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A woman standing over a bathtub holder a couple vegan skin care products.

What Is Vegan Beauty?

You chose a vegan diet to protect your furry friends and do better for yourself and your conscience. Choosing vegan beauty just makes sense. 

It’s unsettling to think that some of your favorite beauty products could include animal byproducts, but if you aren’t specifically buying vegan beauty products, you might be highlighting, contouring, shading, and shimmering animal parts all over your face and body.

Put down the traditional beauty products, and let’s talk about what vegan beauty is, how sneaky animal ingredients that can make their way into your products, and whether or not vegan makeup brands can stand up against traditional beauty favorites.

What does it mean when a product is vegan?

For a product to be vegan, it must not contain any animal parts, products, or byproducts. We know what you’re thinking: Shouldn’t all makeup be vegan? It should be! Or, at least we think so.

By choosing vegan cosmetics, you do more than save animals. You opt for products that are more beneficial for your skin and typically more environmentally safe.

Are all vegan beauty products cruelty-free?

Still, not all vegan beauty brands are created equally. There’s a major difference between vegan beauty and cruelty-free beauty. 

  • Vegan beauty. Vegan beauty products do not contain any animal products or byproducts, but there’s a (slim) chance they could’ve been tested on animals at some point during their manufacture.
  • Cruelty-free beauty. Cruelty-free makeup usually indicates that animal testing was not done with the finished product, but it doesn’t mean that an animal-based ingredient isn’t included in the product. 

The easiest way to make sure your makeup is both vegan and cruelty-free is to shop with brands you trust, like the ones we highlight in each month’s Kinder Beauty Box

Are all vegan beauty products naturally derived?

Just because you are buying vegan beauty products doesn’t mean you’re simultaneously buying products that are au naturale

Because the word “natural” isn’t regulated by any agency, the company selling a “naturally derived” product gets to determine its own definition of what is “natural” and what is not. 

Let’s be honest—most of us aren’t experts at reading ingredient labels, especially when it comes to products with long, tiny-font ingredient lists, like shampoo, conditioner, and eyeliner. Shopping for beauty products with companies you trust is the solution to ensuring the makeup you’re using for self-expression is not only vegan, but naturally derived. 

What are common non-vegan ingredients to avoid?

Speaking of ingredients, here are just a few common animal ingredients that show up in traditional beauty products. 

Carmine

Carmine, aka cochineal, cochineal extract, crimson lake, or carmine lake, is a red coloring used in makeup products like lipstick. It’s derived from the shells of crushed bugs. It takes millions of crushed cochineal insects to produce an ounce of carmine, and the insects are raised specifically to be crushed, added to lip color, and spread on your lips. 

Ambergris

A solid material originating in the intestines of sperm whales, ambergris is used in the manufacturer of perfume. It’s ironic because ambergris is known for having a very unpleasant, fecal smell. Ambrein is an alcohol extracted from ambergris and added to perfume to make it last longer.

Allantoin

This animal-based ingredient is found in oral care products like mouthwash and toothpaste, but also in skincare products. It can be plant-based, but it is also derived from the uric acid of animals—more simply put, their urine. 

Feathers

You wouldn’t expect to open your favorite anti-aging product and find feathers, but if your product contains keratin, an ingredient that helps keep skin hydrated and improves elasticity, you might be using chicken feathers. 

Feathers can be ground into a fine powder and used in the production of keratin for makeup products. 

Squalene

This ingredient most often comes from shark liver, but you can find vegan squalene from sources like sugarcane and olives. That means this hydration-packed ingredient isn’t necessarily a hard pass; you just have to be aware of where it’s coming from. 

Lanolin

Lanolin comes from the wool of sheep, and you’ll find it in a ton of lip balms and lipsticks. While the sheep aren’t killed to obtain this ingredient, it’s still a no-go if you’re vegan. 

Musk oil

Musk oil is often used to add fragrances to products. It is derived from the glands of animals such as musk deer, but it can also be plant-derived. 

Keratin

As previously mentioned, keratin can be formulated in a lab with ingredients like crushed animal feathers. It can also be derived from fish scales or fish liver oil—hard pass. 

Collagen

We all know the importance of collagen for the skin, but much of the collagen you find in beauty products is taken from animals. 

Glycerin

Glycerin is added to products for its humectant effects, so you’ll often find it in eye cream and vitamin C serum. Glycerin can be plant-derived or animal-derived. Animal-derived glycerin comes from fish and the ligaments of cows. 

Stearic acid

Stearic acid can also be derived from both plants and animals. It is used in products as an emulsifier and to keep products from separating. 

Honey and beeswax

Both honey and beeswax are derived from bees. While some companies allow the use of honey and beeswax in their products, PETA advises that there’s never a safe way to include these ingredients in a product without harming the bees themselves. 

How can I tell if a product is vegan?

You’ll know if your product is vegan if it doesn’t list any animal products or byproducts on the ingredient label, or if it has certification from any of the below organizations. 

PETA

While PETA does not certify products as vegan, they do keep an up-to-date cruelty-free database.

The Vegetarian Society

The Vegetarian Society is a UK-based company that you can use to shop for products that are cruelty-free. 

Vegan Action

Vegan action certifies beauty products. You can look for their label on products to ensure the products you use don’t contain animal ingredients.

Vegan Society

Vegan Society also offers vegan certification to products. You can shop their online database or look for their logos on the label to make sure you’re buying vegan products. 

Why should I choose vegan beauty products?

It’s more than just protecting animals; choosing vegan beauty is better for your skin and the environment. 

They’re better for sensitive skin

Animal products can contain enzymes that are irritating to your skin. Choosing vegan products means a lesser chance that your products will bother your skin. 

They tend to be cleaner

Animal ingredients are used in products because they are cheap to manufacture. When added to products, it isn’t uncommon to add other inexpensive, chemical-based ingredients along with them. 

The manufacturers of vegan products are typically more mindful of the ingredients they include, which translates into cleaner, greener products. 

They tend to be better for the environment

Raising animals to be used in beauty products and food is taxing on the environment. The raising of cattle is the largest source of ozone-depleting methane gas. Choosing vegan products helps protect the environment, your skin, and the animals you love. Now that is a trifecta.

They save animal lives

Animals are happier when they’re free to live their lives as they were meant to live. Choosing vegan skincare and makeup not only saves animal lives, but it’s also a vote against farming animals for their involvement in human products. 

Vegan beauty is just better

Trust your skin and your body to products that never include animals or animal products. The Kinder Beauty Blog is your source for information about companies and products that outperform traditional beauty without the use of animal parts (or, you know, animal urine). 

Sign up for your Kinder Beauty Box today.

 

Sources:

What is ambergris? | NHM.AC.UK 

Animal-Derived Ingredients Resource | Living | Peta.org 

What's wrong with beeswax? | Peta.org 

Search for Cruelty-Free Companies, Products, and More | Peta.org 

Go cruelty free with the Leaping Bunny | Cruelty-free International