Cow and Sheep

8 Ingredients in Your Skincare That Might Not Be Vegan

Whether you’ve been looking to avoid animal by-products in your cosmetics and skincare for a while, or you’re fresh on the scene of vegan beauty, there are usually a few standout ingredients that you’ll know to avoid. Beeswax, honey and lanolin are some of more common and most well-known non-vegan skincare ingredients and can be easily avoided if you get a basic understanding of how to read cosmetic labels.

However, there are animal by-products hidden in manufacturing processes and raw materials that aren’t obvious at all, and often can’t be confirmed without the manufacturer confirming their ingredient origins.

Here are 8 common skincare ingredients to watch out for that might not be vegan.

A bundle of various tone eggs.

1. Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is used in a variety of formulas as a thickening and binding agent. There are different types of xanthan gum for producing either clear or opaque gels.

Clear xanthan gum is often processed using egg whites, so check with the manufacturer of your products if you’re wanting to be strict about avoiding any including of animal products in your cosmetics and skincare.

 

1. Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is used in a variety of formulas as a thickening and binding agent. There are different types of xanthan gum for producing either clear or opaque gels.

Clear xanthan gum is often processed using egg whites, so check with the manufacturer of your products if you’re wanting to be strict about avoiding any including of animal products in your cosmetics and skincare.

 

2. Emulsifiers

There are many different types of emulsifiers available on the market. They are processed from fatty acids and often sourced from inexpensive and abundant vegetable sources such as palm, rapeseed and coconut.

However, it is not uncommon to find emulsifiers that are made using animal fats. Tallow, derived from cow or sheep fat, is used to make harmless-sounding emulsifiers and texture agents such as cetearyl alcohol and glyceryl stearate. 

It’s impossible to tell just looking at your products’ ingredients lists whether the emulsifiers used in a cream or lotion are derived from animal or vegetable fats, so check with the manufacturer to make sure you’re not accidentally putting something on your skin you’d rather avoid!Did you know that keratin is most commonly made from pig hair? Cosmetic keratin seems glamorous but is in fact a slaughterhouse by-product.

 

Close up of a cow in a busy cow shed.

3. Lactic Acid

Lactic acid gives us a clue to its potential animal origins in its name. “Lactic” makes us think that lactic acid is derived from milk, and this is a stretched truth but not always the case.

Naturally-derived lactic acid is produced as a by-product of fermentation of different carbohydrates such as glucose, sucrose and lactose. Sometimes, the lactose used in the fermentation process will come from dairy products.

Companies should be able to tell you whether the lactic acid present in their formulas is derived from dairy, purely vegetable sources, or chemical synthesis.

 

3. Lactic Acid

Lactic acid gives us a clue to its potential animal origins in its name. “Lactic” makes us think that lactic acid is derived from milk, and this is a stretched truth but not always the case.

Naturally-derived lactic acid is produced as a by-product of fermentation of different carbohydrates such as glucose, sucrose and lactose. Sometimes, the lactose used in the fermentation process will come from dairy products.

Companies should be able to tell you whether the lactic acid present in their formulas is derived from dairy, purely vegetable sources, or chemical synthesis.

 

Close up of a rooster.

4. Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is often touted as a “vegan alternative” to moisturising agents such as lanolin. 

A little known industry secret is that a lot of hyaluronic acid on the market is sourced from rooster combs! Roosters have less economic value than hens, so sourcing the expensive active ingredient is a way to make them more financially “viable”.

Hyaluronic acid can also be produced by bacterial fermentation, but it’s always safe to check to make sure you’re not inadvertedtly using poultry-derived ingredients.

4. Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is often touted as a “vegan alternative” to moisturising agents such as lanolin. 

A little known industry secret is that a lot of hyaluronic acid on the market is sourced from rooster combs! Roosters have less economic value than hens, so sourcing the expensive active ingredient is a way to make them more financially “viable”.

Hyaluronic acid can also be produced by bacterial fermentation, but it’s always safe to check to make sure you’re not inadvertedtly using poultry-derived ingredients.

Happy pigs in a muddy peg pen.

Did you know that keratin is most commonly made from pig hair? Cosmetic keratin seems glamorous but is in fact a slaughterhouse by-product.

5. Keratin

One of the most common animal-derived ingredients in the beauty industry is keratin. Present in a variety of products from shampoos to skin-strengthening creams, keratin helps to rebuild and support the bonds of our skin and hair.

More brands are cottoning on to the less-than-luxurious origins of one of the beauty industry’s favourite ingredients, opting instead to use “photo-keratin” or “vegetable keratin” in their formulas, which is instead derived from wheat, soy and corn proteins.

As a rule of thumb, if you see “keratin” in your ingredients list, it’s come from a slaughterhouse. Vegan beauty enthusiasts should look out for formulas containing “hydrolyzed wheat protein” or similar ingredients instead.

 

5. Keratin

One of the most common animal-derived ingredients in the beauty industry is keratin. Present in a variety of products from shampoos to skin-strengthening creams, keratin helps to rebuild and support the bonds of our skin and hair.

Did you know that keratin is most commonly made from pig hair? Cosmetic keratin seems glamorous but is in fact a slaughterhouse by-product.

More brands are cottoning on to the less-than-luxurious origins of one of the beauty industry’s favourite ingredients, opting instead to use “photo-keratin” or “vegetable keratin” in their formulas, which is instead derived from wheat, soy and corn proteins.

As a rule of thumb, if you see “keratin” in your ingredients list, it’s come from a slaughterhouse. Vegan beauty enthusiasts should look out for formulas containing “hydrolyzed wheat protein” or similar ingredients instead.

 

6. Squalane

This falls more under the domain of “morbid fun facts”, as it’s actually quite difficult to source non-vegan squalane in the UK. Squalane helps to balance the skin’s moisture levels without blocking pores due to its chemical similarity to the skin’s own natural oil, sebum.

Historically, squalane has been extracted from shark livers (ew!), but most commonly now it is derived from olives.

7. Glycerine

Glycerine, like many cosmetic emulsifiers, can be derived from either vegetable oils or animal fats. Again, it is impossible to know just by looking at the label whether the glycerine in a product is vegan-friendly, so make sure you check in with the manufacturer to make sure.

Horse and cow in a field.

8. Collagen

Like keratin, collagen is a beauty industry buzzword. Decreasing levels of collagen is one of the main factors in visible signs of ageing such as fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of skin elasticity.

Brands will infuse their products with collagen to boost the skin’s collagen content and temporarily improve the appearance of these signs of aging. 

Collagen is also a slaughterhouse by-product, sourced from the ligaments and connective tissue of cows, horses, pigs and rabbits.

Plants don’t contain collagen, so for a vegan collagen boost, look for botanical collagen-boosting extracts like faex, rosehip and sea buckthorn.

8. Collagen

Like keratin, collagen is a beauty industry buzzword. Decreasing levels of collagen is one of the main factors in visible signs of ageing such as fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of skin elasticity.

Brands will infuse their products with collagen to boost the skin’s collagen content and temporarily improve the appearance of these signs of aging. 

Collagen is also a slaughterhouse by-product, sourced from the ligaments and connective tissue of cows, horses, pigs and rabbits.

Plants don’t contain collagen, so for a vegan collagen boost, look for botanical collagen-boosting extracts like faex, rosehip and sea buckthorn.

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