Vegan Beauty Guide for Beginners

Sasha Seaward of Balanced Beauty Bristol chats through ingredients to look out for when switching to vegan beauty products
Posted in Content Beauty

Are you thinking about switching to vegan beauty? Obviously veganism doesn’t just affect the food you eat but everything you put in your body, cosmetics included. To help you in the natural beauty department, we’ve interviewed green and vegan beauty blogger Sasha Seaward of Balanced Beauty Bristol. She chatted through the ingredients she usually avoids in her vegan beauty regime. As a holistic and beauty therapist, Sasha knows her stuff and has done her research. If you are new to the world of crulety-free, vegan beauty, consult her starter guide below.

A Beginners’ Guide to Vegan Beauty

“I’ve always tried to be ‘green’. You know, the kind of person that recycles what they can and turns off a light when leaving a room. In 2015, I came across some facts that I just couldn’t ‘unlearn’. These were about how we farm animals and the consequences this has for our environment. Until then I had no idea that you could make such a difference by avoiding animal products.

From this ‘environmentally concerned’ beginning, I went on to learn more about the animal agriculture industry as a whole and decided to go vegan. This opened my eyes to many things, which has had such a profound effect on me that I don’t think I can ever go back to my non-vegan ways. Luckily I live in Bristol aka Hippie Central. That makes things pretty easy due to the sheer number of vegan places to shop, eat and drink. There’s one aspect of veganism that’s been a bit of a minefield — and that is the beauty industry.

Animal products pop up in the most unlikely places. Your lipstick, moisturiser or eye pencil could contain crushed beetles or even fish scales! Fortunately there are now plenty of vegan certified products out there. With a little label know-how, you can navigate your way through the ingredients so you don’t have to miss out. I’ve popped together a list of things to watch out for. Natural, vegan beauty alternatives are out there. You just need to do some looking.

Bee Products (beeswax, honey, royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis, cera lava)

Vegans believe that honey (and therefore beeswax and other bee products) is made by bees and therefore belongs to them. There are a whole plethora of ethical issues that arise from using bee products. Honey might be in your haircare or moisturiser, and is easy to just avoid. Beeswax will most often pop up in makeup but look for alternative plant waxes such as candelilla wax or carnauba wax instead.

Carmine (cochineal, carminic acid, cochineal extract, crimson lake, natural red 4, C.I. 75470, E120)

This is a red pigment used in makeup, usually lip products. It comes from crushed female beetles, and around 70,000 beetles must be killed to produce one pound of dye. Eeeesh! Poor beetles. Look for fruit or vegetable pigments such as beetroot dye, or mineral colours instead.

Guanine (also CI 75170)

You know that lovely shimmery highlighter you have? Check it for guanine, derived from fish scales and ground to give a pearly iridescent effect. Guanine is found in some nail polishes and eye shadows to give them sparkle. Look for mica as a vegan beauty alternative.

Hyaluronic Acid

Amazing for adding moisture to your skin or hair. However, one of the most common sources of hyaluronic acid is animal cartilage. You can find plant-derived hyaluronic acid (after some clever chaps in a lab have done some fiddling with fermentation). Just make sure to ask the product company the source, as it won’t be written on the label. Most natural brands will use the plant-derived version.

Keratin (keratin amino acids, hydrolysed keratin)

A protein often found in hair and nail treatments. As a curly girl myself, I come across it frequently in products designed for curlier hair. Alarmingly this can be made from ground up animal horns, hooves, hair or feathers. Look for soy or wheat proteins instead for a vegan beauty version.

Lanolin (lanolin acids, lanolin alcohol, laneth, wool wax or fats, lanogene, lanosterol, and more)

An emollient used in products that moisturise and smooth the skin. Lanolin is extracted from wool. If you want to use cruelty free products—let alone vegan ones—make sure to avoid lanolin. Plant-based oils and butters can easily do the job instead of lanolin, so look for those instead.

Silk (also silk protein, silk powder, hydrolysed silk protein)

Used in skin and haircare. It has water-binding properties so deeply moisturises. It coats hair cuticles, helping to detangle and create more shine. To obtain the silk, the poor silkworms are boiled in their cocoons. This helps to unravel the fibres… whilst killing them. Approximately 15 silkworms are killed to produce one gram of silk. You can find wheat, quinoa or other plant-based proteins that will do a similar job. However, usually quite a lot of chemical alterations will be made to them before they end up in your product. I’d personally look for a good plant-based oil instead.

These are the animal ingredients I seem to come across most often, but of course there are more. The Peta List is probably the most comprehensive list to use for further vegan beauty research. It pays to be aware that there are many similar lists out there, but most of them include ingredients that are very rarely taken from animals these days. Lots of greener companies now use plant-based alternatives. For instance, glycerin is now mostly vegetable glycerin, and usually labeled as such. And squalane, an oil from the liver of a shark, is more commonly now derived from vegetables, often olives.

At the end of the day, if you are ever unsure of an ingredient, always contact the company. Most are extremely willing to help you out, and if they aren’t or if they won’t give you a straight answer, just avoid them.”

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