Are Emollients Vegan? What Are Emollients Made Of?

By Anett Rannamets. Published: September 2022.
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Emollients are moisturizing components in skincare. The term gathers several popular and beneficial skincare ingredients under itself and their origins are different. Therefore, emollients can be both, vegan and non-vegan.

Emollients are the mainstay for dry, cracked, and damaged skin. They are almost always used in moisturizers. But how do they work and why do they dominate some skincare products? Let’s find out.

What Are Emmolients? What Are They Made Of?

An emollient is the name of a substance or treatment that makes the skin and mucous membranes soft. It preserves skin moisture while providing a barrier that protects it from irritants. Emollients are obtained from several sources, both plant-based and animal-based.

Emollients are usually very similar to butters and oils. The lipids (or fats) in these ingredients fill in the tiny cracks in dry skin and smooth the surface. The thicker and greasy the formula, the more of a barrier it will serve.

Not every emollient affects the skin in the same way. Some contain more fats or oil while others work better to provide a skin barrier. Emollients can be found in many forms, such as creams, serums, lotions, and ointments. 

As emollient is a broader definition of a moisturizing ingredient, many skin care components of different origins are gathered under it. Including animal-based substances.

Some popular non-vegan emollients include:

  • Animal-derived allantoin – made from animal urine 
  • Lanolin  – made of sheep sweat 
  • Animal-derived glycerin  –  derived from different animal fats
  • Animal-derived squalene  –  derived from shark liver
  • Collagen  –  extracted from slaughterhouse waste  
  • Caviar extract  –  obtained from the ovaries of a female sturgeon fish
  • Desitin  – includes oil extracted from the liver of cod 
  • Hydrolyzed silk  –  obtained from the noils or short fiber residues of silk yarn
  • Beeswax  –  derived from the wax glands of honeybees    

Some of the best vegan emollients, however, are:

  • Aloe vera  –  derived from a water-retaining plant
  • Shea butter  –  extracted from the nuts of the African shea tree
  • Coconut oil  –  derived from coconuts
  • Rosehip oil  –  derived from the fruit and seeds of the Rosa Canina plant
  • Urea  –  produced synthetically from ammonia and carbon dioxide. 
  • Bakuchiol  –  extracted from the seeds and leaves of Psoralea Corylifolia
  • Cocoa Butter  –  obtained by processing ripe fruits of the cocoa tree
  • Vegan squalene  –  derived from olives
  • Jojoba oil  – derived from the seeds of the Simmondsia Chinensis plant
  • Vegan Stearic acid  –  obtained from cocoa butter and palm oil, or produced synthetically 
  • Vegan glycerin  –  based on petroleum

Why Are Emmolients Used In Skincare?

Emollients are used in skincare to soothe and moisturize the skin. They are often the main ingredients in a product. Emollients soften the skin and improve skin conditions that cause dryness, itching, and redness.

While people think of an emollient as a moisturizer, it is actually an ingredient used in moisturizer to lock water into the skin.

Emollients work by forming a thin hydrophobic film on the skin’s surface that repels water and prevents moisture loss. This is a different effect than humectants, which attract water to keep the skin hydrated.

Firstly, emollients improve dry and cracked skin. They are most commonly used for their moisturizing and moisture-retaining effects. Consequently, they also reduce the signs of aging. 

Further, emollients are able to improve photodamage and smooth fine lines and wrinkles. As the skin hydration gets better and barrier function stronger, emollients reduce wrinkles and improve the skin’s texture.

Moreover, emollients also relieve skin irritation. They are commonly used in the treatment of various dermatological conditions and skin irritations. For example, dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis.

FAQ About Emollients

What are emollients?

An emollient is the name of a substance or treatment that makes the skin and mucous membranes soft. It preserves skin moisture while providing a barrier that protects it from irritants. Emollients are used in skincare to soothe and moisturize the skin.

Are emollients vegan?

As emollient is a broader definition of a moisturizing ingredient, many skin care components of different origins are gathered under it. Including animal-based substances. Therefore, some emollients are vegan and some are not.

What are vegan emollients?

Vegan emollients, for example, are aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil, rosehip oil, urea, bakuchiol, vegan squalene, and vegan glycerin.

What are animal-derived emollients?

Some popular animal-derived emollients include lanolin, animal-derived glycerin, animal-derived squalene, collagen, and beeswax.

Summary

Emollients preserve skin moisture while providing a barrier that protects it from irritants. They also relieve skin irritation and treat mature skin by reducing wrinkles.

However, the word ‘emollient’ represents many different oil-like skincare ingredients. These often include components that are not vegan. For example, lanolin, beeswax, collagen, animal-based glycerin, or squalene.

Very effective vegan emollients include, for example, aloe vera, shea butter, jojoba oil, urea, vegan glycerin, and bakuchiol.  Still, we advise you to be careful when buying moisturizing vegan products. Read the ingredient list or look for products with a certified vegan label.

See also: Vegan Moisturizers, Vegan Body Lotions, Vegan Hand Creams, Vegan Skincare For Dry Skin, Vegan Anti-Aging Skincare

Anett is a passionate journalist, writer, and magazine editor with almost 7 years of experience. Through engaging articles, she brings kinder and more environmentally-friendly choices closer to everybody.