Being vegan doesn’t stop at our kitchens. Many of the skin care and beauty products in our bathroom cabinets and on our bedroom dressers may contain animal ingredients.
What do we mean by “vegan”?
There are so many terms out there, and it’s not always easy to determine the differences between them. Here, we break it down.
When it comes to food, “vegetarian” means the product does not contain animal flesh. For beauty and skin care products, it also means the product does not contain animal ingredients.
Vegans take things a step further. Like vegetarians, vegans don’t eat animal flesh. They also don’t eat any animal products, including dairy and eggs. When it comes to beauty and skin care, vegans don’t use any product that is derived from, or uses, animal products. Products can also be certified as vegan. Generally, vegans also choose cruelty-free products.
Basically, this means the product was not tested on animals. This includes the famous “leaping bunny” certification on products.
It’s important to remember that vegan beauty products aren’t necessarily natural or nontoxic. The best products for vegans are those that are also natural, healthy, and cruelty free. Although this can be a little more work, it’s better for the animals, the environment, and our own health. Companies that fit all of these criteria do exist, and products are available at natural health retailers.
Ingredients to watch for
This skin-conditioning agent can be derived from either plants or animals, so make sure to ask, or read the labels.
Beeswax and honey
Though vegetarian, beeswax and honey are not vegan. Alternatives to beeswax can include carnauba wax and candelilla wax, while alternatives to honey include vegetable colours and oils.
This pigment, derived from red beetles, is widely used in natural lip products. Alternatives include beet juice.
Alternatives to this non-vegetarian moisturizing ingredient include vegetable and plant oils.
This moisturizing ingredient is sourced from sheep’s wool. Vegans might also be interested to know that many natural vitamin D supplements are sourced from lanolin, though vegan alternatives are available.
This common ingredient can either be sourced from animal fat or vegetables. When in doubt, ask the company.
Although originally derived from shark liver, many companies now source this moisturizing ingredient from olive oil. Read the label to be sure.
For a comprehensive list, visit peta.org/living/beauty/animal-ingredients-list.
There are still challenges in finding and using alternatives. For instance, Crystal Winterton, owner of Sugar & Spice Bath and Bodycare, finds that using replacements for beeswax can be a bit tricky. “I use a beeswax in [our deodorants] to help hold the shape of the product and for its antibacterial properties.”
Overall, she explains, “The challenge hasn’t been in creating products or formulating recipes; it’s been sourcing ingredients that meet our environmental standards as a company. There are thousands of options available, so research is a key component in finding a steady supply chain.”
What’s most important when choosing beauty and skin care products is to do what’s right for you. “Each customer will have their own unique needs for their skin care whether they are vegetarian, vegan, or otherwise,” says Winterton. “I would encourage people to read the labels, research the ingredients, and ask questions.”
It’s true—tattoo ink can contain animal ingredients. According to PETA, ink may contain bone char, glycerin derived from animal fat, gelatin from animal hooves, or shellac from beetles.
However, according to Justina Kervel, tattoo artist and owner of Liquid Amber Tattoo & Art Collective in Vancouver, “We don’t usually see inks in Canada that use animal products anymore … Most tattoo inks are vegan these days.”
Thankfully, there are plenty of vegan ink options to choose from. In addition to ensuring the ink is vegan, those interested in getting a tattoo should ask their tattoo artist what kind of stencil transfer paper they use. As Kervel explains, “The common transfer sheets include lanolin as one of their ingredients (a fatty substance found naturally on sheep’s wool).” Vegan transfer paper is available, as are tattoo after-care products.
Sharing your desires with your tattoo artist ahead of time will ensure he or she has adequate time to prepare materials for your appointment.