Are Animals Used In Your Beauty Products?

Why You Want BOTH Vegan and Cruelty Free!

When it comes to beauty care, what exactly is meant by “cruelty-free”? Is it animal testing, where up until a few years ago, any cosmetic product sold in China had to be animal tested? (Some, like hair dyes, sunscreens and hair loss products still do.)

Is it using actual animal by-products as ingredients in beauty products? Technically, cruelty-free refers only to animal testing. However, we believe, as many people do, that using animal by-products in beauty products is, well, cruel.

We do not believe that animals were put on this earth to make our skin, hair, or lips more beautiful. This is especially true when there are so many safe and equally effective plant-based alternatives. So, we’ve put together a list of ingredients used in the beauty business that come from animals. What they’re for, what animals they come from and plant-based alternatives. This way you can make a more informed choice when buying beauty products!

Vegan – Products that do not contain animal-derived products or use them in the production process
Cruelty Free – Products that have not been tested on animals or use ingredients that have been


What it is: A key ingredient in many shampoos and conditioners, keratin is touted as a super ingredient that it will strengthen and smooth hair, giving it a beautiful shine.

How it’s sourced: Many brands get animal-derived keratin which is made from ground-up horns, hooves, feathers, quills, and hair from a variety of animals like goats.

Plant-based alternatives: While keratin is technically only found in vertebrates, the synthesis of amino acids extracted from grains like rice or wheat creates hydrolyzed proteins that act as an alternative. Others sources include almond oil, soy protein, and amla oil (derived from the fruit of an Indian tree). Rosemary and nettle offer hair body and strand strength.


What it is: Tallow serves as an emollient in cosmetics such as lipsticks, cream blushers, and soaps.

How it’s sourced: Simply put, tallow is animal fat. It’s a by-product of cooking animal carcasses and skimming off the fat that floats to the top. The carcasses are sometimes sourced from questionable sources which have been found to include animals that die before being slaughtered, euthanized zoos, expired meat from shops, and so on.

Plant-based alternatives: Fortunately, instead of animal fat, companies can use alternatives such as vegetable tallow, Japanese tallow (tree), and paraffin (derived from petroleum, wood, or coal).


What it is: Collagen is an important protein in the human body and is a “hot” ingredient in skincare promising younger-looking skin, stronger hair, nails and more.

How it’s sourced: Boiling cow and pig hooves, bones, tendons, and ligaments. And degraded collagen becomes gelatin.

Plant-based alternatives: Seaweeds like agar-agar, pectin from fruits, locust bean gum and cotton gum.


What it is: This wool wax is produced by the sheep’s sebaceous glands to help shed water and keep the sheep dry. Because of its moisturizing properties, it’s commonly found in skin creams and lotions and lip balms. It can also be found in hair care products.

How it’s sourced: Lanolin is obtained from sheep’s wool. It’s typically removed after shearing sheep, where the sheep later grow another coat to be sheared once again. However, it is sometimes harvested from dead sheep.

Plant-based alternatives: Vegetable oils can serve the same purpose as lanolin.

Cochineal Dye

What it is: A red pigment is often used in lipsticks, blusher, eye shadow, and other cosmetics.

How it’s sourced: Cochineal beetles are wingless female insects that, when crushed, release a crimson substance called carminic acid, which produces a natural red color.

Plant-based alternatives: There are many plant alternatives like beetroot.


What it is: A special pearly shimmer used in color cosmetics like lipstick and eye shadow.

How it’s sourced: Crystalline guanine is derived from powdered fish scales. Yes, scraped and crushed fish scales.

Mineral-based alternatives: Mica, Rayon, Bronze Powder, certain legumes, or Synthetic Pearl.


What it is: Squalene can be found in almost all plants and animals. It is an oil used across so many categories including hair care, skincare, sunscreens, and cosmetics. It’s an oil that has excellent properties that moisturize, soothe and smooth skin and hair, among other things.

How it’s sourced: The richest source is found in shark liver and thankfully sourcing squalene from sharks is becoming far less prevalent.

Plant-based alternatives: Olive oil, wheat germ oil, and rice bran oil are great alternatives.

So, the best way to avoid using beauty products with animal by-products is ensuring that the product is vegan. Look for a statement of it being vegan directly on the package. If it doesn’t state it’s vegan, it may indeed use animal by-products.

And just because a product is vegan, it doesn’t mean the brand is vegan, so be sure to check the brand’s website for a statement of it being vegan. Remember, if it says it’s cruelty-free – that’s great, they don’t test on animals – but it doesn’t mean it’s vegan.

We should all have a clear conscience, as well as clear complexion, when using beauty products. Go animal-free!

This post came out of a conversation we were having with our friends at HEAR ME RAW! –an amazing vegan and natural skincare line. They offered to explain to us the difference and were kind enough to let us share it! It is not a “paid sponsorship” but a true collaboration of people sharing info that is good for people and the planet 🙂

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