By Jane druker
3 december 2021
Vegan beauty and haircare have come a long way. Gone are the days when vegan products were only sold in health food shops, vegan ranges are now just as effective as other beauty products – in fact, potentially more so if you have sensitive skin. As a beauty editor, I’ve spent over 20 years’ road-testing hundreds of products. From Illamasqua’s super pigmented lipsticks to Jonathan Van Ness’ Hair Glamourizing Instant Recovery Serum, here’s what to look for in vegan beauty, skincare and haircare…
Beauty guru Jane Druker
First off, what exactly is ‘Vegan beauty’? Be wary of terms like ‘clean’, ‘green’ and ‘organic’ which aren’t as tightly regulated as ‘vegan’. Any product using the term ‘vegan’ on its packaging has a distinct difference. It means the product contains no animal by-products or animal-derived ingredients, such as carmine, lanolin or beeswax. The Vegan Society’s formal definition is that it’s a philosophy and way of living which excludes ALL forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals. The vegan movement aims to promote the development of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.
‘The Vegan Trademark helps clarify and reassure people that products carrying it are free of animal ingredients and animal testing,’ explains the Vegan Society’s Francine Jordan. Since it launched in 1990, there are now over 56,000 individual items and products registered with the Vegan Trademark, with almost half of those being cosmetics.
‘Cruelty-free’ may not mean vegan
‘Vegan by definition means cruelty-free,’ explains Francine, ‘but a cruelty-free product is not necessarily vegan.’ Vegan beauty simply means the absence of animal ingredients, but cruelty-free refers to a product that doesn’t test on animals. In other words, sadly it’s possible for a vegan item to have been tested on animals and a cruelty-free product to contain animal ingredients. There’s often confusion around this so your best bet is to buy only Vegan Society-certified to make sure each product is not only vegan but cruelty free too. The Leaping Bunny logo only certifies that a product is cruelty-free, while the Vegan Society Trademark guarantees that the product has no animal ingredients and has not been tested on animals.
Benefits of vegan beauty products
‘Vegan beauty products not only allow us to consume kinder products free of animal exploitation,’ says Francine, ‘but when we stop taking animals out of their natural habitats for these products, we help the planet to recover its biodiversity which is better for both human and planetary health.’
Spotting the real thing
The Vegan Society manages the Vegan Trademark, ‘meaning not only do we set the standard for what veganism means, but we also set the standard for product labelling,’ explains Francine. The Vegan Trademark’s standards include ensuring products are:
1. Free from animal ingredients, including the development of Genetically Modified Organisms and minimisation of cross-contamination.
2. Free from animal exploitation in the development, production or manufacture of the product.
3. Free from animal testing at the company's initiative, or on its behalf, as far as possible.
Four potential ingredient nasties to avoid
The jury’s out on whether some ingredients do cause long-term damage to both our and our environments’ health but do exercise some caution about the following:
Parabens have been used as preservatives in cosmetics since the 1950s, but there’s concern that when they’re washed into the sewage system and released into the environment they can cause reproductive issues in marine life. Look for paraben-free products which are now ubiquitous.
2. Oxybenzone and Octinoxate
These are common sunscreen ingredients that are thought to be one of the biggest factors in coral reef destruction. Choose reef-safe sunscreens instead.
SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) is a chemical agent and is what makes products like toothpaste, shampoo and shower gel foam. It’s been used as an ingredient since the 1930s and can be derived from petroleum, coconut oil or palm oil. SLS can irritate skin and eyes, so if you have eczema, psoriasis or sensitive skin, you may prefer to ditch it.
These are fragments of any type of plastic less than 5mm in length and can cause pollution by entering natural ecosystems. Fish and birds often mistake these tiny plastic beads for food, and eating them can kill them. Often used in exfoliant products, look for alternatives instead.
Avoiding animal testing
‘We’ve seen that the use of animals for human purposes can have catastrophic impacts on the environment and our health,’ explains Francine. ‘Chemical tests can be done that have proven far more efficient than live animal testing, eliminating the need to use the barbaric, untrustworthy toxin testing usually conducted on live mice.’
Refillable packaging is a great step towards reducing the amount of waste we produce from the manufacturing and the discarding of single use packaging. So, a win-win for us, our animals and the environment.
If you’re interested in finding out more about veganism, you can sign up for The Vegan Society’s free 30 Day Vegan Pledge to receive daily emails with information, advice and recipe ideas. Find information about the Vegan Trademark, managed by The Vegan Society, and alternatives to animal testing here.
10 Best Vegan Beauty Products
1. THE SALON-WORTHY HAIRCARE RANGE: Jonathan Van Ness’ super-hot brand contains star ingredient hemisqualane, a sustainable sugarcane derivative that gives instantly silky hair. This is as opposed to the usual shark fin liver oil, the farming of which is making certain sharks endangered. A winter hair winner! Shop the whole range here (currently only available in the US).
2. THE COOL SKINCARE FIND: Biossance is full of essentials that tackle dryness, acne and dark spots while using pure vegan ingredients. Biossance Squalane and Antioxidant Cleansing Oil, £23, is my personal must-have – great for removing every speck of make-up and even waterproof mascara.
3. THE BUZZWORTHY INSTA BRAND: Summer Fridays is founded by two influencers so it’s no surprise it became an Instagram hit overnight. All products are vegan, cruelty-free, plastic-free and its Jet Lag Rescue Mask, £22.50 accompanies me on every single trip.
4. THE SUPER-AFFORDABLE MAKE-UP LINE: It can be a challenge to find vegan products that aren’t expensive, but E.L.F. has a huge range of products at reasonable prices. After updating its formulas to replace beeswax and lanolin with synthetic alternatives, the brand is currently 100% vegan across its extensive range.
5. THE MANI MUST-HAVE: Featuring a vast range of colours, I love Nailberry Cashmere Vintage Pink polish, £15.
6. THE INSTANT EYE SOOTHER: There’s no better morning pick-me-up than this bargain eye serum from your local Sainsbury's supermarket. Q&A Caffeine Eye Serum, £6.50.
8. THE SUPER INVIGORATING OIL: Olverum Pure Radiance Facial Oil, £60, is cruelty-free, free from artificial preservatives, fragrance, colourants, silicone, mineral oil, sulphates, parabens and all animal-derived ingredients.
9. THE SPA BRAND: ESPA: This boutique brand has a RecyleMe scheme allowing customers to return plastic packaging from their used beauty products directly back to ESPA for recycling. Even better, this applies to products from any beauty brand and includes lids, pumps, tubes, bottles, pouches, sachets, wraps, trays and containers. I love Bergamot and Jasmine Body Lotion, £25.
10. THE INSTANT STRESS-RELIEVER I swear by This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray for helping me drop off at night, £19.50. Bliss.
We’re proudly collaborating with #TOGETHERBAND ambassador Jonathan Van Ness, affectionately known as JVN to his fans, the grooming expert on Netflix’s reality makeover show Queer Eye. The hairdressing supremo, author, TV and podcast star is joining forces with #TOGETHERBAND and UNDP for a unique pop-up salon at Art Basel Miami Beach from now until 12th December. Find out more here.