What Makes Us Pass on Beauty Products? The Answers Might Surprise You
Updated April 2023
Beauty is ever-evolving, and the trends have tipped toward more sustainable and vegan options. However, for all of the amazing products out there, there are still millions of creams, lotions, and powders that are not up to Kinder’s ethical standard. We tirelessly scan labels, research questionable ingredients, and dig into each company’s history before giving any product the Kinder stamp of approval.
CEO Andrew Bernstein recently enlightened us about how Kinder Beauty boxes are curated and items are chosen. Now he’s back to discuss the product-vetting process and to offer helpful tips on what to look for the next time you’re perusing a beauty purchase.
Q: What kind of product will never make it into a Kinder Beauty box?
A: Put simply, if the product isn't vegan, or if the brand isn't 100 percent cruelty-free—or if there are ingredients in the product that we feel are unsafe—then it will never appear in one of our boxes. Aside from that, almost anything is fair game.
Q: What common ingredients are considered “unsafe?”
A: Some of the potentially unsafe ingredients that we look out for—and consumers should, too—are BHA or BHT, coal tar dyes, DEA, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (such as DMDM, hydantoin, quaternium 15, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, and 3-diol), parabens, petrolatum, siloxanes, sodium laureth sulfate, triclosan, aluminum or alcloxa, artificial colors (FD&C), bismuth oxychloride, DBP (dibutyl phthalate), DHEA, hydroquinone, mineral oil, phthalates, pregnenolone, propylene glycol, talc, and toluene.
Q: Is there a difference between vegan and cruelty-free? Do products have to match both criteria to make it in a Kinder Beauty box?
A: There is definitely a difference between vegan and cruelty-free. "Cruelty-free" essentially means that the product itself—and none of the ingredients—have been tested on animals. "Vegan" generally means that the product contains no animal or animal-derived ingredients such as lanolin, beeswax, honey, carmine, or collagen. A product can theoretically be labeled "vegan" and not be cruelty-free, and a product can definitely be labeled "cruelty-free" and not be vegan. So it's important to understand the distinction and to know what questions to potentially ask a brand about their products. To be considered for inclusion in one of our boxes, a brand has to be entirely cruelty-free. To be clear, this means that none of their products or ingredients are tested on animals, they don’t pay a third party (like the Chinese government) to test their products on animals, and they aren’t owned by a parent company (like Unilever or Dove) that tests their products on animals. And of course, their specific product has to be vegan.
Q: Do boxes include products from non-vegan companies that produce vegan options?
A: Yes, absolutely. As we're all about inclusivity, we feel this applies to beauty brands, too. There's a benefit to showing cruelty-free brands that aren't (yet) 100 percent vegan that there is a big market for their vegan products. Maybe through our partnerships with these companies, we can show them that there's an upside to making their entire line of products vegan.
Q: What are some common animal ingredients in beauty that one might not recognize?
A: Some of the more common animal ingredients we see are beeswax (also labeled as cera alba—and also worth noting—if you see synthetic beeswax in the ingredients you might assume it’s okay to use, but the most common ingredient in synthetic beeswax is actual beeswax), honey, lanolin, propolis, royal jelly, carmine (made of crushed insects), silk powders or silk amino acids, and gelatin.
There are more ingredients to look out for, depending on who you ask. However, we always recommend people reach out to brands directly to ask about how certain ingredients are sourced. For instance, squalene, which historically comes from shark liver, can now be made from olive oil; stearic acid and cetyl acid can both come from vegan or non-vegan sources as well.
Q: How do you set the bar for quality? Must every product be "can't live without" status?
A: In short, yes. But more specifically, the first question we ask ourselves is: does this product (and brand) meet our brand standards? The second question: do we think it appeals to everyone? The third: have we already/recently curated something similar for our subscribers? And, finally: is it a game-changer?
Q: Some skincare products are fine for most people, but they can be savage on sensitive skin. Does this weigh in when selecting products?
A: We definitely keep skin sensitivities in mind when curating products. Most (but not all) of the products we curate would fall under the category of being "all-natural." That doesn't necessarily mean they absolutely won't contain ingredients that could cause irritation, but in general, the cleaner the product, the less you have to worry about irritants and reactions.
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Tanya Flink is a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.
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