Animal testing has never been a popular practice.
In the EU, policies are already in place banning the testing and sale of beauty products tested on animals within the Union and the U.K., while animal testing is also illegal in India, New Zealand, Israel, Taiwan, South Korea, Norway, and Canada.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that cruelty-free makeup and beauty products have been dominating the market in 2020, and that “cruelty-free” has been one of the most popular buzzwords in the industry for years. Despite industry giants like Estee Lauder and MAC still behind on making the switch, it’s fair to say that cruelty-free beauty has become the default.
But just because your favourite lip balm or blush might not be tested on animals, it doesn't mean it is truly cruelty-free. In fact, many beauty products and personal toiletries available on the market contain hidden animal by-products that you might miss at first glance!
In this article, we’ll explore the difference between cruelty-free and vegan beauty products, and help you identify what sneaky animal-derived ingredients can be found in even the most unassuming toiletries.
The difference between cruelty-free and vegan, explained
Veganism is an ethical lifestyle that seeks to avoid all forms of animal exploitation, including the use of animals and their by-products in food, clothing, furniture, and cosmetics. A beauty product not tested on animals and clearly labelled as cruelty-free might still contain animal products, making it unsuitable for vegans. On the other hand, purchasing a product that’s labelled “cruelty-free” simply means that none of the ingredients have been tested on animals during the production process.
While this definition may sound pretty straightforward, the meaning of cruelty-free in beauty gets much more complicated to grasp if we also take parent companies into account. A parent company is a bigger company that owns several smaller beauty brands, whose ethos and practices might be quite different from the beauty giant.
Let’s take two cruelty-free brands, NYX and Urban Decay, as an example: they are both owned by the same parent company, L’Oreal, which sells and tests its products in China, where animal testing is required by law. Many vegans will boycott smaller cruelty-free companies because of their animal-testing parent company, while others may not. Purchasing beauty products from small independent companies is usually the best way to go to make sure no animal testing is involved in any stage of the process!
Hidden animal products like shellac, beeswax, and gelatine are just some of the common animal products that are added into many beauty items, be it blush, lipstick, mascara, nail polish, lip balms, or face masks. The best way to make sure your favourite shade has not only not been tested on animals, but is also free of hidden bugs and bug secretions, is to look for the Vegan Trademark logo (or any similar official logo) that will confirm the product in your hands is 100% free of animal products and 100% free of animal testing.
The top 5 animal products hiding in your beauty routine1. Gelatine
Gelatine is one of the most common animal by-products in the food industry due to its efficient binding properties and its odourless, colourless appearance. It’s a transparent, gel-like substance made of boiled ligaments, bones, and skin tissue of cows and other farm animals, primarily used in the food industry to bind ingredients together.
When it comes to beauty products, you can find gelatine hiding in creamy cosmetics like face creams and body lotions, as well as in hair products like shampoos, conditioners, and hair sprays.2. Carmine
Carmine (also known as cochineal or natural red 4) is a red dye derived from a particular parasitic female bug, the cochineal scale. The vibrant red pigment is created by crushing the cochineal scales into a dense powder, a process that's been used for centuries due to the vibrancy of the colour and its inexpensive production, still surprisingly common today.
Carmine is usually found in blush, red lipsticks, and red nail polishes, as well as in popular red-coloured snack foods and vitamins.
Beeswax, a by-product naturally produced by honey bees, is used by beauty manufacturers to emulsify their formulas, and it is mostly found in lip balms, skincare creams, and mascaras.
Glycerine (alternatively labelled as glycerol) is a bit trickier compared to the above ingredients, as it can be derived from both animal and plant products.
It is a viscous liquid derived from either animal fat (tallow) or plant sources, and it can be found as the key ingredient in most soaps, creamy moisturizers, and hair care products. Unless specifically stated, glycerine is commonly derived from animal fat, so you might be better off getting vegan-friendly natural soap instead!
5. Squalene (or Squalane)
Surprisingly enough, this hard-to-pronounce substance produced from shark liver oil is quite common in all types of mainstream moisturizers and deodorants.
Millions of sharks are slaughtered every year for this chemical compound, so if you really want to do your part in saving the ocean and its majestic animals, you might want to give vegan-friendly, cruelty-free deodorants a try instead!