What’s Really In Your Makeup?


Vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise globally, and there are many reasons why people are choosing this lifestyle. Many choose this simply because of their love of animals, others for health reasons or to reduce their impact on the environment and decrease their carbon footprint.

Whatever the reason, food manufacturers are now forced to be more transparent with what is in their products, with mandatory ingredient lists and the useful “suitable for vegetarians/vegans” labeling. Many people are now taking up the Veganuary challenge and businesses are bowing to demand and providing those avoiding animal products with a larger selection of plant-based food items each year.

But choosing a plant-based lifestyle doesn’t just stop at what we eat. Many of us are not aware of the animal products used in some of our favorite cosmetics, which we may use daily. A recent study by Flawless Lashes by Loreta shockingly revealed that 36% of vegetarians are completely unaware that animal products are used by the makeup industry.

Many consumers don’t realize that the makeup aisle is full of animal products. Image credit Clean Wal-Mart, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Many cosmetic companies still use animal byproducts in their products and the public is largely unaware. Unlike food manufacturers, cosmetic companies can label these ingredients by their scientific names. Even a conscious consumer who is trying to avoid animal products may slip up and purchase these, as it is not clear where they are derived from.

It is incredibly important for consumers that we are made aware of these products and where they come from. Below is a list of the most frequently used animal-sourced ingredients, what they are made from and where we may find them.

Lactoferrin: Found in shampoo and conditioners, this is an iron-binding protein taken from milk. Other dairy-based products found in cosmetics include lactose and hydrolyzed milk protein.

Estrogen: It is unlikely you have not heard of this before, but were you aware this is used in a large number of perfumes? This is obtained from the urine of pregnant horses.

Collagen: Any consumer concerned about wrinkles will have certainly seen this ingredient actively advertised. Collagen is an anti-aging ingredient used in facial creams and can also be found in hair care products. This is made from animal tendons, bones, ligaments and skin.

Carbamide: Also known as urea and found in deodorant, facial cleansers and lotions, this is sourced from animal urine.

Keratin: This is something we all have heard of, as in recent years keratin has become a selling point of many hair and nail products. Keratin is made from the hair and hooves of various farmed animals.

Cera alba: This is found in lip balms, lipsticks, soaps and moisturizers. It prevents oils and other liquids from separating. You may know this as beeswax, its more common name.

Tallow: Also known as oleic acid, oleyl sterate, and oleyl oleate, this is derived from animal fat, most often from farmed animals. Tallow is found in a wide range of cosmetics including nail polish, soap, foundation and eye makeup.

Guanine: Have you ever wondered how your favorite highlighter or eyeshadow gets its shimmering effect? This is made by scraping dead fish scales.

Lanolin: This is taken from the wool and fat of sheep and is often seen in lip balms, sticks and glosses. There is a plant-based alternative of the same name, but manufacturers do not always disclose which one they are using, so be careful when choosing.

Shellac: If you have ever had a manicure, you’ve likely heard of shellac. What you may not be aware of is how it gets its strength and shine. This ingredient comes from the shell of lac bugs.

Shellac, a common ingredient used in manicures, comes from lac bugs. Image credit Flawless Lashes by Loreta.

Carmine: Also listed as natural red 4, E120 and C.I 75470, this is used to achieve a vibrant red in blush, lipstick and nail polish and is made from crushing thousands of tiny bugs called cochineals.

Gelatin: Found in creamy cosmetics and nail polishes, this is made from boiled skin, tendons, ligaments and bones of animals such as cows and pigs. It is also listed as gel, hide gel, isinglass, kosher and halal gelatin.

Squalene: Used in eye makeup and lipsticks, this ingredient is extracted from the liver of sharks.

Ambergis: This is used to set the fragrance in perfumes and is made from the waxy oil that lines the stomach of whales.

When in doubt, look for The Vegan Society logo, not to be confused with the leaping rabbit cruelty-free logo. Although cruelty-free is a brilliant movement for animal rights, it does not mean the products are free from animal by-products, just that they are not tested on animals.

The world is under increasing pressure to reduce our carbon footprint. The food and fashion industry have been thrown into the spotlight and asked to reduce their use of fossil fuels and water in manufacturing processes, but the cosmetic industry seems to have escaped the same scrutiny.

To produce just one pound of beef, studies have shown it requires 2,400 gallons of water. The raising of livestock is a massive contributor to climate change and surely the first industry to cut this should be one based purely on vanity.

Although we are now seeing more and more celebrity-endorsed vegan makeup brands, these are also coming with a celebrity price tag. On average, vegan makeup costs 23% more than its animal-based alternatives. Considering plant-based alternatives to the ingredients listed above are commonly less expensive, why should vegans and vegetarians have to pay extra to maintain their ethics? More pressure needs to be put on the cosmetics industry to make the switch to plant-based products and price their merchandise in line with what they are using and not what celebrity is endorsing it.

Featured image: many cosmetics are made with ingredients sourced from animals, including guanine, which comes from the scales of fish. Image credit Flawless Lashes by Loreta.

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About Author

Loreta Jasilionyte is the Owner and Founder of Flawless Lashes by Loreta. Flawless Lashes by Loreta are an award-winning, luxury provider of eyelash extensions and eyelash extension courses. Established in 2013, Flawless Lashes by Loreta has been voted "Best Eyelash Product Supplier" two years in a row by Lash Inc Magazine. Click to see author's profile.

1 Comment

  1. well explained list of animal-sourced ingredients, because of these ingredient usage now people were moving to natural, organic and vegan cosmetic products

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