what is vegan beauty anyway?
The Beauty Algorithm finds the answer to this very important question.
Lush via Instagram
Welcome to The Beauty Algorithm, i-D’s fortnightly column in which beauty editor Shannon Peter answers the internet’s nichest beauty queries. Want to know how to smell like the cola-scented gel pens of your pre-teen pencil case? Or where to find an eye shadow the perfect shade of EU blue? No request is too specific! This week, the algorithm helps the hundreds of would-be vegans desperately googling ‘vegan beauty’ right now.
It’s veganuary! The month that divides us into the die-hard vegans, the less-die-hard reducers and those who can’t bear the idea of a life without bacon. Of course, it’s a topic wrought with politics, with some claiming that veganism is the answer to all our environmental woes and others claiming, well, that it’s not. Still, a desire to mitigate impact on this earth and its creatures has led more of us than ever to pledge our allegiance to the vegan Gods (Madonna? Miley? Moby?!). But as any newbies should note: veganism doesn’t just affect meal times, but all areas of your lifestyle. And yes, that includes your bathroom cabinet.
Right now, the internet is awash with frantic would-be vegans looking for beauty advice. Reddit has channels dedicated to veganified routines, Quora receives vegan beauty related questions on the daily, and Google has tracked a growing interest, too: searches for the term ‘vegan beauty’ have doubled every year since 2012. So, this week’s edition of The Beauty Algorithm is dedicated to clearing a few things up.
First things first, what makes a product vegan?
Well, obviously, it needs to be totally cruelty-free, so any product that uses animal testing is out. But that should be standard whether you eat cheese or not. A full ban on animal testing has been in place in the UK since 2013, but continues to happen in over 80 countries worldwide. In China, it’s a legal requirement. If your favourite brand operates there, then -- sorry to break it to you -- but it endorses animal testing.
Ingredients like honey and beeswax are out, too. Same with gelatine, which is sometimes used as a thickening agent and lanolin, the greasy stuff that coats sheep’s wool. Yum.
Can anyone use the term vegan?
If a product meets the terms above, it can use the word vegan on its packaging and marketing, although it’s not a guarantee that the brand doesn’t practice animal testing in other territories. The Vegan Society’s sunflower symbol has become a trusted trademark to help consumers identify vegan-friendly products. But as it costs money to certify, not all products that make the grade actually have the stamp. It’s also worth noting that the certification doesn’t require you to only sell vegan products, so if that’s a key stipulation for you, then it’s best to do some digging on the brand’s website.
What vegan products are actually good?
These days, there are plenty of effective alternatives to animal-derived ingredients meaning good vegan beauty products do exist. But at the same time, just because a product is vegan, doesn’t mean it will work. However, I’d vouch for a few…
Hourglass makes fancy, albeit pricey vegan make-up products - including this mad creamy foundation stick, and Cover FX has some nice stuff too, like this hangover-hiding peach concealer. Vegan lip balms can be particularly tricky to come across, as many use beeswax or lanolin to ring-fence moisture, but Evolve Beauty’s is great and it’s organic too. Bonus!
When it comes to shampoo, choice is low as many contain keratin, beeswax or honey, but Maria Nila is certified vegan, as is Dizziak, which sells the very best conditioner for afro or curly hair that has ever existed on this earth. A staunch campaigner against animal testing, The Body Shop is 100% cruelty-free but some products do contain honey and beeswax -- these are the ones that don’t. And Lush is on the same vibe -- no animal testing, but some (vegetarian-friendly) animal by-products. Most of the bath bombs are good to go, though!
May your vegan endeavours bring you cosmetic joy!