A Newbie’s Guide to Vegan-Friendly Makeup

Guide to vegan makeup

One of the most important choices that you make every single day is what you put on your skin. The cosmetics that you wear often have a direct impact on your health, affecting everything from your respiratory to your reproductive systems. However, what you buy doesn’t just affect you—it can also affect the lives of millions of other creatures on our beautiful planet. Even if you’re not vegan yourself, you may want your cosmetics to be. And that makes a lot of sense. For the reasons we’ll explore in this article, it’s not only better for your health but also for the health of our planet to choose vegan makeup. You can still look beautiful without supporting cosmetics brands that engage in ugly practices.[bctt tweet=”You can still look beautiful without supporting cosmetics brands that engage in ugly practices.” username=”redapplelipstic”]Let’s discuss.

What is Vegan Makeup?

Let’s start with a quick definition for vegan makeup.

To be classified as vegan, a product cannot contain:

  • animal-derived ingredients, such as carmine, estrogen, and lanolin. (We’ll discuss how these ingredients are inhumanely harvested in greater detail later in this post.)
  • animal byproducts, such as beeswax, animal hair, and alpha hydroxy acid.

The Benefits of Using Vegan Makeup

Why should you go vegan with your makeup choices? Will buying vegan really make a difference?

Let’s discuss why you should consider vegan (and get your friends and family to consider vegan, too).

Vegan makeup saves lives – This may sound like a bumper sticker, but it’s a depressing reality: In an effort to beautify the world, the cosmetics industry as a whole engages in ugly practices that often result in the torture and death of billions of creatures every year. Yes, billions with a b. By going vegan with your makeup choices, you’ll help prevent future animal deaths.

Vegan makeup contains no dead animals – Makeup can beautify without relying on dead animals to do it.

Vegan makeup contains fewer ingredients – One of the unexpected perks of going vegan is the shorter ingredients list. Chances are, you’ll also be able to pronounce most of the ingredients.

Vegan makeup contains fewer synthetic chemicals – Did you know that the average woman wears around 515 synthetic chemicals on her body every single day? Some of those synthetic chemicals are used to stabilize the animal byproduct or derivative ingredients. Vegan makeup doesn’t need to load itself with those types of preservatives to keep a product shelf-stable. Less chemicals also means less chances for skin breakouts (great news for those with sensitive skin).

Vegan makeup contains plant-based ingredients – Benefit from the natural goodness that you can derive from plants, including antioxidants and essential oils.

Vegan vs. Cruelty-free: What’s the Difference?

Guide to vegan makeup

Vegan doesn’t automatically mean “cruelty-free.” As ironic as this fact may be, vegan cosmetics can be tested on animals. Vegan refers to the ingredients contained within the product.

On the other hand, cruelty-free means that the product and its ingredients have never been tested on animals during creation or production.

We should also note that not all cruelty-free cosmetics are vegan. It’s possible to use animal byproducts or derivatives without testing the product itself on animals.

Be wary of products that say something similar to “no animal testing unless required by law.” These products have most certainly been tested on animals and are not cruelty-free. Products that are sold in China are also required by law to be tested on animals. This means that some of the most popular big-name brands cannot claim cruelty-free status because at least some of their products have been tested on animals.

To be sure that your cosmetics have never had any contact with animals, go for the double whammy: vegan + cruelty-free. Look for products that claim both, otherwise it’s practically certain that an animal was in some way used during the product’s creation.

To learn how to check that your cosmetic products are cruelty-free, visit this post.

Avoid These Non-Vegan Cosmetic Products at All Costs

Most cosmetics brands don’t advertise that they use animal byproducts and derivatives in neon flashing lights. However, by taking the time to look at their ingredient list, you’ll know exactly what’s in your products. Here’s a list of the most frequent non-vegan ingredients to look out for:


Albumen is the white of an egg. It can be used to firm and protect the skin, add shine, and introduce moisture. You’ll often find this ingredient in hair or skin products. Because albumen is derived from eggs, it can cause allergic reactions in some.

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Alpha Hydroxy Acid

Alpha hydroxy acid, also known as glycolic acid, is an ingredient that has become very popular in recent years. It’s part of the anti-aging craze, where creams containing this acid are used to fight wrinkles and age spots. There’s no doubt it works effectively as a chemical exfoliate, however alpha hydroxy acid is derived from snail slime, or secretions.


Ambergris, also known as grey amber, is a waxy, flammable oil that’s used as a fixative in perfumes. It comes from the intestines of a sperm whale’s stomach, but sometimes from its poop or vomit. Not sure how those ingredients can help a perfume last longer? Neither are we. However, ambergris is also used to add a sweet scent to a fragrance.

Animal Hair

Makeup brushes often contain hair from foxes, goats, milks, horses, and squirrels.

Guide to vegan makeup


Beeswax is a wax produced naturally by bees as a result of eating honey. The wax used in cosmetics comes from honeycomb that’s boiled, melted, and strained. The bee byproduct, beeswax, is then used as a stabilizer, moisturizer, sealant, and skin softener. You’ll find this product in everything from lip balms to lotions.

Questionable harvesting practices make beeswax non-vegan.


Carmine, also known as cochineal dye, is a substance collected from dead cochineal beetles in Central and South America. The beetles eat red cactus berries and subsequently produce a red dye once crushed. This red dye is then used as color in lipsticks and blushes.

It takes around 70,000 beetles to produce one pound red dye. Carmine is also likely to create an allergic reaction.


Guanine is a compound that comes from crushed fish scales. Surprisingly, this powder is used as a color additive to produce shimmer to cosmetics. It gives off a pearlescent glow when the sun catches it— kinda like fish scales. You can find guanine as a common ingredient in lipsticks, nail polishes, mascaras, bronzers, blushes, highlighters, and eye shadows.


Lanolin is one of the most ubiquitous ingredients in cosmetics and found in all types of products, including lipsticks, bals, glosses, lotions, and makeup removers. This oil is used to moisturize and heal minor cuts, which makes sense when you understand the origin. Lanolin is a wax that comes from the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals, namely sheep.

While extracting lanolin is not harmful to sheep, the wool industry itself employs harmful and cruel methods to obtain both wool and lanolin. This includes killing sheep once they’ve slowed down on their wool production.

Wrapping it Up

Congratulations on making it to the end of this beginner-friendly guide to vegan makeup. What should you do next? Explore our entire makeup collection of certified vegan, cruelty-free makeup here.

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