What's the Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian Cosmetics?

Confused over certifications on cosmetics? Our article explains what 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' designations on product labels actually mean.

Just as food nourishes you from the inside out, skincare nourishes you from the outside in. Thinking about skincare as food will help you understand the difference between vegan and vegetarian cosmetics.

What's the Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian Cosmetics?



What are vegetarian cosmetics?


A vegetarian diet allows no meat products whatsoever. The rule of vegetarianism is that you won't eat another living creature, whether mammal or insect.


Vegetarian ethics sound like something you wouldn't need to think about when choosing cosmetics. However, several products can contain ingredients for which an animal has been slaughtered. If you think about it, if you wouldn't kill an animal for food, you probably wouldn't want to kill it for any other reason.


Take the fatty substance squalene, for example. Unlike lanolin, a wax that comes from sheep's wool, squalene is taken from the liver of sharks. Whereas shearing wool and extracting lanolin is relatively harmless to a sheep, sharks must die before their liver can be harvested.


Some animal ingredients such as squalene can alternatively be made from plants. If you find a skincare product that contains vegetarian squalene, it'll likely be disclosed in brackets on the ingredients list as 'squalene (vegetable derived)'.


Like lanolin, several other ingredients are derived from animals with no harm. Beeswax is a good example. If you're vegetarian, you'd happily be able to enjoy Burt's Bees Ultra-Conditioning Lip Balm. A vegan would find another product.


What's the difference between vegan and vegetarian cosmetics?

What are vegan cosmetics?

Veganism takes the principles of a vegetarianism a step or two further. A vegan avoids all animal-derived ingredients, including eggs, dairy, and honey. Whereas many people apply vegetarianism to their diet alone, veganism is more often a complete lifestyle.

Plenty of cosmetic ingredients are derived from animals. The aforementioned honey is also widely used in cosmetics. This bee product has an antibacterial effect and helps seal moisture into the skin.

If you wanted to convert your cosmetics closet to fit with the values of veganism, you'd have to switch from Burt's Bees lip balms to something like vegan-friendly Hurraw! Cinnamon Tinted Lip Balm.

How to find vegan cosmetics without scouring individual ingredients lists

We're very happy to partner with Inika, a 100% vegan-friendly cosmetics company. Choose any product from its range, and you can be sure there's absolutely no animal cruelty and zero animal-derived ingredients involved. You can also read our quick Ultimate Guide article on shopping for vegan cosmetics.


What's the Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian Cosmetics?