Ingredient lists in cosmetics are often full of complicated names. As a vegan, it can be hard to navigate these. This is why I have compiled this list below with common ingredients in cosmetics that are derived from animals.
This list does not contain all possible animal ingredients that can be found in cosmetics. There are billions of cosmetic products in the world and possibly even the same amount of ingredients. I might add to this list later on. Do you feel like an ingredient is missing? Let me know: email me at email@example.com.
At the bottom of this blog you'll find a printable image that you can use to take with you in your wallet, so you'll always have insights into what to look out for when reading ingredient lists!
Beeswax, as the name tells us, comes from bees and is used as an emulsifier – it basically helps with mixing water and oils. You can find beeswax in creams and other skin care products, hair wax and makeup like lipstick and mascara. Sometimes you’ll see ‘synthetic beeswax’ – this is not really beeswax but a synthetic alternative. In ingredient lists, beeswax is also commonly referred to as Cera Alba or Cera Flava. Read more about beeswax in our blog!
Casein is a protein that comes from animal milk - usually cows milk. It is used in skin and hair care products. Casein and derivates of casein are also referred to as Caseinate, Sodium Caseinate or simply Milk Protein.
Carmine is a bright red dye that is extracted from finely ground cochineal scale insects.
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© Coralie Boon @thula_art V1
It can be found in lipsticks, eyeshadow, blush, nail polish, foundation, concealer and other cosmetics that have a red, pink or purple colour. Carmine is also referred to as: carminic acid, cochineal, natural red 4, E120, of C.I. 75470.
Collagen is the stuff that gives elasticity to your skin. It’s extracted from animal skin. Skin aging is often contributed to loss of collagen – this is why it can be found in many creams and anti-aging products. It’s generally not seen as an effective ingredient – many scientists believe that it doesn’t penetrate the skin enough to really make any difference at all.
Like with collagen, loss of elastin is generally one of the causes of skin aging, which is why it is a popular product in creams and anti aging products. However, scientists agree that it’s not effective for the same reason as collagen: it does not penetrate the skin enough. Elastin is commonly extracted from the aorta or vertebrae of cattle.
Better known as a hormone that is also present in our own body. Estrogen can also be found in skin care products with a restorative effect or perfume. It is obtained from the urine of pregnant horses.
Gelatin is obtained by boiling bones and offal and is occasionally used in skin care products.
Glucosamine is a popular ingredient in skincare. It is always animal derived and is usually obtained from the bone marrow of chickens.
Glycerine is a slippery substance that comes from fats and oils. These can be animal or vegetable fats. Is this not listed? Then it is advisable to approach the brand or manufacturer. Glycerine and glycerine derivatives are also referred to as Glycerides, Glyceryl, Glycreth-26, Polyglycerol, Glycerol, or Glycerin.
Guanine is a beautiful pearly substance that is often used in nail polish, all kinds of make-up and to add that shimmer to your shampoo. Unfortunately, it is made from ground fish scales. Guanine is also referred to as Pearl Essence, Pearl Extract or Pearl Powder.
Honey is occasionally used in facial masks and skin and hair care products. It is also sometimes added as a perfume or fragrance to scented cosmetics. Honey is also referred to in ingredient lists as Mel. Read more about the not-so-sweet truth on honey in our blog!
This popular ingredient in many skincare products can be both of vegetable and animal origin. The animal variety is obtained from the combs on the head of roosters.
Keratin is a substance extracted from the nails, feathers, horns, hair, and hooves of animals. Keratin is widely used in hair care products such as shampoo, conditioner, hair masks and hair dye.
Lactose is a type of sugar that comes from animal milk. It can be found in eye creams and some other skin care products. Important to note that lactic acid is almost always vegan as it is derived from bacteria that were traditionally cultivated in milk, but nowadays sugar is usually used.
Lanolin is a fatty substance derived from sheep's wool. It is widely used in creams and lip products as a moisturiser. You will also occasionally find it in hair care products. Synthetic lanolin exists, but is hardly used, and lanolin labeled "cruelty free" may still come from animal wool. Lanolin is a common allergen, and most people who are allergic to wool are actually allergic to lanolin.
Lecithin is used not only in food, but also in cosmetics. It can be egg-derived, but it is usually made from soy or sunflower. It can be found in all kinds of cosmetic products.
This ingredient often comes from animal fats (although it can be plant based) and is widely used in creams, soft and hard soaps, perm fluid, creams, nail polish, lipstick and many other types of skincare. Oleic acid and its derivatives are also referred to as oleyl stearate, oleyl oleate or tallow.
Panthenol is used as a moisturiser and moisturizing ingredient in hair care products. It is also occasionally used in skincare or mascara. Most of the panthenol used for the production of cosmetics is extracted from meat or honey, although it can also be found in some vegetables.
Animal ingredients in fragrance enhancers may be, for example, castoreum, which comes from beavers. Some cheap vanilla scents are derived from cow dung. These ingredients may be found in any cosmetic products that have added scent. Often these are unspecified or simply referred to as "perfume" or "fragrance", so further enquiry is needed. Perfume may also contain honey.
Propolis comes from bees. It can be found in several cosmetic products such as toothpaste, hair care products and deodorant.
Retinol is a good source of Vitamin A and can mostly be found in anti-aging products. It is almost always animal derived.
Shellac is the resinous secretion of an insect and is used to shine hair, nails or lips. It is a common ingredient in nail polish, shampoos, hairspray, mascara and lipsticks. Around 300,000 insects are killed for the production of 1 kg of shellac and raw, unfiltered shellac may contain up to 25% of insect debris. For more information about shellac, be sure to check out our blog.
This ingredient comes from silkworm cocoons and is widely used in skin- and haircare products and soaps. Silk is also sometimes used as a colorant in make-up.
This ingredient, which usually comes from shark livers, can often be found in lip balm, deodorants, skin care products and moisturisers. Plant-based squalane exists. This is usually made from olive oil or wheat oil. If it is not explicitly stated whether the squalane is vegan, this will need further inquiry, as it will likely be shark-based.
This ingredient is derived from fats. Stearic acid can be made from vegetable or animal fats. If it is plant based, this is often indicated, or the product is stated as being vegan. If not indicated, it is usually animal based. Stearin has many derivatives with sometimes complicated names such as Stearyldimethyl Amine. Does an ingredient contain the words “stear”, “stearic” or “stearyl” somewhere? Then it probably is a stearin derivative. Stearin and derivatives are used in many cosmetics, skin and hair care products, lubricant, and soap.
The below image can be used to print out and take with you in your wallet to help you make the right choices. Of course, all cosmetics on our website are both cruelty-free and vegan! Would you like to read more about animal ingredients? Be sure to check out our blog about animal ingredients in fashion.