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.
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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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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Glycerin is another common skincare ingredient, it is made from animal fat (alternative: vegetable glycerin).
- 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).
- 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.
- Retinol (retinoid) is animal-derived Vitamin A, it helps with cellular turnover, acne and aging skin (alternative:carotenoid). Try 100% Pure PM Retinol Duo.
- Squalene is made from shark liver oil (alternative: plant oils).
- Musk is common in fragrance, it is made from secretions coming from animal’s genitals (alternative: natural perfumes). Try Lavanilla.
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.org, 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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