8 non-vegan beauty ingredients and their substitutes

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Many common beauty products aren’t vegan, as they’re made with animal-based ingredients. Here’s a list of what to avoid, and what you can use instead.

With a variety of beauty products that are both vegan and cruelty-free, there’s a good chance that your makeup favourites are vegan. But there are still some non-vegan beauty ingredients used today.

To put your mind at ease, here is a list of vegan beauty products and ingredients to look out for when serving looks in ethos with your lifestyle.

Carmine (Crushed Insects)

animal-based beauty products - carmineCarmine is a bright red colouring used as a pigment in cosmetics. It is obtained through a non-cruelty-free process of crushing female cochineal insects. This colouring is derived from carminic acid that’s found in the shells of these insects.

What products use it: It is typically found in lipsticks but also other make-up products of bright red shades like blushes, eye shadows, nail polishes and more.

What to look out for: When buying beauty products, look out for cochineal extract, crimson lake, carmine lake, natural red 4, C.I. 75470, or E120. These are names under which you can find carmine in the ingredient list of makeup products.

Alternatives: If you want to be extra safe, just shop with vegan beauty brands like KVD Vegan Beauty, Axiology, Urban Decay, Face It Natural Cosmetics and so many more.


animal-based beauty products - beeswaxSometimes labelled as cera alba, beeswax is used in cosmetics to keep emulsions from separating into their oil and liquid components.

What products use it: The ultimate product that is a finish for every look, mascara, is one of the most common one containing beeswax. It can also be found in lip balms, moisturisers and hand creams.

What to look out for: Check the ingredients for beeswax, cera alba, cera flava, Apic cerana, Apis Mel, Apis mellifera or Cire Blanche.

Alternatives: There are alternative plant and soya waxes. Try KVD’s Go Big or Go Home Mascara, made out of plant-based oils, or Glossier’s Lash Slick with vegan biotin.


animal-based beauty products - lanolinLanolin is a wax-like substance derived from sheep wool used in cosmetics for softening and moisturising effect.

What products use it: It’s commonly used in lip products like lipsticks, balms and glosses as well as some hair products.

What to look out for: Look for lanolin, wool yolk, wool way, wool grease, wool fat or adeps lanae when buying products.

Alternatives: You can opt for synthetic or plant-based substitutes like hyaluronic acid, coconut oil, or shea and coconut butter.


non-vegan hair products - keratinYou might have been told that keratin shampoo is your best friend that will give your hair the ultimate gloss. Even though keratin is a protein that naturally occurs in your hair and nails, in beauty products it is derived from the hair, nails, horns and hooves of animals.

What products use it: Keratin is mainly used in haircare, shampoos and nail strengthening products. It is also found in anti-ageing skincare lines.

What to look out for: Check the ingredients list for keratin.

Alternatives: Almond oils and soy protein are used as alternatives in products. Stick to vegan haircare brand like Lush, Faith in Nature, and Evolve Organic Beauty.


vegan beauty - non-vegan ingredient shellacShellac is a resin product obtained from the female lac bug. To produce one kilogram of shellac, you have to crush between 50,000 to 300,000 of these bugs. The final product is sold as dry flakes or liquid shellac.

What products use it: You have to look out for shellac when choosing from the popular summer products, nail polishes. Also, be careful with other nail care products and hair lacquers.

What to look out for: Different names for shellac are Goma Laca, Gomme-Laque, Gommelaque, Lac, Lacca, Laccifer lacca.

Alternatives: Opt for vegan nail polishes from brands like wet n wild, Yapa, Ella+Mila, LVX and more.


vegan beauty - non-vegan ingredient collagenCollagen is a natural protein found in connective tissues and skin. But in beauty products, is obtained from animal tissues, bones and skin. Cows are the most common source of collagen.

What products use it: Collagen is used in anti-ageing, skin renewal products and also lip plumping care.

What to look out for: Check the name of the product and ingredients for collagen.

Alternatives: The plant-based alternatives include soya protein and almond oil. There are also cruelty-free products for fighting wrinkles; for example, good old hyaluronic acid or beauty brands like Alchimie Forever, DeVita, and Aveda.


vegan makeup and beauty - glycerinGlycerin is a colourless lipid derived from animal fats. There is also vegetable-based glycerin suitable for vegans made out of soybeans, palm oil and synthetics. But the source of glycerin is rarely specified and so, avoiding it remains the safest option. 

What products use it: Glycerin is used across a variety of hair care and make-up products, moisturisers and soaps.

What to look out for: See the ingredients list and look out for glycerin or glycerol.

Alternatives: If the glycerin source is listed, keep in mind that it can be plant-based. But to be extra safe, opt for some of the vegan and cruelty-free brands listed above.

Diana Buntajova
Diana Buntajova
Diana is always looking for the environmental aspect of every story. She is interested in health and lifestyle, hoping to point to issues that are often overseen. Diana has explored topics including B-12 deficiency in the vegan diet, fears about exotic skin farms sparking another pandemic, and the Oreo controversy. Currently studying Journalism at City University of London, she enjoys everything to do with visuals especially photography. Creative and detail-oriented in both her visual and written work. On a mission to find the best vegan cheese and can't resist beyond meat burgers.