You’ve heard about the big name-brand companies that are still testing their products on animals. But did you know that many makeup, skin care, and hair care products also contain animal derivatives? These ingredients are byproducts of testing and manufacturing processes that you may not wish to support.
Happily, you don’t have to follow a vegan diet to begin choosing cruelty-free products. It’s important to know a little bit about how makeup and skin care products are manufactured to help you make informed choices.
Here we will cover the ingredients that are derived from animals, and suggest vegan cosmetics and cruelty-free skincare alternatives.
Scan the ingredient lists of most big-brand lipstick, blush, mascara, lotion, and perfume products, and you’ll find chemical names that are unfamiliar, hard to pronounce, and impossible to spell. Many of these products contain artificial ingredients that are sometimes helpful, but occasionally harmful.
In addition to these synthetic additives, they often also contain ingredients derived from animal products. If you are looking for organic and natural products, a familiarity with these ingredients can help you choose cruelty-free cosmetics and vegan skincare.
Below are a few of the most common animal derivatives that can be found in your makeup, skin care, and hair care products.
This rendered animal fat is harvested after boiling the carcasses of slaughtered animals. It can be found in cream blushes, eye makeup, lipstick, makeup bases, and foundations.
It is commonly used and not damaging to humans, but it is a poor cosmetic ingredient due to its irritating and pore-clogging nature. In vegan cosmetics and skincare, many vegetable-based alternatives can be used in place of tallow to provide thickening and smoothing benefits.
Cochineal Dye / Carmine
If you’ve ever used red lipsticks or blush products, you have almost certainly encountered carmine. This red dye is extracted from the bodies of crushed Central and South American cochineal beetles.
Although cochineal dye is FDA-approved for food use and often used for coloration, it is non-vegan. Abbey St. Clare products do not use carmine.
This crystalline material is shimmery and light-diffusing, and it comes from ground-up fish scales. Guanine is typically added to mascaras, nail polishes, and lipsticks to give them shimmer and shine.
Guanine is not a harmful ingredient, but vegan cosmetics like Abbey St. Clare’s Mineral Pressed Shadow offer cruelty-free alternatives. Vegan ingredients such as synthetic pearls, earth micas, and even some plants offer natural sources of shimmer.
Gelatin is best-known for its thickening properties in Jell-O, but it can appear on makeup and skin care product labels as gel, hide glue, gelatine, isinglass, kosher, and halal gelatin. Gelatin is extracted from the boiled skin, tendons, ligaments and bones of animals, then used in creamy cosmetics and nail treatments.
Instead of gelatin, Abbey St. Clare uses natural thickeners that come from botanical sources such as vegetable plants, algin or kelp (seaweed), pectin from fruits, lipids from vegetable oil, and butters.
Lanolin is an excretion from wool-bearing mammals; it is a fat that is a byproduct of the process that accompanies the removal of sheep’s wool from the pelt. It is found in most lipsticks and makeup removers.
Although lanolin is non-toxic and relatively effective at moisturization, it is derived from animal products and is not vegan-friendly. In vegan skin care and makeup products, plant oils and butters can easily be used as key ingredients in place of lanolin for moisturization. Many of the Kettle Soaps at Abbey St. Clare feature deeply moisturizing vegan formulas with organic components and fragrant natural oils.
Squalene is a lipid that can be found in eye makeup and lipsticks. It was originally extracted from the livers of sharks, and was used in Preparation H until the PETA movement caused its removal in the United States.
However, because squalene occurs naturally in both animals and plants, it can be extracted from vegan sources such as vegetable oils. Abbey St. Clare uses vegan-friendly squalene that is derived solely from olive oil.
Whales have stomachs that are lined with waxy oil, and ambergris is the product that results from the natural excretion of that oil during a whale’s digestive process. Ambergris floats in the ocean as a waste product. Although whales are not harmed by its collection, as part of the overall protection against whale harvesting, the United States and Australia have banned the import or export of ambergris for commercial purposes.
Ambergris has been used in the perfume industry as a fixative to make scents last longer, although most fragrances are now produced using a synthetic fixative. This is not an issue at Abbey St. Clare, where all fragrance is provided by natural oils.
This fibrous protein is most commonly derived from animal tissue and is added to anti-aging creams and cosmetic lip-plumping glosses. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and gives structural support to skin, various tissues (such as tendons), and even teeth. As we age, collagen breaks down, the supporting fibrous structure is undermined, and wrinkles and sagging skin are the result.
Although collagen is often presented as the ultimate answer to erasing wrinkles and firming skin, the truth is that collagen as a topical treatment (as opposed to injected collagen) does not replace lost collagen and does nothing to reverse the aging process. It cannot affect the skin’s own collagen because it is a large molecule that cannot penetrate into the deeper layers of skin where collagen does its work. Its inclusion in cosmetic formulations has to do with its film-forming properties. It covers the skin and decreases transepidermal water loss, protecting the skin from environmental elements.
To stimulate production of new collagen (and its skin-firming partner elastin), formulas must incorporate ingredients such as peptides and amino acids that penetrate the skin layers and work from within to build new collagen. Vegan replacements for topical collagen include soy protein, almond oil, and horsetail extract (a main component contributing to the effectiveness of Abbey St. Clare’s Nourish & Repair natural nail and cuticle oil).
The ingredients in makeup, skin care, and hair care products are not always easy to identify. It’s important to be especially wary of discount products sold by unknown vendors; those low prices can come at the cost of low-quality and even dangerous ingredients.
For instance, counterfeit perfumes have been known to contain estradiol (urine extracted from horses) as the base liquid of the fragrances. Recently, the Los Angeles Police Department says it confiscated counterfeit makeup that tested positive for high levels of bacteria and animal waste.
Whether you are specifically interested in vegan products or not, being aware of what you put on the inside and outside of your body should be a top priority. Thankfully, there is a growing trend in vegan cosmetics that is putting great high-performing products out in the marketplace.
It is easier than ever to find high-quality vegan products from reputable sources at affordable prices. Abbey St. Clare is proud to offer a wide range of vegan cosmetics with cruelty-free natural and organic ingredients that you can trust. Our products are good for your skin and good for the environment. That’s something you can feel great about!
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