Watch out! Animal-derived ingredients are hiding in everyday beauty products, and they are not always obvious. If cruelty-free makeup and animal-free products appeal to you, read on to find out what to look for on your next trip to the shops.
What’s in a label?
When shopping for beauty products, there are certain labels we can look for. The leaping bunny logo is a quick and easy way to see that a product is cruelty-free and has not been tested on animals. But, it doesn’t mean it’s vegan and free of animal ingredients. The Burts Bees range sources its ingredients from nature and carries the cruelty-free logo but is not vegan. Their products contain beeswax and honey. Put simply:
- Vegan products do not contain any animal ingredients. They also don’t use them within the production process.
- Cruelty-free products are not tested on animals and neither are any of their ingredients.
Are companies tricking us?
It is possible to argue that brands are tricking us into buying products that we think are animal-friendly but actually contain hidden animal ingredients. An alternative view is that all products contain a full list of ingredients and therefore we know what is in them. Many common ingredients have multiple names, though, so unless you know all possible animal-derived ingredients, they can be easy to miss.
What should we look for?
Products with a vegan label contain no ingredients from animals. It’s a good place to start, but not all vegan brands carry the vegan label as it ‘clashes’ with their image. The best we can do is educate ourselves on where ingredients come from and how they impact our skin. To help, we’ve put together a list of animal-derived ingredients. They are all common in products readily available in supermarkets and pharmacies.
Anti-ageing products claim to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Ingredients to look out for include Alpha-Hydroxy Acid, Collagen and Elastin, as they can all come from animals. Good plant and fruit alternatives include Glycolic acid, citric acid, and salicylic acid.
Colours or pigments in makeup can come from animals. The most well known is Cochineal, also known as Carmine or Carminic Acid. It is a red colourant made from crushed female cochineal insects. And, allegedly, it takes around 70,000 beetles to produce a small amount of dye. Natural alternatives include beetroot. Its deep red colour produces similar results.
Polypeptides are present in skincare ranges and work to firm and hydrate the skin. Companies like to talk about them to build interest in the scientific nature of their products, but what they don’t tell us is where they come from, and it can be animals.
One of the most widely used chemicals is Stearic Acid and its many derivatives, including Stearamide, Stearamine, Stearates, Stearic Hydrazide, Stearone, Stearoxytrimethylsilane, Stearoyl Lactylic Acid, Stearyl Betaine, and Stearyl Imidazoline. The positive news is that coconuts and many vegetable fats also contain Stearic acid, so there are animal-free alternatives.
These are only a handful of common animal ingredients. There are many more to look out for, but we can only do our best. Choosing botanical-based brands and aromatherapy-based products is a good start. Once you find a vegan and cruelty-free product that suits your skin type and meets your needs, the rest of the range is also worth exploring. You’ll not only be investing in your own skin but also empowering and helping to finance companies to expand their ethical brand.
The compassionate shopping guide
If you need a helping hand, the compassionate shopping guide by the Nature Watch Foundation is a good place to look. It only endorses cruelty-free products that have no ties to animal testing. While not all the products on their list are vegan, there is a search option that makes it is easy to see which ones are.
Blog by OneKind volunteer Fiona MacNeill.