Ethical shopping guide to Skincare, from Ethical Consumer

Ethical shopping guide to Skincare, from Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

The report includes:

  • Ethical and environmental ratings for 70 skincare products covering moisturiser, lotions and cleansers etc
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Vegan and organic options
  • Compay profile: L'Oreal



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Score Ratings

Our ratings are live updated scores from our primary research database. They are based on primary and secondary research across 23 categories - 17 negative categories and 6 positive ones (Company Ethos and Product Sustainability). Find out more about our ethical ratings


Score table

The score table shows simple numerical ratings out of 20 for each product. The higher the score, the more ethical the company.

Move the sliders to customise these scores. 

Click on a product name to see the stories behind the score (subscribers only). 


Full Scorecard

The Full Scorecard shows the 'black marks' for each product, by each of the 17 negative categories. The bigger the mark, the worse the score. So for example a big black circle under 'Worker Rights' shows that the company making this product has been severely criticised for worker abuses.

Scores start at 14.  A small circle means that half a mark is deducted, a large circle means that a full mark is deducted.

Marks are added in the positive categories of Company Ethos and the five Product Sustainability columns (O,F,E,S,A).  A small circle  means that half a mark is added, a large circle means that a full mark is added.

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Move the sliders to change the weighting given to each category. You can open up each of the 5 main categories by clicking on the + sign. This way you can compare products according to what's ethically important to YOU.  


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Best Buys

as of March 2017

As our ratings are constantly updated, it is possible that company ratings on the score table may have changed since this report was written.

Those companies which received Ethical Consumer’s at least a middle rating for supply chain management and were certified organic and/or received a best Ethical Consumer rating for Animal Testing were considered to be the Best Buys for the market: 


  • Odylique
  • Bentley Organics
  • Badger
  • Caurnie
  • Faith in Nature
  • Green People
  • Pure Nuff Stuff
  • Neal Yard’s Remedies
  • Weleda
  • Lush.

Neal’s Yard and Lush have their own high street shops and the others are available from health food shops or by mail order.

Lush make skincare bars with no packaging.

to buy

Image: Skincare


Image: Neals Yard


Ethical Consumer makes a small amount of money from your purchase. This goes to fund our research and campaigning. We ethically screen all the sites we link to.

Ethical Business
Directory Links

  • Conscious Skincare    view ethical directory profile >

    At Conscious Skincare we are passionate about making truly organic handmade skincare products from our rural retrea...

  • Vegan Faces    view ethical directory profile >

    Natural, Vegan friendly Face Paints...

  • No Fuss Beauty    view ethical directory profile >

    No Fuss is a newly launched, independent skincare brand. Since launching No Fuss has been fortunate to be awarded “...

  • NothingFishy    view ethical directory profile >

    Omega 3 from sustainable plant-based algae sources. Suitable for both vegans and vegetarians. Our Omega 3 softgels ...

  • Cambridge Aromatherapy    view ethical directory profile >

    I offer Aromatherapy Massage using organic essential oils and carrier oils to treat a wide range of conditions. I a...

Last updated: March 2017 






 Related Content

Ethical issues in the cosmetics sector







Soap and water might be enough for some, but a large proportion of the population uses some kind of skincare products to moisturise, cleanse or to smooth over the bumpy bits.

Although the big names may dominate the market in terms of units sold, we’re seeing an increasing number of companies offering more ethical alternatives. 


image of face cream in ethical shopping guide


Toxic chemicals

We have rated all the skincare companies for their toxic chemicals policies. Those companies which received a best rating had a policy which has banned the use of parabens, phthalates and triclosan (see our feature on toxic chemicals for why we have chosen these chemicals).

As you can see from the table below, the use of these chemicals is still widespread.


Table: Toxic chemicals in Skincare


Vegan and organic 

Vegans might want to avoid animal derivatives in their skincare products. Ingredients to watch out for include honey, beeswax, silk, collagen and lanolin.

Companies which are suitable for vegetarians or vegans have been marked on the table using the symbol [A] while those made with organic products have been marked with an [O].

Brands that are certified by the Vegan Society and the Vegetarian Society get an extra whole plus point, while those that just market themselves as vegan or vegetarian only get and extra half point.

The following brands were certified by the Vegan Society: Faith In Nature, Green People, Honesty, Lavera, Lush, Original Source, Urterkram, Yaoh.

The following brands were certified by the Vegetarian Society: Bulldog

The following brands carried organic certifications: Avalon Organics, Badger, Bentley Organics, Dr Hauschka, Green People, Lavera, Logona, Neal’s Yard, Odylique, Sante, Urterkam.


Animal testing

Although the testing of cosmetics on animals has been banned in the EU, this is not the case everywhere else in the world. The EU’s REACH legislation has also complicated the issue. See our feature on ending animal testing. 

Ethical Consumer rates all companies selling cosmetics on their animal testing policy. Companies will score a best rating if they have a policy not to test on animals, have a fixed cut-off date (a date after which none of their products or ingredients will have been tested on animals), and are not selling to markets, such as China, where animal testing of products is required by law.

The following brands were certified by the Leaping Bunny certification for not using animal tested ingredients: Alba Botanica, Avalon Organics, Badger, Body Shop, Bulldog Skincare, Faith in Nature, Honesty Cosmetics, JASON Natural Cosmetics, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Superdrug, Tom’s of Maine, Urtekram.

Additionally, Caurnie, Green People, Pure Nuff Stuff, Little Satsuma, Dr Hauschka, Logona, Sante, Lush, Weleda,  Aesop got our best rating for animal testing policies.


Palm oil

Palm oil and palm oil derivatives have become an important component in many personal care products. In particular, it is used for its viscosity and as a skin conditioning agent. See our feature 'Problem with Palm Oil'. 

The new column on our table shows how all the companies rank on their palm oil policy and practice.

The following brands scored best in our palm oil category: A. Vogel, Bentley Organics, Caurnie, Dr. Hauschka, Honesty, Lush, Odylique, Pure Nuff Stuff.

Of those, Caurnie, Honesty and Odylique were palm oil free.



Company profile


L’Oréal (whose brands include Garnier, Elvive, The Body Shop, Maybelline and Ambre Solaire) is the world’s largest cosmetics company. It is part owned by Nestlé and part owned by Liliane Bettencourt, the daughter of the company’s founder and the 11th richest person on earth.

Over the past few years, L'Oréal has been at the centre of a high-level French political scandal over tax avoidance and alleged illegal donations to French conservative politicians who, it is claimed, were given envelopes stuffed with cash at the Bettencourt’s mansion. Journalists reporting on the case said that they were intimidated, and that they suffered mysterious burglaries, with computers containing details of the case being stolen. The police investigation is still ongoing. The affair has also brought up L’Oréal’s historical roots in French pro-Nazi groups.

In addition to its alleged donations to right wing politicians, L’Oréal is itself involved in right-wing political lobbying. In 2012, Jean-Paul Agon, the head of the company, was widely publicised as speaking vitriolically against François Hollande’s plan to introduce a 75% tax rate on earnings over €1 million (L’Oréal’s own CEO is currently paid €2,200,000 plus bonuses). The company is also a member of several free trade lobby groups and, in 2014, it spent $80,000 lobbying US politicians.

 Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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