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Your guide to vegan beauty

Veganism is undoubtedly the biggest trend in the natural health world in recent times. Increasing numbers of consumers are switching to plant-based diets for health and ethical reasons. Now, a new trend for vegan beauty is emerging, with beauty brands offering products that are not just kind to your skin but also to animals and the planet.

“Vegans and non-vegans alike loathe the thought of the beauty products and cosmetics they use being tested on animals,” says Matt Turner, a spokesperson for the Vegan Society ( “We live in an age of technological advancements and animal experimentation is an archaic form of verifying product safety. A Vegan Society survey found that one in five Brits check if their toiletries are tested on animals, meaning an increasing number of shoppers seek to make ethical purchasing choices. People are realising that there’s no excuse for continuing to harm animals through experiments for yet another shampoo or mascara and are taking a stance against companies still taking part in animal exploitation.”

Dr Julia Baines, the Senior Projects and Science Policy Advisor with PETA ( adds: “As consumers have become more aware of the cruelty behind cosmetics with animal-derived ingredients, they have switched to buying only vegan products and thereby increased the demand for such items. As a result, many companies now offer animal test–free and vegan products that are widely available online and on the high street.”

Vegan beauty sales are soaring

According to a report by The NPD Group, UK sales of vegan beauty products soared by 38 per cent in 2017. A spokesperson for the group said the growing popularity of vegan living is ‘undeniable’ as ‘consumers embrace a more wellness-orientated lifestyle’. The boost was linked to the influence of social media as well as campaigns such as Veganuary, which apparently had a record-breaking 402,206 people sign up in 2020 – 72 per cent of whom vowed to stay vegan beyond their initial month-long pledge. An increase in the number of vegan brands also contributed to the growth.

It seems that switching to vegan beauty products could be beneficial to the health of your skin as well as being a more ethical purchasing choice. “Vegan products tend to contain more mineral, organic and natural ingredients that are kinder to your skin and carry a lower carbon footprint,” says Matt Turner. “Animal derivatives in skincare can promote an inflammatory response in the skin, causing redness and sensitivity, while consuming meat rich in preservatives has been proven to flood the body with skin-ageing free radicals.”

Vegan or cruelty-free: what’s the difference?

“Vegan products don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients, while animal test–free products and their ingredients aren’t tested on animals,” explains Dr Julia Baines. “Cruelty-free products are vegan and animal test–free. Vegetarian products may contain animal-derived substances such as snail slime, beeswax, or honey. It should be noted that labels such as ‘organic’, ‘clean’, ‘green’, and ‘eco-friendly’ do not guarantee that a product is animal test–free or cruelty-free. When it comes to choosing vegan beauty products, look for items that contain only synthetic or plant-derived ingredients.”

Some ingredients to watch out for in cosmetics include snail slime or gel, gelatine or collagen, keratin, honey, carmine and lanolin. Milk and its derivatives (e.g. casein and whey), egg whites, guanine (from fish scales), tallow (fat from herbivorous animals), and chitosan (a thickening agent made from crustacean shells) are other substances to avoid.

Matt Turner advises: “When shopping, look out for our Vegan Trademark; the sunflower symbol. This means we have checked that the product is free from animal ingredients and animal testing. If you’re thinking of buying a product that isn’t labelled, we suggest in the first instance to check the company’s animal testing policy. This would help you quickly decide whether the product is potentially suitable. Check the company’s website, particularly the FAQs section, which often includes a statement on animal testing. You can also ask in-store as shops sometimes have a directory behind the till, listing which products are suitable for vegans, while sales assistants can also be knowledgeable.”

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