Animals’ Role in the Makeup Industry

Archaeologists believe that humans have been practicing the art of makeup since 164,000 BC. Initially, the products were Earth-based and often comprised of finely ground rock. As time passed, Egyptians began using plant-based cosmetics to preserve their skin under the harsh desert sun rays. It wasn’t until 3000 BC that animal products were implemented into cosmetic recipes; Chinese people began using gelatin, beeswax, and egg to stain their fingernails and denote social status. Though thousands of years have passed, animals and their products are still being used in various makeup brands for enhanced coloring and texture, as well as testing for safe human consumption.

Popular Animal Products Used in Modern Cosmetics

The following list describes seven common animal products used to create cosmetics. If you are striving to avoid the use of animal products, refrain from using brands that incorporate the following in their ingredients.

  1. Cochineal Dye (or Carmine) – A red dye collected through the crushing of female cochineal beetles that consume red cactus berries. The dye is used in many lipstick and blush products.
  2. Guanine – Shiny, crystal-like structures found in crushed fish scales. Guanine is found in various mascaras, nail polishes, and lipsticks.
  3. Tallow – More commonly known as animal fat, the substance has been utilized in lipsticks and foundations.
  4. Gelatin – Typically found in creamy cosmetics, gelatin is the product of boiled animal skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones.
  5. Keratin – Identified in various haircare products that strengthen hair. This substance is derived from ground-up horns, hooves, and feathers.
  6. Lanolin – Derived from sheep oil glands and used in skin care products, moisturizers, conditioners, and occasionally lipstick.
  7. Beeswax – A natural wax formed within honeycombs, this substance is often found in cosmetics like lipstick, lip gloss, eye shadow, eyeliner.


I’m sure you’re wondering “Can I help through my personal actions?” Probably, more specifically, you’re also wondering “Can I still gain the benefits of cosmetics while avoiding the use of animal products?” The answer is yes! Vilda, an online vegan fashion magazine, has compiled a list of alternative ingredients that provide the same results as the animal-based ingredients. As you scan an ingredient label, look for these alternatives!


Animal-based Ingredient Alternative(s)
Beeswax Paraffin, Vegetable Oils and Fats, Ceresin, Carnauba wax, Candelilla wax
Carmine Beet Juice, Alkanet Root, Synthetic Dyes, Fruit Pigments
Lanolin Plant and Vegetable Oils
Guanine Mica, Rayon, Leguminous Plants, Synthetic Pearl, or Aluminum and Bronze Particles
Collagen Soy Protein, Almond Oil, Amla Oil


Additionally, look to support brands that aim to discontinue the mistreatment of animals through the use synthetic and plant-based materials. These companies also avoid the use of animals for the testing of cosmetics. All of the following produce vegan cosmetics:

  • Arbonne
  • B. Beauty
  • Beauty Without Cruelty
  • Body Crystal
  • Cover FX
  • Inika
  • Katy Von D Beauty
  • MuLondon Organic
  • Nature’s Gate
  • NCLA
  • Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics
  • Pacifica
  • Sparitual


Cosmetics Testing on Animals
Animals and their products do not only serve as ingredients, they may also serve as cosmetic test subjects. In the United States it is not legally required of cosmetic companies to test their products on animals.  Some common animal tests include skin and eye irritation tests, force-feeding studies, and lethal dose tests. Skin and eye irritation tests are most common within the cosmetic industry as chemicals are either rubbed into shaven skin or dripped into the eyes of restrained animals. These animals are then observed for signs of unnatural behavior and/or reactions. Force-feeding studies and lethal dose tests are geared towards orally consumed products as these tests are used to determine the max amount of consumption allowed before sickness ensues or death occurs. All of these animal testing styles, though not required by law, still occur within the United States. There are many companies who have banned animal testing so be sure to check your favorite brands and make a switch if you find out they still inflict unnecessary pain on animals.   


Make a Difference
You can make a difference through actions in your personal life and in your community! Strive to purchase non-animal-based cosmetics and support companies that refuse to test on animals. It is important to perform your own research while looking for those products. Additionally, research politicians and vote for the appropriate candidate as they are the individuals voting on the regulation of these products and practices.