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Last Updated on April 29, 2019
In 2019, consumers are taking steps to do what they can to protect the planet. From greener light fixtures to environmentally responsible diets, many Americans want to do everything they can to make positive contributions. In some cases, they might even be willing to ditch their beloved beauty products for ones that are less harmful to animals. (It’s got to be good if Beyonce’s own makeup artist just launched a vegan cosmetic line, right?) But if you’re trying to evaluate vegan products in the store or online, what exactly should you be looking for?
Not only are many vegan products designated as cruelty free and against animal testing, but they also contain fewer ingredients and tend to be much more natural than the average makeup you’ll find on store shelves. According to recent reports, VOC (volatile organic compounds, which are found in everything from nail polish remover to hairspray) levels of over 500 parts per billion could cause issues for people with chemical sensitivities or allergies. The same can be said for a plethora of cosmetic products on the market, particularly if they contain unnatural and irritating elements. Often, vegan beauty products will also happen to be the most natural and the most moisturizing on the market, which can allow consumers to prioritize their desire to help the environment and help their skin at the same time.
Vegan makeup is becoming more popular with the Hollywood elite, too. Sir John Nicholas Barnett, Beyonce’s makeup artist, recently launched a vegan and cruelty free makeup brand available exclusively in Woolworths stores. The line is specifically geared towards South Africans, meaning that most Americans won’t be able to get their hands on the highlighters, lipsticks, and eyeshadows created by this MUA to the stars. Although the U.S. construction market was worth $1,162 billion, we won’t be seeing a Woolworths being built in the states anytime soon. Fortunately, there are plenty of other alternatives available — now, more so than ever before.
But with so many lines out there (and so much misleading marketing), how can you tell that what you’re buying is truly vegan and cruelty free? First, keep in mind that these terms can be mutually exclusive. When a line or product is designated as being cruelty free, that means that there was no animal testing involved in the creation of that item. Vegan beauty products simply don’t contain ingredients derived from animals. It’s certainly possible for products to be both, but you shouldn’t assume that one indicates the other. For starters, look for the “leaping bunny” seal, which is one of the most common indicators of cruelty free products. However, you’ll also need to read the ingredients list to ensure no animal products are included.
That said, it’s not always easy to decipher which ingredients are vegan and which ones aren’t. Look for ingredients like lanolin (which is made from sheep’s wool and usually found in lip balms and other lip products), shellac (a resin obtained from insects that’s often used in hair and nail products, glycerine (derived from animal fats and used in many soaps, moisturizers, and hair products), casein (an ingredient made from cow’s milk that may be featured in conditioning products), and carmine (a red colorant derived from insects, used commonly in lipsticks and blushes). Collagen, elastin, keratin, beeswax, stearic acid, oleic acid, guanine, and squalene aren’t vegan either and are all used in countless cosmetic and personal care items. Even animal hair may be used in makeup brushes that are labeled cruelty tree. If you’re committed to shopping for vegan products, you’ll definitely need to be willing to do some reading first.
Finally, remember that the internet is your friend. There are some vegan and cruelty free lines that you won’t find in your local Sephora or Ulta but may offer the quality and central mission you’re after. If you do a bit of Googling, you’ll probably discover some new brands and be able to expand your sustainable makeup collection while supporting a small business at the same time. Remember that your money talks; by supporting these endeavors and these ethically made products, you can send a message about what today’s consumers really want.
As with many aspects of the vegan lifestyle, it’s not always easy or convenient to follow through on this commitment. But knowing that you’re making a positive impact when you put on your makeup in the morning can be well worth that extra bit of effort.