Scanning labels, poring over ingredient lists, searching for the “V” next to entrees on a menu— these practices are far too familiar for a vegan. We are constant players in a never-ending game of “What’s in this?” This game even extends beyond what we put into our bodies to what we put on our bodies and in our hair too! For vegan women and men alike, vegan beauty products are a “must-have” but rarely an “easy-to-find.” While it may seem daunting at first, once you understand the scientific names for common ingredients, you can begin weeding out non-vegan products and honing in on vegan ones like a seasoned professional.
No Honey and Beeswax Beauty Products
Bees are factory-farmed just like cows, pigs, and other animals, with living conditions that are very unnatural for their species. The white box that is often used for bee farms is completely incongruous to a natural beehive.
Honey and beeswax are big selling points for many popular companies trying to appeal to customers who want “natural” products. Honey, for example, is used often as an emollient, meaning it softens the skin. The honey hype has created a large demand, with overly processed honey from large scale bee farms intended to meet that demand. Unfortunately, this increased demand has been linked to Colony Collapse Disorder due to possible management and environmental stressors.
After honey has been harvested from the honeycomb, the remaining beeswax cells are melted down to be used in products such as lip balm. Beeswax has become so popular because of it’s protective qualities, especially for dry lips. Burt’s Bees is one of the most sought after brands for chapstick in the United States, but there many other products that are cruelty-free and great for your skin!
Alternatives: Hemp instead of beeswax. Merry Hempsters carries a fantastic chapstick in various flavors like vanilla and spearmint.
No Milk-Based Beauty Products
The principal protein found in dairy milk is casein, and it has become a frequent ingredient in various products including adhesives, processed foods, protein powder, and cosmetics. The multiple uses of casein makes it a very profitable by-product for dairy farms. A truly vegan beauty product does not contain any form of casein, such as sodium caseinate.
Biotin comes from living cells, but is particularly abundant in milk. It is used most often as a texturizer in shampoo and cosmetic creams.
Alternatives: plant syrups or oils, soy proteins, nut based creams. Skin by Ann Webb is a great vegan face and body cream packed with sunflower oil and olive oil that does wonders for dry skin.
No Gelatin Beauty Products
Gelatin is another major component that you may not immediately register as a beauty ingredient. Shampoo, body wash, soap, hair gel, and many other cosmetics all use gelatin as a thickener.
Alternatives: seaweeds, vegetable oils like castor oil. Soma Hair Technology has 100 percent vegan hair gel that works great and is organic!
No Keratin Beauty Products
Keratin is a major trend right now for hair treatments, but not many know that a lot of the keratin is derived from horse hooves, hair, feathers, and horns. Like casein and biotin, keratin is also a protein, so it has a special quality for strengthening hair. Vegan keratin does exist, but you have to really search for it!
Alternatives: Any brand that uses plant amino acids in the place of keratin. The Brazilian company nuNaat offers their own range of products that are formaldehyde-free and vegan.
For more information about common non-vegan ingredients, check out PETA’s extensive list! And if you’re still unsure where to start, I’ve got a few ideas…
My Top Three Vegan Beauty Must-Haves
1) Butter by Ellovi: This body butter is made with only six ingredients! It’s completely plant-based and contains no preservatives, additives, or animal by-products. Plus, it works wonders for dry skin!
2) Yes to Grapefruit Daily Facial Scrub: This product refreshes while cleansing your skin. Yes To has many great products, most of which are vegan. Stay away from their balms, lotions, and cream which may contain beeswax or honey, and remember always to check the labels just to be sure.
3) LUSH Happy Hippy Shower Gel: This product is 100% vegan, and all of LUSH’s products are never tested on animals! LUSH is known for its vegan beauty products, spanning from body washes to conditioners to face masks and beyond.