frustrating. And it puts a huge damper on your self-esteem.

This is one topic I get very passionate about because I struggled with acne for YEARS. I’ve always had oily, acne-prone skin, and it used to really bother me. I had flare-ups throughout high school and college, and I even experienced adult acne. It wasn’t until I decided to do some research on what causes acne and how to treat it that my breakouts finally went away.

Adopting a plant-based diet and switching to these vegan products has made a world of difference in my skin health and confidence. I think they can do the same for you, too.

Vegan Face Wash for Acne

Getting rid of acne starts with cleansing your face regularly. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is caused by pores that are clogged with skin cells, sebum (oil), and bacteria. As more bacteria becomes trapped in the pore, it becomes inflamed. Eventually, a breakout appears.

You can stop this process from occurring by washing your face often. Using a good face cleanser can prevent your pores from becoming clogged in the first place.

After I discovered this cleanser, I will never go back.

The main active ingredient is salicylic acid, which is a chemical exfoliator that works wonders for acne-prone skin.

Acne-prone skin responds incredibly well to this ingredient. In fact, when I use this cleanser regularly, I basically never break out anymore.

And this is coming from someone who thought she’d spend the rest of her life dealing with acne.

I also love the brand that makes this face wash because it’s cruelty-free, vegan, and has pretty clean ingredients.

My favorite cleanser also gets bonus points because it’s super affordable and accessible. Woohoo!

I order the 2-pack on Amazon because I never want to run out.

Vegan Exfoliator and Face Scrub

If you read any beauty blog out there, they’re going to tell you to keep exfoliation to a minimum. 1-2 times per week maximum.

As a skin care enthusiast, I completely disagree. When done gently, physical exfoliation can work wonders for the skin.

I have oily and acne-prone skin, so the beauty gurus would really advise me to steer clear of exfoliation to avoid further irritation. Let me prove them wrong.

Once I started exfoliating regularly, my acne cleared up.

This is because oily skin clings to dead skin cells, bacteria, and all kinds of gunk that shouldn’t be on our faces.

My favorite kind of exfoliation is using a brush. You don’t need harsh exfoliating masks or DIY scrubs. Just a good cleansing brush will do.

I use this face brush in the shower once per day.

On days where I don’t use a cleansing brush, I notice a dramatic difference in my skin.

It’s battery operated, but I don’t even turn it on. I just hold onto the handle and let the brush bristles go to work.

Just get the brush head wet, add your favorite cleanser (this one to clear up acne), and scrub very gently.

Note: Even though I said you don’t need an exfoliating mask or scrub, I still love exfoliating products. I just don’t use them every day like I do with my holy grail cleansing brush.

As a beauty editor, I’ve tried dozens of face scrubs.

This one is the only one that actually works for me. It’s made with activated charcoal, which is also great for acne-prone skin and detoxing your pores.

Witch Hazel Toner for Acne

I can’t believe I went 23 years of my life without this product.

It’s sold wherever beauty products are sold, and it’s a miracle for acne.

You may have even seen this product before and passed it up. It doesn’t have pretty pink packaging like other beauty products, and they’re not out there marketing to everyone on Instagram.

This toner has super simple ingredients, yet it’s a powerhouse for breakups.

The main ingredient is witch hazel. It basically flushes your pores and hits the reset button on your skin. 

If you’re having a stubborn breakout, make this product your BFF. 

The instructions say to apply with a cotton ball, but the cotton ball will soak up most of the product. Wash your hands thoroughly and just use your hands.

You can also fill up a reusable spray bottle and mist your face with the toner. This is what I do when I have a long flight or when I want to make sure I de-congest my pores.

Cruelty-Free Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin

The holy grail of all holy grails. The one moisturizer that will never break me out. My ride-or-die face cream til the end. Here she is. 

Here’s the thing about moisturizers and face creams: They all break me out. 

I don’t know why. I don’t know how. As a self-proclaimed skin care expert, you’d think I would have figured this out by now. But no.

If you’re like me and can’t find a moisturizer that doesn’t clog your pores, then just know that this moisturizer was made for you.

The collection is literally called “Very Clear” as in very clear skin. I’ll take it!

Since starting to use this moisturizer, I’ve noticed significantly fewer breakouts and my skin is also less oily.

The formula includes my favorite acne-clearing ingredients: Salicylic acid and tea tree oil.

Derma E recently rebranded (love the new packaging!) so don’t be alarmed if your product still sports the old packaging.

Other Vegan Skin Care for Acne

So I have more acne-clearing tricks up my sleeve than just these 4 steps.

These are just the 4 steps that I simply will not skip. I do these 4 things every single day, and my once broken out complexion is now clear most of the time. Nobody has perfect skin, but this is 100% the best my skin has ever been.

Here’s what else I do:

  • If I notice a breakout coming on, I use this spot treatment by LUSH. The main ingredient is tea tree oil. It will dry out your skin, so only apply it where you’re breaking out.
  • Recently, I’ve added a vitamin C serum because antioxidants are key to healing. I’m currently using this one, but I’m eager to try this one next.
  • I stick to a super simple skin care routine: Cleanse, Exfoliate, Tone, and Moisturize. If my skin is mostly clear, I will also use an Eye Cream and Serum before moisturizing.
  • My go-to brands don’t shock my skin. I rarely introduce new products because acne-prone skin can be sensitive. My foolproof brands for acne are Alba Botanica, Thayer’s, Derma E, and LUSH.
  • I keep my vegan diet as clean as possible. This book really helped me clean up my diet to give my skin the best possible chance of healing. The book basically teaches you how to eliminate acne-causing foods and incorporate acne-healing foods.
  • Once or twice per year, I invest in a high-quality probiotic. I couldn’t believe how clear my skin was after 30 days of using this product made by The Beauty Chef.

2020 Update: I have recently experienced the benefits of retinol for acne. This ingredient is a powerhouse for acne-prone skin and it’s anti-aging. I’m currently testing out cruelty-free retinol products, so stay tuned. If you start using retinol now, make sure to only use it in the evening as it’s a photosensitive ingredient.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by The Beauty Chef (@thebeautychef) on

Buy this beauty probiotic here.

Vegan Skin Care for Acne FAQ

There’s a lot to know about vegan skin care, and there’s a lot of confusion about which acne treatments are cruelty-free. Here are answers to the most common questions about vegan skin care for acne. If I missed anything, leave your question in a comment below!

What is the difference between vegan skin care and cruelty-free skin care?

This is an important question because “vegan” and “cruelty-free” are not the same thing.

The definition of cruelty-free is that no animal testing was involved in the making of the product. It gets a little more complicated than that, though. Cruelty-free can refer to the product’s individual ingredients, final product, or parent company. The FDA does not regulate the cruelty-free label, so it’s important to always do your own research.

I like to know that a beauty product is fully vegan. This means they do not test on animals, nor do they include animal-derived ingredients in their products. You’d be surprised by the animal-derived ingredients in some cosmetics. Some examples include beeswax, carmine, lanolin, etc. If a product is cruelty-free, that does not mean it’s vegan. I only recommend vegan skin care products for all skin types and conditions.

Is Neutrogena cruelty-free?

No, Neutrogena is NOT cruelty-free. According to their stance on product testing, Neutrogena tests its products “in the rare situation where governments or laws require it.”

Is Proactiv vegan?

Whether Proactiv is cruelty-free is unclear. Proactiv does NOT test its finished products on animals, but its ingredients may have been tested on animals. According to Ethical Elephant, Proactiv’s unclear animal testing policy lands them in the grey area.

Is Cetaphil cruelty-free?

No, Cetaphil is NOT cruelty-free. Though Cetaphil has formulated its products for acne, the brand tests on animals when required by law, such as in mainland China.

Is Clearasil cruelty-free?

No, Clearasil is NOT cruelty-free. According to Cruelty-Free Kitty, Clearasil is owed by parent company Reckitt Benckiser, who conducts animal testing when required by law per their global policy on animal testing.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for making it to the end of this article! I really hope you learned a couple things about cruelty-free skin care products that ACTUALLY treat acne.

If I had to pick the #1 product on this list, it would have to be the cleanser.

This is a tough choice because I can’t live without ANY of these products, but I’d say that product has made the biggest difference in my skin.

The close runner-up is definitely this moisturizer, which is unlike any face cream I’ve ever used. People with acne still need to hydrate and moisturize their skin, and this face cream will do just that without overwhelming oily and acne-prone skin.

Want more vegan beauty recommendations? Check out my guide to vegan shampoo and conditioner!

Don’t forget to share this post on Facebook and pin for later. Comment below and let me know – which cruelty-free skin care products for acne are on your wish list?

vegan skin care for acne

Similar Posts


  1. These products look so incredible! My skin isn’t really acne prone but I try to make sure that my skincare products are vegan or green. I will have to try these eventually. Great post!

    1. Hi Katrina,

      Thanks for your enthusiasm! I love that you try to use vegan skin care products. Shopping cruelty-free beauty is really important to me, though there is a learning curve in the beginning.


  2. I see how tricky is the search for 100% vegan products which are also effective… I guess acne doesn’t make things easy as you must be particularly constant too! :/
    Thank you for this piece!!!

    1. Hi Valentina,

      Thank you for your comment! I agree with your point. It can be difficult to narrow down the options of skin care products that are both vegan-friendly and formulated to treat acne. They’re out there — we just have to find them!


      ps. Your name is so pretty!

    1. Hi Ivana,

      I try to stick to products that are as clean as possible! Acne is so frustrating, but I’ve had success with these vegan skin care products.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *