I have a lot of friends who come to me for makeup advice and explanations about different types of cosmetics. A few days ago a good friend of mine sent me an instant message. She asked me if I knew what vegan makeup was and was very shocked that such a thing existed. She also thought it sounded weird and silly. After I explained to her what it was though, she came around. This made me realize that not a lot of people are aware of what exactly vegan makeup is. Here is an explanation.
In a nutshell, vegan makeup contains absolutely no ingredients that were derived from animals. Unless you are well versed in vegan ingredients or the product actually states that it is, it can be hard to tell what products actually are considered vegan.
Way back in the day, and I mean way back, before factories, before advanced science, fancy man made ingredients and all of the luxuries we have today, most makeup was made out of things found in nature that most of us today would never consider. For example, in ancient Egypt, they wore eye makeup made from green malachite and lead ore. Of course, we now know that lead is dangerous so that is no longer used. Though there has been some recent speculation that some lipsticks do contain a trace amount of lead. In ancient Egypt, they painted their lips with mignonette tree leaves. Those were later discovered to be poisonous as well.
As the world evolved, people starting finding more creative and safer ways to create colored cosmetics including using ground bugs to make pigments for lipsticks and rouge. Yes, ground bugs. I’ll bet you’re glad they don’t do that anymore right? Well, guess what? They actually still do! Bugs are still used to make pigments for some cosmetics today. Carmine is a red pigment made from the acid of scale insects, such as the cochineal. The ingredient is also sometimes called Cochineal. Check your product’s ingredients and make sure it does not contain those two words if you’d rather not apply it to your face. Anything with this ingredient in it is not a vegan product.
There are quite a few other animal derived products that a lot of companies use as well. Though not all animal derived ingredients cause harm to animals, hardcore vegans do not wish to use anything that is animal based. Here is a list of ingredients that are animal derived that can be found in cosmetics and beauty products. If you see any of these ingredients in your makeup, it is not vegan. Some of them may even gross you out a little … or a whole lot.
Acetate is an aliphatic alcohol. This ingredient is sometimes animal based and can come from fish liver oils or egg yolks. It is not always animal derived as the ingredient can be found in many things that contain Vitamin A such as carrots and wheat germ oil. It is something you might want to keep an eye out for though. Other names include: Retinol or Palmitate.
Allantoin is an ingredient sometimes found in creams and lotions that is an uric acid derived from cows.
Arachidonic Acid is found in some skin creams and Eczema creams. This ingredient is a fatty acid that is usually taken from the liver of animals.
Bee products such as bee pollen, beeswax or honey are all ingredients that are not vegan. Tree sap (Propolis) and Royal Jelly, are also bee products.
Biotin is derived from the cells of animals and is usually pulled from milk or yeast. Other names include Vitamin H and Vitamin B Factor .
Caprylic Acid is another fatty acid and is often used in fragrances and shampoos. It usually comes from the milk of cows or goats. Other names include Caprylamine Oxide, Capryl Betaine, and Caprylic Triglyceride.
Carotene is a pigment made from animal tissue. This is another ingredient that can also be plant derived. It is used as coloring in a lot of cosmetics.
Casein is a milk protein used in cosmetics and beauty masks. Other name include Caseinate and Sodium Caseinate.
Castor or Castoreum … This one is just gross. This ingredient is derived from the genitals of muskrats and beavers. It is sometimes used in perfumes.
Cetyl Alcohol is a very common ingredient. In fact, it’s one of the main ingredients of very popular facial cleanser. You may know it, it’s called Cetaphil. Guess what it is? It’s a wax made from the spermaceti of sperm whales and dolphins. Spermaceti is found in the head cavity of the sperm whale. It’s not QUITE as disgusting as it sounds, but it’s still a pretty gross and inhumane ingredient. It may also be referred to as Cetyl Palmitate, Spermaceti, or Sperm Oil .
Chitosan is a fiber that comes from the shells of crustaceans. It’s often used as a binder in skin and hair products, deodorant and some oral hygiene products.
Cholesterol is sometimes used in cosmetics and hair care products. It’s pretty obvious why this is not a vegan ingredient.
Civet is an ingredient that makes me really sad. It is rare but it is sometimes used in perfumes. It is scraped from a gland near the genitals of a civet cat. This process is usually done while the cat is alive and is very painful for the animal. I am not sure why they do this but I have a hunch it has something to do with extracting pheromones. I could be wrong. In Regardless of why they do it, steer clear of this ingredient at all costs.
Collagen is a protein found in all vertebrates. There are many plant alternatives for this ingredient so I am not sure why they continue to derive it from animal tissues.
Cysteine or L-Form is an amino acid derived from animal hair.
Egg Protein is probably obvious, but it is found in some shampoos and skin care products and is not a vegan ingredient.
Elastin is similar to collagen and is a protein derived from cows.
Emu Oil comes from ratite birds which are now factory farmed in order to obtain this ingredient.
Estrogen or Estradiol is a hormone taken from the urine of female pregnant mares. It’s mostly used in birth control and menopausal medicines but it has been found in some lotions and fragrances.
Fish oils are another obviously non vegan ingredient that can be found in some soaps. Other names include Oleyl Alcohol, Ocenol, Oleths, Oleyl Arachidate, and Oleyl Imidazoline.
Fish Scales are sometimes used when making shimmery makeup,nail polish and lipsticks. This ingredient can also be listed as Guanine or Pearl Essence.
Gelatin or gel is a protein made from the bones, skin and/or ligaments of cows or pigs. This can sometimes be found in shampoo or face masks.
Glycerin is sometimes made from animal fats though it can also come from vegetables. If it is indeed derived from vegetables, the ingredient will usually be listed as vegetable glycerin. Otherwise, it’s safe to assume it comes from an animal. It’s found in many cosmetic products and in soaps. Other names include Glycerol, Glyceryls, Glycreth-26, and Polyglycerol.
Hyaluronic Acid is used in cosmetics. It is an animal protein that is usually taken from umbilical cords and joint fluid.
Hydrolyzed Animal Protein is often found in shampoo and hair products.
Keratin is a protein made from the ground-up horns, hooves, feathers, and hair of various animals. It is often found in shampoo and other hair related products.
Lactic Acid is an ingredient that comes from blood and muscle tissue.
Lactose obviously comes from the milk of animals. It is sometimes found in cosmetics and lotions.
Lanolin is derived from wool bearing animals, such as sheep. It is a waxy substance that is secreted from the sebaceous glands of the animal. It may also be called Isopropyl Lanolate, Laneth, Lanogene, Lanolin Alcohol, Lanosterols, Triterpene Alcohols, wool wax or wool grease.
Lard is pig fat and can be found in some shaving creams, cosmetics and soap.
Lecithin is found in a large array of beauty products and can come from eggs, blood, nervous tissue, milk, corn or soybeans. This is another tricky ingredient as it can be either vegan or not. It is also known as Choline Bitartrate which is usually a synthetic vegan ingredient.
Linoleic Acid is another fatty acid used in cosmetics.
Marine Oil comes from fish or marine mammals and is sometimes found in soaps.
Milk Protein or Hydrolyzed Milk Protein is derived from cow’s milk and can be found in beauty products such as makeup, shampoo and conditioner and moisturizers.
Mink Oil comes from mink and is an ingredient in some cosmetics.
Musk or Musk Oil is used in a lot of fragrances. This can come from a variety of animals and is often harvested in very inhumane ways.
Myristic Acid is a butter acid. It is not a vegan ingredient and is found in cosmetics, shampoos and creams. Other names include Isopropyl Myristate, Myristal Ether Sulfate, Myristyls, and Oleyl Myristate.
Natural Sources can be animal based or plant based. In cosmetics the term is most often used to described animal based ingredients so it’s best to just avoid it if you’re strictly vegan.
Nucleic Acids are found in cosmetics and hair products. They are derived from the cells of animals.
Oleic Acid is often obtained from animal fats but can be vegetable based as well. Other names include Oleyl Oleate and Oleyl Stearate.
Panthenol is found in some shampoos and is sometimes animal derived. It may also be called Provitamin B-5.
Placenta Polypeptides Protein is just what it sounds like, it is found in the uterus, placenta or afterbirth of animals. It’s a very common ingredient in skin care and shampoos.
Polypeptides are an animal protein found in cosmetics.
Polysorbates are a fatty acid found in cosmetics.
Pristane is made from shark liver oil or whale ambergris and can be found in cosmetics. Other names include Squalane and Squalene.
Progesterone is a steroid hormone found in a lot of anti-wrinkle products.
RNA or Ribonucleic Acid is used in cosmetics and hair products and comes from the cells of animals.
Shellac is derived from excretions of some insects. It can also be called Resinous Glaze.
Silk or Silk Powder is found in a lot of beauty products. A lot of people think silk comes from a plant or is man made but it in fact comes from silkworms. The silkworms are boiled in their cocoons in order to get the silk.
Stearic Acid is a fat found in many beauty products. This is usually taken from cows, sheep or the stomach of pigs. At times is it also taken from the bodies of euthanized cats and dogs. Other names include Stearamide, Stearamine, Stearates, Stearic Hydrazide, Stearone, Stearoxytrimethylsilane, Stearoyl Lactylic Acid and Tallow.
Stearyl Alcohol is often made from the oils of the sperm whale. Other names include Stearamine Oxide, Stearyl Acetate, Stearyl Citrate, Stearyldimethyl Amine, Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate, Stearyl Heptanoate, and Stearyl Stearate.
Turtle Oil is made from the muscles and genitals of giant sea turtles.
Tyrosine is found in some cosmetics and creams. It is an amino acid made from Casein.
Urea is an ingredient extracted from urine and other fluids of animals. It is found in many types of beauty products such and deodorants, hair coloring, and lotions, among other things. Other names include Carbamide and Uric Acid.
Vitamin D can be derived from egg yolks, milk or fish liver oils. It is found in lotions and creams and some cosmetics.
As I previously stated, it can be very hard to pick out all the non vegan ingredients in most beauty products. Often times they are cleverly hidden behind a different scientific name. I hope this guide helps you identify some of these ingredients so you can choose your vegan products wisely.