Using animal skin, fat, and bones is still a thing in skincare. From horse urine to sheep sweat and cattle arteries – here’s a list of all potential non-vegan skincare ingredients.
Some of these ingredients have vegan alternatives available, others you need to steer clear of. We also added some ingredients that are typically vegan.
List Of Non-Vegan Ingredients In Skincare
Look out for these animal-derived skincare ingredients in your moisturizers, serums, cleansers, and other skincare products.
- ALLANTOIN: a moisturizing agent that may include compounds of animal urine (uric acid from mammals). Allantoin can be also derived from plants.
- ARACHIDONIC ACID: liquid unsaturated fatty acid sourced from animal liver. Typically used in eczema and rash treatment lotions. Arachidonic acid can be also synthetic.
- BEESWAX (Cera Alba): a waxy substance produced by honeybees. Widely used as a thickening and occlusive agent in all types of skincare products.
- CAVIAR EXTRACT: conditioning ingredient made from unfertilized fish eggs, usually from sturgeon. Used in luxury anti-aging face creams and haircare products.
- CHARCOAL: purifying skincare ingredient that is sometimes made from burnt animal bones. Charcoal can also be vegan and plant-derived.
- COLLAGEN: protein derived from “slaughterhouse waste” such as animal tissue, bone, skin, and ligaments. Used in various anti-aging and lip plumping products. Collagen is never vegan.
- CHOLESTEROL: a waxy skin strengthening ingredient extracted from the spinal cords of cattle or from lanolin. Cholesterol has no vegan alternative.
- ESTROGEN (Estradiol): hormone extracted from the urine of pregnant horses. Typically found in refreshing and sebum-balancing skincare products. Vegan alternative is phytoestrogen.
- ELASTIN: fibrous protein commonly extracted from neck ligaments and the arteries of cattle. Often found in anti-ageing skincare formulas but elastin has no proven effectiveness.
- GLUCOSAMINE (Acetyl Glucosamine): moisturizing and skin-supporting ingredient mainly derived from the shells of crabs and shrimps. Vegan version can be made from fungi.
- GELATIN: thickening agent obtained from collagen extracted from boiled skin, tendons, ligaments, bones, and offal. In vegan skincare, it is usually replaced with agar-agar.
- GLYCERIN: second most used skincare ingredient after water, an emollient obtained from animal fats. Can be also made from plant oils (vegetable glycerin/glycerol).
- HONEY (Mel): is a sweet substance made by bees from nectar. Used in formulating facial masks and creams for its healing, soothing and humectant properties.
- HYALURONIC ACID (Sodium Hyaluronate): an emollient made from animal eyeballs, organs, and rooster combs. Hyaluronic acid can also be synthetic and vegan-friendly.
- KERATIN: structural protein derived from ground horns, hooves, claws, nails, hair, scales and feathers of vertebrates. In skincare, keratin is used to smooth and moisturize the epidermis. The vegan keratin alternative is phytokeratin aka hydrolyzed wheat protein.
- LACTOFERRIN: multifunctional protein commonly derived from cows’ milk but also found in saliva, tears, mucus, and bile. Known for antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- LANOLIN: aka sheep sweat, a moisturizing ingredient derived from the sebacious glands of sheep and other wool-yielding animals. Lanolin does not have a vegan version.
- LECHITIN: a yellow-brownish fatty emulsifier derived from egg yolks. Often a central ingredient in protective and restorative creams. A vegan substitute derived from soy or sunflower seed oil.
- PALMITIC ACID (Hexadecanoic Acid, Palmitate): the most common fatty acid derived either from animals or vegetables. Used as an emollient, texturizing and occlusive agent.
- PEARL EXTRACT (Pearl Powder): pearl is a gemstone that forms inside pearl-producing mollusk. Rich in minerals, pearl extract is used for polishing and brightening the skin.
- PROPOLIS: aka bee glue, a mixture of tree resins and bee saliva. An antimicrobial and antiseborrheic ingredients in creams and ointments.
- SILK (Hydrolized Silk): silk is obtained from larvae of the mulberry silkworm. Silk proteins like fibroin and sericin are used to nourish skin and retain moisture.
- STEARIC ACID: moisturizing fatty acid usually derived from pig stomachs. Has many derivatives like stearin, stear, stearic, stearyl. Stearic acid can be also vegan and derived from plant fats.
- SPERMACETI (Cetyl Palmitate, Sperm Oil): waxy oil from the sperm whale’s head. In skincare, spermaceti can also be synthetically derived from petroleum.
- SQUALANE: a hydrogenated version of squalene, a moisturizing skincare ingredient derived from shark liver oil. Squalane can be also vegan and made from olives or sugarcane.
Skincare Ingredients that ARE Vegan
Contrary to skincare myths, there are some ingredients in skincare that are always vegan. Those include retinol, biotin, and urea.
In food, retinol and biotin can be animal-derived. But in cosmetics, retinol and biotin are synthetically derived and vegan-friendly.
Also, you might have heard that urea comes from animal urine. But the truth is that urea in skincare is always made in the lab and thus urea is vegan.
FAQ About Animal-Derived Skincare Ingredients
The skincare industry uses a wide variety of animal fats, proteins, extracts, hormones, and connective tissues – mostly from cattle waste. Popular animal-derived skincare ingredients include glycerin, collagen, estrogen, and lanolin.
The most common ingredients that make skincare not vegan are beeswax, honey, lanolin, collagen, and animal-derived glycerin.
The safe way to find vegan skincare is to look at the labels and packaging. Prefer products with a certified vegan logo. Sometimes products are labelled “vegan” or “contains no animal ingredients”.
Glycerin can be both animal-derived and vegan. Vegan glycerin is usually marked “vegetable glycerin”.
Collagen only comes from animals. Plant collagen refers to a mix of different ingredients that stimulate the production of collagen.
Estrogen is typically found in face and body cream and astringents for its moisturizing, refreshing, and sebum-curbing properties.
Hope you found our list of animal-derived ingredients in skincare useful.
As the science of skincare is constantly evolving, the need to use animal fats and proteins is also decreasing. Most archaic animal products like urea or retinol can these days be lab-made.
Remember that a product with vegan-friendly ingredients can still be animal tested. To make sure your skincare is vegan, prefer skincare products with a certified vegan marking.