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Interested in Vegan Makeup? Here Are Some Things You Should Know

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As we become more aware of the different makeup brands, we also become more conscious of what ingredients go into our cosmetics. Most cosmetics contain toxic chemicals that can alter hormones and cause diseases and allergies. Other makeup brands use animal by-products in their selection.

While the use of animal products in makeup isn’t exactly new, some people find the practice unhealthy for the environment and would prefer cosmetics that are free from animal-derived components.

Vegan makeup vs. Cruelty free makeup

Perhaps you’ve encountered beauty products labelled as “natural”, “cruelty-free”, and “vegan”. Although they all seem the same, the three names hold their own distinctive differences. They are not interchangeable in any way.

The differences lie mainly in what the makeup contains or does not contain and how it is made:

  • Natural makeup is all about using ingredients found in nature. This means the product contains no chemicals or any other artificial ingredient, but it may contain animal products like beeswax.
  • Cruelty-free makeup means that the formula is never tested on animals. For a product to be truly cruelty-free, it must not be tested on animals from the manufacturing stage down to the packaging.
  • Vegan makeup refers to cosmetics that do not contain any trace of animal-by products.

Can a product be both vegan and cruelty-free?

Absolutely. In fact, consumers are encouraged to buy more products that fall under both categories. However, this doesn’t mean that vegan and cruelty-free products are natural as some contain chemicals to preserve the quality of the makeup.

Is your makeup vegan or cruelty-free?

Cosmetic companies may not completely remove animal products from their offerings. But the good news is that some are moving toward a more compassionate approach to creating makeup.

Not all cosmetic ingredients come from animals. Some are plant-derived while the others are synthetic. Animal products are often used in makeup because they are cheaper and easier to find.

How would you know if your makeup is vegan or cruelty-free?

A 100% cruelty-free product is usually indicated by the Leaping Bunny logo or the “Not tested on animals” slogan. A vegan product is harder to spot unless you take a good look at its list of ingredients.

Some of the ingredients may be unfamiliar and may not indicate that they come from animals. This short list of the common animal products used in cosmetics can help in determining whether a product is vegan or not.


Beeswax is commonly found in lipsticks, moisturizers, soaps and salves. It is used to prevent emulsions (mixture of oil and water, for example) from separating. It is also used in keeping lipsticks and other stick cosmetics solid.

Beeswax comes from the honeycomb of the Apis mellifera bees. Some people are allergic to propolis, the brownish red substance collected by bees from certain trees to seal their honeycombs.


Carmine comes from the female cochineal beetles that are found in South America. A popular red dye, carmine is used in both food and makeup. Not sure if your lipstick has carmine? If the label contains the names natural red 4, carminic acid, or simply carmine, chances are your lipstick has some crushed bugs in it. The deep-red color of carmine comes from the crushed cochineal beetles. The early Indians of Mexico have been using carmine for centuries, but if having bugs in your makeup bugs you, look for products that uses EPC Red, which is made from vegetable pigments.


Have you ever wondered what gives your highlighting concealer its iridescent effect? Did you ever wonder if the “natural pearl essence” really came from pearls? If you really like the luminous effect of makeup, chances are you have been using guanine or fish scales on your face.

How do fish scales get into your makeup? The scales are scraped off from dead fish and are milled into a powder. The pulverized scales still retain its shimmering effect, making them the perfect ingredient to give the all-natural glow.


Lanolin is a common ingredient in lotions, moisturizers, as well as lip glosses and lipsticks. It is an emollient that works great in dry skin to help make it soft and moisturized.

Although its benefits may be significant, lanolin is not a vegan-friendly ingredient. It is secreted by the oil glands of domestic sheep, which are raised for their wool. A good plant-based alternative to lanolin is virgin coconut oil, which has excellent moisturising properties.


Ambergris is such a beautiful name which means “grey amber”. Commonly used in high-end perfumes to make the scent last longer, ambergris can also be found in scented cosmetics.

Ambergris is not an easy ingredient to find or buy. It has a price tag of $60,000 per pound and comes from the intestinal tract of sperm whales. Depending on how it is expelled, ambergris can be either whale vomit or excrement. In the United States, it is illegal to use ambergris on cosmetic products because sperm whales are considered as endangered species. However, if you are buying cosmetics from Europe, you might encounter it in the ingredients list.


Collagen is a popular makeup and skincare ingredient that is used for its youthful benefits. It is usually found in anti-aging cosmetics and makes products creamier and easier to apply.

There are mixed reviews on the skincare benefits of collagen, and there are people who avoid this ingredient because it is derived from the bones, skins, and ligaments of animals (usually cows and pigs). For people who do not want animal by-products on their skincare and makeup, look for products that contain aloe vera extracts to help fill in the wrinkles on the skin.

Oleic acid

Oleic acid is used in moisturizers, lipsticks and soap. As an emollient, it works great in softening and conditioning the skin.

While this ingredient has its plant-based counterpart, the most common oleic acid comes from animal fat or tallow. Similar to collagen, oleic acid is derived by boiling animal parts. If you are not comfortable using animal fat on your skin, you can use oleic acids from avocados, canola and olive oil.

Snail mucin

Korean cosmetics are known for making snail creams sound so luxurious. Used for revitalizing the skin and fading acne scars, snail mucin is made from snail guts. This gives skincare and makeup products a thick consistency and it supposedly has wound healing properties that help snails heal much faster whenever they cut themselves on rocks. A rather unconventional ingredient, snail mucin delivers its promises but it may take some getting used to.

Is vegan makeup for you?

It all boils down to personal preference and values. What may work for others may not be suitable to your taste and lifestyle. A good rule of thumb is to reach for products that have fewer synthetic ingredients as much as possible.

Makeup and skincare products that are laden with chemicals are not only harmful to health, but to the environment as well. Steer clear of products that have hard to pronounce names. These are usually names of chemicals that alter hormones and become toxic when they enter the bloodstream.

Biconi is a company that believes in the humane treatment of animals. All our natural ingredients like our virgin coconut oil and noni enzyme are plant-derived. Shop natural skincare products to see the difference.

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