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A guide to shopping for vegan beauty products

Whether you're a full blown vegan, challenging yourself with veganuary, or have read our previous blog on ethical beauty and decided you'd like to shop vegan beauty products now, this blog is for you. Here we delve deeper into what makes a product vegan and how to find vegan beauty products.  

What does vegan beauty mean?

Put simply vegan beauty products contain no animal or animal derived ingredients whatsoever. There are a few things to note though...

  • If a product is labelled or advertised as vegan, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it also contains natural ingredients because plenty of synthetic ingredients manufactured in labs are vegan. So if you’re looking for a natural and vegan regime then it’s also important to check the individual ingredients and other claims the product is making. 
  • On the flip side natural and organic doesn’t always guarantee you’ll find vegan products easily as they can still contain animal derivatives like beeswax.
  • And lastly, but most importantly, vegan products don't necessarily guarantee that they are also cruelty free. You’d think that these elements go hand in hand but some companies want to market themselves as vegan whilst still selling in countries that require animal testing, like China, so make sure you research the brand as whole as well as their vegan range or products.

In a nutshell:

Cruelty Free Means

  • Products/ingredients are not tested on animals in the EU
  • Product is not sold in China
  • Product may not be natural or organic
  • May contain animal derived ingredients

Vegan Beauty Means

  • Products/ingredients are not tested on animals in the EU
  • Product is not sold in China
  • Product may not be natural or organic
  • No animal derived ingredients

If the product has either vegan or cruelty free certification, it is internationally cruelty free. 

How to check a beauty product is vegan?

  • Check for certification. The Vegan Society and are two independent bodies that check and verify a products’ ingredients and gives them their seal of approval if they are vegan. They also certify only cruelty free products so these are good symbols to watch out for to ensure you're buying both vegan and cruelty free products. Where a product hasn't been certified as vegan, there may also be some cruelty free certifications that you can spot so you at least know instantly that a product is cruelty free before delving deeper in to the ingredients. 

  • Check the ingredients. There should be no animal derived ingredients lists on the INCI list of ingredients on the back of the packaging.

Some ingredients to avoid are: 

    • Carmine which is a red pigment collected from crushed insects. Typically found in blushers and lipsticks but can also be seen in lots of cosmetics. Be particularly curious about red or pinkish cosmetic tones. (a.k.a. Cochineal Dye, Cochineal Extract, Crimson Lake or Carmine Lake, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, or E120)
    • Shellac, like carmine, comes from bugs. It’s used in nail varnishes and hair products to create a shiny effect. 
    • Lanolin is a fatty wax that comes from sheep's wool. Often animals will be bred to be excessively woolly so that more lanolin can be procured from the sheep's coat once shorn.  Can often be found in cosmetics such as eyeshadows as well as some lip balms and ointments. (a.k.a. Wool Wax or Wool Grease)
    • Beeswax comes from bee hives and is used in waxy products like lipsticks and mascaras but can also be found in foundations and skincare. (a.k.a Cera Alba)
    • Gelatin is gelling or thickening agent derived from boiled skin, tendons, ligaments and bones of animals. (a.k.a. Gelatine) 
    • Collagen is an animal protein which cosmetically plumps the skin. Often found in anti ageing skincare creams and serums.
    • Retinol as a pure ingredient can be both animal derived and plant based so it's important to check the label and, if in doubt ask the brand. (a.k.a.: Vitamin A)
    • Tallow is produced by boiling the carcass of an animal and is used to create a base for cosmetics. (a.k.a Rendered Animal Fat)
    • Guanine comes from crushed fish scales and can be found in lipsticks, mascaras and nail varnishes.
    • Ambergris is an ingredient that is dervied in the stomachs of whales. It may be found in perfumes. (a.k.a. Ambergrease or Grey Amber) 
    • Keratin is an animal protein procured from hair, nails and horns. Keratin is widely used in hair products.
    • Lactic acid doesn’t always come from animal derivatives but it can come from dairy produce such as milk and yoghurt. If in doubt, check with the brand.
    • Squalene is found in sharks livers but it can also be derived from olives or sugar cane. If this is the case, the ingredient will be called squalane. It's used in moisturisers and make up. 

Flatlay of succulent with pink book with the title eat beautiful and glasses on a white background

  • Research the brand’s stance on animal testing, including any parent companies they may be owned by. Do they just conform to EU regulations to sell in the EU but also sell in countries like China where animal testing is compulsory? Or, is the brand itself ok, but the parent company also produces brands that aren't vegan or cruelty free. 
  • Shop with an impartial, independent and trusted retailer who will carry out their own product and ingredient checks and are less likely to use clever marketing to fool you into making a purchase. 
  • Get in touch with the company or brand if you’re not sure about anything. If there is nothing to hide then they will be happy to share as much information as they can with you about their products. 
  • Follow bloggers such as Vegan Beauty Girl who is on an eternal mission to demystify the vegan beauty space and test out the cruelty free and vegan beauty products giving impartial reviews.

Not all brands can afford the fees related to this stamp of approval so may well use their own symbol or stamp if they’re confident in their ingredients. BUT we strongly recommend that you do your own ingredient checks as well, or use a trusted source who will have checked their credentials, where this is the case when shopping smaller brands. 

Discover our selection of vegan beauty products


Whilst we hope the pages are informative it’s important to remember we’re organic beauty enthusiasts not scientists so the information is detailed here to the best of our knowledge or research we have conducted from third parties.  Whilst we are continually updating our content based on new research, it may not always be up to date and as such it is the readers’ responsibility to conduct their own research in order to independently verify the information and make an informed decision on their beauty regime/lifestyle. Any opinion expressed on the efficacy of a product is based on tests performed by our team. As everyone has different skin types and concerns, please be advised that what works for them might not work for you but we try to give as much subjective information as possible which we hope you will find useful. If in any doubt, please consult a medical professional. 

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