5 Most Common Non-Vegan Cosmetic Ingredients

Category: , / 6/12/2011
(Photo: blathlean)
It might be easy to identify animal ingredients in food, but sometimes it can be challenging to know which cosmetic ingredients are vegan.  Unless a product is certified vegan, it's best to read labels carefully if you're looking to avoid animal ingredients.  Read on for the most common animal ingredients found in both natural and conventional cosmetics.

  1. Beeswax (cera alba) - This is one of the most commonly used animal ingredients in natural cosmetic lines.  It is frequently found in creamy products, such as lip balms, lip glosses and cream concealers.  Strict vegans usually avoid all products from bees, though there is some controversy on the subject.  Beeswax is made by melting honeycombs in boiling water before straining and cooling.  Common alternatives include carnauba wax and candelilla wax.
  2. Carmine - A red coloring found in many blushes, lip products, and eyeshadows.  It is common in many natural products.  It is made from the crushed female cochineal insect and it takes tens of thousands to make one pound of pigment.  Vegan products may use beet root or alkanet root instead.
  3. Honey - Although honey is most popular for its use as a food, it can also be found in many cosmetics and beauty products, often as a coloring and emollient.  Soaps, facial creams, and other items may contain honey.  See "beeswax" above regarding vegan avoidance of bee products.  Vegans often substitute agave nectar for honey in recipes, but vegetable colors and oils are used as a substitute in cosmetics.
  4. Urea - An ingredient common in many deodorants, hair color, lotions, and other products.  It is created from bodily fluids and can be easily swapped with a synthetic alternative.
  5. Lanolin - A waxy substance created from the oil glands of sheep (extracted from their wool).  It can be found in many cosmetics, skin care products, and medicines.  Plant and vegetable oils are equally effecective emollients used in its place.
Please note that there is some controversy among vegetarians regarding certain items.  For example, a makeup brush may be described as "cruelty-free" but may still use animal hair.  Some companies also claim that their honey is sustainably harvested.  Certain products may not put the word "vegan" on the package but will state "no animal ingedients."  Strict vegans may want to consult PETA for more information and a complete animal ingredient list.

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