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vegan skincare: non-vegan ingredients to avoid

Welcome to what we fondly refer to as the "Non-Vegan ABC's"!

vegan skincare: non-vegan ingredients to avoid

If you're always on the hunt for vegan skincare products, you've likely encountered some struggles in knowing and understanding the ingredients listing on some skincare products. 

Sometimes, it can be quite surprising to discover that seemingly innocuous, sophisticated-sounding ingredients, upon closer examination, have animal origins. 

To make your journey to conscious consumption smoother and to spare you the uncertainty of buying non-vegan products, we've crafted this comprehensive guide on skincare ingredients you should definitely watch out for when shopping for skincare and other makeup-related products.


1. alpha-hydroxy acids

This ingredient refers to an acid that is taken from killed animals and are more commonly used in products that help to promote collagen and blood flow, correct discolouration and improve the appearance of wrinkles. 

2. amino acids

The most common sources of amino acids come from a wide range of animal products including proteins like meat, eggs and poultry. They're used to help your body build muscle and regulate your immune system are can be found in various health supplements as well as shampoos and other hair products. 

3. animal fats and oils

This one's kinda self-explanatory but this ingredient is taken from killed animals and transferred into various foods and cosmetics for benefits that include the reduction of dry skin, the calming of inflammation and the slowing down of premature ageing. 

4. animal hair 

Animal hair is most commonly used for making up hair brushes, make up brushes and various other bristles. This hair normally comes from the fur of living or killed animals, primarily squirrel, mink, horse or goat.

5. arachidonic acid

A mouthful to say, this ingredient is an unsaturated fatty acid that lives in the liver, brain, glands and fat of both animals and humans. Yuck. This type of acid is seen to soothe skin irritations like eczema or psoriasis so is used in hand creams, lotions and other skincare products. 

6. arachidyl propionate

Referring to a wax that is often used in cosmetic and toiletry products for its exceptional lubricity, high gloss and emollience, arachidyl propionate can be obtained from animal fat. 

7. beeswax

Beeswax is a bee product; the beeswax being secreted by bees when they're in the process of making their honeycombs. Bee products are commonly used in skincare as they act as a natural exfoliator and can also create a protective layer over the skin.

8. biotin

Also commonly known as Vitamin H, Biotin is found in the living cells diary products such as milk and in yeast. Used in various cosmetic products such as shampoos and creams, biotin can also be derived from plants and vegetables so this one is a bit tricky to know whether it comes from a vegan source. 

9. caprylic acid/caprylic triglyceride

This ingredient is a liquid fatty acid that can be found in the milk of both a cow and a goat but also can be found in other plant sources like coconut oil so again, this one's a bit tricky. If you're ever unsure as to how an ingredient has been sourced, contact the supplier. 

Vegan alternative: MCT oil (fractured coconut).

Found in: Mister Brightside Face & Hair Oil &  Glow-getter Body Illuminating Oil 

10. carmine

Carmine is a red dye that's extracted from Cochineals (an insect that lives in the tropical areas of South America) and is typically used to make skincare products a certain colour.

11. casein/caseinate/sodium caseinate

Found in a lot of beauty masks and health supplements, casein is a milk protein that helps the body release necessary amino acids that will aid in muscle growth and recovery. 

12. cetyl alcohol

Included in various skincare products to help stabilise ingredients and for hydrating dry skin, cetyl alcohol is a wax ingredient found in spermaceti that comes from head organs of sperm whales and dolphins.

Vegan alternative: Brassica alcohol

Found in:  Glow-getter Body Illuminating Oil 

13. collagen

Probably one of the most well known ingredients on this list, collagen refers to a type of protein that's found in skin, cartilage, bone and other bodily tissues from killed animals. You'll find this ingredients in most beauty products as it can help improve skin elasticity and increase blood flow. 

14. egg protein

Providing amino acids to the body, egg protein is more commonly used in shampoos due to its unique combination of vitamins that will help to grow and strengthen your hair. 

15. fatty acids

Fatty acids comes from the fat in both animals and humans which can then be absorbed into our bloodstreams and help energy storage. Ideal for producing and protecting your skin's natural oil barrier, fatty acids are also used in soaps and lipsticks. 

Vegan alternative: Hemp or Avocado Oil

Found in:  Nudist Repair BalmGoodbye Breakouts Hemp Oil & Hemp Body Scrub

16. glycerin/glycerol

Glycerin can be found in plants and vegetables but some manufacturers also source glycerin from animal fats. Most commonly used in moisturisers (as it's a great emollient), this ingredient is a sugar alcohol and is both clear and odourless.

17. guanine 

Guanine refers to a compound that is manufactured out of fish scales and is used to help thicken up the appearance of products and give them a white colour.

18. hyaluronic acid

You don't have to source this ingredient from animals as you can also find it in plants and vegetables but when sourced from animals, it's found in umbilical cords and in the fluid around various joints. Honestly, gross. Used in skincare as it helps hydrate dry skin and accelerate healing. 

19. keratin

This ingredient can be derived from the feathers, horns or the wool of various animals and is used to help strengthen the protection barrier on your skin and coat the more fragile strands of your hair to stop them from breaking.

20. lactic acid

Lactic acid is another ingredient where it can be hard to source exactly what it's been derived from but it can be found in the blood and muscle tissue of various animals. Used in a whole heap of skincare because of its properties to brighten, smooth and even out your skin, lactic acid can also be derived from plants and vegetables such as beets. 

21. lecithin/choline bitartrate

You can get this ingredient from a range of non-vegan places including in nervous tissue of all living organisms, eggs, blood and milk. Lecithin is a waxy substance that helps to moisturise and soothe the skin. Thankfully it can be synthetically reproduced or found in soybeans or corn. 

22. lanolin 

Also commonly known as 'wool yolk', lanolin refers to the wax secreted by sheep which is found on their shorn wool. Used to help lock in moisture and prevent water loss, lanolin is often found in body lotions and creams.

Our vegan alternative: Shea butter and candelilla wax as both achieve the same effect. 

Found in:  lipcare range

23. marine oil

Used in various skincare products such as creams and body lotions, marine oil ca help to improve your skin's natural barrier whilst also increasing healing and providing protection against inflammation. No surprise that marine oil is derived from fish and other marine mammals such as porpoises. 

24. milk protein

Similar to egg protein, milk protein is found in milk and can increase your skin's hydration whilst improving it's ability to retain moisture. Commonly found in beauty masks, moisturisers and shampoos, this ingredient does have a vegan alternative in soy or plant based proteins. 

25. mink oil

Harvested from the liquefied fat found on the fur of minks, mink oil is a source of palmitoleic acid (fatty acid) which is very similar to sebum found in humans. This is used because it can be easily absorbed into the skin, allowing you to retain more moisture and regenerate skin cells quicker.

26. musk (oil)

Referring to the dried secretation that has been painfully obtained from various animals including deer, beavers, and otters (like WTF?!), musk oil is commonly used in aromatherapy oils and scents to help alleviate stress and anxiety. This ingredient is a f**king no thanks. 

27. myristic acid

Another ingredient that can be derived from a plant based source, myristic acid can be found in butter and milk fat, and is used in some facial cleansers as it helps to hydrate the face and make it appear fresh and youthful looking. 

28. "natural sources"

When you see the term 'natural sources', you're well within your rights to question what this actually means. While it can refer to vegetable sources, it can also refer to animal sources so it's best to contact the manufacturer for further clarification. 

29. oleic acid

Another fatty acid that's obtained from animals (but can be obtained from plants and vegetables too), oleic acid is used in body creams and other skincare products because of its anti-inflammatory products and its ability to stimulate healing. 

30. palmitic acid

Guess what? This one is also another fatty acid that can be derived from animals (but is most commonly taken from palm oil) so it's best to check with the manufacturer on how this ingredient is sourced. Found in various skincare products including body screams and moisturisers, palmitic acid is a fantastic emollient and can help control your skin's natural sebum. 

31. panthenol

Acting as a skin protectant that has natural inflammatory properties, panthenol can help improve the skin's elasticity and offer your skin a smooth appearance. Unfortunately it can also be derived from animal products so if it's on one of your favourite products' ingredient list, make sure it's plant derived. 

32. polypeptides

Made up of heaps of tiny amino acids, polypeptides help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles which is why they're most commonly found in moisturisers and various creams. However, they are taken from the protein of various animals, hence why they're on this list. 

33. retinol

Derived from animals such as fish, beef, chicken liver, and eggs, this vitamin A source is excellent for the skin, helping to increase natural collagen production and help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Thankfully, you can take retinal from plant and vegetable sources too. 

34. royal jelly

Royal jelly refers to the secretion taken from the throat glands of worker honeybees (we'll gladly stay away from that), and is said to have anti-inflammatory properties to help your skin heal and protect against nasty bacteria. Aloe Vera is a great vegan substitute for this ingredient. 

35. shark liver oil

Obtained from the livers of sharks, shark liver oil can be a remedy to heal your skin and protect it from infections and improve your overall skin health. Vegetable oil can also be used as an alternative for this. 

36. shellac/resinous glaze

Commonly used for nail lacquers and polishes, shellac is secreted by the female Iac bug (commonly found in the forests of India and Thailand) and then is processed and made into dry flakes which can then be watered down to make a liquid.

37. silk/silk powder

Referring to proteins that have been taken from killed silkworms, hydrolyzed silk has been chemically altered to absorb into your hair at the roots, helping to hydrate and moisturise it.

38. spermaceti/cetyl palmitate/sperm oil

This ingredient is now most commonly taken from petroleum but it's still worth checking as it can also be taken from the head of a sperm whale or dolphin (and that's something we'd rather avoid). Referring to a wax like substance, sperm oil is used in various skin creams and shampoos. 

39. squalene

Found in the liver oil of sharks, squalene is a compound that's colourless and used to help protect your skin, mixing with your own skin's oil to create a protective barrier against the bad stuff.

Our vegan alternative: olive squalane, a lightweight and transparent alternative that deeply moisturises and hydrates the skin. 

Found in: Mister Brightside Face & Hair Oil & Glow-getter Body Illuminating Oil 

40. stearic acid

Stearic acid refers to a type of fatty acid that is taken from animals when they're killed. It's used in skincare to help improve both the texture and spreadability of the product.

Vegan alternative: Shea butter 

Found in: Nudist Repair Balm

41. stearyl alcohol/sterols

Coming in the form of white granules or flakes, stearyl alcohol is a saturated fatty acid found in sperm whale oil and is used to both soften and soothe the skin, providing a barrier that seals in your skin's moisture. 

42. tallow/tallow fatty alcohol

Tallow is primarily made up of triglycerides (fatty acids) found in the melted form of beef or mutton fat and is commonly used for helping to repair your skin and prevent damage.

43. turtle oil/sea turtle oil

Taken from the muscles and genitals of sea turtles (vom), this ingredient is commonly used in body lotions, skin creams and other beauty products because of its ability to moisturise and hydrate your skin. The replica of this oil can also be found in various plants and vegetables. 

44. vitamin a

Now, vitamin A can come from lemongrass, wheat germ oil, carrots or various synthetic sources but it can also come from fish liver oil, egg yolk and butter. Helping to speed up the healing process, this ingredient is used in cosmetic products and skincare creams. 

45. vitamin b12

Often found in various animal products (it can even be found in bacteria cultures), vitamin b12 is often used as a from of supplement if you're lacking in a b12 deficiency. This vitamin can help to improve your skin, hair and nail strength but you can also use various vegan supplements to do the same thing! 

46. vitamin d/ergocalciferol/vitamin d2/ergosterol/provitamin d2/calciferol/vitamin d3

Used in body creams, lotions, cosmetics and health supplements, vitamin D is great for slowing down the signs of ageing in skin and can also help with skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. This ingredient can be derived from fish liver oil, milk, egg yolk and v various other animal products but it can also be taken from plant or mineral sources or from standing outside. 

47. whey

Whey refers to a serum that can be extricated from cow's milk and used when making food products such as cakes, cookies or in cheesemaking. If you're looking for a vegan alternative then soybean whey is a good one!