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:
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
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
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.
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:
- Guanine Enol
- Stella Polaris
- 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).
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.
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.
Common Products With Squalene:
- Nail polish
- Cleansing products
- Moisturizing products
Other products include:
- Hair care products
- 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.
- Wool Alcohol
- Wool Fat
- Wool Grease
- Wool Wax
- Anhydrous lanolin
- Adeps Lanae anhydrous
- Aloholes Lanae
Common Products With Lanolin:
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.
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 Extract
- CI 75470
- 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.
What do candy and hairspray have in common? Both often contain the animal derived ingredient known as Shellac.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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
11. Stearic Acid
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.
Common Products with Stearic Acid:
Stearic Acid can be taken from vegetable fats, so it is easy to get a vegan version of this ingredient.
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.
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.
Other Names For Casein:
- Hydrolyzed Casein
- Calcium Caseinate
- Ammonium Caseinate
- Zinc Caseinate
- Sodium Caseinate
- Potassium Caseinate
- Iron Caseinate
- Magnesium Caseinate
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.
- Canadian Beaver
- Castor Canadien
- Castor Canadensis
- European Beaver
- Castor Européen
- Siberian Beaver
- Castor Sibérien
- Castopr Fiber
- 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.