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August 15, 2020

Top Cosmetic Ingredients That Vegans Should Avoid

Top Cosmetic Ingredients That Vegans Should Avoid By Barbies Beauty Bits

There are a lot of people who are choosing to pursue a vegan lifestyle. While you can quickly achieve this lifestyle with the foods you consume, it can be a bit difficult when it comes to the cosmetic ingredients vegans should avoid.

While I am not vegan, I avoid cruelty-free products (and yes, there is a difference). Hence I reached out to a dear friend of mine who is vegan. She is always educating me on cosmetic ingredients derived from animal products or commenting: "I can't use that it is not vegan." These numerous conversations prompted me to write this blog post, especially those who are new to the vegan realm and may not be aware of the ingredients they should avoid.  

To help educate you to navigate through the ingredients label, we put together a list of cosmetic ingredients that vegans should avoid. You will notice as you read through the list that a lot are familiar names, some of which you may not realize are derived from animals.  At the same time do not skip over them as their are VEGAN ALTERNATIVES!!!

So without further ado, here are the top 14 non-vegan ingredients commonly used in the beauty realm.

Top 14 Cosmetic Ingredients That Vegans Should Avoid

1. Cochineal Dye
This dye, sometimes called Carmine, or natural red 4, E120, and C.I. 75470 on the ingredients list, is used in lots of pink or red beauty products like blushes and lipsticks. Unfortunately, most people that use products with Cochineal Dye don't have a clue that it's made from BUGS, aka crushed beetles. These beetles eat lots of red berries, and when they are crushed down, a red dye is extracted from them and used to color beauty products.  Another thing I just learned today is that it takes approximately 70,000 insects to get crushed to produce only a pound of dye! Kind of evil if you think about it.  For me, this ingredient has a significant allergen factor, which is why the FDA is required to disclose any food ingredients on the label.


Before you get bugged out, you can easily buy matte lipstick from cruelty-free beauty product providers who don't use this dye, so there's no need to put crushed bugs on your skin. To ensure you are purchasing Carmine-Free beauty products, always check the label for Cochineal Dye, Carmine, natural red 4, E120, or C.I. 75470.

2. Shark Squalene
I am bringing this one up as there is vegetable squalene, so I do not want any vegan to 86 this ingredient before doing your research. Vegetable squalene is a fantastic ingredient that helps lock moisture in the skin and helps the skin appear more vibrant and healthy.

On the other hand, animal squalene oil, which is also used in skincare, is derived from the liver of sharks, and while jaws may be scary, what is even more frightening is punishing them for our vanity purposes.

Thankfully, the anger from many on using squalene from sharks led to the creation of vegetable squalene, which can be sourced from gluten-free plant-based sources like olives.

Beauty Ingredients That Vegans Should Avoid By Barbies Beauty Bits

3. Tallow
Tallow (Oleic acid - aka oleyl stearate, oleyl oleate) is one of the most popular ingredients you will find in cosmetics and personal care products. This ingredient is commonly used in eye makeup, lipsticks, foundations, even shampoo, shaving soap, and skincare products.

Tallow is the fat derived from the fatty tissue of sheep or cows. This one may be a bit harder to avoid because it's frequently used. However, as the vegan beauty market grows, you have more options for products that don't use Tallow.

4. Gelatin
Gelatin is one ingredient I've avoided since childhood because of my mom, not wanting us to eat pork. Most vegans or those who do not eat pork are aware that this ingredient is used a lot as a binding or thickening agent. But did you know that it's also used in a lot of different beauty products

Vegan Beauty Products By Barbies Beauty Bits

Gelatin is made in a very similar way to Tarrow, so you need to make sure that you find beauty products that don't contain it. Unfortunately, manufacturers will often try to trick you by giving it a lot of different names. It may also be listed on the ingredients as a gel, hide glue, kosher or halal gelatin, and isinglass. You usually find it in any product with a creamy consistency, so always check the label carefully.

5. Guanine
Ever wondered what makes your nail polish, eye shadows, and highlighter shimmer and sparkle? The ingredient responsible for this effect is guanine, a light-diffusing material found on dead fish scales.

Yes, after the fish has died, their scales are scraped off and then soaked in alcohol to give that frosted, shimmer look. 

Vegan Safe Retinol By Barbies Beauty Bits

6. Retinol
This one was a downer for me as retinol is a good source of vitamin A and is a fantastic anti-aging ingredient. You can find this ingredient in so many anti-aging skincare products. You can also find it in prescription-strength products under the name of Retina-A, Tretinoin, and Tazarotene, which is the strongest of the bunch.

However, if you are trying to stick with Vegan beauty products, you must know where the retinol in your beauty products comes from.

Many products are derived from animal products like eggs, chicken liver, beef, or fish. Thankfully, there are a lot of natural plant sources of retinol as well. It can be found in vegetables, like carrots, potatoes, and pumpkins, for example. A lot of the retinol found in beauty products these days is man-made in a lab, so it's perfectly safe for vegans...YEAH. This is good news because it means that you don't have to miss out on all of the fantastic benefits of retinol, but you need to double-check the label and do some research to make sure that it comes from plant sources instead of animals or that it is man-made. 

List of beauty ingredients all vegans should avoid by barbies beauty bits

8 Other Cosmetics Ingredients Vegans Should Avoid

There are a lot, and to help shorten this post, I will list some other common non-vegan ingredients to look out for.  

  • Lanolin- found in sheep's hair
    • Alternative plant oils- coconut, olive oil, and shea butter
  • Glycerine- comes from animal fats 
    • Alternative- coconut oil or soya
  • Stearic Acid- derived from the stomach of pigs, cows, and sheep. Nothing like sticking pig stomach on your pits, YUK. But this is a common ingredient found in deodorant.
    • Vegan Alternative. This is tricky as it has the same name (also called stearic acid); hence you have to do your research. 
  • Collagen- WTF, this is great for anti-aging. But vegan beauties, no worries as there are vegan collagen alternatives. 
  • Elastin- Another anti-aging ingredient commonly found in the same products as collagen is extracted from animal bones and muscles. 
    • Alternatives- Hylaronic acid and MSM 
  • Keratin- This is a popular ingredient uses in shampoos, and to straighten your hair makes sense as it comes from the horns and hair of some animals. 
  • Animal Hair- This one is obvious, but it is not apparent where it is used; hence I am bringing it up.  Animal hair is commonly used in the bristles of makeup brushes, even eyelashes.
    • Alternatives- look for synthetic bristles.
animal derived cosmetic ingredient list by barbies beauty bits

No-one Wants To Smell Like Poop!

Well, this one is a bit contradictory if you ask me. But, the ingredient Castoreum, is commonly used in perfume, that we wear, excuse my french, to not smell like ass, but yet this ingredient is a secretion that comes from the anal glands of beavers. Now this one takes the cake!

In all seriousness, the scent does not stink from my research. Since beavers can't smell that well,  they use their Castoreum in part to mark their territory. The smell is a combination of vanilla and raspberry with floral hints, Castoreum carries information about a beaver's health and helps to make distinctions between family members and outsiders.

But the thought is still nasty!

To Sum It Up On Cosmetic Ingredients That Vegans Should Avoid
There are tons of non-vegan ingredients, and since I am far from a pro on this. My suggestion, when it comes to people looking for vegan and all-around safe beauty products, is to focus on products that are EWG verified.  To be a verified product, the brand must provide full transparency of ingredients on the label (including fragrance ingredients), follow good manufacturing practices to ensure its safety, and are free of dangerous chemicals. 

vegan beauty ingredient list by barbies beauty bits
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14 comments

  1. Being vegan I was so interested in the list of ingredients to avoid. I will keep this in mind when I shop for makeup and self care items.

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  2. I am not a vegan, but I still want to be sure I'm putting on quality things. So I'll keep this in mind!

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  3. I honestly thought cruelty-free products, which are what I use, were vegan. This is good information!

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  4. I try to use cruelty free products too. Thanks for the tips on what to avoid. It's a mine field out there and hard to know what is safe to use.

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  5. These are great and helpful information to share to all vegans out there and I am so grateful to know everything about it. Thank you!

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  6. wow! I found out a lot of new interesting facts about cosmetics.

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  7. These are great tips for people looking for vegan/cruelty free cosmetics. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. This is good to know. The only ingredient I'm familiar here is retinol and that's because I'm using a night cream with retinol. -LYNNDEE

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  9. This is a great list. I would not have thought to look for several of these ingredients.

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  10. These are nice tips to know especially for vegan. I will definitely save this information.

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  11. Good things to consider! There are lots of things to watch out for. I knew most of these, but not all. I only just discovered that most white sugar is made using bone char!

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  12. I have to remember this list. I love products that don't take advantage of animals.

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  13. This very nice post I learned about cosmetic ingredients, I learned more about it.

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  14. Great advice. You never really think of all the things that go into cosmetics!

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