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What Makes A Skincare Product Vegan?

Plus 3 Common Ingredients That Might Not Be Vegan
By Jaya Fairchild | Founding Partner | SkinDressing.com

A product that is vegan is not only cruelty-free but does not contain anything derived from a living being. The term cruelty-free typically means there was never any testing done on animals at any stage of a product's creation, manufacture or distribution. However some ingredients might still be derived from a living being, or there could be a parent company, subsidiary or a commissioned third party lab involved that engages in animal testing, all of which usually involve some form of cruelty.

When looking for vegan skincare, there are a few common ingredients such as hyaluronic acid/sodium hyaluronate, glycerine, and stearic acid that might be derived from animal sources (and many others not detailed here therefore please see reference below). A label employing the use of an INCI (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient) name for an ingredient, though a standard of uniformity, will not clearly define an ingredient's origin so look for a brand's third party verification. There can also be products that are cruelty-free (not tested on animals), or cruelty-free and vegan without any third party certification, so one would need to contact the manufacturer to be sure.

PETA, otherwise known as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' Cruelty Free & Vegan logo (1) certifies no animal testing and vegan ingredients. PETA's Cruelty Free logo (2) certifies no animal testing, but the ingredients are not vegan. As PETA only certifies companies, not individual products, their list includes a notation of which companies are owned by a non-compliant parent company so consumers can make informed choices. Their list can be found here.

Choose Cruelty Free's logo (3) certifies no animal testing, vegan ingredients, and will not certify companies unless all parent and subsidiaries are also certified. Their list can be found here.

Cruelty Free International's Leaping Bunny logo (4) certifies individually owned companies that do not engage in animal testing, but the ingredients are not guaranteed vegan so one would need to search their database here.

Vegan Action/Vegan Awareness Foundation's logo (5) certifies products with vegan ingredients and no animal testing, however the same company might also produce or sell non‐vegan products. Their list of certified companies, (not products) can be found here.

The Vegan Society's logo (6) certifies products with vegan ingredients and no animal testing, however the same company might also produce or sell non‐vegan products. Their searchable vegan product database can be found here.

Viva! Has three logos. Their vegan logo is shown here (7). There is a second Viva! logo that signifies a product is vegetarian and a third dairy-free. All three logos are similar in design to the logo shown. The Viva! Vegan logo certifies a product's ingredients are vegan (and therefore cruelty-free). A directory containing all product types can be found here.

The American Vegetarian Society also has three logos. Their vegan logo is shown here (8). There is a second logo that that signifies a product is vegetarian and a third that simply endorses but doesn't certify. All three logos are similar in design. The logo shown certifies a product's ingredients are vegan, however the same company might also produce or sell non‐vegan products. Anything with one of their logos is assumed cruelty-free. (No list available.)

Beauty Without Cruelty's logo (9) certifies no animal testing, and products may not contain ingredients that have been obtained as a result of the death of an animal. Parent companies and their subsidiaries must also comply with these criteria. They do not approve parts of ranges, but they do allow vegetarian ingredients, so to verify which companies are vegan and which are vegetarian one must refer to their humane guide found here.

Vegan hyaluronic acid/sodium hyaluronate is fermentation derived, while non-vegan is extracted from rooster combs. As it is naturally occurring throughout the human body, applied to the skin it can boost elasticity and lock in moisture. It is known for its unique ability to hold more than 1000 times its weight of water which dramatically aids in hydration of the skin.

Glycerine or glycerol, can be derived from animal fat or vegetable oil. It is a clear, odorless humectant that absorbs ambient water and when combined with oils it aids to replenish triglycerides and keep skin moisturized.

Stearic acid is an odorless, colorless, wax-like fatty acid derived from vegetable or animal fats. It is created through a process of hydrogenation. Vegetable based stearic acid is commonly derived from oils such as coconut or palm. It is used in skincare products to aid in the emulsification of oil and water formulas and helps to provide a smooth skin feel, but otherwise has no benefit for skin.

A full list of animal ingredients found in beauty products can be read here.

Supporting non-vegan companies that offer vegan options can create more opportunities for the transition to a compassionate world. It is good to support slow change rather than no change, and the percentage of people making the switch to a vegan (cruelty-free) lifestyle is growing more rapidly than ever.