Vegan Beauty Tips

As we all become more aware of our impact on the planet, more and more people are becoming vegan. According to research carried out by the Vegan Society in 2018, there are approximately 600,000 vegans (about 1.6% of the population) in the UK today, compared to just 150,000 in 2014. In fact, almost half of UK vegans made the change in 2018, which suggests that it’s growing at an exponential rate.

Alongside this, the report found that over half (56%) of Britons have adopted vegan lifestyle behaviours, like buying cruelty-free beauty products; web searches for the term ‘vegan beauty’ have doubled every year since 2012.

Whether you’re new to the vegan beauty trend or a seasoned champion of eco-conscious cosmetics, here’s how to make your skin care routine more sustainable.

vegan beauty tips cruelty-free skin care

Know the Difference Between Vegan, Cruelty-Free and Organic

These terms are often spoken about as though they’re interchangeable, but there’re actually quite significant differences between them. A product could be cruelty-free, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s vegan too. It can get pretty confusing for the sustainable shopper – especially when you add ‘fair trade, ‘clean’ and ‘natural’ into the mix.

It’s important to know that there’s no legal requirement to label a product as natural, organic, cruelty-free or vegan. A brand only needs to list the ingredients in their products according to the global standard of INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients). However, ingredients aren’t always going to be listed under their most common name; water, for example, is usually called ‘aqua,’ which is its scientific label. There are cosmetics dictionaries online, which will help you to decode exactly what’s in your skin care and makeup.

For reference, here’s a breakdown of the terms commonly associated with eco-beauty:


Vegan beauty products should have the Vegan Society logo somewhere on the packaging, which certifies that a product doesn’t contain any animal products or by-products.


This refers to any product that hasn’t been tested on animals during the manufacturing process; these products are certified with the Leaping Bunny logo.

It’s worth noting that animal testing is required by law in China for all foreign cosmetics companies. If a cosmetic product is made and sold out there, it can’t be classified as cruelty-free (although there is a push for these laws to be changed). However, if a product is only produced (and not sold) in China, it can be cruelty-free.

Cruelty-free products can also include non-vegan ingredients like honey, beeswax or gelatin; if you want to use products that’re both cruelty-free and vegan, you’ll need to check the label.

Organic & Natural

Even if they have just a smidgen of organic or natural ingredients in them, beauty products can be labelled as organic or natural. In fact, natural skin care or beauty products can contain as little as 1% naturally-sourced, plant-based or mineral ingredients and still make the claim. Always check the label to see what’s really lurking in your lotions and potions; they may contain more synthetic ingredients that you’d expect. The Soil Association’s COSMOS Natural logo guarantees that a product doesn’t contain GM ingredients, controversial chemicals, parabens or phthalates, and no synthetic colours, dyes or fragrances.

Likewise, organic beauty products can be so-called for containing very little organic ingredients. Look out for the Soil Association Organic logo, which certifies that a product uses sustainably-sourced, organically-farmed ingredients and does not test on animals. It also means a product is free from harsh chemicals, nanoparticles, parabens, synthetic dyes and artificial fragrances.


Clean beauty products are usually free from sulphates, silicones, phthalates, parabens, pesticides, petroleum derivatives and synthetic colouring or fragrances.

Fair Trade

Fair trade beauty products contain key ingredients – usually botanical extracts like coconut, argan, apricot, brazil nut oils and shea butter – that have been traded at a fair price. Fair Trade supports sustainability by demanding the fair treatment of farmers and workers in developing countries, and Fair Trade goods range from food and drink to beauty and lifestyle products.

Check the Labels

You’ll have probably gathered by now that the only way to really know what’s in your cosmetics is by checking the label. If you don’t have your trusty cosmetics dictionary to hand though, there are a few animal ingredients that usually masquerade under confusing names and E numbers. Here are some of the most common ones you’re likely to see:

  • Carmine (cochineal, crimson lake, natural red 4, C.I. 75470, E120, carminic acid). This is taken from an insect; it’s commonly found in makeup.
  • You tend to find beeswax (cera alba, cera lava) in lip balms and mascaras.
  • Guanine (CI 75170) is derived from fish scales. It’s added to iridescent makeup products.
  • Lanolin is the grease or fat that’s extracted from sheep’s wool. It’s extremely moisturising, so you’ll find it in skin and hair care products.
  • Collagen is often taken from animal tissue or marine organisms.
  • Squalene, a chemical extracted from shark liver oil, is used in bath and hair products, eye makeup, moisturisers and even deodorants. There is a vegan alternative, which is made from olives and wheat germ.

Review Your Daily Routine

If you’re serious about vegan beauty, you’ll need to review you existing routine and possibly substitute some of your current products for vegan-friendly ones. And kind doesn’t have to mean costly; lots of notable high street brands sell products that’re suitable for vegans. Once you’ve established which brand(s) are suitable, you can build your perfect skin care routine from there.

Think About Your Tools Too!

Did you know that some makeup brushes are made with animal hair, even those that are labelled as cruelty-free? When reviewing your skin care routine and cosmetic products, you’ll need to check your tools too.

The good news is that there are plenty of makeup brushes out there that use synthetic fibres, and this doesn’t make them less effective. And because synthetic brushes don’t have a cuticle, makeup doesn’t get trapped in them as easily, so they’re especially good for the application of liquid or cream foundation or concealer.

You can buy biodegradable face wipes to remove your makeup at the end of the day, but the most sustainable option is to ditch them altogether. Pick up some reusable facial cloths and cotton pads instead, and use these in place of face wipes, eye makeup remover pads and cotton wool.

About 10% of the 1.8 billion cotton buds used in this country end up in waterways and oceans; the rest up in landfill (where they take hundreds of years to break down). Plastic cotton buds – along with straws and stirrers – are set to be banned in the UK within the next few years anyway, but whilst they’re still available, you should use plastic-free, biodegradable cotton buds.

Eat Your Greens

Whether you’re planning to adopt a vegan diet or not, you still need to be eating plenty of plant-based foods if you really want to get that glow. Nutrition goes hand in hand with healthy-looking skin and hair, and whilst avocados alone won’t give you the complexion of your dreams, it’ll certainly help.

The healthiest diets – whether vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or carnivorous – contain a range of nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Always stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water too (sorry, Prosecco doesn’t count!).

Bringing ethical values into your everyday routine is a great way to really make an impact on the wider world. We’re seeing changes in the beauty industry at large, with more and more big brands pledging to make their product lines vegan and cruelty-free. In fact, most experts agree that the future of cosmetics is vegan and not animal-tested; maybe beauty isn’t only skin deep after all?

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