What Does it Really Mean to be Vegan Skincare?

What Does it Really Mean to be Vegan Skincare?

By definition, vegan skincare products are “not produced from an animal or an animal byproduct.” However, for many vegans there are a few other important guidelines that their skincare products must follow. Typically people adopt a vegan lifestyle of its benefits for the environment and their health. Veganism can be confusing, but understanding a few important terms can help you follow vegan guidelines.  

Key Terms

Cruelty free

Products labeled cruelty free, are not necessarily vegan. They can often contain animal ingredients. You may be wondering how that could possibly be the case. Well, “cruelty-free” products could contain animal-derived ingredients because this label simply means the product was not tested on animals. There are a few traditional and common skincare ingredients that do not adhere to vegan rules:

    • Beeswax: Harvested from farmed bees that are exploited to produce mass amounts of bee byproducts (honey, honeycomb, beeswax). Used in lip balm, moisturizers and makeup. 
    • Collagen: Protein found in animal bones, typically harvested from cows,  commonly found in moisturizers, masks and many other skincare products.
    • Lanolin: Derived from sheep wool, common ingredient in creams and moisturizers.
    • Keratin: A basic building block for our skin, this ingredient comes from various animals' feathers, horns and wool. This ingredient adds strength and  shine to hair and skin.  
    • Carmine: A colorant derived from beetles. 

Animal testing

Animal testing is a term that goes hand in hand with cruelty free. In Europe, no cosmetic companies use animal testing and that trend is spreading globally. With the increased awareness toward our environmental impact, many companies and individuals are avoiding all animal products.

It is no secret that the meat industry is enormously hurtful to our earth. The energy, food, space, and other resources required to run this industry are incredible (and not in a good way.) In fact, animal testing is almost entirely limited to the medical feild. In order to make medical claims, creams or gels prescribed by doctors are always tested on animals, says Niamh Hogan, a natural health therapist and creator of Holos Skincare

What Does it Really Mean to be Vegan Skincare? Mirra Skincare

Organic and Natural

Products labeled vegan might not necessarily be organic or natural. Organic means that the product was grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or genetically modified organisms. Natural means the product does not contain anything artificial or synthetic.

Organic and natural are both terms that mean a product has ingredients found in nature. Synthetic ingredients manufactured by humans do not qualify as organic or natural and are therefore avoided by vegans. Many colorants and fragrances are synthetics which, to many vegans, disqualify the products.

Parabens are another synthetic ingredient commonly used as preservative that is becoming increasingly taboo. Those looking to truly embrace the vegan lifestyle contemplate all aspects of their products. Largely, synthetic ingredients often mean a greater environmental impact that is less sustainable and unethical. 

Benefits of vegan skincare products

Vegan skincare products offer the same general benefits of a vegan diet. By opting for vegan options, you are able to reduce environmental damage and promote kindness towards animals. Not only this but, vegan skincare products can also be really beneficial for your skin.

Hooman Khorasani, chief of the division of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at Mount Sinai Health System said, "Vegan ingredients such as aloe vera, ginger, garlic, mint and lavender have been used for centuries for their healing and cosmetic properties.” In many cases this fact alone can influence the efficacy of products.

When you learn an ingredient has centuries of trial, this gives credibility to its said benefits. This credibility is also slowing building as more studies are conducted to test previously thought effects.

Vegan products are known to be rich in vitamins, contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and they typically contain fewer ingredients. These factors can make it easier for us to understand how individual ingredients uniquely affect our skin.

Another reason vegan products are so effective could be because they cause less stress. When people use vegan products, they are thinking about all of the impacts listed above. If they were to use a non vegan product, they could be worrying and stressing about all of the effects.

Stress is no joke. Study after study has shown that stress is incredibly bad for our bodies and by extension our skin. By choosing vegan skincare products, customers can have peace of mind and less breakouts.   


As with any product, there is no guarantee that the product will work for you. Vegan ingredients are not exempt from being irritants and/or allergens. Making sure to do a patch test with any product is simply a good practice. Many plants and plant-derived ingredients can cause irritation or a contact allergy.

As mentioned before, products with synthetic ingredients can qualify as vegan, so checking for “preservative free” products is a good idea. Typical preservatives are known to irritate the skin. However, if a product is preservative free it can have a limited shelf life. It is important to read and understand ingredients in products, so that you can maximize their benefits. Often storing products in a cool dry place like a cabinet extends the shelf life.

Final Thoughts 

Vegan, plant based, sustainable, these are goals that we are still far from reaching as a population but interest is definitely growing. Google reported a 560% increase in the search term “veganism” over the last five years. It is now estimated that 3% or 228 million people globally are vegan.

To fill the demand, small businesses are rapidly popping up. They feature limited and reusable packaging and ethically sourced materials, while promoting community. Changing to a vegan lifestyle entirely is a huge challenge. Switching to vegan skincare products might seem like a small change, but with over 7 billion people, making small changes will have a huge impact.

Written by Kiana St Onge


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