Did you know that most cosmetic items have some sort of animal derived ingredient(s) in them? This is usually surprising to anyone who hasn’t really had a second thought about what is and isn’t in their cosmetic products. The fact is that most of the products we use on a daily basis whether that be mascara, lipstick, moisturizer or shampoo has something in it that originated from an animal. There are several of such ingredients but in today’s blog post and video we are going to go through five of the most common non-vegan ingredients in our cosmetics.
Non-Vegan Ingredients in Your Cosmetics!
Before we get into the five most common non-vegan ingredients in our cosmetics, let’s have a look at the definition for “vegan” or in this case “veganism”:
“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” – The Vegan Society
It’s easier to understand what this means when it comes to what we eat i.e. simply not eating anything that comes or came from an animal or creature but the this also goes for our cosmetics. There are a lot of ingredients used in the cosmetics industry that are derived from animals or creatures. Often these are by-products of the meat and dairy industry which doesn’t make it anymore “ok”. The fact is that in order to get these ingredients something has to be taken from an animal or creature which isn’t ours to take. In order to better be able to read your cosmetic ingredients list and understand whether or not the product is vegan here are five of the most common non-vegan ingredients used in cosmetics (note there are more than these).
#1 CARMINE (or cochineal, cochineal extract, natural red 4, crimson lake, CI 75470 & E 120)
Carmine is derived from cochineal bug (or beetles). Cochineal are harvested most commonly in the Central or South American regions in order to create carmine which is used as a red pigment in a bunch of our make-up products. If your make-up has a red colour or shade, the likelihood that it has carmine in it is quite high. Carmine in considered a high-quality red pigment which mixes well with other ingredients. However, whether this is reason enough to use carmine is debatable.
Sure, cochineal are bugs and most of us don’t have a “lovey-dovey” relationship to bugs. But as we all know, every animal and creature plays a role in the circle of life and cochineal surely did not come to this planet to become a pigment for our make-up (and FOOD). The question we like to ask is also: if you saw a bunch of ants or colony of ants on the street or woods, would purposely step on or otherwise harm them? Most likely not. And this is exactly what is being done with cochineal. They are harvested to be crushed and boiled for the sake of a red pigment i.e. they are purposely harvested in masses and harmed.
Luckily there are plenty of alternatives to carmine when it comes to cosmetics. Examples of these are other naturally or chemically derived red pigments e.g. fruit pigments. It will always depend on the product and the purpose of the product which red pigment will be used.
#2 Lanolin (or wool wax)
Lanolin is probably even more commonly used than carmine in our cosmetics. It is derived from the fat or wax of the wool from sheep. It is often used in skin care products such a lip balms or body butters, but it is also a very common ingredient in e.g. lipstick. Lanolin is often a by-product of the wool industry which can be a very harsh and cruel one. For all the wool and lanolin this world uses and needs A LOT of sheep’s wool is needed. In the wool industry there a lot of pressure to shred/shave as much wool as possible in a short amount of time meaning that shredders have to work quickly and therefore uncarefully. The fact is that sheep endure a lot of pain not only through the shredding process but also through the harsh treatment from the shredders who need the frightened and frantic sheep to stay still. Additionally, it is important to understand that these sheep are raised in masses for the purpose of making money for the wool (and lanolin) industry which raises the question of the ethics behind this.
Luckily there are plenty of alternatives to lanolin e.g. shea butter or veganolin so, as we often like to point out, if you can make another choice than why wouldn’t you?
#3 Urea (or carbamide)
This is probably, in our opinion, one of the most disgusting ingredients that is commonly used in cosmetics. Urea is derived from the urine of mammals, very often cows. Urea is found in many of our creams and hair colours but also in e.g. eyeshadows. Urea, a preservative, is said to slow down the loss of moisture from a product when applied to your skin. Although derived from urine and therefore perhaps the least directly harming towards animals, urea too is a by-product of the meat and dairy industry which is commonly a very brutal and unethical industry at that. Debating about the ethics of urea and where it comes from might be a bit far-fetched for a lot of you, but do you really want to apply an ingredient on your skin which was derived from urine, especially when there are other options out there?
Keratin is a type of protein that pretty much makes up your hair, nails and skin. Because of the natural function of keratin in our body (which we do produce naturally), many especially hair and nail care, products have included this ingredient to help strengthen our hair or nails externally. Keratin for cosmetics is derived from the hooves, horns, hair or feather of animals and is again most commonly a by-product of the meat and dairy industry. To put it simply, in order to put keratin in cosmetics, an animal has to die which is why vegans would choose not use keratin containing products.
It seems like this ingredient is all the hype right now and that collagen creams are a part of every brands skin care line. Our body produces collagen naturally and as we age we produce less collagen which is the reason we start to see wrinkles or “aged” skin. Whilst there is nothing wrong with wanting your skin to look youthful and supple for as long as possible, it’s not necessarily the best idea to try and make that happen externally, with a cream. Make sure you take care of your body and skin internally by eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water and only after that should you consider taking external measures. Since collagen is produced INTERNALLY, it’s important to question how effectively the external application of collagen can actually assist your body to produce more of it. Sounds unlikely.
Collagen again, like many of the previous ingredients, is a by-product of the meat and dairy industry and is basically derived by boiling the “rests” of dead animals including, bones, joints, ligaments etc. The “good news”; there are also plant-based collagen sources!
Those were the 5 most commonly used animal derived ingredients in our cosmetics. As mentioned in the beginning, there are plenty of more. If you are new to the vegan lifestyle, we recommend that you opt for products that are certified vegan so that you don’t have to spend too much time understanding ingredients. But understanding these few simple ingredients will already bring you a long way.
Thank you for tuning in for this blog post and video. We hope you enjoyed and if you any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us!
Lots of LOVE,
Your Kia-Charlotta Team