The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Beauty

by Rona Berg

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: David Lewis Taylor

If you are thinking about going vegan, you’ll want to know about hidden animal ingredients in places where you may least expect to find them

I am not a vegan. But for environmental and health reasons, I am eating less meat. It isn’t easy for me. But I was talking to Dr. Sally Fisher at Sunrise Springs in Santa Fe a while ago, telling her I wanted to do it. And whining about how it was hard! She said, “Don’t think about it as eating less meat. Think about how we all need eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily to ward off serious disease, like heart disease, etc. And that’s hard, if you eat a lot of meat!”

I’m not alone in wanting to cut back. As evidenced by a whopping 90 percent increase in Google searches for the word “vegan” worldwide, veganism is definitely on the rise. The Mintel Global Beauty Trends 2018 report cites awareness as one of the reasons: “Consumers today are doing more research and reading up on the products and services they buy more than ever before.” As climate change and sustainable living become increasing concerns, it’s become a focal point for many consumers. In the last decade alone, The Vegan Society has seen a 360 percent uptake in veganism. Vegan shoes, vegan clothing, vegan diet—and vegan beauty.

According to the 2017 Google Beauty Trends Report, the vegan skincare category has grown by 83 percent in the past few years, which makes sense. Why would you want animal ingredients in your beauty if you don’t put them in your body?

Some animal-derived beauty ingredients are obvious—honey, beeswax, lanolin, milk, yogurt, collagen, snail secretion (now popular in Korean beauty products), animal-hair makeup brushes. But others—carmine, derived from insect carapace, which gives lipstick a red color; guanine, from fish scales, which gives eye shadow its shimmer; sodium tallowate or beef fat, in soap—are not. As more consumers embrace plant-based diets, or cut back on carnivorous consumption, they will want to be more aware of hidden animal ingredients in their skincare, haircare, makeup and personal care products—especially where they may least expect to find them.

Look for third-party certification from the nonprofit Vegan Action and The Vegan Society, or look on the PETA website. But keep in mind that some vegan brands, like SpaRitual, Inika, Dr. Bronner’s and Annemarie Borlind don’t carry a third-party certification.

We asked Lisa Sykes, who heads up sustainability at Universal Companies, and has been a vegetarian for 25 years and a vegan for nine, to help crack the code.

RONA BERG:
Can you sum up the vegan philosophy for us?
LISA SYKES: 
Yes, in three words: Do no harm. Vegans believe that animals are not food, fabric or entertainment.

RB: 
What’s the difference between vegan and plant-based?
LS: 
This question is more likely to pop up in food and beverages than in beauty, but here’s some clarification:

1) For some, the word “vegan” is charged with images of controversial organizations that engage in mean-spirited behavior. Some vegans don’t agree with the tactics used by these organizations, so they prefer to use the term “plant-based” to distance themselves from bad conduct.

2) Those who are on a “plant-based” (vegan) diet may be doing it for health reasons rather than for animal rights. It’s plausible that someone on a plant-based (vegan) diet would wear leather shoes.

3) Lastly, others use the term “plant-based” as a way to describe a diet that’s mostly based on plants but may include animal products as well.

RB: 
What does animal-testing have to do with vegan? What’s the difference between vegan and cruelty-free? Let’s talk about China, where brands that undertake animal testing elsewhere in the world aren’t considered vegan or cruelty-free there.
LS: 
Vegans do not agree with animal testing. Vegan means no animal testing, no animal by-products. Cruelty-free only means the products weren’t tested on animals. They may contain animal by-products such as honey or bovine collagen.

It’s my understanding that if a company is based outside China, to enter the Chinese market, that company must allow animal testing in Chinese labs before regulators will approve them for sale in that country. Companies that manufacture in China may be exempt from testing their products on animals.

As more countries are banning animal testing, there is pressure on China to abandon its animal testing regulations. Chinese companies will have to use non-animal-based testing to enter the European market, for example.

RB: 
Let’s talk about the ingredients squalane vs. squalene.
LS: 
Squalene and squalane are emollients that create a barrier between the skin and the environment to prevent moisture loss. And because they penetrate deeply and plump fine lines, they minimize the signs of aging.

Squalene is found in shark liver oil and plant oils. However, because it oxidizes quickly, it’s unstable in cosmetics. Therefore, it isn’t used as often as squalane. Derived from the hydrogenation of squalene, squalane is stable and offers a longer shelf life. Like squalene, it can be plant- or animal-based.

Some personal care companies use the shark liver version because it’s not as expensive as the plant-based one. However, consumer backlash has pushed many companies to source squalane from olive oil. So though it’s not required for labeling, brands that use the plant-based version usually clarify on the ingredient declaration as “squalane (olive)” or “squalane*,” the asterisk below indicating “from olives.” If you don’t see clarification or if the product isn’t third-party certified vegan, ask!

RB: 
Many soaps contain sodium tallowate, which comes from animal fat. How to avoid?
LS: 
Look for plant-based soaps like Dr. Bronner’s. Most are made from coconut oil (sodium cocoate) or other plant oils.

RB: 
Sometimes vegan consumers are forced to choose between natural, animal-derived ingredients, and harsh synthetics. What do you think needs to be done to fix that?
LS: 
It really depends on where you shop. Consumers are becoming more ingredient-savvy, so brands are shifting toward fewer synthetics. For example, online boutiques such as Petit Vour do all of the label-reading for you, so what you find there is going to be clean, cruelty-free, and vegan.

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