Vegan Fashion in the Cosmetic Industry

Sofia Kastrinou

Beauty products have been prolific for decades among women, but in the last few years the cosmetic industry has introduced beauty products suitable for men as well. Cosmetic products include things such as beauty creams, hair treatment products, make-up items, etc. Every year, new items are introduced to the market that are claimed to contain ingredients beneficial for different purposes. Men and women rush to buy these products without thinking about whether they really need them. Another thing that people have not considered before buying these items is what their impact is on the environment and on animals’ welfare. 

Animals’ Exploitation

Cosmetic companies usually give misleading names to products derived from animals in order for people to buy them without questioning them. People may be surprised though, if they realized how many of the cosmetics they use on a daily basis contain ingredients of animal origin.

Most of the cosmetic products consist of several animal-by products such as:

  • Beeswax or honey: acquired from a beehive, is a common ingredient in body or face creams, shampoos, conditioners, hair masks and other hair products.
  • Cochineal dye or carmine: a dye that is derived from crushed Dactylopius Coccus, more simply known as cochineal beetles. When the insects are crushed, an intense red dye is produced, which is utilized for the production of most lipsticks and blush products.
  • Collagen (a fibrous protein from animal tissue, usually fish for instance), elastin (protein from the extracellular matrix, in most cases from cows) and retinol (main source of vitamin A, almost always derived from an animal): common ingredients of most anti-aging products (face creams and masks, serums etc.) Furthermore, there is no actual proof that creams with animal-derived collagen and elastin can contribute to the reproduction of these proteins in humans.
  • Keratin (from animals’ hairs, hooves, beaks and bones): mostly found in hair treatment products
  • Lanolin (fat from wool-covered mammals like sheep) and glycerin (usually animal sourced but sometimes it can be plant-based or of synthetic origin): lanolin is a common ingredient in makeup removals and lipsticks.
  • Guanine: a crystalline substance that glows and is derived from crushed fish scales. It is a major ingredient in makeup items such as mascaras and lipsticks and also found in nail polishes.
  • Tallow: a substance mainly found in eye makeup products, lipsticks and foundations. The former is commonly known as animal fat. The murdered animals are boiled until a suitable amount of fat is produced.
  • Squalene: excreted from the livers of sharks and used for the production of eye cosmetics and lipsticks
  • Ambergris: an oily substance found in the inner part of whales’ livers. Perfume scents are made with ambergris.

Makeup brushes and false eyelashes that are not vegan consist of hair from animals such as minks, squirrels, goats and even ponies.

There are hundreds of products that are based on ingredients of animal origin, and people never find out because of their tricky and fancy names.

Animal Testing

The nightmare for animals does not stop at being exploited for their products. A lot of cosmetic industries have been using guinea pigs, such as rats, mice and rabbits for years to test the safety of their products.

Some test that are performed to these experimental specimens are:

  • Several cosmetic ingredients are rubbed onto the skin of immobilized rabbits, or placed inside their eyes, to test whether they cause irritation. No anesthesia is given to the rabbits.
  • Guinea pigs are being fed beauty product ingredients for weeks or months, in order for the industries to test whether their products have any side effects or cause serious health problems such as cancer.
  • Guinea pigs are also being fed large amounts of cosmetic ingredients in order for the lethal dose to be determined.

After these processes are completed, the animals are being slaughtered, in most cases by neck-breaking, asphyxiation or decapitation. 

What can we do?

The first option in reducing animals’ exploitation in the fashion industry in general, is always to buy less. People should think twice before buying products they don’t actually need. The less we buy, the less animals are exploited. 

Another important thing that buyers should always have in mind, is to check the list of ingredients that products consist of. People should choose cosmetic brands that support brand transparency. In this way, they will be able to choose brands that use plant-based ingredients and oppose animal testing.

KVD vegan beauty has been increasing the use of vegan ingredients for their products and since 2010, all the makeup products that it releases are 100% vegan. Milk Makeup is another cosmetic industry that pivoted to be completely vegan in 2019. Urban decay, one of the most famous makeup industries worldwide, has released a 100% vegan product series, #naked makeup, which is trying to expand.

Lush is a famous brand of body and face care products. It is a 100% transparent brand that clearly labels all its products. All Lush products consist of plant-based ingredients. Furthermore, Lush is a brand that actively fights animal testing, and it is a member of Animal-Free Safety Assessment (AFSA), an organization consisting of several non-profit organizations and enterprises as members. These members work together to achieve a common goal. That goal is to replace animal-testing used in the cosmetic  and drug industries with innovative, cruelty-free and human-biology based techniques. Some other famous cosmetic brands such as L’Oréal and Avon are also members. There are approximately 50 validated tests that do not include animals and can be used for cosmetic products. If some industries do not trust their accuracy, using ingredients that have been proven to be safe throughout the years is also an option. Pacifica is also an affordable option for hair, body and face care products and nail polishes. Most of them are vegan, cruelty-free, and eco-friendly (the bottles are recyclable). 

Countries like India, Israel, Switzerland, Norway, Guatemala, New Zealand, Taiwan etc. have passed laws that forbid animals’ exploitation in the cosmetic industry or try to eliminate it. Cosmetic items from the United States cannot be sold to these countries unless the companies change their testing methods. The Humane Society of the United States, and the Humane Society International are collaborating and have created the Be Cruelty-Free campaign. Through this campaign, the Humane Society is working to ban animal-testing and cosmetics produced based on these methods in the United States.

Sources: Animal-Free Safety Assessment Collaboration (AFSA), Glamour, The Humane Society, One Green Planet, PETA