What’s the Deal with Vegan Beauty?

Contributor Allie White helps you know what to look for if you’re in the market for vegan products…

As far as most people are concerned, “vegan” denotes a type of diet that doesn’t allow for any animal products. No meat, no cheese, no eggs, no anything that derives from an animal. And as far as “dietary veganism” goes, it is about food. But “vegan” can actually mean much more than what you eat; for many people, it’s a lifestyle. It dictates not only what they put in their body, but also what they put on their body. From clothes to skincare to makeup, it touches every part of a vegan’s life.

If you’ve ever tried to order a vegan meal at a non-vegan restaurant, you know the struggle is real. So imagine trying to lead a completely vegan lifestyle in a not-completely-vegan world. It’s a lot of work with a lot of potential to get stuck and tripped up. And just like the warranted annoyance at restaurants that offer salad or a plate of steamed veggies as vegan options, it’s easy to see why anyone who adheres to a vegan lifestyle would be annoyed at the skincare and beauty industry — they certainly don’t make it easy to find products that not only adhere to vegan standards, but that also work at the same level of conventional products.

Luckily, big and small brands alike are taking notice of the need — and benefits — of vegan beauty and skincare, and things that fit the vegan lifestyle are more easy to find than ever theses days. That said, it’s still utterly important to know what to look for if you’re in the market for vegan products.

When reading ingredient labels, certain things will jump out at you as obviously non-vegan. But then there are those tricky ingredients that are either hiding under a name you might not recognize or ones you’re not totally sure about. Some common beauty ingredients that are definitely non-vegan include:

  • Lanolin
  • Collagen
  • Albumen
  • Shark squalene
  • Carmine
  • Cholesterol
  • Gelatin
  • Beeswax
  • Honey

Some products will proudly and boldly state their vegan status on the label, while others may be a bit more subtle. Other than the ingredient deck, you’ll also want to pay attention to certain icons and language like the following:

  • Certified Vegan: This is the Holy Grail for vegan products. You don’t have to second guess a product with this labelling as it means the product is 100% free of any animal-derived ingredients and was not tested on animals.
  • 100% Vegetarian: As the name implies, a product with this label doesn’t contain animal ingredients but it may contain animal by-products.
  • Leaping Bunny: The internationally-recognized symbol meaning no animals were harmed—in all stages of development and production, including labs and suppliers. It’s important to note that the company has voluntarily pledged their products are 100% free of animal testing, but there’s no agency checking up on the pledge.
  • Cruelty Free: Similarly to the leaping bunny, this logo means a company has provided a signed assurance or statement verifying there’s no animal testing on their ingredients, and is organized by PETA.
  • Not Tested on Animals: Products and ingredients have never been tested on animals and must not contain ingredients derived from killing an animal or provided as a by-product from killed animals. Verified by Choose Cruelty Free (CCF), companies pay to use and license the logo and the CCF requires companies to undergo regular re-accreditation.
  • USDA Organic: Made with at least 95% certified organic ingredients and free of additives. Doesn’t denote a vegan product, but most vegan, cruelty-free products are also organic so this is good to know.
  • Ecocert Organic: At least 95% of the plant-based ingredients are organic. Plant-based ingredients and at least 5% by weight are organic.
  • Premium Body Care: Whole Foods Market has extremely strict body care standards, and this symbol indicates a product contains no parabens, SLS, and over 400 other ingredients the market has banned from the products it carries. Again, does not denote something is vegan, but also good to know.
  • Refer to Insert: This means the container doesn’t include all the product information, so if you’re looking for something 100% vegan, you should take the time to thoroughly inspect and read the leaflet in the box to make doubly sure it’ll work for you.

+ Be sure to check out our vegan beauty products here!!

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This was really helpful – going to share this with my vegan friend, who’s looking into going vegan in other parts of her life too!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

5 years ago

This is awesome! Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue and helping inform people who might not be aware. I have had a vegan diet for years now, but have more recently started vegan-izing the rest of my life. The hardest thing has been saying goodbye to burt’s bees lip balm.

5 years ago

Thanks for sharing this and informing more people what vegan beauty is and why it matters!

5 years ago

Omg, all those products in the link look so GOOD!

5 years ago

Very nice article. Keep up the good works.

5 years ago

Very helpful article that clarifies beauty products labels and related terms.
For all readers that would like to discover what really a vegan lifestyle is, there is a great guide out there :