Insects in Your Makeup?! Here are 7 Non-Vegan Ingredients to Avoid
It’s no secret that makeup companies aren’t always transparent when it comes to listing animal ingredients.
Sure, these ingredients will appear on labels as is required by law, but you’ll only be able to decipher their meanings if you’ve done your research.
The makeup industry uses many strange-sounding terms that obscure animal origins, like carmine, lanolin, and squalene—all of which are commonly found in cosmetics, and which are often, and sometimes always, derived from animals.
The good news is that we’ve done the research for you: we know what makes makeup not vegan, and we’re here to share this knowledge with you!
What makes a product not vegan?
No matter what you’re shopping for—be it cosmetics, food, or even clothing—vegan labels exist to let you know when a product is totally free of any animal-derived ingredients.
Eggs, milk, and meat are more obviously made from animals (we all know steak doesn’t grow on trees!). But when you look closely, you’ll find animals in many of the products we know and love.
Clothing items like shoes and purses are not vegan when they are made using the skins of animals including cows, alligators, deer, snakes, and fish. But things can get even more obscure. The black dyes in tattoo ink, for example, can sometimes be derived from charcoal made from burning animal bones. Wines, beers, and apple juices can sometimes be filtered through fish bladders and other animal parts. Even white sugar can be made using animal bones to create a whiter appearance.
And yes—sadly, makeup and other beauty products often contain animal-derived ingredients too.
For those of us who love makeup and want to do right by animals, many of our cherished brands might not make the vegan cut. Fortunately, there are tons of ethically minded companies on a mission to make the cosmetics world kinder towards animals.
At Kinder Beauty, we know what makes makeup not vegan—and we guarantee that nothing in our boxes or marketplace will ever contain any animal products. Find some new favorite beauty vegan products today!
What’s the difference between cruelty-free and vegan?
You might think that a vegan product would automatically be considered cruelty-free, but unfortunately, there’s another dark side to many cosmetics: animal experimentation.
Dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other cute and innocent animals are used in experiments that are meant to determine the safety of products for human consumption. Not only are these experiments unnecessary (especially because non-animal versions of many of these tests have been invented), but they are very cruel. We’ll spare you the gory details, but they’re here in case you want to learn more.
When you see a little white rabbit logo on your cosmetics, that indicates that the product is cruelty-free—meaning that no animal tests were conducted on that product.
As if things weren’t already complicated enough, there’s another wrinkle to consider. A product can be cruelty-free without being vegan, and just because a product is labeled vegan doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t tested on animals.
Take L’Oreal, for example. Some of its products bear a “100% vegan” label, which is great, and shows how much consumers are asking for these types of products. However, the company does not have a stringent cruelty-free policy, meaning that some of its products may still be tested on animals.
The bottom line: if you want to support brands that are harmless to animals, you’ll need to look for both these labels on packaging.
Kinder Beauty’s offerings are both vegan and cruelty-free—all the more reason to sign up for a subscription.
Non-vegan makeup ingredients
The list of non-vegan makeup ingredients is, unfortunately, a long one. We’ve collected some of the most common ones you may come across.
Some of these ingredients are byproducts of other industries, meaning that no animals were killed just to make these ingredients. Proponents of non-vegan makeup might say that it’s okay to use these ingredients since otherwise, they might go to waste. But we at Kinder choose not to support industries that exploit animals in any way. (We can guarantee that any animal byproduct came from an animal who was still entrenched in an exploitative and cruel system. In other words, that animal most certainly did not die of natural causes.)
And anyway, do you really want to be smearing cow bones or chicken bits onto your skin?
While this list might seem discouraging (especially when you consider how widely these ingredients are used), there is cause for hope. Some non-vegan makeup ingredients have vegan alternatives that are either naturally occurring or are replacements that have been invented as people search for ethical alternatives. You should keep in mind when inspecting labels that this difference isn’t always indicated on packaging.
Here’s a list of products that make makeup not vegan, and we’ve listed vegan alternatives where they exist.
Beeswax (never vegan)
Beeswax is always animal-derived.
The humble honey bee carries a huge load for us humans, pollinating our favorite crops, from apples to almonds. While pollination is a natural behavior of bees and is how they build their homes and feed their young, humans take advantage of bees by stealing honey from their hives and dismantling the structures they use to raise their young, which is where beeswax comes from.
People have come up with many uses for beeswax, including putting it in a wide range of cosmetics like blush, eye shadow, and eyeliner.
This is one ingredient to avoid whenever you see it.
Carmine (never vegan)
If you can believe it, bees aren’t the only insect being exploited by the makeup industry.
Carmine is a vibrant red dye used in lipsticks, blush, and other richly colored cosmetics. But unlike other common dyes, this one is made from the crushed-up bodies of bugs.
Found in Central America and Mexico, the female cochineal beetle is small, red, and juicy-looking—kind of like a ripe raspberry—and she likes to spend her time feasting on cacti. That is, of course, until she, along with thousands of other beetles, are rounded up and crushed to make this coveted dye.
Lanolin (mostly not vegan)
Lanolin is an amber-colored, waxy oil similar to the sebum that human skin produces, only lanolin is secreted by the skin of sheep to protect and condition their ample woolen coats. As an emollient, this oil helps to soothe dry skin, which is why it’s widely used in cosmetics such as lip balms and lipsticks.
Lanolin is harvested by spinning sheeps’ wool in a centrifuge, separating the wool from oil. While this is a bit icky, it might seem otherwise harmless, since the wool is sheared from sheep who are presumably off prancing (rather nakedly) in the fields—right?
Unfortunately, the realities of the wool industry are not as idyllic as they may appear. Sheep can be roughly handled and injured during shearing, and they are put through routine surgeries—like castration and tail removal—all without any painkillers.
While there are some vegan alternatives to lanolin, the sheep-derived version is mostly what you’ll find in makeup these days.
Keratin (sometimes vegan)
Both humans and animals produce keratin, a tough, protective protein found in skin and nails. Keratin is also a primary building block for hair—which is why this ingredient is commonly found in shampoos and other hair-health cosmetics. Unfortunately, this protein is typically derived from animal sources, including horns, feathers, and wool, often as byproducts from animal agriculture industries.
The search for vegan keratin has been gaining ground, with companies like Vegamour producing proprietary concoctions to replace this crucial ingredient, while others use a blend of plant-based ingredients to mimic the effects of animal-derived keratin.
Silk powder (sometimes vegan)
Warning: more insect abuse ahead.
Silk comes from silkworms, who build cocoons during the stage in their lives when they are ready to transform from worms to beautiful, fuzzy moths. The silk industry allows them to nestle up inside their woven cocoons before boiling them alive. Their cocoons are then turned into shirts, sheets, and even powders for use in makeup like blushes and eye shadows.
Many companies are developing vegan alternatives to silk powder, including Kinder favorite Pacifica that offers a vegan silk bundle to hydrate and revive damaged hair.
Hyaluronic acid (sometimes vegan)
Hyaluronic acid is majorly popular these days, and for good reason: it’s an ultra-hydrating ingredient that can plump skin and bring out a youthful glow. A star in serums, masks, and moisturizers, this acid is also incorporated into makeup, from lipstick to foundation.
Conventional hyaluronic acid is yet another byproduct from an animal industry: this time, it’s chickens who are in the crosshairs, roosters specifically. You know that little red floppy bit at the top of a rooster’s head? That’s the comb, which has long been the source of this prized ingredient.
Fortunately, vegan hyaluronic acid has been developed through a process of microbial fermentation. This innovative process is an increasingly popular way to source vegan alternatives, for example, for ingredients in plant-based burgers that lend an authentic look, taste, and texture.
Squalane (sometimes vegan)
Squalane is another common cosmetic ingredient that mimics a compound found in human, plant, and other animal bodies called squalene. This oily compound is a superstar moisturizer and can be found in products like lip gloss and anti-aging creams.
At one time, the squalane found in cosmetics was sourced from the livers of sharks—that’s right, the oceans’ top predators. And before you think, “well, sharks are scary and dangerous anyway,” remember that they play a critical role in keeping marine ecosystems in balance, and they like being petted.
In an age of overfishing and bycatch, the world cannot afford to exploit ocean animals, no matter how scary they may seem. This is why many companies began searching out vegan alternatives to squalane—and thankfully these days, shark-derived squalane products are increasingly in the minority.
Olive, rice bran, and amaranth oils are excellent, and sustainable, substitutes for shark liver oil.
Non-vegan makeup brands
Sometimes, it’s easier to know what makeup brands are not vegan, instead of trying to decipher the ingredients list. While we truly hope that these companies begin to change their ways and eliminate animal products from their offerings, here are a few brands you can avoid if you want to be certain that no animal parts were used in makeup:
- MAC: although some of their products are vegan, MAC continues to use beeswax, carmine, gelatin, and other animal ingredients.
- Estée Lauder: many of their products contain animal byproducts, plus their products may be tested on animals.
- Maybelline: while the company states that it does not use any products from rare or endangered species, it does use lanolin, beeswax, fish derivatives, and other ingredients.
- Revlon: certain Revlon products are entirely plant-based, however, the company continues to use carmine, lanolin, and other animal-derived ingredients.
Vegan and cruelty-free makeup
At Kinder Beauty, we’re very proud to work with brands that are totally, 100% vegan, meaning no animal ingredients are used within the production of the product, at any stage. Check out some of our favorite brands and makeup products.
- Athrbeauty makes gorgeous eye shadow palettes with different colors, textures, and crystal infusions, and all are non-toxic, sustainable, and come in fully recyclable packaging.
- My Little Mascara Club makes mascara that uses vegan squalane and makes your eyes pop like no other.
- Artist Couture’s shimmery finisher creates a luscious, sexy sheen for cheeks, eyes, and body.
Vegan cruelty-free beauty products
All of the ingredients in our list, in both vegan and non-vegan versions, can show up in beauty products beyond makeup, such as moisturizers, serums, lip treatments, and hair care. Kinder Beauty’s marketplace is filled with vegan beauty products that are also guaranteed to be cruelty-free. Check out some of our faves:
- Earth Harbor makes deliciously-scented moisturizers, plumping peptide serums, and retinol serums, just to name a few incredible must-haves.
- Sukin’s Rosehip Day Cream is a daydream, brightening and nourishing skin with vitamin C ingredients—all vegan and cruelty-free, of course!
- Pangea’s Facial Scrub will leave your skin feeling bright, firm, and cleansed, thanks to dual-action exfoliation of adzuki beans and cranberry seeds, plus a whole lotta other goodness.
Now that you know what makes makeup not vegan, you can peruse ingredients lists with confidence and a discerning eye that can help you navigate the oft-confusing world of cosmetics.
Of course, should you sign up for a Kinder Beauty Box, you’ll get to explore vegan, cruelty-free beauty without ever needing to scour ingredients lists for animal products. Sign up for your first box and let the journey begin!