How to veganize your makeup

Today we are going to tackle how to veganize your beauty stash which includes anything from makeup to skincare, bath and body, fragrance and tools (read how to veganize your wardrobe). I have to tell you, this is the most challenging aspect of veganism, at least to me because I am a beauty junkie! I have tried a gamut of products so letting go of what used to be my holy grail (non-vegan) and trying new brands is really an arduous task. Why? because it’s not just a matter of being cruelty-free but it should be completely devoid of any animal or its byproducts.

How to veganize your makeup

Cruelty-free means no animal testing from production to distribution. Vegan on the other hand means cruelty-free and complete absence of animal which will require you to read the full list of ingredients and be familiar with the most common source vis-a-vis byproducts used in the beauty industry. I have to warn you that some companies are also capitalizing on the word “vegan” because of the growing demand for such. Case in point, the inadvertent use of vegan label by L’Oreal in one of its haircare line which made true vegans irate! We know that L’Oreal is not cruelty-free so they cannot technically use the word vegan even if those products do not contain animals. Again I have to warn you also that sometimes a company can be sneaky with how they name the ingredient to sidetrack you, we’ll get into that later. I know it’s a lot of work but it’s all worth it!

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how to veganize makeup

Pay attention to ingredients. PETA has a long list of animal/ animal-derived ingredients but I will narrow it down to the most commonly used ones given my familiarity with all things beauty!

  1. Lactic acid falls in the AHA (alpha hydroxy acid family). It helps with maturing skin, brighten the complexion and even out skin tone. It is made from sour milk. (Alternative: glycolic acid which is also classified as AHA, traditionally made from sugar cane. Glycolic acid has the smallest molecule out of all the “acids” which allow it to penetrate the skin better). Try Drunk Elephant Sukari Babyfacial, a good at-home peel.
  2. Beeswax is used in a lot of cosmetics such as lipsticks, lip balms, eye cream, shaving cream, among others. Sometimes it is listed as such but oftentimes you will see it as Cera Alba or Cera Flava. Now unless you are familiar with both of these, chances are you will just scroll down. There is a debate whether beeswax (or even honey) is vegan or not so it is totally up to you to discern. If you know how honey or bee derived products are harvested, then you will have deeper understanding that is indeed not vegan. There is a new documentary in Netflix called Rotten that tackles the bee industry and blatant adulteration of honey, in particular dilution with fillers coming from China, reason being (1) it’s cheap (2) bees are dying so supply is declining (3) but demand is rising. It’s not a vegan documentary but it will tell you the back story of leading animal industries (alternative: Carnauba wax which is made from palm tree, also Candelilla wax made from candelilla plant). Try  Au Naturale Infinity Lipstick, it has a short list of ingredients which includes candelilla wax.
  3. Carmine, also known as cochineal, carminic acid. Red dye made from beetles and commonly used in blush, lipsticks and eyeshadows (alternative: beet juice). Try Hourglass Ambient Metallic Strobe Lighting Palette
  4. Collagen is one of the “it” ingredients in anti-aging. It is derived from animal tissue. As Aesthetic Registered Nurse Laser Specialist, skincare is one of my focus. Collagen in skincare will not solve wrinkles or reverse aging, it is a humectant, just like any moisturizers you already have in your stash (alternative: marula oil, sea buckthorn oil, age oil). Try derma-E Rejuvenating Face Oil.
  5. Glycerin is another common skincare ingredient, it is made from animal fat (alternative: vegetable glycerin).
  6. Hyaluronic acid is another popular anti-aging ingredient. Non-vegan comes from rooster combs while vegan utilizes fermentation. Hyaluronic acid is a large molecule which renders it impossible to provide skincare benefit. Sodium hyaluronate is a derivative which helps retain moisture (alternative: plant oils).
  7. Keratin is made from animal hair and is a common ingredient in haircare and lash growth products (alternative: plant oils such as castor or argan). Try Acure Organics Argan Oil.
  8. Retinol (retinoid) is animal-derived Vitamin A, it helps with cellular turnover, acne and aging skin (alternative:carotenoid). Try 100% Pure PM Retinol Duo.
  9. Squalene is made from shark liver oil (alternative: plant oils).
  10. Musk is common in fragrance, it is made from secretions coming from animal’s genitals (alternative: natural perfumes). Try Lavanilla.

How to find out if makeup is vegan

Look for logos but do your own background research. I say this with caveat because there are sneaky companies who will come up with their own logos that look quite similar to the established ones like Leaping Bunny, PETA, Choose Cruelty Free, Certified Vegan/, Vegan Society. Sometimes an up and coming indie brand may not have logo yet but it does not mean it is not vegan and/or cruelty-free. Ask, and ask some more. If you are getting “beating-around-the-bush” response from the company, most likely it is not cruelty-free or vegan.

Join vegan groups either in your community or Facebook. There is strength in numbers, you’d be amazed that by simply asking a group for vegan alternatives or holy grails, you will discover new brands or products you didn’t know were vegan!

Finally, stop buying non-vegan. It does not mean that now that you’re vegan, you will just throw everything away because let’s face it, unless you are bathing in money, it is not that easy to revamp your beauty stash. Slowly build up your collection while you use up what you have at the moment (check out my best vegan beauty favorites last year).

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36 thoughts on “How To Veganize Your Beauty Stash

  • So interesting to read the origins of the ingredients

  • This is a wonderfully informative post, Kath! Thank you for posting this!

  • This is so informative. I never knew where a lot of these ingredients came from, so that was really interesting to learn about. Thanks for recommending some of your favorite alternatives!

  • The Ordinary has a plant-based squalene that my skin is soaking up these days. When I first used lactic acid, it irritated the stuffings out of my skin – at a mere 5%! I moved to glycolic, and can tolerate even 50% at a low pH, for a good 15 minutes before the stinging becomes harsh. Weird skin!

    • thefabzilla

      TO is a hit and miss for me. Yeah there has to be a slight sting for glycolic just to “feel” that it’s doing its job. Have you tried Drunk Elephant sukari yet?

  • I cant live without HA, but I try to make sure its plant based

    • thefabzilla

      We all have hyaluronic acid in our body, from the dermal layer to joints. In skincare, it’s a plain humectant and the good thing about is that more and more companies now are not using the real HA because it doesn’t really have any beneficial effects on the skin because of its impermeability hence a derivative like sodium hyalaruronate is a better topical alternative.

  • Great post for those who are interested in making this change!

  • I get shots in my knee every 6 months and the doctor told me that it was made from the Hyaluronic Acid made from rooster combs. He may or may not be right but they are the only thing that allows me to walk without pain until I cave and get a knee transplant. But I am more aware of what I’m buying now than I used to be.

    • thefabzilla

      The ones used in injectables are definitely the real HA derived from animals. Yes it is used for joints because HA lubricates. My mom has knee issues too related to her arthritis and I suggested arthroscopy but she’s too afraid to do it even if it’s minimally invasive.

  • Thanks for all the info Kath!

  • Wow. Super informative! I didn’t know things like Retinol was derived from animals.

    • thefabzilla

      Unfortunately it is. Retinoids in general are, there are “vegan retinol” but it’s not retinoid per se but precursors made from plants like carrots and spinach. Others just name it vegan for the sake of naming it even if there are no precursors

  • 25 Sweetpeas

    Such an informative post!

  • My Nail Polish Obsession

    The idea of putting ground up beetles in makeup gives me the heebie jeebies. Is the beetle dead first or it is killed because it would be a little hypocritical if it was killed for the coloring. Do insects count?

    • My Nail Polish Obsession

      I completely misunderstood – you were pointing out that non vegan makeup uses carmine. Which I still find creepy. But now I get what your point. Glad I rea-read bc it is great info.

    • thefabzilla

      Yes insects count. Yes they are killed, thousands are killed in order to produce 1 pound of color. There are so many alternatives out there

  • I didn’t know most of those were animal derived!!!!!ots surprising. Like you would think I would have heard before that HA is usually animal based. Does that mean injectibles like Juvederm are animal based? (Not actually sure if Juvederm is the one that is HA or not but it’s the only one that comes to mind)

  • Your depth of Vegan astonishes me. Thanks for the knowledge sharing

  • There are a lot of things that I didn’t realize came from animals. The musk and hyaluronic acid really have me wanting to start switching to more vegan products. I also didn’t know that Drunk Elephant was vegan!

  • This is a great list! I don’t think a lot of companies use squalene anymore, usually I see olive-derived squalane instead. It’s better for the skin too!

  • These are aspects of veganism I’ve never really given much thought to, you really have to do your research!

  • I just adore your outfit! I’m certainly not vegan, but I do try to buy from cruelty free brands as much as possible.

  • This is a great, in depth, resource!

  • Yvette

    Great Post! I like how you provided alternatives to commonly used ingredients.

  • Thanks for the well written, in depth post. This is great for people who want to go vegan but don’t know how.

    • thefabzilla

      Thank you. My pleasure to share. No one is born vegan unless our forefathers are so it’s like unlearning what we all learned hence I write with those people in mind.

  • I love your outfit here! I recently started working for a company that sells vegetarian and vegan beauty products, and yeah, it’s surprising how many animal products we use without even realizing it.

    • thefabzilla

      yes, you would think at this day and age, companies have improved. sad isn’t it?

  • Lacquerexpression

    Wow, this is super informative. I have lots of work to do to make my stash vegan. Is there any vegan makeup Facebook groups you recommend?

  • Ehmkay nails

    This post is so helpful! I didn’t know about many of those ingredients!

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