• What are some common non-vegan ingredients found in beauty products?
  • How can I identify non-vegan ingredients on beauty product labels?
  • Are there vegan alternatives to non-vegan ingredients in beauty products?
  • Why should I avoid non-vegan ingredients in beauty products?
  • What are some popular brands that offer beauty products without non-vegan ingredients?

Whilst you may assume that your cosmetics and skincare are made entirely of plant-based materials, the truth is: many non-vegan ingredients can be found in these products. From animal-derived components to animal testing, there are many ways that the beauty industry continues to use animals in the development of their products. Let’s take a look at some of the most common non-vegan ingredients found in beauty products and discuss how to make more informed choices.

What are some common non-vegan ingredients found in beauty products?

Even though there’s evidence that veganism is on the rise in a big way, most cosmetics manufacturers continue to use non-vegan ingredients in their products. Some of the most commonly used ones include:


Derived from the honeycombs of bees, beeswax serves as a natural emulsifier, thickening agent, and moisturiser. It’s regularly used in lip balms, lotions, and creams.


Lanolin, a substance obtained from sheep's wool, is another ingredient often used in non-vegan skincare products for its moisturising properties. It’s said to soothe and protect the skin. However, lanolin is a concern for vegans as its production may contribute to the exploitation of animals.


Collagen is not a vegan ingredient in skincare products because it’s extracted from the connective tissues, bones, and skin of animals, such as cows, pigs and fish. It’s frequently used in skincare products for its potential anti-ageing effects.


Another protein found in animal tissues, particularly in the skin and blood vessels, elastin—like collagen—is used in skincare products for its potential anti-ageing properties.


Used in skincare products for its moisturising and antibacterial properties, honey is unsuitable if you’re looking to rid your cosmetics of any animal derived ingredients.

A jar of honey with a wooden honey spoon on a white wooden table


Keratin is a protein found in animal sources such as hair, feathers, and hooves—making it a big no-no for anyone who wants to avoid animal products. It’s commonly used in haircare products, particularly those targeting strengthening and repairing damaged hair.


Although squalene can also be derived from plant-based sources such as olives, it’s often sourced from shark liver oil(!) so you should probably avoid it unless it appears on a certified vegan product. It tends to be used as a moisturising ingredient in skincare products.


Also known as carmine or carmine acid, cochineal is a red pigment derived from the crushed bodies of cochineal insects. It’s used as a colorant in cosmetics, including some lipsticks and blushes.

Other non-vegan ingredients to look out for include guanine (made from fish scales), tallow (derived from animal fat), allantoin (derived from cows’ uric acid) and ambergris (a whale-derived secretion).

How can I identify non-vegan ingredients on beauty product labels?

Identifying non-vegan ingredients on beauty product labels can be tricky, as manufacturers often use scientific or technical names for ingredients.

Be cautious of non-vegan additives such glycerine/glycerol (often animal-derived, but can also be plant-derived), stearic acid (can be derived from animals or plants), and retinol (vitamin A derived from animals, but alternatives exist).

Remember to watch out for ingredients with "silk" or "pearl" in their names, too. Ingredients like silk amino acids, hydrolysed silk protein, or pearl powder are derived from animals and are not vegan-friendly.

The easiest way to avoid non-vegan cosmetics is to pay attention to certifications and labels, like Leaping Bunny or Vegan Action, which help ensure the product meets specific standards.

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Are there vegan alternatives to non-vegan ingredients in beauty products?

Vegan beauty products incorporate a range of plant-based and synthetic ingredients, offering similar benefits to their non-vegan counterparts. And they’re growing in popularity.

Oils such as coconut, jojoba and argan are derived from various plants and are widely used in vegan skincare and haircare products. They provide moisturising, nourishing and conditioning properties, leaving the skin and hair feeling soft and healthy.

A coconut cut in half on a wooden table against a dark background

Another popular vegan ingredient is shea butter. Extracted from the nuts of the African shea tree, shea butter is rich in vitamins and fatty acids, making it a fantastic natural moisturiser and emollient.

Aloe vera is another key vegan ingredient commonly used in skincare products. This succulent plant has a gel-like substance is frequently found in moisturisers, face masks and sunscreens, providing a refreshing and calming effect on the skin.

Vegan beauty products also utilise plant-based waxes as alternatives to beeswax. Carnauba wax, derived from the leaves of the Brazilian palm tree, is a popular vegan substitute. It’s regularly used as a thickening agent or binder in various cosmetic products like lipsticks and mascaras.

Plant extracts and botanicals are also widely incorporated into vegan beauty products for their beneficial properties. Ingredients like green tea extract, chamomile extract, and rosehip extract are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which can help rejuvenate the skin.

Finally, vegan beauty products sometimes incorporate synthetic alternatives to animal-derived substances, like synthetic hyaluronic acid. These synthetic ingredients offer similar benefits to their animal-based counterparts whilst maintaining the cruelty-free status of the products.

Why should I avoid non-vegan ingredients in beauty products? 

If you're still unsure about the importance of avoiding non-vegan ingredients in your beauty routine, let's delve into a few compelling reasons why you should make the switch.

First and foremost, opting for vegan beauty products aligns with a cruelty-free lifestyle. By choosing vegan options, you can rest assured that no animals have been harmed in the production of your beauty products.

Secondly, embracing vegan beauty products contributes to a more sustainable world. The beauty industry has a significant environmental impact due to the extraction of animal-derived ingredients and the use of harmful chemicals. Animal agriculture is responsible for deforestation, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. By avoiding these ingredients, you reduce your carbon footprint and support companies that prioritise ethical manufacturing.

Vegan beauty products also often contain more natural and plant-based ingredients, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to nourish and rejuvenate the skin. They are less likely to cause irritation, allergic reactions or clog pores compared to synthetic or animal-derived ingredients.

What are some popular brands that offer beauty products without non-vegan ingredients?

The beauty industry has been seriously stepping up to offer alternatives to non-vegan ingredients in recent years. Some amazing brands have emerged as pioneers in creating vegan beauty products without compromising on quality or value.

Bao Skincare specialises in creating handmade skincare products using only natural and vegan ingredients. They offer a wide range of products, including cleansers, moisturisers and serums. Bao Skincare takes pride in using plant-based ingredients like shea butter, jojoba oil, and aloe vera to replace animal-derived substances like beeswax and lanolin.

BAO Skincare selection of organic beauty products

Queenie Organics is another notable brand that focuses on vegan and organic skincare. They emphasise the use of botanical extracts, essential oils and plant-based ingredients to deliver effective, luxurious products. Queenie Organics avoids animal-derived ingredients like collagen, honey, and carmine, opting instead for vegan alternatives such as plant-based hyaluronic acid, vegetable glycerin, and fruit enzymes. Their commitment to veganism extends beyond the ingredients themselves, as they also package their products using recyclable materials.

Husk & Seed Skincare places a strong emphasis on sustainability and veganism. They offer a range of skincare products, from cleansers to face masks, which use plant-based ingredients like hemp seed oil, rosehip oil, and coconut oil to replace animal-derived substances such as lanolin and beeswax. Their products are carefully formulated to provide nourishment and hydration to the skin without compromising on ethical values.

These brands, along with many others in the beauty industry, demonstrate that vegan alternatives to non-vegan ingredients are readily available. So, there’s nothing stopping you from making the change to a more ethical skincare regime.  

Learn more about Truth About Makeup.

May 16, 2023