Going vegan is no longer seen as the niche category it once was - a point proven by the record 100,000 people who’ve signed up to take part in Veganuary this month. Up by 40,000 from last year, a vegan lifestyle isn’t seen as unattainable as it once was, with the likes of Zizzi and even Pizza Hut expanding their menus to meet the increasing demand. The ‘vegan pound’ (as it’s been coined) is flexing its muscle, with the beauty industry set next in its sights.
According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, the number of facial or neck skincare products with a vegan claim that launched in the UK in 2017 has increased by a substantial 105% since 2013. From Sainsbury’s Source of Nature range to the emergence of specialist brands such as Utopia and spas starting to offer vegan treatments too, the choice is greater than it’s ever been.
What is a vegan beauty product?
“A vegan beauty product is one that does not contain animal ingredients and has not been tested on animals,” explains Dominika Piasecka, spokeswoman for The Vegan Society . Common ingredients of concern include: lanolin, collagen, honey, beeswax, gelatin, squalene, uric acid, stearic acid, carmine and keratin, many of which can be found in a range of different cosmetics.
Why go vegan?
Concerns regarding animal cruelty are one of the most common reasons for wanting to adopt a vegan-friendly beauty regime. “Animal testing is a horrendous industry and you don’t have to love animals to agree with this,” says Dominika. “Animals are exploited and put through painful, cruel processes for vanity or for companies to be able to sell their cosmetics in China, where animal testing is required by law.”
Leading a more eco-friendly lifestyle is another common reason for going vegan, with many arguing that vegan products place a lower burden on the environment during production. Another argument in their favour is that they could appeal more to sensitive or irritation-prone skin types due to their more prevalent use of natural-based ingredients.
Are all skincare products that claim to be vegan to be believed though? Rather worryingly, no. Spotting the real thing isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.
How to go vegan - what you need to know
1. Regulation’s murky
The term ‘vegan’ isn’t legally protected when it comes to labelling cosmetics. However there are companies and organisations whose stamps of approval can help provide greater assurances, such as the Vegan Trademark from The Vegan Society which has been recognised internationally since 1990. Once a product is registered, it will have a symbol highlighting it on its packaging. “Our dedicated staff thoroughly checks the ingredient lists of each of the products and makes sure that the manufacture and/or development of the product, and where applicable its ingredients, have not involved the use of any animal product, by-product or derivative,” explains Dominika. You can search for products that carry the Trademark on The Vegan Society's website .
Vegan cosmetics can also be registered with PETA too. “We always recommend that cautious consumers search for cruelty-free and vegan companies on PETA US' Beauty Without Bunnies database in order to be certain of the ethical credentials of the products they're buying,” PETA’s Director Elisa Allen tells us. The names of vegan brands that don’t test on animals , are listed in a handy PDF.
2. It is possible for a product to be vegan without being certified
It just might require a little additional research beforehand. Dominika highlights that since registration of the Vegan Trademark has a fee attached to it, some companies opt for their own vegan logos instead. However, since the area’s not regulated by law, there is the chance that a product may fall short of your expectations. “Companies have been known to make false or inaccurate claims about product suitability for vegans and this is especially true in the beauty products industry, where a lot of items contain ingredients derived from animals that are difficult to spot just from reading the label,” cautions Dominika. “Some of them, such as cetyl alcohol, might be vegan on a rare occasion but most of the time it’s an ingredient that comes from sperm whales. Cetearyl alcohol, on the other hand, is vegan - it’s easy to confuse the two. There are many scientific names and multiple names for the same ingredient so it may get really confusing. So it definitely makes life easier for vegans if products carry our Vegan Trademark because all this work has been done for the buyer and they can be confident that the product is vegan.”
Being aware of the most common animal-derived ingredients can be helpful in the event the product in question doesn’t have certification though. PETA’s Animal-derived Ingredients List (which also lists their alternatives) is particularly useful in this regard. If still in doubt about a specific ingredient though, contacting the brand directly is your next best port of call.
3. Packaging can be a problem - but it’s uncommon
With the emphasis more commonly placed on what’s inside our products, it’s easy to overlook what’s on the outside. However, the likelihood that the two will conflict is small. “Even a vegan product can be packaged with something that is not vegan,” says Dominika. “However this is very rare, unless a company decides to package their products in leather, wool or other animal materials!”
4. A product that’s cruelty-free may not be vegan
“Vegan by definition means cruelty-free (vegans don’t use or eat products that come from animals or ones that have been tested on animals),” explains Dominika. “So a vegan product is cruelty-free, while a cruelty-free product is not necessarily vegan.” She adds, “The Leaping Bunny logo only certifies that a product is cruelty-free, while the Vegan Trademark guarantees that the product is vegan (which means it has no animal ingredients and has not been tested on animals).” Look out for the PETA Cruelty-Free & Vegan stamp too.
If you’re interested in finding out more about veganism, you can sign up for The Vegan Society’s free 30 Day Vegan Pledge to receive daily emails with information, advice and recipe ideas.