Vegan living is on the rise, and it doesn’t just involve eating a plant-based diet.
From a diet perspective, a record number of people signed up to The Vegan Society’s annual Veganuary campaign in 2021 (more than 560,000). Meanwhile, Deliveroo’s vegan orders have rocketed by 163% over the last 12 months alone. And by 2025, vegans and vegetarians are anticipated to make up a quarter of the UK population.1
From a beauty perspective, vegan facial skincare launches almost tripled between 2013 and 2018, and the sale of prestige vegan beauty products increased by almost 40% between February 2017 and January 2018.2
Household products, clothing and accessories are increasingly following the vegan trend too; vegan eating and vegan beauty are just two of the original pieces of the overall vegan lifestyle puzzle. In this article we provide you with an all-you-need-to-know guide to vegan skincare and beauty.
It involves the same principles that apply to food, but they’re applied to beauty products instead.
According to The Vegan Society, a product can only be classed as being vegan if it hasn’t been made with any animal-derived ingredients and hasn’t been tested on animals at all.3
1. Products don’t contain any animal-based ingredients.
2. No animal-derived ingredients have been used during the manufacturing process.
3. None of the products or ingredients have been tested on animals.
In addition to using vegan makeup and other beauty products, many people who embrace vegan beauty may also go that one step further by not eating, using, or wearing any animal products whatsoever. For instance, this means they don’t eat honey, wear leather or wool, or use beeswax.
What’s more, look out for the words, ‘cruelty-free.’ Cruelty-free means a product has been developed without any animal testing, while vegan means the product does not contain any animal-derived ingredients.4
One of the main indicators of cruelty-free makeup and other beauty products is the Leaping Bunny logo. It’s the only internationally-recognised symbol that guarantees no animal testing was carried out when developing the product(s). 5
Despite the continued upsurge in vegan living, lots of beauty products have traditionally been made using animal-based ingredients. However, more-and-more vegan products are becoming available, but it can be difficult to tell if they are 100%-free from animal ingredients.
Even if a product says it’s vegan, you can only be sure if it carries a certified vegan logo, e.g. the likes of the Vegan Society’s sunflower symbol, and every single ingredient that’s been used to make it is vegan. Even if just 1 of the 10 list of ingredients comes from an animal, the product isn’t vegan.6
Here’s a list of some of the most common, non-vegan ingredients to look out for7:
A moisturising emollient that comes from sheep wool and is often found in lip products, balms, sticks and glosses, and hair products. It’s possible for products to be made from plant-based lanolin too, but watch out for lanolin that’s labelled as being cruelty-free because it still may come from wool.
Extracted from shark liver oil and is mainly found in lip balms, deodorants and moisturisers.
Used in lots of nail products, e.g. nail varnishes, and hairsprays, and actually happens to be made from masses of insects.
Most often used to create makeup brushes that are made from fox, sable, horse, goat, mink and squirrel. It’s not uncommon for mink hair to be used to make eyelashes too.
Comes from the stomachs of pigs, cows and sheep and is mainly found in deodorant, soaps, hair products and moisturisers.
An ingredient that comes from cow’s milk and is used in conditioning hair products and face treatments.
Found in lots of anti-ageing and lip-plumping products. It’s derived from animal tissue, bone, skin or ligaments that tend to come from cows.
A protein that’s extracted from animal muscles and ligaments, and is often used to make the same products as collagen.
Comes from animal hair and horns and can be found in strengthening nail and hair products.
Often used in cosmetics to prevent emulsions from splitting out into their separate oil and liquid components. It’s a common mascara ingredient too.
As vegan makeup, beauty and skincare have evolved, the list of vegan-friendly ingredients has grown. This means there are now lots of natural and synthetic alternatives to animal-derived ingredients available.
Some of the most common vegan-friendly beauty ingredients include 8,9:
Why do people switch to vegan makeup, beauty and skincare products? What makes it better than traditional products?
We’ve listed some of the main reasons why people choose vegan over traditional beauty products below10:
The main benefit most people associate with vegan beauty is that it helps reduce animal cruelty. As we mentioned up above, ‘true’ vegan products don’t contain any animal-based ingredients, not even a trace of them, and they haven’t been tested on animals either. Instead, plant-based ingredients or synthetic versions of animal-derived ingredients are used.
This is because vegan makeup and other beauty products may have more of a gentle effect on skin. This is believed to be down to the fact they contain fewer, less-processed ingredients.
Most vegan products tend to be made from recyclable materials or have been designed to create zero waste. It’s not uncommon for vegan manufacturers to try and understand where their ingredients come from and are kinder to the planet too.
If you’re already following a vegan diet, and have embraced a vegan mindset in other parts of your life, then switching to using vegan beauty products makes your move to veganism even more complete.
Choosing vegan beauty means you are opting for plant-based products, such as seaweed, coconut, banana, tea tree oil and aloe vera, that are full of so many minerals and antioxidants. Not only can these ingredients work in harmony with your skin, they can aid the ageing process and keep skin looking healthy and hydrated.
If you’ve taken the time to scrutinise the ingredients list to make sure what you’re buying is 100% vegan, then this means you know exactly what you are putting on your skin. Surely that’s a good thing, right?....
If it’s been manufactured to be that way, then ‘yes.’ But on the whole, as with products that have been labelled as being vegan, you’ll need to do your research and check those ingredients lists carefully.
And, as you now know, vegan makeup products don’t contain any animal-based ingredients and haven’t been tested on animals. Basically, animals aren’t involved in any of the processes involved in creating and making them.
Handpicked content: ‘What is clean beauty?’
We've pulled together the 8 top vegan beauty products for your skin, hair and nails.
Vegan beauty is giving people the opportunity to apply vegan living to another part of their life. Aside from the main, widely-recognised benefit of helping reduce animal cruelty, the natural and less-processed nature of these products mean they can be kinder to our skin too.
We hope now that you’ve reached the end of this article you feel fully informed about what vegan beauty is and the benefits of embracing it, the ingredients to look out for and avoid, and which products to add to your vegan beauty shopping list.
For more vegan beauty insight, check out this article: ‘5 vegan friendly skin care routines.’
Last updated: 26 March 2021
Joined Holland & Barrett: Mar 2019
BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science
After completing her BSc in Biomedical Science, Doaa worked in Research and laboratory for 3 years. Doaa was also a member of a product development team in a manufacturing company specialising in sun care and personal care products, researching and providing regulatory advice regarding international regulations.