Non-Vegan Makeup Ingredients To Look Out For

There are currently 1.5 million vegans in the UK and that number is growing – fast. More and more people are seeing how veganism can help themselves and the planet. As the Vegan Society says, “if the world went vegan, it could save 8 million human lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by two-thirds and lead to healthcare-related savings”.

But veganism isn’t just about what we eat. It’s about not using animal and animal-derived products in all aspects of our lives. The beauty industry is a colossal consumer of animal products. That’s why vegan makeup ingredients are so important. There’s no accidentally using bug juice in your lipstick, or using mink fur to apply your eyeshadow.

But how do we know which ingredients to avoid? Here we reveal the top non-vegan makeup ingredients that you want to steer clear of.

Non-vegan makeup ingredients to avoid

1. Lanolin

Lanolin is one of the most common non-vegan makeup ingredients. It comes from wool production, and is the oily substance that keeps sheep’s wool waterproof. This grease is commonly used in all sorts of cosmetics, from lip balm and mascara through to hair products and hand cream.

Lanolin isn’t always called lanolin which can make it confusing to identify. Look out for words such as Cholesterin, Isopropyl Lanolate, Laneth, Lanogene, Lanosterols, Sterols and Triterpene.

There are lots of vegan alternatives to lanolin including shea butter and coconut oil.

2. Glycerine

Glycerine is a tricky one because it can be vegan and indeed often is. However, glycerine can also be derived from animal fats. It’s often down to you and your investigatory work to establish if the glycerine used in your product is vegan or not.

Glycerine is a stabiliser and so it’s often used in makeup and cosmetics, particularly in things like shampoos. It’s a really effective moisturiser too.

You’ll need to determine if the glycerine in the product you’re choosing is vegetable based – making it vegan friendly. In this case, it will come from coconut oils, soya or palm oil. If it’s a palm oil derived glycerine then you also must ensure it is sustainably and ethically sourced.

3. Guanine

Guanine is crushed fish scales, usually from herring. This is often found in shimmery makeup such as eye shadows, lipsticks and bronzers, as well as nail polish. It may be listed as CI 75170 on the ingredient list.

Guanine is added to makeup because it has an iridescent effect. However, there are ways to get shimmering makeup without resorting to non-vegan ingredients. Minerals such as titanium dioxide and mica do the job very just as well, like in the gorgeous palettes from NICMAC.

4. Carmine

Carmine has long been used to provide the red pigment in lip sticks, blushes and nail polishes. However, it’s time for a rethink because carmine is derived from the crushed up shells of cochineal insects.

The process of making carmine involves killing huge numbers of these cochineal bugs for the sake of creating the red dye – it takes 70,000 bugs to create 1lb of dye. Vegan dyes, such as beetroot and anthocyanins, should be used instead to create your signature red makeup.

5. Beeswax

Sometimes listed as Cera Alba or Cera Flava, beeswax is produced by bees for the purpose of making their honeycomb – a place for them and their young to live. The farming of bees isn’t vegan for many reasons, including that the diminishing bee populations are exposed to harmful pesticides.

Beeswax is often used in balm style makeup and cosmetics, such as lip balms and body balms. It’s also not unusual for beeswax to be used in mascara. There are lots of great vegan alternatives to beeswax including soya wax.

6. Shellac

Shellac is, of course, known for being used in nail products. It’s a resin which comes from female lac bugs and the bugs must be killed for the secretion. There is a vegan alternative to Shellac which comes from maize, called Zein.

7. Retinol

Retinol, famed as being a form of Vitamin A and helping to look after your skin and reduce the effects of ageing, isn’t always vegan. Whilst there are some plant and synthetic sources of retinol, sometimes it comes from animal sources. Vegan alternatives to retinol which are high in vitamin A include hemp oil and pumpkin seed oil.

8. Casein

Casein is used as a moisturiser in skin and hair products – it’s also used in condoms! However, it’s not vegan as it is derived from cow’s milk. There are so many vegan moisturising ingredients such as coconut oil and shea butter, it seems unnecessary to have this as an ingredient in so much makeup.

9. Squalene

Squalene comes from shark liver oil so is definitely not vegan! It’s also a moisturiser and so is commonly found in lip balm, moisturisers and deodorant. There are lots of different options which are vegan which can be used in place of squalene, such as olive oil.

10. Oleic acid

Sometimes listed in makeup ingredients as oleate, oleic acid comes from tallow or animal fat and is used as a thickening agent. It’s usually found in things like soap and moisturisers, as well as nail varnish. More and more alternatives to oleic acid are being developed, including from nuts and olives.

11. Silk powder

Silk powder bothers us enormously as it is so commonly found in high street makeup such as powders and other skincare. As its name suggests, it isn’t vegan because it comes from silk worms.

If you understand the process for obtaining the silk (which involves boiling the worms in their cocoons) you quickly get turned off by the idea of having it in your makeup. Arrowroot powder can be used as a vegan makeup ingredient alternative.

12. Stearic acid

Stearic acid is sometimes simply listed as an anti-caking agent, hiding that this is an animal-derived ingredient. It comes from the stomachs of sheep, cows and pigs and is used in powdery makeup to prevent it from clumping. A versatile vegan alternative comes from coconut.

There are other non-vegan ingredients used in makeup, cosmetics, skincare and haircare such as collagen, keratin and elastin. It’s also important to avoid the use of animal hair in makeup brushes.

We would argue that vegan makeup is also naturally better for your skin, generally being richer in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, so you’ve really nothing to lose by opting for vegan makeup ingredients.

Take a look at our range of vegan makeup products and accessories for products that are kind to you as well as the planet.