Vegan skin care is more than a trend. There are good reasons to avoid products containing animal ingredients. Is your lipstick literally blood red or is there a real catastrophe behind your favorite scent? Animal products often hide gruesome stories but also ecological aspects. And giving up is not as complicated as you might think. We clarify which ingredients are often or always of animal origin, how you deal with them and what vegan has to do with cruelty-free.
Vegan skin care - why and how?
This speaks for vegan skin care
There are several things that inspire us to switch to purely plant-based products. Many people are making a statement about animal welfare by rejecting animal products. They do not want to further support the often catastrophic conditions in which farm animals are kept through their consumption. Environmental protection also plays a role. Because factory farming drives greenhouse gas pollution and thus climate change.
In any case, you are making an environmentally conscious decision by choosing vegan products. Taking this step with cosmetics also makes sense if you still prefer to drink your cappuccino with milk. After all, we have to start somewhere.
Many cosmetics contain animal ingredients
When people think of a vegan lifestyle, the first thing that comes to mind is food. But it also affects cosmetics. Animal ingredients are found in numerous products . Bar soaps from conventional production often contain tallowate, i.e. animal fats. The red dye in lipsticks, nail polishes, blushers, and the like often comes from lice. And a popular ingredient in lip care is beeswax. But ingredients of animal origin are also hidden in other products.
💡 At the end of this article you will find a list of ingredients of animal origin that you often encounter in cosmetics.
How to find vegan skin care
The list below will help you with your shopping. But there is an easier way than searching the ingredient list for animal products in every product. Namely the vegan flower from the Vegan Society. If a product has this symbol, you can be 100% sure that it is vegan.
There are also helpful apps. These include, for example, the vegan shopping guide from PETA ZWEI or the CODECHECK app. You can even activate a vegan filter there. Both are available in the iTunes and Google Play Stores.
🌱 Good to know: Vegan cosmetics say nothing about the naturalness of a product . Conventional cosmetics can also carry a vegan label.
Does vegan also mean cruelty-free?
The issue of animal testing is at least as important as the conditions in which animals are kept. There are a few myths surrounding this. What is the current situation and what can we – you and me – do to reduce animal suffering?
The current status of animal testing
Animal testing for cosmetic products has been banned in the EU since 2013 . However, you have to assume that all cosmetic raw materials, without exception, have been tested on animals at some point in their history. This only ended with the ban in 2009. This prohibits animal testing for raw materials that are used exclusively for cosmetic products.
The crux of the matter is that most of the substances found in cosmetics are also used in the chemical industry. For these other applications, they must comply with the required safety standards of the chemicals law REACH. This often even requires animal testing! Animal tests are still carried out on newly developed raw materials today if, in addition to cosmetics, they are also used for paints, varnishes and cleaning agents, or if they are nanomaterials.
Cruelty-free manufacturing – what we do as a company
At FIVE, animal welfare is extremely important to us. This determines our entire product development, production and purchasing of raw materials.
- As required by law, we neither carry out animal testing ourselves nor commission them.
- We do not purchase raw materials from companies that carry out or have animal experiments carried out.
- We do not export our products to countries that require animal testing for cosmetics.
- We register our care products with the Vegan Society. The Vegan Flower doesn't just stand for 100% vegan products. The conditions of the label also exclude animal testing.
Cruelty-free shopping – what we as consumers can do
- Buy vegan products . Animal suffering not only affects experiments on animals, but also their keeping. That's why you want to make sure that there are no animal ingredients in your cosmetics.
Choose natural cosmetics with organic ingredients . Pesticides are used in the conventional cultivation of raw materials. These in turn were almost certainly tested on animals. Their use also destroys various microorganisms in the laboratory and in nature.
☝️ This idea goes beyond “pure” cruelty-free awards like Leaping Bunny. The issue of animal suffering is not only relevant to the development and safety of raw materials. It starts with their cultivation.
- If you buy conventional cosmetics, make sure that they have labels like Leaping Bunny, PETA, PETA Cruelty-Free or of course the Vegan Flower.
Let's go vegan
There are many good reasons to avoid animal products in your cosmetics. Thanks to modern processes, there are now plenty of opportunities to produce cruelty-free active ingredients. Other ingredients can easily be replaced with plant oils or extracts. So you don't have to go without anything. And there is also a good conscience.
So come on, let's go vegan!
List of animal cosmetic ingredients
This overview will help you when shopping if you want to switch to purely herbal cosmetics. It contains the most common ingredients of animal origin with INCI name, description, use and vegan alternatives. The ingredients are listed in alphabetical order. And be careful, some of them are also available from plant sources!
Beeswax | Cera Alba
Bees secrete the wax to build their honeycombs. It forms a protective film on the skin that prevents it from drying out. This is how you find it...
🧴 Common in lip care, rich creams; less common in foundation
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Carnauba wax ( Copernicia Cerifera Cera ) or candelilla wax ( Euphorbia Cerifera Cera )
Chitin | Chitin/chitosan
These thickeners have a film-forming effect and work similarly to gelatin (see below). They are obtained from the shells of crustaceans and insects.
🧴 Common in hair setting products
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Agar-agar ( agar ) made from algae, locust bean gum ( Ceratonia Siliqua Gum ) or xanthan gum ( Xanthan Gum )
Cholesterol | cholesterol
This lipid from animal fats occurs naturally in the skin. As a component of the cell membrane, it plays an important role in the regeneration and protection of the skin. At the same time it acts as an emulsifier in creams.
🧴 Often found in rich creams of all kinds
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Plant phytosterols such as those found in unrefined shea butter ( Butyrospermum Parkii Butter ) and avocado oil ( Persea Gratissima Oil ).
cysteine | Cystine/cysteine/L-cysteine
The amino acid is often obtained from animal keratin (see below).
🧴 Commonly found in wound ointments, hair care products and creams
🌱 Vegan alternative: There are now also plant-based L-cysteine, which is produced in two different processes. However, it is unclear to us whether animal testing was used to develop these raw materials. So it's better to avoid it altogether .
Elastin | Elastin
Elastin keeps things elastic, as the name suggests. The protein is obtained from the neck tendon of cattle.
🧴 Commonly found in skin care products
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Proteins from soy ( Glycine Soy Protein ) or wheat ( Hydrolized Wheat Protein )
Fibrostimulin K | Fibrostimulin K
The protein smoothes the skin and is popular as an anti-wrinkle ingredient. However, it is obtained from calf blood.
🧴 Common in anti-aging products
🌱 Vegan alternative: Fibrostimulin P from potatoes – little mnemonic: “K” for veal and “P” plant-based
fish scales | Guanine/Gua
This effect pigment is found in many decorative cosmetics, especially those that have a beautiful shimmer. Guanine is obtained from ground fish scales.
🧴 Commonly found in nail polish, glossy eye shadows, highlighters, lipsticks and mascara
🌱 Vegan alternative: mica ( mica ).
gelatin | Gelatin
When we think of this gelling agent, we first think of gummy bears. Less appetizing is the extraction from bones, skin and tendons of animals, i.e. slaughterhouse waste.
🧴 Commonly found in creamy products such as face masks or shampoos
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Agar-agar ( agar ) made from algae or locust bean gum ( Ceratonia Siliqua Gum )
Royal jelly | Royal jelly
Bees feed their queens with this nutrient-rich secretion. It has a smoothing effect on the skin, which is used for anti-aging products.
🧴 Commonly found in face and eye creams, hair conditioners or body lotions
🌱 Vegan alternatives: extracts from aloe vera ( Aloe Barbadensis ) or comfrey ( Symphytum Officinale Root Extract )
Ghee | Ghee
Ghee is made from cow's milk. It is clarified butter fat that is used in Ayurvedic cuisine. But we also encounter it in cosmetics.
🧴 Common in creams and balms
🌱 Vegan alternatives: rich vegetable oils such as jojoba oil ( Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil ) or shea butter ( Butyrospermum Parkii Butter )
glycerin | Glycerin or glycerol
Glycerin has a moisturizing effect. Animal glycerin is a byproduct of the saponification of beef tallow (see also Tallowate below).
🧴 Commonly found in lotions, creams, makeup (foundations), after-sun preparations and other skin care products as well as shampoo and conditioner
🌱 Vegan alternative: Vegetable glycerin. This is obtained from the saponification of vegetable oils.
☝️ At FIVE, for example, we use organic glycerin from coconut oil in our FIVE facial serum .
Hyaluronic acid | Sodium Hyaluronate or Hyaluronic Acid
This ingredient binds moisture in the skin. It was originally always obtained from animal parts, mostly from cocks' combs. However, the production is quite complex, which is why hyaluronic acid is now mostly produced synthetically.
🧴 Commonly found in skin creams, serums and moisturizing masks
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Plant-based hyaluronic acid.
☝️ The FIVE facial serum naturally contains purely plant-based hyaluronic acid from grains that have not been genetically modified, i.e. NO-GMO .
Carmine | Cochineal, Cl 75470, E 120 or Natural Red 4
The pigment gives make-up and nail polish their strong red, more precisely blood red. Because when it is extracted, you immediately lose your desire for color: for every gram of carmine red, around 150 cochineal lice are dried to death and the color pigments are then boiled out of them.
🧴 Commonly found in nail polish, lipstick, blush and basically anything that has a reddish color
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Plant pigments from beetroot ( Beta Vulgaris ), raspberries ( Rubus Idaeus Fruit ) and the like as well as iron oxide ( CI 77489 ). There is also a synthetic carmine E124, which, however, is not suitable for natural cosmetics.
Keratins | keratin
This protein is part of the hair structure. Keratin provides fullness and a healthy shine. Less beautiful: It is made from ground hooves, horns and feathers.
🧴 Commonly found in shampoo, conditioner and other hair care products
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Hydrolized Wheat Protein from wheat or Hydrolized Soy Protein from soy
Collagen | Collages
This protein ensures tight tissue and a firm complexion. But it is obtained from the fat or bones of cattle and pigs.
🧴 Commonly found in skin creams and serums
🌱 Vegan alternatives: There is no one plant-based ingredient that replaces collagen. However, similar effects are achieved with active ingredient combinations made from amino acids, antioxidants and plant extracts. Facial massages also stimulate the skin's own collagen synthesis .
Lanolin, also wool wax | lanolin
This is the fat that sheep secrete to protect their fur from moisture. So it seals well. Lanolin is obtained from sheared wool. So, unlike civet (see below), it is not taken directly from the sheep, for example.
🧴 Commonly found in rich skin creams
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Vegetable oils with an occlusive effect such as jojoba oil ( Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil ) or shea butter ( Butyrospermum Parkii Butter )
Lecithins | Hydroxylated Lecithin
Lecithins are compounds made from fats and glycerin that are found in our cell membranes. They regulate the pH value, smooth the skin and have an antistatic and emulsifying effect. They are obtained from animal nerve tissue or eggs.
🧴 Commonly found in skin creams, eyebrow pencils, eyeliner, anti-cellulite products and hair care products
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Vegetable lecithins from soy ( soy lecithin ) or sunflower seeds ( sunflower lecithin )
lactic acid | Lactic acid
Lactic acid regulates the pH of the skin and is a metabolite in blood and muscle tissue. However, it can also be produced synthetically or replaced with citric acid.
🧴 Commonly found in facial cleansers and toners
🌱 Vegan alternative: Vegan lactic acid ( E270) is produced by lactic acid bacteria from sugar solutions and has absolutely nothing to do with milk.
Propolis | Propolis Cera
Like beeswax and royal jelly, this resinous secretion also comes from bees. It is popular in cosmetics because of its antibacterial effects.
🧴 Commonly found in toothpaste and anti-aging products
🌱 Vegan alternatives: extracts from licorice root ( Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract ) or witch hazel ( Hamamelis Virginiana )
Beef tallow | (Sodium) Tallowate
Soap is traditionally made from animal fats, usually beef tallow from slaughterhouse waste.
🧴 Common in soaps
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Soaps made from coconut oil ( sodium cocoate ), olive oil ( sodium olivate ), palm oil ( sodium palmate ) or other vegetable oils
☝️ You make an environmentally conscious decision with organically produced soaps that do not promote overexploitation of nature.
Shellac | Shellac
Paint scale insect excretions have a resinous quality that gives shine.
🧴 Commonly found in hairspray and nail polish
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Mica ( mica ) or vegetable waxes such as jojoba oil ( Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil )
Silk | Hydrolized Silk
The silkworm spins the fine threads that also make skin and hair silky. In cosmetics, silk is found not only in threads but also in powdered form and as silk protein.
🧴 Commonly found in makeup, creams and hair care products
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Depending on the application, mica ( mica ), aloe vera ( aloe barbadensis ) and plant-based hyaluronic acid (see above)
stearic acid | Stearic acid
Stearic acid acts as an emulsifier and stabilizer in cosmetic products. Animal stearic acid is taken from pig stomachs. But there are also plant sources.
🧴 Commonly found in creams and ointments
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Vegan stearic acid from vegetable oils
Squalene | Squalane
Squalane smooths skin and hair. They were originally obtained from shark liver. However, plant sources are now more common.
🧴 Commonly found in skin and hair care products
🌱 Vegan alternative: Squalane from the pressing residues of olives or sugar cane
☝️ At FIVE we use squalane from olives.
Vitamin A | Retinol
Vitamin A stimulates regeneration and has an antioxidant effect. For reasons of cost, it is usually obtained from animal sources such as butter, eggs or fish liver.
🧴Commonly found in anti-aging creams and serums
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Vitamin A made from carrots, apricots or lemongrass
Civet | Civet
Civet cat secretion is popular for its musky scent. It also serves as a setting agent in makeup. To obtain them, the cats' anal glands are scraped out in an extremely cruel, painful way.
🧴 Common in perfumes
🌱 Vegan alternatives: Labdanum oil ( Cistus Ladaniferus Oil ) from the lacquer rockrose
Myths: These ingredients are now vegan
As the list above suggests, there are many ingredients that can have both animal and plant sources. Often vegan solutions now predominate in practice, for example if they are more stable or more readily available. There are also some ingredients that are no longer obtained from animals on the European market.
Ambra: very fragrant
These include, for example, ambergris or ambergris. The fragrance is popular for musky perfumes. It used to be obtained from a sperm whale digestive product. The whales excreted it and it washed up on beaches in the form of grayish clumps. Whale products have not been allowed to be traded in Germany since the early 20th century under the Endangered Species Agreement, which means it has been for a very long time. Nowadays the fragrance comes from synthetic sources.
You can take urea without hesitation
It's similar with urea. Urea is part of the skin's Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF). It is often used in intensive care for dry skin. Urea has only been produced artificially since 1828. This is no longer an animal ingredient either.