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Veganism is defined as "a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose". As vegans, it follows that we should avoid all animal by-products (as well as animal testing) in cosmetics.

Previous questions have only dealt with hidden ingredients in food labels or particular ingredients in cosmetics.

Carmine is probably the best-known example of a by-product used in cosmetics, as it's also used as a food colorant.

What are other animal derivatives commonly used in the production of makeup and personal hygiene products?

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Cosmetics are very complex products (lots of different substances) and it is quite hard to really understand if one product is 100% vegan or not.

This article touches the surface of some non-vegan substances that are used for cosmetics:

  • Lanolin as emollient
  • Shellac in nail or hair products
  • Glycerine is used for a broad range of products that include soaps, hair care, make-up, and moisturizers
  • Casein in hair or face treatments products
  • Squalene
  • Guanine for providing spark for various products such as nail polish, eyeshadow etc.
  • Oleic acid for a moisturizing effect
  • Stearic Acid
  • Carmine for the natural red color
  • Collagen promoted as having an anti-aging effect

As a side note, I also recommend reading this article which provides a great insight into the chemistry of cosmetics. Besides the rather complex chemical cocktail of many cosmetics, what is worse is that not all ingredients are put on the label:

Chemicals, both natural and synthetic, are added to cosmetics to provide an appealing fragrance. Even ‘unscented’ products may contain masking fragrances to mask the smell of other chemicals.

The term ‘fragrance’ is often a generic term used by manufacturers. A single listing of fragrance on your product’s ingredient list could represent dozens or even hundreds of unlisted chemical compounds that were used to create the final individual fragrance.

Manufacturers do not have to list these individual ingredients as fragrance is considered to be a trade secret.

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