Vegan cosmetics are more than a trend. There are good reasons to avoid products with animal ingredients. Is your lipstick literally blood red or is your favorite scent a real hangover? Animal products often hide gruesome stories but also ecological aspects. And giving up isn't as complicated as you might think. We clarify which ingredients are often or always of animal origin, how you deal with them and what vegan has to do with cruelty-free.
Vegan skin care - why and how?
That speaks for vegan cosmetics
There are several things that inspire us to switch to purely plant-based products. With their rejection of animal products, many are setting an example for animal welfare. They do not want to further support the often catastrophic conditions under which farm animals are kept by their consumption. Environmental protection also plays a role. Because factory farming drives the pollution with greenhouse gases and thus climate change.
In any case, you are making an environmentally conscious decision with vegan products. Taking this step with cosmetics makes sense even if you still prefer to drink your cappuccino with milk. After all, we have to start somewhere.
Many cosmetics contain animal ingredients
When it comes to a vegan lifestyle, many people naturally think of food first. But it also applies to cosmetics. Animal ingredients are found in many products. Bar soaps from conventional production often contain tallowates, i.e. animal fats. The red dye in lipstick, nail polish, blush, and the like often comes from lice. And a popular ingredient in lip balm is beeswax. However, other products also contain ingredients of animal origin.
💡 At the end of this article you will find a list of ingredients of animal origin that you often encounter in cosmetics.
How to find vegan cosmetics
The list below will help you with your shopping. But there's an easier way than searching the ingredients list for animal products on each product. Namely the vegan flower of the Vegan Society. If a product has this symbol, you can be 100% sure that it is vegan.
🌟 FIVE makes vegan natural cosmetics: Our products are listed by the Vegan Society and carry the vegan flower.
There are also useful apps. This includes, for example, the vegan shopping guide from PETA ZWEI or the CODECHECK app. You can even activate a vegan filter in it. Both are available on the iTunes and Google Play Store.
🌱 Good to know: Vegan cosmetics say nothing about the naturalness of a product. Conventional cosmetics can also carry a vegan label.
Does vegan also mean cruelty-free?
Animal testing is at least as important as the animal husbandry conditions. There are a number of myths about this. What is the current situation and what can we - you and I - do to reduce animal suffering?
The current status of animal experiments
Animal testing for cosmetic products has been banned in the EU since 2013 . This is not binding for Swiss manufacturers. However, they usually stick to it because they also sell their products in neighboring EU countries. However, you have to assume that probably all cosmetic raw materials without exception have been tested on animals at some point in their history. This has only ended since the ban in 2009. This prohibits animal testing for raw materials that are used exclusively for cosmetic products.
The crux of the matter is that most of the substances found in cosmetics are also used in the chemical industry. For these other applications, they must comply with the safety standards required by the chemicals legislation REACH. This often even prescribes animal testing! Animal tests are therefore still carried out on newly developed raw materials if, in addition to cosmetics, they are also used for paints, varnishes and cleaning agents, for example, or if nanomaterials are involved.
Cruelty-free manufacturing - what we do as a company
Animal welfare is very important to us at FIVE. This determines our entire product development, the production and the purchase of raw materials.
- As required by law, we neither carry out animal tests ourselves nor do we commission them.
- We do not purchase any raw materials from companies that carry out animal testing or have them carried out.
- We do not export our products to countries that require animal testing for cosmetics.
- We register our care products with the Vegan Society. The vegan flower not only stands for 100% vegan products. At the same time, the conditions of the label exclude animal testing.
Cruelty-free shopping - what we as consumers can do
- Buy vegan products . Animal suffering not only affects experiments on animals, but also their husbandry. That's why you want to be sure that there are no animal ingredients in your cosmetics.
Take natural cosmetics with biological ingredients . Pesticides are used in conventional cultivation of the raw materials. Which, in turn, were almost certainly tested on animals. In addition, their use destroys various microorganisms in the laboratory and in nature.
☝️ This idea goes beyond "pure" cruelty-free awards like Leaping Bunny. Animal suffering is not only relevant to the development and safety of raw materials. It starts with their cultivation.
- If you buy conventional cosmetics, make sure they carry labels like Leaping Bunny, PETA, PETA Cruelty-Free or of course the vegan flower.
Let's go vegan
There are many good reasons not to use animal products in your cosmetics. Thanks to modern processes, there are now plenty of opportunities to produce active ingredients cruelty-free. Other ingredients can be easily replaced with vegetable oils or extracts. So you don't have to do without anything. And there is also a good conscience.
So come on, we're going vegan!
List of animal cosmetic ingredients
This overview helps when shopping if you want to switch to purely herbal cosmetics. It contains the most common ingredients of animal origin with INCI designation, description, use and vegan alternatives. The ingredients are listed in alphabetical order. And beware, some of these are also available from plant sources!
Beeswax | Cera Alba
Bees excrete the wax to build their comb. It forms a protective film on the skin that prevents it from drying out. Here's how you find it...
🧴 Common in lip care, rich creams; rarer in foundation
🌱 Vegan alternatives: carnauba wax ( Copernicia Cerifera Cera ) or candelilla wax ( Euphorbia Cerifera Cera )
chitin | chitin/chitosan
These thickeners have a film-forming effect and work in a similar way to gelatin (see below). They are obtained from the shells of crustaceans and insects.
🧴 Often found in hair fixatives
🌱 Vegan alternatives: agar-agar ( agar ) made from algae, locust bean gum ( Ceratonia Siliqua Gum ) or xanthan ( xanthan gum )
cholesterol | cholesterol
Derived from animal fats, this lipid occurs naturally in the skin. As a component of the cell membrane, it plays an important role in the regeneration and protection of the skin. At the same time, it acts as an emulsifier in creams.
🧴 Often in rich creams of all kinds
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Plant-based phytosterols such as those found in unrefined shea butter ( Butyrospermum Parkii Butter ) and avocado oil ( Persea gratissima oil ).
cysteine | Cystine/Cysteine/L-Cysteine
The amino acid is often obtained from animal keratin (see below).
🧴 Often found in wound ointments, hair care products and creams
🌱 Vegan alternative: Plant-based L-cysteine, which is produced in two different processes, is now also available. However, it is unclear to us whether animal testing was used for the development of these raw materials. So better avoid it altogether .
elastin | elastin
As the name suggests, elastin keeps things elastic. The protein is obtained from the neck tendons of cattle.
🧴 Common in skin care products
🌱 Vegan alternatives: proteins from soy ( Glycine Soy Protein ) or wheat ( Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein )
Fibrostimulin K | Fibrostimulin K
The protein smoothes the skin and is popular as an anti-wrinkle ingredient. However, it is obtained from calf blood.
🧴 Commonly found in anti-aging products
🌱 Vegan alternative: Fibrostimulin P from potatoes - small mnemonic: "K" like veal and "P" vegetable
fish scales | guanine/gua
This effect pigment is found in many decorative cosmetics, especially those that shimmer beautifully. Guanine is obtained from ground fish scales.
🧴 Commonly found in nail polish, glossy eyeshadows, highlighters, lipsticks and mascara
🌱 Vegan alternative: mica ( mica ).
gelatin | gelatin
When it comes to this gelling agent, we first think of gummy bears. Obtaining it from the bones, skin and sinews of animals, i.e. slaughterhouse waste, is less appetizing.
🧴 Often found in creamy products like face masks or shampoos
🌱 Vegan alternatives: agar-agar ( agar ) made from algae or locust bean gum ( Ceratonia Siliqua Gum )
royal jelly | royal jelly
This nutrient-rich secretion is what bees feed their queens. It has a smoothing effect on the skin, which is used in anti-aging products.
🧴 Often found in face and eye creams, hair conditioners or body lotions
🌱 Vegan alternatives: extracts from aloe vera ( aloe barbadensis ) or comfrey ( symphytum officinale root extract )
ghee | ghee
Ghee is made from cow's milk. It is clarified butterfat that is used in Ayurvedic cuisine. But we also encounter it in cosmetics.
🧴 Often found in creams and balms
🌱 Vegan alternatives: rich vegetable oils such as jojoba oil ( Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil ) or shea butter ( Butyrospermum Parkii Butter )
Glycerin | glycerin or glycerol
Glycerin has a moisturizing effect. Animal glycerin is a by-product of the saponification of beef tallow (see also tallowate below).
🧴 Often found in lotions, creams, make-up (foundations), after-sun preparations and other skin care products as well as shampoo and conditioner
🌱 Vegan alternative: vegetable glycerin. This is obtained from the saponification of vegetable oils.
☝️ At FIVE, for example, we use organic glycerine made from coconut oil in our FIVE face serum .
Hyaluronic Acid | sodium hyaluronate or hyaluronic acid
This ingredient binds moisture in the skin. It was originally always made from animal components, mostly from cockscombs. However, the production is quite complex, which is why hyaluronic acid is mostly synthetically produced today.
🧴 Commonly found in skin creams, serums and moisturizing masks
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Plant-based hyaluronic acid.
☝️ The FIVE facial serum naturally contains purely plant-based hyaluronic acid from cereals that has not been genetically modified, i.e. NO-GMO .
carmine | Cochineal, Cl 75470, E 120 or Natural Red 4
The pigment gives make-up and nail polish their strong red, more precisely blood red. Because when it is extracted, you lose your desire for color: For every gram of carmine red, around 150 cochineal lice are dried to death and the color pigments are then boiled out of them.
🧴 Commonly found in nail polish, lipstick, blush, and pretty much anything reddish in color
🌱 Vegan alternatives: plant pigments from beetroot ( Beta Vulgaris ), raspberries ( Rubus Idaeus Fruit ) and the like as well as iron oxide ( CI 77489 ). There is also a synthetic carmine E124, which is not suitable for natural cosmetics.
keratins | keratin
This protein is part of the hair structure. So keratin provides fullness and healthy shine. Less beautiful: It is made from ground hooves, horns and feathers.
🧴 Commonly found in shampoo, conditioner and other hair care products
🌱 Vegan alternatives: hydrolyzed wheat protein from wheat or hydrolyzed soy protein from soy
Collagen | collages
This protein ensures taut tissue and a firm complexion. But it is derived from the fat or bones of cattle and pigs.
🧴 Often found in skin creams and serums
🌱 Vegan alternatives: There is no such thing as a plant-based ingredient that replaces collagen. However, similar effects are achieved with active ingredient combinations of amino acids, antioxidants and plant extracts. In addition, facial massages stimulate the skin's own collagen synthesis .
Lanolin, also wool wax | lanolin
This is the fat that sheep secrete to protect their fur from getting wet. So it seals well. Lanolin is obtained from the shorn wool. So, unlike civet (see below), for example, it is not taken directly from the sheep.
🧴 Often in rich skin creams
🌱 Vegan alternatives: vegetable oils with an occlusive effect such as jojoba oil ( Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil ) or shea butter ( Butyrospermum Parkii Butter )
Lecithins | Hydroxylated Lecithin
Lecithins are compounds made from fats and glycerin that are found in our cell membranes. They regulate the pH value, smooth the skin and have an antistatic and emulsifying effect. They are obtained from animal nerve tissue or eggs.
🧴 Commonly found in skin creams, eyebrow pencils, kajal, anti-cellulite products and hair care products
🌱 Vegan alternatives: plant-based lecithins from soya ( soya lecithin ) or sunflower seeds ( sunflower lecithin )
lactic acid | Lactic Acid
Lactic acid regulates the pH of the skin and is a metabolite in the blood and muscle tissue. However, it can also be produced synthetically or replaced with citric acid.
🧴 Often found in facial cleansers and toners
🌱 Vegan alternative: Vegan lactic acid ( E270) is produced by lactic acid bacteria from sugar solutions and has absolutely nothing to do with milk.
propolis | Propolis Cera
Like beeswax and royal jelly, this resinous secretion comes from bees. It is popular in cosmetics because of its antibacterial effect.
🧴 Commonly found in toothpaste and anti-aging products
🌱 Vegan alternatives: extracts from licorice root ( Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract ) or witch hazel ( Hamamelis Virginiana )
beef tallow | (Sodium) Tallowate
Soap is traditionally made from animal fats, mostly beef tallow from slaughterhouse waste.
🧴 Often found in soaps
🌱 Vegan alternatives: soaps made from coconut oil ( sodium cocoate ), olive oil ( sodium olivate ), palm oil ( sodium palmate ) or other vegetable oils
☝️ You make an environmentally conscious decision with soaps from organic production, which does not promote overexploitation of nature.
shellac | Shellac
Paint scale insect droppings have a resinous quality that adds shine.
🧴 Commonly found in hairspray and nail polish
🌱 Vegan alternatives: mica ( mica ) or vegetable waxes such as jojoba oil ( Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil )
silk | Hydrolyzed Silk
The silkworm spins the fine threads that also make skin and hair silky. In cosmetics, silk is found not only in threads but also in powdered form and as silk protein.
🧴 Commonly found in makeup, creams and hair care products
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Depending on the application, mica ( mica ), aloe vera ( aloe barbadensis ) and plant-based hyaluronic acid (see above)
stearic acid | Stearic Acid
Stearic acid acts as an emulsifier and stabilizer in cosmetic products. Animal stearic acid is taken from pig stomachs. But there are also plant sources.
🧴 Often in creams and ointments
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Vegan stearic acid from vegetable oils
Squalene | squalane
Squalanes smooth skin and hair. They were originally obtained from shark liver. However, herbal sources are now more common.
🧴 Common in skin and hair care products
🌱 Vegan alternative: Squalane from the pressing residues of olives or sugar cane
☝️ At FIVE we use squalane from olives.
Vitamin A | retinol
Vitamin A stimulates regeneration and has an antioxidant effect. For reasons of cost, it is usually obtained from animal sources such as butter, eggs or fish liver.
🧴Common in anti-aging creams and serums
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Vitamin A made from carrots, apricots or lemongrass
civet | Civet
The secretion of the civet cat is popular for its musky scent. It also serves as a fixative in makeup. To obtain the cats, the anal glands are scraped out in an extremely cruel and painful way.
🧴 Common in perfumes
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Labdanum oil ( Cistus Ladaniferus Oil ) from the lacquer cistus
Myths: These ingredients are now vegan
As the list above suggests, there are many ingredients that can come from both animal and plant sources. In the meantime, the vegan solutions often predominate in practice, for example if they are more stable or more easily available. There are also some ingredients that are generally no longer derived from animals on the European market.
Ambergris: quite fragrant
These include, for example, ambergris or ambergris. The fragrance is popular for musky perfumes. In the past, it was obtained from a digestive product of the sperm whale. The whales excreted it, after which it was washed up on the beaches in the form of greyish lumps. Whale products have not been allowed to be traded in Switzerland under the species protection agreement for a long time, so for a very long time. Nowadays, the fragrance therefore comes from synthetic sources.
You can take urea without hesitation
It is similar with urea. Urea is part of the skin's natural moisturizing factor (NMF). It is often found in intensive care for dry skin. Urea has only been produced artificially since 1828. This is also no longer an animal ingredient.