When many people hear the word vegan they usually think of food and we certainly have lots of great vegan food & drink recipes. Next, thoughts may turn to vegan clothes but as any vegan knows, commitment to a vegan lifestyle actually impacts on just about every area of life.
When you wake up in the morning the first thing you might do (well, after getting out of bed anyway!) is brush your teeth. Next, you might have a shower and wash yourself, before, perhaps, applying some makeup. For each of these steps you have probably used some form of product and a dedicated vegan will want to make sure that all of the ones they utilise are fully vegan friendly.
Are Cosmetics Vegan?
The definition of a cosmetic product as used in the UK and European Union law is wider than most people would expect. As well as makeup, such as lipstick and mascara, it also includes products designed to “clean, perfume and protect the body” incorporating soaps, shower and bath preparations (foams, gels etc), deodorants and antiperspirants, hair care products, such as shampoos, conditioners, sprays and colourants, shaving creams, foams and lotions, toothpaste and mouthwash, sun creams, anti-wrinkle products, face packs and hand lotions, as well as after-shaves and perfumes. No wonder our bathroom cabinet is so disorganised!
Unfortunately, we still live in a world where not all cosmetics are vegan but cruelty-free, vegan-friendly cosmetics are now much easier to find than they used to be. Both Boots and Superdrug, two of the UK’s largest cosmetics retailers, now have vegan sections on their websites, which shows how much progress has been made in the last few years. In this article we will look at some of the best vegan-friendly brands available on the high street and also what considerations need to be made when you are shopping for vegan makeup and more broadly, toiletries and cosmetics.
Does ‘Cruelty-Free’ Mean It’s Vegan?
Often used interchangeably, you will find many cosmetics on the high street are labelled as cruelty-free but beware, this does not necessarily mean that they are vegan friendly. Our advice is to proceed with caution, check the labels carefully and read the sobering information below about what the cruelty-free labelling really means. As ever, if in doubt, contact the manufacturer, with most big brands having dedicated customer service teams who are easy to contact.
Products labelled as cruelty-free should not have been tested on animals during the manufacturing process but that does not necessarily mean that the ingredients are all vegan friendly or that they are products you should consider buying. You may find some companies who proudly announce that their final product has not been tested on animals and is cruelty-free but omit to mention that they have used ingredients tested on animals either by themselves or by a third-party somewhere else in the process.
Thankfully, animal testing is banned in the UK and all other European Union member states and, since 2013, it is illegal to sell cosmetics within the EU which have been, or contain ingredients that have been, newly tested on animals. Unfortunately, this is not the case in other parts of the world, for example, in the United States of America and China, where animal testing still occurs.
Animal testing is mandatory in China but not in the USA, yet some American companies continue to inexplicably conduct animal tests they claim are needed to assess the safety of new ingredients. The Chinese government conducts mandatory testing on all cosmetics products imported into the country, which raises another massive issue about cruelty-free labelling.
Even if a cosmetics brand does not test their products on animals so claim to be cruelty-free, if they sell their products in China then they cannot be considered to be truly living up to that label. This means that many of the big players, including L’Oreal, Clinique and Estee Lauder, are not in fact cruelty-free brands in our mind.
How to Ensure Your Cosmetics Are Vegan
So, surely if cosmetics are labelled as vegan that means you are safe to purchase them? Unfortunately that is not always the case as we will explore in depth here. A product that is labelled vegan should not contain any animal-derived products or animal ingredients. The key consideration here is that vegan describes the ingredients rather than the production and testing process, so caution is required.
Unfortunately the term vegan is not regulated globally, it is often just used to highlight that a product does not contain animal ingredients so, in theory, items that are tested on animals could claim to be vegan, as well.
Fortunately, there are lots of UK cosmetics companies who are proudly both cruelty-free and fully vegan. These brands are more than happy to tell you exactly which parts of their range conform to both standards, for example, if certain shades of product include animal-derived ingredients whilst others do not. We will discuss what ingredients to look out for and avoid in the next section.
Vegan-Friendly Cosmetic Ingredients
Non-vegan cosmetic ingredients and their vegan-friendly alternatives include:
|Ingredients to Avoid||Usage & Vegan-Friendly Alternatives|
|Beeswax||Used for skin softening, beeswax is often found in moisturisers, body creams and lip balms. Vegan alternatives to look out for include soy wax, candelilla wax and bayberry wax. Plant oils, such as olive and argan oils, are also great intensive moisturisers.|
|Honey||Popular in facial washes and skin moisturisers, honey is also used in conditioning treatments for the hair, as well as in the treatment of spots and blemishes. Vegan alternatives include maple and brown rice syrup.|
|Lanolin||A product of the oil glands of sheep and extracted from their wool, lanolin is used as an emollient in many skin-care products. Unrefined coconut oil, organic olive oil, shea butter and rice bran oil are all vegan alternatives.|
|Collagen||Usually derived from animal tissue, collagen is a fibrous protein found in vertebrates and commonly used to improve the elasticity of skin. Vegan alternative ingredients include soy protein, almond oil and amla oil.|
|Albumen||In cosmetics, albumen is usually derived from egg whites and is used as a coagulating agent. There isn’t strictly speaking a vegan friendly alternative to this and it is just one to look out for and avoid.|
|Carmine||Derived from the cochineal (an insect) this pigment is widely used in lip products and other bright red makeup. Vegan alternatives to consider include beetroot or red radish juice.|
|Gelatine||Used in shampoos, face masks and a range of other cosmetics (and food stuffs). Vegan friendly alternative ingredients include carrageen, seaweeds and fruit pectin.|
|Cholesterol||Can be derived from lanolin and found in animal fats and oils. Used in eye creams and hair products. Alternatives to look out for include sterols from plant sources.|
|Keratin||Protein made from ground up animal products, such as horns and hooves and found in shampoos and hair treatments. Vegan alternatives include almond and alma oils and also soy protein.|
|Allantoin||A uric acid from cows, used in creams and lotions for its moisturising and healing properties. Plant and synthetic versions are available: look out for extract of comfrey.|
|Alpha-Hydroxy Acids||Used in anti-wrinkle products and exfoliants. Can be plant or animal derived, if animal derived it is a lactic acid found in muscle tissue and blood. Plant alternatives are found in plant milk sugars and include citric acid, glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Synthetic versions are also available.|
|Caprylic Acid||A fatty acid from milk used in soaps and perfumes. Alternatives to look out for include coconut and other plant-based oils.|
|Arachidonic Acid||A fatty acid found in animals and humans, usually extracted from animal liver. Used in skin creams and lotions. Vegan friendly alternatives include aloe vera, tea tree oil, calendula and synthetic versions.|
|Castor||Thankfully most cosmetic companies now use a synthetic version of this strange animal product, which comes from muskrat and beaver genitals. Rare but one to be aware of, traditionally used in the manufacture of perfumes.|
|Ambergris||Used in the manufacture of perfumes and is made from whale intestines. Synthetic or vegetable versions are available.|
|Carotene||A pigment found in animal tissue used as a colouring in cosmetics. A plant source version is available.|
|Elastin||Similar to collagen, found in cows and used in skincare products. Synthetic versions are available.|
|Fish Scales||Used in shiny makeup. Rayon, mica and synthetic pearl are all vegan friendly alternatives.|
|Lactose||Sugar from the milk of mammals used in eye lotions. Plant milk sugars are a vegan friendly alternative.|
|Cerebrosides||Fatty acid used in moisturisers. If animal-derived this usually comes from brain tissue. Look out for the synthetic version.|
|Guanine||Comes from fish scales and used in nail varnish and shampoo. Synthetic pearl, aluminium and bronze particles are all vegan alternatives.|
|Hyaluronic Acid||Found in umbilical cords used in cosmetics to make skin feel more supple and reduce wrinkles. Synthetic and plant-oil-based versions are available.|
|Glycerin||An animal fat found in mouthwash, toothpaste, soap and other cosmetic items. Look out for vegetable glycerin or seaweed instead.|
|Chitosan||Derived from crustacean shells. Used to bind many cosmetic products including hair and dental ones. Alternatives can be found in fruit and vegetables including legumes, raspberries and dried apricots.|
|Lard||Sometimes found in shaving creams and soaps, this comes from pig abdomens. Look out for pure vegetable fat alternatives or oils.|
|Mink Oil||Though rarer now, mink oil was traditionally used in many cosmetics but vegan friendly alternatives such as avocado, almond and jojoba oil are now more commonly used.|
|Pristane||Comes from the livers of sharks and from whale ambergris and is used for skin conditioning. Synthetic and plant oil alternatives available.|
|Oleic Acid||Can come from either animal or vegetable fats and oils so one to be aware of. Used in lots of different types of cosmetics, such as soaps, creams, nail polish and lipsticks. Coconut oil is a good vegan alternative.|
|Lecithin||Usually obtained from eggs when used commercially it is found in eye creams, lipsticks, soaps and a range of other cosmetic items. Synthetic and soybean lecithin are vegan friendly alternatives.|
|Royal Jelly||Comes from the throats of worker bees and used in cosmetics for its healing properties. Vegan alternatives to consider are comfrey and aloe vera.|
|Shellac||Made from the secretion of the lac beetle and used in nail varnish. Look out for zein and plant waxes as alternatives.|
|Squalene||From sharks’ livers and used in moisturisers and hair dyes. Olive oil, rice bran oil and wheat germ oil are alternatives.|
|Tallow||Rendered beef fat found in soaps, lipsticks and other cosmetic items. Look out vegetable tallow or paraffin as an alternative.|
|Turtle Oil||Rare now thankfully, turtle oil comes from the genitals of giant sea turtles and is used in a range of cosmetic items. Vegetable emollients are used as alternatives.|
How to Find Vegan Cosmetics & Makeup
Gone are the days where scouring specialist shops was the only way to find vegan cosmetic items. The Internet has made it much easier to search for vegan-friendly products and vegan beauty articles are now common place in the mainstream press as consumers become concerned about what they are putting on their skin.
There are an increasing number of 100% vegan beauty brands, which means that scanning the small print of ingredients is thankfully becoming a thing of the past. One top tip is to look out for the Vegan Society sunflower trademark, as this ensures that the products you buy are fully vegan and that none of the ingredients have been tested on animals at any stage.
If you are happy checking ingredients lists but are unsure how to check whether your product is cruelty-free, the Leaping Bunny Logo is an internationally recognised symbol that shows that no new animal tests were used in the development of any of the products displaying it, including companies marketing their products in China.
Although, as previously discussed, this does not mean that all Leaping Bunny products are vegan, using this logo in conjunction with the ingredient list will help you to make informed decisions. Ingredient information is required by law so make sure that you familiarise yourself with the ingredients listed in the table above so that you know which ones to avoid.
Unfortunately labelling isn’t always as clear as it might be and there may well be other animal-based ingredients not listed above. Once again, if you have your doubts, checking with the manufacturer is the safest way to be 100% sure.
With regards to unclear labelling and marketing, it’s also worth noting that companies can be cruelty free without featuring the Leaping Bunny logo. Joining the programme is free but it is also optional so just because a brand doesn’t display it, don’t automatically rule them out. It is a North America based organisation, so more geared towards American and Canadian brands, though PETA also has a similar scheme.
Best High Street Vegan Cosmetic Brands
In the final part of this article, we will have a look at some of the best vegan cosmetic ranges available on the UK high street. Boots is the UK’s largest pharmacy-led health and beauty chain with around 2,500 branches across the country and they now offer a fantastic range of excellent value vegan products.
You can also shop online with them and use their Order & Collect service for free on orders over £10 (it costs £1.50 for orders under £10). In fact, many of their vegan-friendly products are from well-known brands that can be found in most bathrooms across the country so you may well find that your favourite product is vegan friendly anyway!
Original Source shower gels are both vegan and cruelty free. Established in 1996, this is a great natural brand using plant extracts and 100% natural fragrances. Their Mint & Tea Tree shower gel will really help to get you going in the morning! The other great thing about this brand is that it is excellent value for money, under £2 for 250ml of shower gel, and it is often on offer for half that price so keep your eyes peeled and stock up when you can!
Bulldog is a great vegan, cruelty-free men’s skincare brand. They have products to suit all skin types, use natural ingredients and most of the products are manufactured in the UK too. Often to be found on offer with three products for the price of two at Boots, this is a pocket friendly ethical men’s range.
E.l.f. are a cruelty-free, paraben-free, 100% vegan cosmetics brand from the United States with products that won’t break the bank. With mascaras for under a fiver and eyeshadow palettes for £10, everything in their range is under £15 and they even offer their own range of brushes too.
Looking for a vegan-friendly, cruelty-free hair care brand? In that case, Umberto Giannini is exactly what you are seeking! Their range includes shampoos, hairsprays and masks and has all types of hair covered, so even those with the most troublesome tresses will find what they need! Tested in their salons rather than on animals this is a great range with all products available for under a tenner – again, look out for three for two offers that are often available in Boots.
Inspired by the Hawaiian Islands, Maui Moisture is another fantastic vegan and cruelty-free haircare range. Free of silicon, parabens and artificial colours, each bottle starts with a blend of aloe vera juice and coconut water and smells amazing. Available at Boots, everything in their range is under £10.
Concerned about the nasties lurking in your hair dye? Bleach London offer a range of vegan and cruelty-free dye kits that allow you to achieve salon-quality colours at home, as well as shampoos and conditioners to keep your locks looking tip top. Even their packaging is made from recycled cardboard, so give them a try.
If you are looking for vegan and cruelty-free cosmetic gift ideas then look no further than the Miss Patiserrie range with products, which are good enough to eat! Though we don’t actually recommend that. Their range includes body scrubs, bath bombs and gift sets. These start from £4.50 each, so it’s a great excuse to treat the vegan in your life or just treat yourself!
Top Vegan Brands & Products in Review
|Original Source||Shower Gels||100% Vegan & Cruelty-Free|
|Bulldog||Shaving balms and moisturisers||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|E.l.f||Makeup and brushes||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|Umberto Giannini||Hair care products including shampoos, masks and sprays||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|Maui Moisture||Hair care products including shampoos and treatments||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|Bleach London||Hair dyes and shampoos||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|Miss Patisserie||Bath and shower products and gifts||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|Georganics||Toothpaste and mouthwash||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|Kingfisher||Toothpaste||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|Inika||Makeup||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|Axiology||Lipsticks||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|PHB Ethical Beauty||Makeup||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|Eco Tools||Makeup brushes||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|Floral Street||Fragrance brand||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|Milk Makeup||Makeup||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
|Kat Von D||Makeup||100% vegan and cruelty-free|
So, with so many amazing vegan cosmetics out there – from makeup to hair dye and moisturiser to shampoo – looking, smelling and feeling great needn’t come at the expense of your vegan principles.