Vegan cosmetics explained

What constitutes as a vegan cosmetics product?

New vegans everywhere face the challenge digesting mountains of informations in all areas of life. Usually the first hurdle is nutrition, followed closely by cosmetics. Therefore lets make this short and sweet. What makes a cosmetic item vegan?

For a cosmetic product to constitute as vegan in needs to be two things:

  • not tested on animals i.e. cruelty free i.e. bunny approved
  • free of any animal products

Cruelty free

Consumers often assume that cruelty free is a synonym to vegan, unfortunately it is not so. The term solely means a product has not been tested on animals. In accordance with the EU regulation it is illegal to test cosmetic products or their ingredients on animals for products made and sold within the EU, so any cosmetic products produced in or outside the region are not tested, however there are a few exceptions to the law. Unfortunately there are companies with parent companies that still test on animals, as well as such that test for specific markets.

Non vegan ingredients

Ingredients you need to be mindful of when looking for vegan cosmetics:

  • bees – beeswax (cera alba), propolis, honey
  • sheep sweat in wool – lanolin
  • shark liver – squalane
  • crushed cochineals beetles – carmine (cochineal, natural red 4, E120, C.I. 75470)
  • lac bugs – shellac
  • animal fat – glycerin
  • cow milk – casein (caseinate, or sodium caseinate)
  • fish scales -guanine
  • animal fat – oleic acid (oleyl stearate, oleyl oleate, tallow)
  • pigs, cows or sheep stomachs – stearic acid
  • animal (mostly cows) tissues, bone, skin, ligaments – collagen
  • animal ligaments, muscles, aortas – elastin
  • animal horns and hair – keratin
  • animal hair can be horse, sable, fox, goat, squirrel, badger, wild boar for brushes and mink for eyelashes


Luckily a lot of brands now understand there is a growing market for vegan cosmetics and have started to label their products accordingly, so depending on where you are based, you may have access to different brands with such products.