Avoid These 16 Nasty Ingredients Lurking in Beauty Products

Because animal protection is a key element of Kinder Beauty’s mission, our customers will never find a single animal ingredient in any of the products we include in our boxes. We work tirelessly to research every minuscule additive to ensure that each product is truly vegan and cruelty-free before it arrives at your doorstep. Don’t worry; we’re not expecting you to go into full detective-mode when shopping for cosmetics, but we thought it’d be helpful to put together a cheat sheet for you.

Here are some of the beauty product ingredients we get asked about the most, as well as our thoughts for which ones you should avoid. 

Badger


ALWAYS AVOID:

The following ingredients are almost always derived from animals. If you see one of these listed on a product’s packaging, it’s best to put the item back on the shelf.  


Animal Hair / Fur

Makeup and shaving brushes—even the most affordable ones—are sometimes made with animal hair or fur. Most of us would never dream of harming an animal for a fur coat or hat, so why let it slide when it comes to our beauty routine? Be sure to check ingredients on your brushes and make sure they’re synthetic. 


Beeswax (Cera or Cera Alba)

Beeswax is used in a lot of lipsticks, mascaras, and other cosmetics. It’s created by melting down a honeycomb into a waxy substance. On large commercial bee farms, farmers sometimes cut off the queen bee’s wings so she’s unable to leave the hive. Bees are also often killed or suffer from injuries, or torn off limbs and wings during transport or handling. We love bees and think it’s best to leave them alone. Luckily, lots of compassionate companies feel the same and refuse to use beeswax in their products. 


Carmine (sometimes listed as Cochineal, Carminic Acid, or Natural Red 4)

Not only is carmine cruelly obtained, but it’s also pretty gross. Carmine is created from crushed up cochineal beetles and gives cosmetics and some foods a reddish pigment. So basically, when you’re using a product with carmine in it, you’re putting dead bugs on your face—no thanks! Insects exist for their own reasons; they’re not here for us to kill by the thousands and turn into makeup.


Collagen

Vegan collagen is reportedly still in the early stages of development, so it’s not available to most consumers. Collagen is made from the connective tissue of dead animals such as cows or fish, and it’s meant to benefit the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. You can boost your body’s collagen without using animal products by eating a diet rich in amino acids and antioxidants. You can also look for plant-based collagen-boosting supplements online or at a vitamin store. 


Gelatin

Gelatin is sometimes present in lotions, bath salts, and other personal care products. Not only is this ingredient non-vegan, but it’s also not even vegetarian. Gelatin is made from the boiled ligaments, bones, and hooves of animals who likely suffered on a factory farm. It’s definitely something you’ll want to stay away from. 


Keratin

While it is possible to make Keratin from plants, we’ve included it on the “always avoid” list because this ingredient is nearly always derived from animals unless it’s specified as vegan. It can come from ground-up animal hair, wool, horns, or hooves, and it’s used to repair damaged human hair or to keep hair straight. There are some specialty haircare lines that include vegan keratin, but unless the product label confirms it, it’s best to avoid this ingredient. 


Lanolin 

Often found in ointment and moisturizer, Lanolin is a waxy substance that comes from sheep’s’ skin and is extracted from their wool after shearing. Several undercover investigations into the commercial wool industry have shown that sheep are often beaten, cut, and even killed during the shearing process. They’re also kept in confinement, forced to endure grueling transport, and are slaughtered at a young age. Avoid Lanolin at all costs.


Shellac (or E904)

Shellac is typically used in nail polish and some hair products as a shine enhancer. But beware! Much like carmine, shellac was made from insects. Female lac bugs secret this ingredient, and hundreds of thousands of them are killed to gather just a couple pounds of the ingredient. 


Snail Slime (or Snail Mucin)

Snail slime is a popular Korean beauty trend that became all the rage in the United States a few years ago. Snails produce slime to protect their bodies from damage and the elements, so it’s thought to have a similar effect on human skin, too. The problem lies in the fact that to obtain enough of the slime, the snails are held captive and purposefully stressed to encourage them to produce more and more slime. Obviously this tactic is beyond unethical and nothing we will ever support.

Sheep in Ireland


TAKE A CLOSER LOOK:

Nowadays, the ingredients listed below are often derived from plants instead of animals. That’s great news, but because product labels often don’t specify how the ingredient was made, you may need to do a little research. If you want to be 100-percent sure that an ingredient on the following list is vegan, reach out to the company and ask. 


Allantoin

Allantoin softens and heals skin, so it’s useful in creams and lotions and is also found in oral care products. This ingredient can be made from the root of the comfrey plant, created synthetically, or it can come from animal urine. 


Alpha-Hydroxy Acids

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA’s) include glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, and citric acid. These acids exfoliate and smooth the skin, and they’re often vegan, but it’s possible the acids may have been animal-derived. Some AHA products mention on their packaging that they’re plant-based, but many don’t specify.  


Glycerine

Glycerine is found in tons of personal care products from bar soaps to makeup. Back in the day, the ingredient was always made from animal fat, but now it’s super common for Glycerine to be derived from vegetable oils. 


Stearic Acid

Stearic Acid is derived from either animal or plant fats, and unfortunately, there’s no real way to know without calling the company to ask or checking online. This ingredient is typically found in soaps and skincare products. 

 

Squalene

This ingredient is known for balancing oil production in the skin. It was originally created from shark liver oil, but now it’s often plant-based, too! 

 

Synthetic Beeswax

This is a tricky one because usually, the word “synthetic” means an ingredient was created without the use of animal products. When it comes to beeswax, this isn’t always the case. Oftentimes, synthetic beeswax is truly vegan, but sometimes it actually contains beeswax or Propolis, which is a glue created by bees in the honeycomb. 

Honey bees


While we hope this list will help you make Kinder buying decisions, we also don’t want you to stress over every micro-ingredient in your beauty routine. Being cruelty-free isn’t about being personally pure—it’s about doing the best you can to do the least harm. You’ll help more animals in the long run if, instead of overanalyzing each item, you show people how fun and easy it is to shop vegan and cruelty-free.

And if you really want to take all the guesswork out of knowing which beauty products to buy, subscribe to Kinder Beauty! We carefully curate an exciting monthly box full of high-quality, vegan products you’ll love. Choose a plan or gift a plan before next month’s box sells out!   

Kim Johnson is a writer and social media strategist with 10 years of experience in the nonprofit sector working for animal protection organizations.