Do you really know what is in your cosmetics?

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» Do you really know what is in your cosmetics?

When it comes to food, labels are much easier to decipher, offering shoppers subtle clues about what’s in the product. Although not perfect, and with no legal regulation of the word ‘vegan’ when used for product labelling, there is more information becoming readily available. 

Companies are working harder to communicate what’s in their products, such as by registering them with The Vegan Society’s Vegan Trademark, which checks that they are suitable for vegans. You can also see animal-derived allergens visibly on pack, with ingredients such as egg and dairy, by law, stated in bold.

Bug shape on the end of a red lipstick against a white background

There’s lots of awareness of what to look for to check if a food or drink product is suitable for vegans, so then why should it be any different with our cosmetics? A recent study by Flawless Lashes by Loreta has recently revealed that 36% of non-meat eaters were unaware that makeup can contain animal by-products. 

Flawless Lashes by Loreta are calling for clearer labelling within the cosmetic industry, although all ingredients must be stated on packaging, where these elements derive from remain undisclosed.

Vegan makeup registered with The Vegan Society can proudly display the Vegan Trademark to help consumers with their ethical decisions, but many have never considered animal products are being used within the industry. Therefore, they might not be looking for an extra layer of reassurance when it comes to their cosmetics.

Common ingredients used in makeup include:

Keratin – A popular ingredient to aid the strengthening of hair and nails. This protein can be derived from the hair and horns of various animals, most commonly farmyard animals.

Carmine – Also listed as natural red 4, E120 and C.I 75470. This can be in a lot of lipsticks, blushes, nail polishes or anything else that mimics the classic rouge colour. This is created by crushing tiny insects called cochineals.

Cera Alba – More commonly referred to as beeswax. This is used as an agent to prevent liquids from separating. Used within lip balms, soaps and moisturisers, it can help the skin retain moisture.

Shellac – You may be familiar with the name but may not be aware shellac refers to a particular ingredient that could be lurking in your manicure. Lac bugs’ shells are used to create that hard-wearing, shiny finish.

Tallow - You can find this ingredient in soap, foundation, nail polish and eye makeup. Also known as oleic acid, oleyl stearate, and oleyl oleate, this can be made from the fat of farmyard animals.

Squalene – An extract of a shark’s liver. Squalene also shares its name with a plant-based product so it is advised to do your research into which one your chosen brand uses. You can find this in deodorants, lip balms and moisturisers.

Lanolin – Used in lip balms, lipsticks and glosses, this is derived from sheeps’ wool. There is also a plant-based version that has been given the same name, so be conscious of which one you are buying.

Guanine – Glitter and sparkle are in full swing this holiday season. The shimmering eyeshadows and highlighters are perfect for those Christmas parties. But this shimmering effect is achieved by scraping and crushing the scales of fish.

Collagen – It is unlikely you have not heard of this ingredient, but you may have not known this is a protein that can be taken from bones, skin, ligaments and tissues of cows. Soya protein and almond oil act as an ethical alternative. 

Animal hair – This is commonly used in items where the ingredients are not mandatory to be listed, most likely makeup brushes. This can be from any furry creature and regular examples are fox, squirrel, mink, goat, horse and sable. 

Bugs in a nail varnish bottle against a grey background

Without prior knowledge, there is little reason to assume any of these ingredients come from animals, scientific names and numberings can easily confuse consumers or leave them to think these are vegan, as they have not been declared as otherwise. 

There are now numerous synthetic and plant-based alternatives available, there is little excuse for businesses to not make the switch and widen the options available to vegans.

The survey also revealed that 34% of non-meat eaters still willingly used these animal-based products. This could well be due to a lack of high-quality products on the market.

If more manufacturers are willing to make a change, consumers can easily make ethical decisions based on their beliefs, whether that be a love of animals, a need to save the environment, or both!


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