Top 15 Animal Ingredients Found In Your Cosmetics

Non-vegan, animal derived ingredients are found everywhere in the cosmetics industry. They are often labeled under weird or illusive names making it hard for vegans to avoid all animal ingredients when shopping for cosmetics. That is why I went on the hunt to track down the fifteen most common non-vegan, animal derived ingredients, which products they can be found in, what names they are under, and some of their vegan alternatives.

But if you would rather skip this read and just start shopping for vegan beauty, then push the buttons below:

The 15 most common animal derived ingredients found in cosmetics:

1. Beeswax

Photo of beeswax and a woman applying lip balm

Beeswax is produced in the hive of honey bees. It acts as the building blocks of hives.

Bees are often given the after thought in some parts of the plant-based community, and there is still a debate over whether it is unethical or not to consume products made by bees (such as beeswax and honey). Bite Size Vegan summed up why we should avoid products containing any ingredients from bees in her video below, give it a watch and decide for yourself!

Other Names For Beeswax:

  • Apic Cerena
  • Apis Mel
  • Apis Mellifera
  • Cera Alba
  • Cera de Abejas
  • Cera Flava
  • Cire d’Abeille
  • White Wax
  • Yellow Wax

Common Products With Beeswax:

Many cosmetic products are found to contain beeswax, the most common to look out for it in are lip balms, lip glosses, concealers, mascaras, and moisturizers.

Vegan Alternatives To Beeswax:

There are many popular vegan alternatives to beeswax, like Carnauba Wax, Candelilla Wax, Berry Wax, and Myrica Fruit Wax.

2. Keratin

A lamb, a horse, a womans braided hair and a chicken

Keratin is a fibrous protein found in nails, hair, hooves, horns, feathers and wool. It is even found in the outermost layer of the skin of living creatures. Therefore, Keratin protein is taken from the ground up horns, hooves, feathers and hair of various different animals.

  • Keratins
  • Animal Keratin
  • Detoxin
  • Cheratina

Common Products With Keratin:

Keratin is most often found in hair products within the cosmetics industry. But vegans should also look out for it in nail care products and skincare products as well.

Vegan Alternatives To Keratin:

The main claims of the use of animal keratin in the beauty industry is to strengthen hair, nails and skin. But there are many plant sources which claim to do the same, such as Soy Protein, Almond Oil, Amla Oil, also Rosemary and Nettles are claimed to give hair strength and body.

Weird Fact: Human hair keratin, is sometimes taken from hair salons, the human keratin is then extracted and used in some cosmetic products.

3. Animal Hair

A lamb, a squirrel, a horse and a fox

Peta explains that when animal hair is used in products, the hair is taken from:

  • Animals kept in the fur industry (such as mink and sable), these animals are often drowned, strangled, electrocuted or even skinned alive for their fur.
  • Animals like horses who have been sent to slaughter for their flesh.
  • Wild animals who have been hunted, like squirrels or foxes.
  • Farm animals like goats, who are then sheared quickly like sheep which often results in horrific injuries.

Other Names For Animal Hair:

According to Peta, horse hair can be labelled as pony or camel. But often the animal hair in a product will be labelled as the animal who owned that hair, for example ‘Mink Eyelashes’. Also animal hair makeup brushes or other products are often labelled as ‘Natural’.

Common Products With Animal Hair:

In cosmetics the most common products containing animal hair are makeup brushes and fake eyelashes.

Vegan Alternatives To Animal Hair:

Synthetic hair is common place now in the beauty world as an ethical alternative to fur. Now we can buy realistic faux mink eyelashes and high quality synthetic makeup brushes. No fur needed.

4. Guanine

Eyeshadow and dead fish

Guanine is a chemical which is turned into a colorant used in products, and is obtained from the scales of fish. It causes products to take on a shade of white, reducing the transparency of products. But it is also used to give beauty products ‘a pearly, iridescent effect‘.

Other Names For Guanine:

There are many names for this animal derived chemical ingredient, I will list the most common, the rest can be found here:

  • Guanin
  • Guanine Enol
  • 73-40-5
  • 2-Amino-6-hydroxypurine
  • 6-Amino-6-Hydroxypurine
  • 2-Aminohypoxanthine
  • 2Amino1,7Dihydro
  • 6Hpurin6one
  • Stella Polaris
  • Mearlmaid
  • Pearl Essence
  • Natural Pearl Essence
  • Dew Pearl
  • Natural White 1
  • CI Natural White 1
  • CI 75170

Common Products With Guanine:

In cosmetics, it used in hair care products (e.g. shampoos and conditioners), nail polish and other make up (e.g. eyeshadows, highlighters).

Vegan Alternatives:

The main use for guanine is to create that pearly, highlighter effect in cosmetics. Well luckily today there are plenty vegan alternatives to achieve that look. Check out my 100% Vegan Brand List to find many all vegan haircare and makeup brands.

5. Squalene

A shark, and a man with a brown face mask on

Squalane or Squalene are oily substances, and can be found in human sebum. It is a moisturizing substance which is naturally found in plants and animals. However, in the a lot of commercially sold Squalene it is most obtained from the killing of sharks. Not only are shark numbers decimated worldwide for their fins, cartilage and meat, they are also butchered for their liver oil. It is estimated that 3 million sharks are killed for this reason every year. Add that to the estimated at least 100 million each year, and soon our oceans will be empty of this prehistoric creature.

Other Names For Squalene:

Often it will be labelled as Squalene or Squalane, however the other names it could be labelled as are:

  • (E,E,E,E)-Squalene
  • Squalen
  • Spinacen
  • Spinacene

Common Products With Squalene:

Squalene is hidden in many of our cosmetics, without our knowledge, these are some of them:

black and white picture of sharks in the ocean


  • Foundations
  • Eyeshadows
  • Eyeliners
  • Mascara
  • Lipsticks
  • Nail polish


  • Cleansing products
  • Moisturizing products

Other products include:

  • Hair care products
  • Sunscreen
  • Baby powders
  • Bath oils
  • Tanning oils

Vegan Alternatives To Squalene:

Though Squalene is found in larger quantities in shark liver oil. It is so much cheaper and a billion times more ethical to harvest Squalene from plant sources. It can be found in Oil Yeast, Rice Bran, Olive Oil, and Wheat Germ Oil. So there is no excuse for companies to continue killing sharks for this, or any other purpose.

6. Lanolin

A lamb, and someone washing their hands

Lanolin comes from the sebaceous gland of sheep. It is an ointment-like substance which is isolated from the sheep’s wool after they are sheared.

  • Wool Alcohol
  • Wool Fat
  • Wool Grease
  • Wool Wax
  • Amerchol
  • Anhydrous lanolin
  • Adeps Lanae anhydrous
  • Aloholes Lanae

Common Products With Lanolin:

Lanolin is found in a wide range of products, from chewing gum to adhesive tape. Listed below are the most common cosmetic products that can contain Lanolin:

  • Lipsticks
  • Moisturizers
  • Soaps
  • Hair Products

Vegan Alternatives To Lanolin:

The reason why lanolin is used in such a wide variety of cosmetic products, is that it acts as a barrier to moisture loss. There are a few vegan alternatives that perform in the same way as Lanolin, these include Shea Butter, Rice Bran Oil, Capaucu Butter, and Mineral Oil.

7. Carmine

a red nail polish, and a red lipstick

Carmine is used to make a bright, pigmented red used in many cosmetic products like the red nail polish and lipstick above. Carmine is made from the tiny female Cochineal insects, who are native to tropical/subtropical America. In order to extract the color the female scale insects bodies are crushed up and dried out.

Other names for Carmine:

  • Crimson Lake
  • Natural Red 4
  • Cochineal
  • Cochineal Extract
  • CI 75470
  • E120
  • Natural Coloring

Common Products with Carmine:

Carmine is often used in a wide range of cosmetics, the most common are lipsticks, lip glosses, nail polishes, eyeshadows, blushes, and shampoos.

Carmine is also used widely as a food coloring, so vegans need to look out for it there too!

Vegan Alternatives for Carmine:

Synthetic red dyes are now widely available, and many cosmetic brands can create beautiful, vibrant red products using them. Take the vegan beauty brand Feral Cosmetics, they have created stunning red lipstick shades without the use of any dead crushed bugs in their products.

8. Shellac

What do candy and hairspray have in common? Both often contain the animal derived ingredient known as Shellac.

A man spraying hairspray, candy, and a womans manicured blue nails

Shellac is made from the sticky secretion of the female Lac bug, on the Lac tree. These bugs are native to parts of Asia, mainly India, Burma and Thailand. It is estimated that to make one pound of shellac it takes 100,000 Lac bugs! If you would like to learn about the process, you can check out this link.

Other Names For Shellac:

According to both sources [source 1, source 2] shellac can be named:

  • Goma Laca
  • Gomme-Laque
  • Gommelaque
  • Gomme Laque
  • Lac
  • Lac Resin
  • Lacca
  • Laccifer lacca
  • Candy glaze
  • Confectioner’s glaze
  • EINECS 232-549-9Gum lac
  • E904

Common Products With Shellac:

Shellac is used in a number of products as a clear natural glue, and as a clear coating. In food it is often used as a candy glazing agent. While in household products it is often used in floor varnish. In cosmetics it is often used in hairsprays, eyeliners, mascaras, and of course in shellac nails.

Vegan Alternatives For Shellac:

To avoid shellac in cosmetics, it is best to use only vegan makeup brands for the most common products where shellac can occur. You can check out my list of vegan & cruelty-free brands here for recommendations on ethical, shellac-free brands.

9. Collagen

A woman applying hand cream, a pig, and a baby calf

Collagen is a connective protein, and it is one of the most abundant proteins found in all living organisms.

The cosmetics industry has had a love affair with collagen as it is revered as having anti-aging properties. As we age our own collagen production slowly decreases, so beauty gurus believe that by consuming or slathering on collagen from other living things will help us maintain a youthful appearance.

Today most of our collagen is sourced from cows and pigs, and it is often sourced as a byproduct of the meat industry. However, marine collagen is also used, this is sourced from the skin and scales of fish.

Other Names For Collagen:

  • Collagen Fiber
  • Ossein
  • Osseine
  • Collagen Sheet
  • Freeze-dried Collagen Sheet

Common Products With Collagen:

The main area we see collagen being used is in the health industry for collagen supplements. But also in cosmetics, collagen is often used in many areas such as in skincare products, haircare products, in makeup, and in bath products.

Weird Story: In the plastic surgery industry collagen is in high demand, with aesthetic filler (e.g. lip fillers) growing in popularity year on year. So much so that collagen imported to Europe and America may have been obtained from unsettling sources. A large portion of our collagen is harvested from pig or cow tissue, while other filler may come from humans. There was a report in the Guardian from 2005 that had found a Chinese company harvesting collagen from the skin of executed prisoners, which was then sold on to other markets worldwide.

Vegan Alternatives:

As collagen is a protein found in all living things, there is such a thing as plant sourced collagen. By sticking to vegan beauty brands, you will be able to avoid collagen which is derived from animals (or even humans) in your cosmetic products.

10. Elastin

A brown cow's neck, beauty products next to a few flowers, and a woman with long brown hair

Elastin is similar to collagen, it is a protein which is heralded as having anti-aging properties within the beauty industry. It is most commonly made from protein that is taken from the aortas and neck ligaments of cows.

However, there is protein obtained from fish and is also sold as Elastin today.

  • Elastine Marine
  • Hydrolyzed Elastine
  • Hydrolyzed Elastin Powder
  • Elastin CLR
  • AC Elastin

In cosmetics Elastin is commonly used in haircare and skincare products. Especially those marketed to improve damaged skin or hair.

Vegan Alternatives:

There are many synthetic alternatives for Elastin, along with many plant alternatives. Sticking to vegan brands for skincare and haircare will make sure you avoid Elastin derived from animals.

11. Oleic Acid

A spilled cream nail varnish, a sheep, a herd of cows

Oleic Acid is derived from inedible tallow. Tallow is made of mutton or beef fat, often being the left overs of the animals killed in the meat industry. It appears as a ‘pale yellow liquid‘ and has a slight odor.

Other Names For Oleic Acid:

  • 9-Octadecenoic Acid
  • Oleinic Acid
  • Elaic Acid
  • Red Oil
  • White Oleic Acid
  • Emersol 220
  • Emersol 213
  • Emersol 210

Common Products with Oleic Acid:

In cosmetics, Oleic Acid is most often found in moisturizers and in aerosol products (such as canned deodorants and dry shampoo).

But it can also be found in soaps (both soft & in bar form), lipsticks, nail polish, and in skin creams.

Vegan Alternatives:

There are many plant alternatives which can be used in products, these include Almond Oil, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Flaxseed Oil and Wheat Germ Oil.

11. Stearic Acid

A stack of bar soaps, and a pig behind a cage looking scared into the camera

Lard and tallow from the meat industry are used to formulate Stearic Acid. These both being a fatty waste product of the slaughtered animals. It is described as a ‘waxy, colorless or white solid that exudes a mild odor‘. It is often used as a base for other ingredients within a product, used to create a foam when lathered or it is used to harden products.

Other Names For Stearic Acid

  • Octadecanoic Acid
  • N-Octadecanoic Acid
  • 1-Heptadecanecarboxylic Acid
  • Stearophanic Acid
  • Cetylacettc Acid
  • Century 1240
  • Emersol 150
  • Emersol 132
  • Emersol 120
  • Dar-Chem 14
  • Formula 300
  • Glycon DP

Common Products with Stearic Acid:

Stearic Acid is used in many products across the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

Within the cosmetics industry it is often used in bars of soap, shampoos, shaving foams, face and body cleansers.

It is also commonly used in candles as well.

Vegan Alternatives:

Stearic Acid can be taken from vegetable fats, so it is easy to get a vegan version of this ingredient.

13. Glycerine

A pile of bar soaps, a chicken, a cow in a field, and a pig in a pig pen

Glycerine is found in all living things, plants and animals. It is found in the blood and skin. Glycerine used in products comes from many sources, and is used as a lubricant and moisturizer in many products. One source is from animal fats, these animal fats are obtained through the making of animal fat soaps.

Other Names For Glycerine:

Also known commonly as Glycerol or Glycerin, but this can often refer to the plant sourced or synthetic version. However, the animal sourced ingredient is more often labelled as Glycerine. But it isn’t always so simple, so vegans need to be aware that the names can refer to either animal or plant sourced.

Other names for animal derived Glycerine can be labelled as are:

  • Concentrated Glycerin
  • Glycyl Alcohol
  • 1,2,3-Propanetriol
  • 1,2,3-Trihydroxypropane
  • 90 Technical Glycerine
  • Citifluor AF 2

Common Products with Glycerine:

Glycerine can be found in many of our pharmaceutical, food, and household products. In our cosmetics it is commonly used in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and as a moisturizer in skincare and hair care products.

Vegan Alternatives:

Glycerin is often made from vegetable fats, like soy beans, corn syrup sugar and cane. It is also synthetically made from petroleum.

14. Casein

A woman with long hair, a woman with a face mask on, and a cow

Casein is a cow’s milk protein. Cow’s milk protein are made up of two types, Whey and Casein. Both are regarded as a waste product of the cheese industry. Casein is also known as the substance that is what can make cheese so addictive.

Other Names For Casein:

  • Caseinates
  • Hydrolyzed Casein
  • Calcium Caseinate
  • Ammonium Caseinate
  • Zinc Caseinate
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Potassium Caseinate
  • Iron Caseinate
  • Magnesium Caseinate

Common Products With Casein:

In cosmetics Casein can be found often in haircare and skincare products. It can also be found in many food, pharmaceutical, and household products. Even in paper, plastic and glue!

Vegan Alternatives:

The best way for vegans to avoid any casein in their cosmetics, is to buy from 100% vegan beauty brands. You can check out my large selection of vegan brands that are casein-free and cruelty-free, here.

15. Castoreum

A beaver, and a bottle of parfume

This is probably the weirdest ingredient on this list, as Castoreum, is a goo secreted from the bum of a beaver.

  • Castérium
  • Canadian Beaver
  • Castor Canadien
  • Castor Canadensis
  • European Beaver
  • Castor Européen
  • Siberian Beaver
  • Castor Sibérien
  • Castopr Fiber
  • Castoréum
  • Castóreo
  • Rognon de Castor
  • Natural Flavoring

Common Products With Castoreum:

Castoreum is used in many foods as a ‘natural flavoring’. Foods like ice cream, and candy.

In cosmetics it can be found in perfume, as it has a vanilla scent.

Vegan Alternatives for Castoreum:

Well the vegan alternative for Castoreum, if we want the smell of vanilla without resorting to goo from anyone’s bum, is to simply use the VANILLA orchids!

For More Non-Vegan Ingredients...

My list is only a fraction of the animal derived ingredients which could be lurking in any of our cosmetics, food and household products. Peta compiled a long list of all the animal derived ingredients found in our products, which you should check out here.

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