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What are the Top Cosmetic Ingredients for Vegans to Avoid?

We applaud you for choosing the vegan lifestyle! We're here to help by sharing the top 5 animal products and animal-derived ingredients commonly found in cosmetics—some of which might surprise you.

Vegan living is a huge commitment, and if you've chosen this lifestyle, we admire you greatly. Ensuring not only the food, but also the cosmetics and household products, you use are vegan-friendly takes time. Delving into formulas reveals all kinds of animal derivatives you'd never have dreamed of before.

We want to give you a head start, so we've pulled together a list of the 5 most common animal products found in cosmetics. Add these to your 'do not buy' list and keep your animal friends smiling!


1. Hyaluronic acid


Hyaluronic acid is an on-trend cosmetic ingredient. Its PR credentials of holding up to 1,000 times its own weight in water make it an ingredient to shout about. The hyaluronic acid found in your cosmetics uses its power to hydrate and plump your skin.

What you're unlikely to see accompanying the marvels of hyaluronic acid's water-binding capabilities is the fact that this ingredient is commonly derived from rooster combs. A rooster comb is the red crown that mounts the head of a rooster.

However, not all hyaluronic acid is animal-derived. The very same ingredient can also be manufactured via biofermentation. If you're in doubt about the source of hyaluronic acid, get in touch with the brand's customer service team.


What are the top cosmetic ingredients for vegans to avoid?


2. Bee products


The pollination machines of your garden, bees, manufacture several products used in your cosmetics:

  • Beeswax
  • Honey (miel)
  • Propolis
  • Royal jelly

These ingredients are very easy to replace with vegan alternatives. Switch beeswax for candelilla wax and honey for vegetable glycerine. Beeswax is often found in lip balms, so if you're looking for a vegan-friendly alternative, try Aesop Protective Lip Balm SPF 30.


3. Oils and fats derived from animals


Most moisturisers, lotions, and night creams contain oils that condition and nourish skin. They skin-identical nature of many oils makes them greatly compatible.

Just as human skin is protected by natural oils, so too is the skin of several animals. But obtaining animal oils doesn't stop at skin. Sometimes vital organs are harvested for oil too.

Take a look at some of the most common animal fats in cosmetics:

  • Squalene: derived from shark liver
  • Tallow: animal fat used to make soap and another cosmetic ingredient, stearic acid
  • Emu oil
  • Mink oil
  • Musk oil
  • Caprylic acid / caprylic triglyceride: created from cow and goat milk

Again, some of these ingredients can come from vegan-friendly sources. Squalene, for example, can be made from olives. Caprylic acid and caprylic triglyceride can be derived from coconuts.

It's safe to assume that if the source is vegan, you'll see a bracketed origin statement in the ingredients list—something like 'derived from coconuts' or 'vegetable-derived'.

Alternative plant-based oils nourish skin in the exact same way. This is a principle L'Occitane Shea Fabulous Oil for Body & Hair follows.


What are the top cosmetic ingredients for vegans to avoid?


4. Keratin


Keratin is a type of protein that's found in abundance in your hair and skin. Several shampoos and conditioners contain keratin to replenish your hair's natural reserves. You'll often find that treatments containing keratin aim to treat weak and brittle hair.

Keratin is a protein we have in common with our animal friends. The keratin you'll find in cosmetics is often derived from the hooves, quills, and hair of animals.


5. Silk powder


Silk is an ingredient you'll find often in mineral makeup and sometimes in skincare products. Silk powder is used to provide colour, oil absorbency, and lubricity to your cosmetics.

The process used to create silk powder may shock you. Silkworms are allowed to mature to pupation within their cocoons, and then the worms are dissolved in boiling water to create silk fibres.

Inika and Youngblood are two brands of mineral makeup that don't contain silk powder or any other animal ingredients.

For a comprehensive list of animal-derived ingredients, animal products, and by-products, bookmark PETA's animal ingredients list.


What are the top cosmetic ingredients for vegans to avoid?