non-vegan cosmetic ingredients to avoid if you're vegan – beautybar

non-vegan cosmetic ingredients to avoid if you're plant based

Beauty Bar

Posted on October 19 2019

non-vegan cosmetic ingredients to avoid if you're plant based

hey vegan beauties, we understand how hard it can be as a vegan to find cosmetics that are not only cruelty-free but also 100% vegan. it can be shocking to find out that your favourite lipstick contains beeswax or lanolin. 

here is a rundown of key ingredients to avoid when looking for vegan friendly skincare, hair care, and makeup products, and what makes them not so vegan.

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1. beeswax : this is probably the most common, beeswax is used to keep the oil and water within a product from separating. beeswax is most commonly found in lip products to keep them applying smoothly while maintaining a moisturizing formula. however, lip products are not the only makeup products that contain beeswax, look out for it in your mascara products as well! this ingredient can also be masking itself under the name "cera alba" so keep your eyes peeled. 

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2. carmine: carmine is a red colouring product found in nail lacquer, blush, lip products, and sometimes rouge toned eye shadow. this product is made from insects, specifically cochineal bugs... this ingredient can also be listed as "cochineal", "natural red 4", "E120", "C.I. 75470", or carminic acid.

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3. shellac: shellac is often used in nail products and can even be found in hair lacquers as a high-gloss sealant. shellac is actually a secretion that comes from the female lac bug, which resides in southeast asia.

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4. lanolin: lanolin gets its name wool-wax because it really is just that. lanolin is a product that is secreted through wool bearing animals' (mainly sheep) pores. lanolin is most commonly found in lip products like glosses and lip balms, as well as some hair products to soften & moisturize.

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5.casein: casein, sodium caseinate, or caseinate, is a protein derived from the skim milk of cows. this product contains amino acids and is typically used for conditioning hair or the skin.

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6. guanine: guanine is a product used to create pearlescence and shine in certain makeup & nail products. guanine is a colourant obtained from fish scales.

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7. elastin: elastin is what we have to thank for our body's (you guessed it) elasticity. it is what makes your skin bounce back after you poke it. elastin for cosmetics is derived from animal muscles and ligaments. elastin can also be used as a conditioning agent for the skin and hair, promoting strength within. watch for this ingredient in hair conditioners & anti aging skincare. 

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8. n-acetyl glucosamine: n-acetyl glucosamine or NAG is used to treat uneven skintones by promoting cellular turnover (exfoliation & skin renewal). look out for this ingredient in your skincare products! NAG is derived from the shells of crustaceans like crabs and lobsters.

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9. arachidonic acid: arachidonic acid is characterized as an omega-6 fatty acid. this ingredient is typically used in products to moisturize the skin, so it could be hiding in your facial moisturizer, body creams, and hand creams. arachidonic acid is typically derived from livers, butterfat, fish oils, and lard. 

some non-vegan ingredients also have plant based alternatives, and may not disclose whether they are using plant based or animal products, so look out for the following:

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squalene/squalane: squalene is a top ingredient used in skincare which is full of fatty acids and antioxidents. squalene is oil extracted from shark liver.. however, there are vegan versions of squalene available that are made from wheat germ and olives.

stearic acid: stearic acid is found in animal and vegetable fats and oils. do further research to find out which they use in their products. stearic acid is used as a surfactant and a cleansing agent in some cleansers. 

oleic acid: similar to stearic acid, oleic acid can be used in combination with other acids, can be used as a cleansing agent and surfactant, as well as a conditioning emollient. also similarly to stearic acid, oleic acid can be derived from certain plants including coconut, olives, and nuts.

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collagen: over 30% of your body's protein is made up of collagen. collagen is the protein that keeps the elasticity in your body, including the skin, muscles, & tendons. typically collagen is derived from hooves, bones, and hides of animals. however the application of collagen applied topically is controversial over whether or not it can actually penetrate into your skin. vegan collagen boosters on the other hand, do not contain collagen, but boost your natural collagen. vitamin c, amino acids, and minerals work together to build your natural collagen. so be mindful when looking at cosmetic products that are "collagen products" because they may not actually contain collagen. however, if you are taking a collagen supplement, it is most likely not vegan, unless labelled otherwise.

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keratin: like collagen, keratin is another protein our body naturally ntains. keratin makes up your hair, skin and nails. so when we suffer a loss of keratin, our hair becomes more frail, and our nails don't grow as fast & strong. for that reason, keratin is used in certain conditioning products to promote strength and rebuild the hair shaft. however, also like collagen, there are plant based keratin boosting products, so be weary when shopping for keratin boosting products.

caprylic acid: caprylic acid is another fatty acid, of which is quite often found in the milk of mammals. unlike arachidonic acid, this fatty acid is used as an antiseptic and an antimicrobial, as well as fragrance in perfumes. however, caprylic acid can also be derived from palm & coconut oil, so if the product is labelled vegan, you can be sure they're using plant based caprylic acid.


unfortunately, at this time, not a lot of brands will guarantee to be 100% vegan. however certain products will be stated as vegan. however, websites do not make it easy to browse all their vegan items. so we went one step further, researching item by item to do the hard work for you and created a whole section of our website catered towards vegan and plant based makeup, skincare, bath & body, and more. 

to explore our vegan friendly products click HERE.

check out the link here to see peta's full list of animal derived ingredients


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