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What does Vegan skincare really mean and what ingredients should be avoided?

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Veganism is a practice of boycotting the use or consumption of animal products and by-products in your diet and daily lifestyle. The main ideology is based on protecting the right of animals to live to not be treated cruelly and without exploiting them for human gains. If you are looking to shift to a Vegan – friendly routine, this article is for you:

What is Vegan Skincare?

Vegan skincare is a routine that uses products that do not contain any animal ingredient or animal-derived by-product rejecting the ideology of using animals as a commodity. The underlying value in doing so is to believe that all creatures have the right to life and freedom, therefore consciously avoiding the consumption or use of such products by shifting to other alternatives that are available. Veganism does not only reject meats but also animals by-products such as dairy, eggs, fur, wool, honey, collagen, stearic acid, beeswax or even lesser-known products like rennet and isinglass. Shifting our cosmetic and skincare products to a more Vegan -friendly routine is a great way to reduce our harmful impact on the creatures we share our ecosystem with.

This picture explains vegan skincare definition

Why is it important to shift to Vegan Skincare?

Shifting to Veganism does not only mean excluding animal origin products from your diet but also extends to changing every other aspect in your lifestyle from household equipment to clothes and accessories to skincare, cosmetics and so on. These are the few benefits received by you and your environment by incorporating a vegan-friendly skin care routine:

  1. Reduces the aggravation of skin : Vegan products are generally made through natural and organic ingredients that tend to be gentler to sensitive skin. These products contain fewer ingredients that do not reduce the risk of reactions, itchiness or breakouts.

  2. Reduce the strain on the environment by excluding animal products : As per the 2010 report by the United Nations Environment Programme, animal products are a key cause of environmental damage that include climate change, water depletion and soil erosion. Shifting to this routine will ensure that you lead a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle, reducing your negative impact on the environment.

  3. Avoid cruelty against animals : Generally, products that incorporate veganism also avoid testing on animals and are cruelty-free. That means such products do not harm or kill animals to test the reaction of their products. These tests are often painful and are the cause of millions of deaths of animals every year. However, you must note that not all vegan – friendly products are cruelty – free and one must refrain from using such products if we want to avoid cruelty to animals in every aspect of our lives.

This image explains the importance of shifting to Vegan skincare.

What are the ingredients and compositions that you should avoid in order to move to a Vegan – friendly skincare routine?

To ensure that your products are Vegan friendly, always check the ingredients generally mentioned on the back of the packaging. The easiest way is to look for labels or icons that explicitly state “Suitable for Vegans”. Educate yourself with the scientific names of commonly used animal-derived ingredients. Products on store shelves have labels that are so hard to decode. Making conscious efforts to learn more and acquire knowledge in this field is a great way to start. Here, we have summarised a list of animal-derived ingredients that are commonly found in skin care products and their alternatives to help you take a step towards a more Vegan – friendly lifestyle: 

  1. Honey: This is the food used for bees. It is great to heal the skin and are generally used as emollients, to soften and smoothen skin texture. A great alternative would be to use Aloe Vera, Jojoba Oil and Argan Oil.
  2. Gelatine: This is a translucent, colourless, flavourless ingredient, derived from collagen taken from animal body parts by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments and bones. This can be found in face creams, lotions, sunscreens, face masks etc. It is used as a thickening agent. An alternative to this would be Agar-agar powder to soften and moisturise along with thicken the product.
  3. Glycerine: Derived from animal fats. It is used as a moisturiser to treat dry and itchy skin. Found in soaps, shampoos, makeup and moisturisers. A suitable alternative would be to use Vegetable Glycerine made of Soya, Coconut Oil and Palm Oil.
  4. Collagen: It is used to accelerate the formation of skin cells to prevent premature ageing to gain more youthful-looking skin. It is sourced by the protein derived from hair, skin, bones and ligaments form animals such as fish, cattle and horses. An alternative to this is using plant-based collagen sources
  5. Retinol: This is an animal-derived Vitamin A widely used as an anti-ageing ingredient and also reduces pigmentation and discolouration. It helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and increase the production of collagen and new skin cells. The animal-based retinol is derived from egg yolks and fish liver oil. For an appropriate alternative, you must opt for the Vegan, plant-based formulation known as Carotenoid, an orange and yellow pigment that gives colour to plants such as carrots, tomatoes and autumn leaves.
  6. Makeup brushes: They are generally made from the hair of squirrels, goats or horses. Vegan brushes, on the other hand, are made with synthetic fibres like taklon and nylon without causing any injustice towards animals.
  7. Shaving Brushes: Similar to makeup brushes, some shaving brushes too use animal hair for the bristles. In fact the hair of some endangered species are used to make shaving brushes softer and ‘perceived’ better in quality. For example, many countries have banned badger hair based brushes and one could check whether the brushes are derived from a before a purchase decision. The alternatives are again similar to make up brushes with nylon being the most commonly used option.
  8. Estrogen or Estradiol: This is derived from the urine of pregnant horses. It is used to hydrate the skin and increase sebum production. Phytoestrogens is a great plant-based alternative that can mimic the functions of Estrogen. 
These ingredients are not Vegan and should be avoided.

What is the difference between Vegetarian, Vegan and Cruelty-free products?

There is a lot of noise when it comes to differentiating between Vegan, Vegetarian and Cruelty-free products. In order to simplify the confusion, we have summarised them down below: 

  1. Vegan Products: They not only exclude animal meats but also animal-derived components or by-products that could cause any harm to the animal during the production of the product. They aim to treat animals in a more humane manner by believing that they too have the right to a painless free life. Plant-based alternatives are often used to overcome the void of animal ingredients.
  2. Vegetarian Products: The primary difference between Vegan and Vegetarian products is that Vegetarians only avoid meat, while Vegans avoid all animal-sourced ingredients. They solely discourage the slaughter of animals for consumption or utility purposes.
  3. Cruelty-Free Products: This means that the ingredients, components or final product has not been tested on animals. These products may contain animal-derived ingredients but do not test their results on animals. Every year millions of animals are harmed in this process. There is often confusion if all vegan products are cruelty – free. This is not necessarily always the case. Vegan products too can be tested on animals just as not all Cruelty – Free are vegan and may contain animal-derived components.

It would be ideal to use a product that is both Vegan as well as Cruelty – Free and using such products does not mean that the products are sustainable, eco – friendly, clean and all-natural. You must read the labels properly to avoid using any toxic chemical on your skin. 

What are the certifications for Vegan products?

The Certified Vegan Logo is used by products worldwide to prove authentic standards for products free from animal ingredients. The certified logo is an easy solution for consumers purchasing vegan products without constantly referring to the complicated ingredient lists filled with scientific terminologies. In order for a product to be approved for Vegan Certification, it must not contain meat, fish, fowl, animal by-products, eggs or egg products, milk or milk products, honey or honey bee products, insects or products from insects such as silk or dyes, or sugar filtered with bone char or any other animal-derived ingredient. The two most popular Logos can be found by these two organisations:

  1. Vegan Action: A non - profit organization that works to eliminate animal suffering, reduce environmental impacts, and improve human health through a vegan diet. The Certified Vegan Logo is administered by The Vegan Awareness Foundation that aims at educating people about veganism and assisting vegan-friendly businesses. The Logo is permitted on products owned by companies located in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and US territories but is distributed and recognized worldwide.
  2. The Vegan Society: Founded in 1944, The Vegan Society is a registered educational charity that provides information and guidance on various aspects of veganism. Their Trademark is registered in countries around the world. It represents the international standard for authentic vegan products. 


In conclusion, before you take on this journey towards a Vegan – friendly lifestyle, educate yourself for the ingredients you must look out for as knowledge is power. There are so many non – vegan ingredients used in products and the chemical names can be a tad bit intimidating. Do not feel disheartened if you do accidentally use a non – vegan product as you are contributing to a more animal-friendly environment. Slowly more brands are incorporating Veganism in their production and eventually following a Vegan lifestyle will be a large part of consumerism in the future. 

- By Howrah Lookmanji

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