Is Hourglass Cosmetics Clean? Our In-Depth Analysis Reveals the Answer

6 min reading time

Hourglass, a cosmetics and skincare brand, was established in 2004 by Carisa Janes. Initially, the products were exclusively available at Barneys New York, a high-end department store in Manhattan. However, following Unilever’s acquisition of Hourglass in 2017, the products are now accessible to customers worldwide.

The brand’s mission is to “reinvent luxury cosmetics by embracing innovation and a strong commitment to animal rights.”

Hourglass presents itself as a premium brand, offering high-quality, high-performance products in eye-catching packaging. They emphasize their cruelty-free and vegan stance and extensively highlight their dedication to animal rights and related causes on their website.

So, does Hourglass genuinely live up to its cruelty-free and vegan marketing promises? We conducted an in-depth analysis to uncover the truth.

Our Methodology

At Better Goods, we rank brands on our three pillars: ingredients, sustainability, and animal welfare.

Brands are rated on the three pillars as follows:


This ranking is for the best of the best. Only exemplary brands will receive a ranking of best for any category.


This ranking is for brands that are typically quite good, but don’t go above and beyond like our best choices.


This ranking is for when we find something we find iffy. Not a good sign.


This ranking is reserved for the worst of the worst.

Ingredients (Rating: Iffy)

Hourglass offers a range of makeup and skincare products through its website. Among these products, you can find a selection that contains vegan ingredients.

On the other hand, Hourglass’ website does not provide a comprehensive ingredients list for many of its products. While it does mention key ingredients and harmful substances that are excluded, a complete list of ingredients is not readily available.

Focusing on key ingredients and the lack of harmful substances can detract attention from the missing ingredient list itself. Due to Hourglass’ lack of transparency, we recommend caution. 

The “formulated without” list varies for each product. For example, “fragrance” is listed under the “formulated without” subheading for some products, while it is on the ingredients list for other products. Hourglass’ lack of consistency with product formulation requires a closer look. 

Hourglass also sells some products that contain ingredients we recommend avoiding.

  • Some current products have undisclosed fragrances. At Better Goods, We don’t recommend products with fragrances
  • Some products contain retinyl propionate, a synthetic form of Vitamin A. Exposure to sunlight can cause retinols to decompose into harmful free radicals.  
  • The preservative butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) is an ingredient in some products. BHT can disrupt hormones. A 2001 study showed BHT negatively affected the lungs of mice.
  • Phenoxyethanol is a preservative that has been linked to allergies and respiratory concerns. 
  • Homosalate can disrupt hormones and break down harmfully in sunlight.
  • Octinoxate can imitate hormones and cause reproductive and organ toxicity. 
  • Synthetic dyes, like Red No. 6, 7, and 33 appear in some products. These dyes can be absorbed into the body.
  • Another ingredient of concern is titanium dioxide. A 2020 study confirmed titanium dioxide’s toxic effects on rats’ lungs and kidneys, concluding that it is harmful to humans. 

Sustainability (Rating: Good)

Some of Hourglass’ products have sustainable ingredients. The brand created Curator, a “customizable, refillable, reusable,” eyeshadow palette that customers can individualize based on color preferences.

Hourglass shows customers how much plastic was saved in creating each palette. For example, a five-pan palette saves five plastic water bottles.

Customers can order refills of the eyeshadows listed on the website. Curator palettes are made from post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic and tin. Hourglass encourages customers to use them indefinitely.  

Besides the Curator, Hourglass also sells refillable lipsticks.    

Hourglass’ packaging shows some strides towards sustainability. The packaging contains 70% recycled plastic. The carton is composed of FCS-certified paper, as per Hourglass’ website. However, packaging information is not available for all products. 

Animal Welfare (Rating: Good)

Hourglass is a brand that takes a strong stance against animal testing. Their commitment to animal welfare is reflected in their partnership with the Nonhuman Rights Project, a nonprofit organization working tirelessly to protect animal rights and promote legal changes for the benefit of animals. Since 2017, Hourglass has been contributing 1% of its annual profits to support the organization’s endeavors.

Hourglass’s partnership with the Nonhuman Rights Project is a testament to the brand’s dedication to ethical practices in the beauty industry. For those interested in learning more about this collaboration, the Nonhuman Rights Project’s website offers further information and provides an email address for inquiries.


Cruelty-Free Kitty confirms Hourglass is a cruelty-free brand. Hourglass does not test ingredients or products on animals at any stage of the production and manufacturing process. Their third-party distributors and associates also do not condone animal testing.  


Some of Hourglass’ products have vegan ingredients. Hourglass’ website has a vegan section. However, since Hourglass’ website does not provide a full list of ingredients for each product, we cannot determine if the products are 100% vegan as advertised. 

The brand has created the first vegan substitute for carmine in cosmetic products. Carmine is a red pigment that is usually made from pulverized insects.  

Final Brand Ratings

Our rating scale ranges from “Best” (for having the best practices) to “Bad” (for having unacceptable practices). We rated Hourglass Cosmetics as follows.

IngredientsIffyHourglass offers a selection of vegan ingredients in some products. However, the brand’s website lacks transparency regarding full ingredient lists. They do provide key ingredients and harmful substances that are excluded, but inconsistencies in their “formulated without” lists raise concerns. Some products also contain questionable ingredients, such as synthetic dyes, undisclosed fragrances, and titanium dioxide.
SustainabilityGoodHourglass is making strides in sustainability by offering refillable products, such as the customizable Curator eyeshadow palette and lipsticks. Their packaging includes 70% recycled plastic and FSC-certified paper. However, not all products have packaging information available.
Animal WelfareGoodHourglass is a cruelty-free brand, as confirmed by Cruelty-Free Kitty. They don’t test on animals and support animal rights through their partnership with the Nonhuman Rights Project. While they offer some vegan products and have created a vegan carmine substitute, the lack of full ingredient lists raises concerns about the true vegan status of all their products.

Overall Rating: Iffy

Hourglass is a skincare and cosmetics company that markets itself as “vegan and cruelty-free.” The brand is cruelty-free and works in partnership with at least one organization that secures rights for animals. Hourglass invented the first vegan substitute for carmine.  

However, it is questionable whether all products are truly vegan. Very few products listed their full ingredients. While many products listed key ingredients, some products did not have any key ingredients listed. The “formulated without” section varies for each product. While Hourglass claims its products are vegan, the lack of ingredients listed on its website gives us no way to find out if the products are vegan. Hourglass’ inability to provide a complete ingredient list for each product concerns us.

We found harmful substances when we reviewed the ingredients on the few products listed on Hourglass’ website.

Hourglass has also been involved in brand controversy. In 2020, the brand reformulated the Illume Sheer Color Trio, a palette of bronzer, blush, and highlighter. Hourglass was called out by fans and beauty influencers because the palette was not inclusive to people of color. 

For these reasons, Hourglass receives a rating of Iffy.  

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