Looking for Vegan Makeup and Ethical Beauty Products? These Are the Top 10 Ingredients to Avoid

Even though cruelty-free beauty products have become incredibly common in the cosmetics industry, vegan makeup is still lagging behind when it comes to taking over the beauty industry in the same way that organic, “clean” cosmetic products have. In fact, animal products are still some of the most common ingredients found in popular beauty products, from mascara to lipstick, from eyeshadow to fake lashes, brushes, foundation, skin creams, and anything else you regularly purchase as part of your beauty routine. Not all makeup brands have caught up with the times, but many amazing vegan products have come out to show the world just how beautifully can cruelty-free, vegan makeup shimmer and shine.Here’s our top 10 for the most common animal products hiding in your makeup and beauty products, plus a little recommendation on what to buy instead!

The sneaky animal products hiding in your makeup

1. Gelatine

Gelatine is one of the most common animal by-products in the food industry, mostly due to its odourless, colourless nature and binding properties. In the cosmetics industry, this gel-like substance made of boiled ligaments, bones, and skin tissue of animals is primarily used to add smoothness and gloss. You can find it hiding in creamy cosmetics like face creams and body lotions, as well as in hair products like shampoos and hair sprays.

2. Carmine

Carmine (also known as cochineal or natural red 4, to make it even sneakier!) is a red dye derived from a special bug, the cochineal scale. The vibrant red pigment is produced by crushing the bugs into a powder, a process that's been used for centuries and that is still surprisingly common now. Carmine is usually found in blush, red lipsticks, and red nail polishes, as well as in popular foods your children might be eating!

3. Beeswax

Beeswax, a product created thanks to the hard work of bees, is used by manufacturers to emulsify their liquid formulas, and it is mostly used in lip balms, skin creams, and mascaras. Just as honey and honeycomb rely on the exploitation of bees to be mass-produced, beeswax is also not vegan!

4. Lanolin

Lanolin is featured in both beauty products and common food products such as breakfast cereal, as a source of vitamin D. Though hard to believe, this sneaky substance comes from sheep’s wool, more specifically from the built-up sweat and grease of the animal’s skin. It’s the grease, in fact, that acts as an emollient, and its powerful moisturizing properties make it the number one choice for many hair care and skin care products.

5. Shellac

Ever gone for a full set nail treatment? If you have, there’s a very high chance you’ve had another bug-derived ingredient slathered all over your nails. Shellac is a common ingredient used in nail gels, nail polish, and other nail products – thousands of tiny insects (lac bugs) are killed and crushed to produce this resinous substance.

6. Keratin

Keratin is all the rage in the hair care industry, thanks to its efficient strengthening properties that help hair and nails grow stronger, repairing breakage and preventing heat damage. It’s no wonder keratin makes for one of the most popular ingredients in conditioners and hair treatments like the trendy Brazillian blowout. Its origin, however, is much less glamorous: the naturally protein-packed hairs and horns of animals.

7. Guanine

Guanine is a colorant found in different makeup products, such as blush, foundation,eyeshadow, and primer. Guanine is what gives most beauty and makeup products that eye-catching, pearlysparkle to brighten your look. What makes guanine not vegan is a pretty fishy ordeal:it’s created with scraped fish scales.

8. Collagen

Collagen, the highly marketed “miracle cure” for natural ageing is anything but beautiful when you consider how it’s produced. Similarly to gelatine, this substance is extracted from the bones, hair, and ligaments of cows and fish. Plant-based and cruelty-free alternatives to animal collagen are being explored, but until then you’re better off giving this “fountain of youth” supplement a pass!

9. Snail mucin

What exactly is snail mucin? Nothing but the sticky residue left behind by snails as they move. Although we can all agree that putting snail slime all over your face sounds very unappealing (in a similar fashion that everything else in this list does, honestly!), this South Korean product has actually become quite popular in the anti-ageing skincareindustry.

10. Squalene

Squalene, a fatty substance derived from shark liver oil, might sound like a novelty ingredient that’s extremely rare to find in commercial beauty and personal care products. The truth, however, is that squalene is actually very common in moisturizers, sunscreen, lipstick, and eyeshadow. Want to do your part in saving the ocean and protecting biodiversity? Steer clear of all cosmetics listing squalene (or squalane, the alternative spelling) in their ingredients label.

What makeup brands are vegan and cruelty-free?

The reason why these odd and oddly disgusting ingredients are still so common in the cosmetics industry is that they are cheaper to produce compared to their vegan alternatives. At their core, all these ingredients are mostly scraps, waste products of the animal agriculture and fishing industry. Vegan makeup brands are at the forefront of the beauty revolution, changing the way manufacturers create their products and how society thinks of "natural" beauty. As beauty enthusiasts look for increasingly more ethical options to get their makeup looks pop, pioneer vegan brands like e.l.f., KVDMilk, and Cover FX are redefining what cruelty-free really means, one vegan lipstick and creamy lotion at a time. Ready to get started and explore what high-quality vegan makeup is all about?


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