What makes cosmetics vegan? Ingredients you should look out for

What makes a beauty product vegan? Not adding animal products, obviously. Yet how many of us know what ingredients exactly to look out for? All the details below.

Any natural cosmetics buff will know that avoiding sulfites, parabens, talcs, and other such chemicals when it comes to choosing the right product. And yet, many of us still ignore what it is exactly, that makes a product vegan. Even when it comes to food. Looking at the list of ingredients, you may rarely realize which ingredients exactly come from animal origin.

What to look out for when being vegan cosmetics

Even those of us who invest time into googling each ingredient may still be confused. Squalane, for instance, can be obtained from olive oil…as well as a shark’s liver, something that will probably not be indicated on the box.

Luckily, not all ingredients are this confusing, so here's a list of common beauty ingredients to look out for, if you decide to go for a vegan beauty product.

1. Cera alba

Cera alba in lip balms

Also known as beeswax. This ingredient is made by, well, bees. This is a common ingredient in lip balms, mascara, and facial serums. Vegan alternatives are widely available nowadays, with shea butter and coconut oil used instead. 

2. Castoreum

Castoreum is used in perfumes

Put simply, it’s what beavers use to mark their territory. The smell is strong and vanilla-like, which makes this a common ingredient in perfumes. Finding a vegan fragrance is tricky, but not impossible. Look out for small independent brands, specializing in vegan perfumes. Bigger brands are beginning to launch more plant-based alternatives as well. 

3. Shellac

Shellac is used in nail polishes

Didn’t expect this? Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug. Widely used in nail products and hair sprays. Vegan nail polish can be found in large makeup stores. Look for more natural and chemical-free alternatives while at it. 

4. Lanolin

Lanolin may be present in lotions

This is also a wax, obtained from sheepskin. Used in creams, body lotions, and lip balms. Thankfully, vegan lotions are pretty much everywhere right now, with many brands specifically launching vegan lines. 

5. Carmine

Carmine in red lipsticks

Red tint widely used in red lipsticks. This ingredient is made of the female cochineals. This may be the most difficult product to get. Vegan lipsticks abound, but true red is hard to come by. Kat Von D Beauty may be one of the best on the market right now. 

6. Collagen

Collagen is common in anti-aging products

Collagen can be of plant origin (usually extracted from wheat protein), marine (shark and fish skin), and animal (bovine). Make sure you're getting plant collagen, which is more commonly used nowadays. 

7. Keratin

Keratin in hair care

Extracted from animal hair and skin. Commonly used in nail and hair products that promise strengthening results. Again, branding is your friend here. PETA, BUAV, and other smaller organizations do the hard work for you. Look out for their stamp at the back of the bottle or box. 

Tina Reese

Tina is an award-winning columnist and beauty editor. Passionate about all aspects of makeup and skincare, she spends her days trying out new launches and researching the ever-changing world of beauty trends. Follow Tina’s articles and you’ll always stay updated on who’s who and what’s what of the beauty industry.+ info

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