The Most Common Vegan Skincare Ingredients

By Anett Rannamets. Updated: April 2022.
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Vegan skincare ingredients are ingredients that are not of animal origin. Vegan skincare ingredients are made from plants or synthetically, safely, and cruelty-free in the laboratory.

Unfortunately, the use of animal-derived skincare ingredients is still a very common practice. Luckily, with the help of advanced technology, many active ingredients have vegan versions.

We have gathered the best plant-based and vegan ingredients in skincare. As well as added their origin. Some of them are always vegan, some of them need clarification.

The 100% Vegan Skincare Ingredients

Most vegan skincare ingredients are noticeably vegan-friendly because their name suggests it. Aqua, cocoa butter, coconut oil, plant extracts, and other similar components are self-evident.

Yet, some ingredient names are not so well known to the general public. Here is a list of ingredients unidentifiable at first sight but always vegan in skincare.

  • ALGAE: an anti-inflammatory and damage-reducing antioxidant derived mostly from seaweed. Algaes used in skincare are green, red, and brown algae.
  • BAKUCHIOL: soothes, firms, induces redness, reduces wrinkles. Bakuchiol is a great vegan alternative to retinol. It is always vegan and derived from a plant called Psoralea Corylifolia (Babchi).
  • BHA (beta-hydroxy acid): an anti-inflammatory and exfoliating skincare ingredient. It is blackhead-preventing, blemish-treating, calming, and pain-relieving. BHAs come from willow tree or birch bark.
  • NIACINAMIDE (vitamin B3): a barrier-building skincare ingredient. It water loss, excess sebum production, inflammation, and redness. Niacinamide used in skincare is synthetically produced and vegan.
  • RETINOL: an acne-treating skincare ingredient. It controls oil production and prevents clogged pores. Retinol is always vegan and made in a lab. See our page on vegan retinols.
  • UREA: a skin-softening and soothing humectant improves dry skin. When it comes to skincare, Urea is always vegan and synthetically made.
  • VITAMIN E: an anti-inflammatory ingredient. It protects the skin from free radicals and sun damage. Vitamin E is typically found in plant oils.
  • VITAMIN C: a powerful skin-improving, anti-aging, damage-reducing skincare component. Vitamin C in skincare is always vegan.

Skincare Ingredients That Might Be Vegan

Some ingredients in skincare may be both – animal-derived or vegan. They have the same name but different origins. These include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and squalene.

In the past, many effective ingredients were most likely animal-derived. Today it has changed. Thanks to technology, it is possible to produce these components in a vegan version.

We have put together the most common skincare ingredients from both categories. When shopping, look for vegan labels on products to be sure.

AHAs

The vegan-friendly AHAs are glycolic acid, lactic acid, and citric acid. Vegan AHA used in skincare is mostly derived from sugar cane or other plant sugars. Non-vegan AHA comes from milk.

Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) is a collagen-promoting and exfoliating skincare ingredient. It improves the texture and coloration of the skin.

Hyaluronic Acid

Vegan HA is made by microbial fermentation. Still, hyaluronic acid could be animal-derived and made from combs of roosters.

The non-comedogenic hyaluronic acid (HA) ties water into your skin. It is capable of holding up to 1000 times its weight in water.

Ceramides

Vegan ceramides are found in soy, wheat, and rice. However, non-vegan ceramides utilize animal skin.

The protective lipids aka ceramides build a strong and protective skin barrier. The barrier prevents skin from getting damaged by external conditions.

Glycerin

Vegan glycerin is derived from different plant oils such as coconut oil or soybean. Non-vegan glycerin is made from animal fats and is fairly popular in skincare.

The colorless humectant prevents water loss and keeps the skin moisturized. It is skin-softening and gets rid of dryness.

Peptides

Vegan peptides are made from yeast and bacteria. Non-vegan versions come from animal proteins.

Peptides are firming and skin-improving amino acids. They encourage the skin to produce collagen, keratin, and elastin.

Squalene

Vegan Squalene is found in sugar cane, olives, rice, and wheat. However, a lot of the squalene used in skincare is animal-derived and made from fish liver oil.

The fine-line and wrinkle-reducing squalene prevents water loss. It keeps the skin hydrated, and helps other skincare products absorb better.

FAQ About Plant-Based Skincare Ingredients

What are vegan skincare ingredients?

Vegan skincare ingredients are ingredients that are not of animal origin. Vegan skincare ingredients are made from plants or synthetically, safely, and cruelty-free in the laboratory.

Which ingredients make skincare not vegan?

Ingredients that often make skincare not vegan are lanolin, collagen, animal-derived glycerin and squalene, honey, and beeswax.

How do I know if a skincare product is vegan or not?

To make sure the skincare product is vegan is to do previous research online. And it is always possible to read the list of ingredients. However, the easiest way is to go for products that are marked with a vegan label.

Is glycerin vegan?

Glycerin could be vegan or non-vegan. Vegan glycerin is derived from different plant oils such as coconut oil or soybean oil. Non-vegan glycerin is made from animal fats.

Is collagen vegan?

For a while, collagen only came from animals and most collagen in skincare is still not vegan. However, scientists have recently discovered a way to produce vegan collagen with yeast and bacteria.

Is squalene vegan?

Squalene could be both. A lot of squalene used in skincare is derived from fish liver oil. Vegan squalene on the other hand is derived from olives and sugar cane. 

Summary

Many well-functioning ingredients in skincare are made in labs without any animal suffering. However, many brands still use animal-derived components.

Some active skincare ingredients might be both – vegan and non-vegan. So sometimes it might be difficult to identify vegan skincare ingredients.

The best way to be sure whether the products are vegan or not is to prefer them with vegan labels. Or purchase from a vegan skincare brand.

See also: list of 100% vegan skincare brands.

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.