6 Common Animal-Derived Ingredients to Avoid When Buying Makeup

by Edie Horstman

From anti-aging creams and lotions to eye shadows, lipsticks and makeup brushes, animal-derived ingredients are abundant across the beauty industry. That said, many of these common ingredients are often hidden, making it all-but impossible for the average consumer to know if that eyeliner they’re buying is vegan or not. Thankfully, Shared Planet’s products are free from all animal ingredients, making any purchase trustworthy and reliable.

When it comes to scanning makeup labels for animal testing or well-known animal derived ingredients, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Unfortunately, many brands aren’t transparent about using animal-derived ingredients. After all, if your regular beauty junkie knew of the popular non-vegan-friendly elements in makeup, they might think twice about their purchases. So in order to identify and avoid animal products in makeup, you need to do your research (double-checking these databases and books is a good place to start if you’re looking for a deep dive into vegan products). Because we know it’s impossible to shop from just one brand, we’ve done some of the heavy lifting for you and called out six common animal-derived ingredients to avoid (and some animal-friendly alternatives!) next time you hit the beauty counter.  

1. Carmine

Otherwise known as cochineal dye, carmine is a red pigment produced from the female cochineal insect. In fact, it is estimated that over 70,000 beetles are used to process one pound of this particular dye. In addition to the lipstick or blush you may be swiping on, carmine is used in foods like red applesauce and lollipops. Thankfully, there are many vegan options. From beet juice and powder to red-hued roots and sweet potatoes, red dye exists in many forms in nature – all of which make for more humane coloring options for our go-to bold lip glosses and eye shadows.

2. Squalene

Extracted from the livers of sharks (yes, really!), squalene is an oil that is added to eye makeup like mascaras and eye shadows as well as lipsticks and hair conditioner. This fatty molecule is known for its moisture and antiaging properties, making it easy to understand why it has been so popular in cosmetics. For alternatives, Biossance makes a vegan squalene with sugarcane. Other alternatives include amaranth seed, rice bran, olives and wheat germ — so if you see these included in the list of ingredients, a product should be in the clear. 

3. Animal Hair

Even if you’d never wear a fur coat, you may be unwittingly using animal hair when applying your makeup in the morning. Most often, makeup brushes are made from the fur or hair of squirrels, horses, goats and min, as they make for brush bristles that are both highly durable and gentle on the skin. So before dusting on bronzer or eye shadow, double-check your makeup application manufacturer. For a vegan alternative, look for brushes with synthetic fibers (which is often clearly labeled as such). Green beauty brand EcoTools makes vegan makeup brushes using Taklon, a synthetic fiber, that are also sustainable and environmentally friendly.

4. Retinol

Now retinol is one of the items on this list that should ring a bell, as it is cherished across the skincare industry. Retinol has made its way into countless skin-care and beauty products due to its powerful ability to assist with reversing sun damage, reducing signs of aging, evening out skin color and texture, improving collagen production and more. But the miracle ingredient is only found in animal sources like fish, cheese, butter, eggs and milk. Also known as vitamin A, this ingredient can also be made synthetically and via plant-based alternatives.

For example, carrots (and carrot seeds) are rich in beta carotene, a compound that converts to vitamin A in the body. In other words, veggies that are rich in vitamin A make for an ideal swap in cosmetics. Herbivore makes a highly recommended vegan retinol alternative called Bakuchiol, a combination of different elements to create a smoothing serum.

5. Beeswax

Thanks to its natural connotations, products made from honey, beeswax and so on range from shampoos, toothpastes, lip balms, deodorants and more are popular with those interested in clean or organic beauty. Besides not adhering to vegan standards, many of these products can also cause allergic reactions. However, sustainably sourced carnauba, soy and vegetable wax are excellent alternatives. These can be added to body butters, lip balms and other vegan cosmetics. For example, Clove + Hallow makes many lip products without beeswax.

6. Lanolin

Secreted from glands in wool-bearing animals like domestic sheep, lanolin contains conditioning properties that make it useful in moisturizers, conditioners and makeup removers. This wool wax aids dry skin and hair, but it comes at the cost of sheep’s skin. That said, mineral oil, shea butter and rice bran oil all contain similar components, making for more suitable vegan substitutes. Glossier, for example, makes a gentle and conditioning cleanser with vitamin B5, a natural moisturizer.

Keeping an eye out for these ingredients next time you hit Sephora or your local beauty shop will go a long way towards ensuring that the makeup you’re adding to your collection is free from animal products. That said, knowing which brands have made it a part of their mission to avoid animal-products will make shopping even easier. Here at Shared Planet, we take our responsibility to both our customers and the planet seriously. That means all of our formulas are vegan and free from talc, cruelty and child labor, taking the confusion and complexity out of buying high-quality beauty products.

Edie Horstman is a certified integrative nutrition health coach, a wellness blogger and a freelance writer. She works with health-focused brands, cocreating content in the digital marketing space. She lives in Denver, Colorado.