Vegan cosmetics, are they for real?
Vegan is the latest lifestyle adjustment and trendy word used to describe not only food (not eating animals or their by-products), but now cosmetics too. Most think that it’s just a marketing trend but it has important standards supporting it.
- Vegan cosmetics are those that have not been tested on animals.
We have all seen the videos and photos that show the results of animal-testing involving products that leave the animal traumatised and scarred, literally. This practice is seen as cruel and many seek out products that specifically are not tested on animals. In this way the entire cosmetic market has shifted towards anti-cruelty and this has been slowly happening for many years.
- No animal by-products used.
In almost every product there are animal by-products that are often obtained in harsh ways. The by-product normally has to be highly refined by adding chemicals to make it user-friendly but some have negative side effects over time.
Hyaluronic Acid is used in anti-ageing skincare products as it is an antioxidant, a humectant (drawing moisture up in the skin) and it boosts collagen synthesis. Hyaluronic acid is found in human umbilical cords and rooster combs. Since the early 1980s, it has been produced from rooster combs on an industrial scale. If you buy a product that contains this anti-ageing ingredient, rather check and make sure that it was made by producing enzymes from a bacteria-based biofermentation process. It is likely that most products you buy in the shops will contain the rooster comb by-product.
Carmine is a red dye that is often used in lipsticks, rouge, eye-shadow and other cosmetics. It is also used a lot in food and drinks, particularly items that are bright red (think of ruby-red juice and supermarket curries!). It is made of red pigment from the crushed female cochineal insect. PETA reports that 70,000 beetles must be killed to produce one pound of this dye. This sounds horribly unnecessary when beetroot can be used as a replacement, which, as everyone knows, stains everything red.
Collagen: Collagen is advertised to prevent aging and help firm the skin. However, collagen in skincare products won’t actually do all that much, because it doesn’t get absorbed deep enough into the skin to help strengthen fibrous tissue. And you might be even more put off when you find out that most collagen in skincare creams comes from chicken feet and ground-up animal horns.
Elastin: much like collagen, the loss of elastin is one of the main reasons for facial ageing. Again, skincare companies claim that their product boosts elastin, so some of them add it to their creams and lotions. Will it penetrate your skin sufficiently to do this? The research consensus suggests probably not. According to PETA, this protein is extracted from the neck-ligaments and aortas of cows.
Lanolin (oil from sheep wool): This is the waterproofing layer (sebum) found on the wool and when it is separated it has to be refined with chemicals to help kill germs and improve its appearance – since its natural colour is rather unappealing. Because of the “natural” animal smell, perfumes are added to the product which introduce more harmful chemicals to the skin. Lanolin’s purpose is to keep the skin hydrated by forming a barrier and is often used in creams.
Squalene (shark liver oil): This ingredient has many benefits on the skin and is even used in capsule form to hydrate the skin. It has been frowned upon in recent years due to the cruel hunting of sharks.
Ambergris (whale vomit): It is waxy oil used as a base ingredient for many perfumes, incense and food and is used to anchor scents.
Guanine (fish scales): Guanine shows up on product labels as CI 75170 or natural pearl essence and is obtained by soaking the fish in alcohol and scraping off the scales. This is most commonly found in products that have shimmer- eye-shadows, lipsticks and nail polish.
Keratin: The advertisers of many shampoos and hair rinses like to tell you all about their added Keratin which will strengthen your hair. What they don’t tell you is that it’s extracted from the ground-up horns, hooves, feathers, quills, and hair of various animals.
Using the word ‘vegan’ may be a catch-phase, but the principles behind vegan products are for the benefit of all animals.