How to Know if a Beauty Product Is Vegan

Whenever I’m getting ready for work or getting ready for a night out, I want my makeup to look good, feel good, and be ethically produced. But how do we know if a beauty product is vegan? Is there a difference between vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics?

Vegan beauty products are described as any cosmetic that doesn’t contain any animal or animal-derived ingredients but does not mean that the product is free from animal testing. The quickest way to determine if a product is vegan is by looking for the Vegan Society Trademark.

What Makes a Beauty Product Vegan?

A vegan beauty product is any cosmetic that does not contain animal or animal-derived ingredients.

According to the New York Times, Animal ingredients commonly used in cosmetics include honey, beeswax, lanolin (wool grease), squalene (shark liver oil), carmine (crushed-up beetles), gelatin (animal bones, tendons, or ligaments), allantoin (cow urine), ambergris (whale vomit), and sheep placenta.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather not put cow urine or whale vomit on my skin.

What Is the Difference Between Natural, Organic, Cruelty Free, and Vegan?

Greenwashing” is the deceptive practice of branding a company as environmentally friendly without actually making the changes to ensure environmental sustainability and it is becoming increasingly popular with terms like natural, organic, cruelty-free, etc. But how do we distinguish between these terms and true vegan products?

Natural Cosmetics

Natural makeup products are not as “natural” as they may seem. “Natural” has become an overused adjective to describe a product even if it has only 1% of ethically sourced, plant-based, or mineral ingredients.

Natural product labels are even deceptive as many extracts will be named according to their scientific name, making it hard to determine if the extract is a natural or chemical ingredient.

Organic Cosmetics

Similar to “natural” cosmetics, products only need to contain a small percentage of organic ingredients in order to label themselves as organic.

The Soil Association, however, regulates the use of the organic adjective as products with the Soil Association Organic Logo certify that the product is sourced and manufactured using sustainable ingredients, are not tested on animals, and are free from harsh chemicals, nano particles, parabens, dyes, and artificial fragrances.

European countries like Germany and France are currently working with The Soil Association in order to create a Cosmetic Organic Standard to better distinguish the true organic products from the “fake” ones.

Cruelty Free vs Vegan

While one may assume that vegan products are not tested on animals, unfortunately, that is not the case.

Vegan products only pertain to the ingredients, not how the product is made or tested.

Cruelty-free products are products that have not been tested on animals but may contain animal products.

The subtle difference in definition leads to a demand for vegan and cruelty-free products.

While looking for makeup it is imperative to look for both the Vegan trademark and the cruelty-free logo or to check if the brand is in PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies Program, which lists every company that is vegan and cruelty-free.

A full list of vegan and cruelty-free products from PETA.

Basic Steps to Ensure Your Makeup is Vegan

Camilla Kay of Glamour Magazine has documented her journey into deciphering which products are actually vegan. She encourages users to know the difference between many brand adjectives in order to first eliminate products that are not truly vegan.

She also recommends checking for ingredients and logos to ensure that the cosmetic you are purchasing is of the standard you want.

Interestingly, she discovered that vegans cannot buy makeup from China or if the product is available in China. In China, animal testing is a legal requirement of all cosmetics. So while the product might technically be vegan, animals have still been used in the process of creating your favorite lipstick, eyeshadow, or blush.

What Are the Benefits of Using Vegan Products?

You may be wondering why you should use vegan beauty products. It is most definitely more expensive than non-vegan makeup and it has a shorter shelf life. Why bother going through all the trouble to decipher which products are vegan if you are not getting bang for your buck?

Skincare, Skincare, Skincare

Vegan cosmetics have an enormous impact on the quality of ones skin.
Vegan products are often more gentle on the skin, causing less breakouts and irritation since they don’t have harsh chemical ingredients.

They also help your skin feel softer and look younger because, unlike other beauty brands, vegan brands do not use drying agents in order to make their products last longer.

Also, because the skin is so absorbent and porous vegan products can benefit your health lowering the risk of skincare-related illnesses such as rashes or skin cancer.

Good for the Environment

Vegan makeup products are much better for the environment.

Animal-based beauty products cause air pollution, water pollution, and deforestation during their manufacturing process.

Scientists at the Smithsonian Institute estimated that seven football fields worth of land is bulldozed every minute in order to provide enough room for the animals and crops that feed them.

With vegan makeup there is no need for deforestation and pollution caused by animals is a nonstarter. Along with less pollution, the packaging of almost all vegan cosmetics is made with recyclable materials to reduce waste.

The Vegan Beauty Movement

Dominika Piasecka, the media, and public relations office of the Vegan Society have said that the vegan beauty movement is causing a revolution.

She told the New York Times, “People are starting to question and research what they’re buying, and I think that’s empowering.”

Many brands are working towards becoming cleaner, vegan, and cruelty-free.

In short, vegan beauty is attainable as long as you know what you are looking for. And who knows? We may be seeing more innovative brands in the future that make vegan and cruelty-free makeup a priority.

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