Top 10 Non-Vegan Ingredients In Beauty Products

Sometimes its useful to understand exactly why some products aren’t vegan. When I first started looking into this, I was pretty horrified at the non-vegan ingredients in beauty products (e.g number 8), but it just made me even more determined to find vegan friendly products. 

They put WHAT in my skin products?!

So just a reminder – for a beauty product to be deemed vegan, it has to be completely free from any animal-derived ingredients, which includes honey and beeswax (as they are non-vegan products).

Some of the offending (and at times completely bizarre) ingredients include:



This ingredient is the result of scraping the scales off dead fish and often provides a sparkly finish to a number of beauty products including bronzers, eyeshadows and nail polish. Dead fish bronze finish anyone? Nope, thought not…



twoAnimal Hair

It’s easy to forget that many brushes and flash eyelashes are made from horse, goat, squirrel and mink hair. 



ThreeCarmine (E120)

You *might* have heard about this being used in food products. It’s a dye that is created by killing a huge number of insects for a tiny amount of it. As the dye is red, as you might expect, it’s often an ingredient in lipsticks and blushes, amongst other items.



Often found in mascara, it prevents ingredients from separating. It can also be labelled as cera alba, so watch out for that too. 




This one really surprised me when I first found out, given that it’s a bit of a buzz word in the anti-aging world. It’s a protein that is derived from animal tissue, bone, skin and ligaments. Given that collagen is supposed to absorb the skin, it’s not too pleasant a thought. 



Hair care products, moisturiser, oils, the list goes on. Honey is a regular ingredient in moisturising products and is (as we all know!), a product of bees, who desperately need us to look at them at the moment. 


SevenStearic Acid

Another of the non-vegan beauty ingredients is Stearic Acid. This is from pigs, cow and sheep stomachs and is included in toiletries like soaps, deodorant and moisturisers. 




Another product found in deodorants, moisturisers and suncream, Squalene is taken from shark liver oil. According to this report, it is part of the reason millions of rare, deep-sea sharks are being killed every year.  So yeah, there’s often shark in our suncream.

Pretty horrendous what major brands put in products we use day in, day out right?


For those of you who swear by your 14-day manicure, I’m afraid this one may be disappointing to read. Shellac is secreted by small bugs and during the farming process, thousands are killed every year just to create the glazing agent. 



This ingredient is created by boiling skin, ligaments and bones of animals until a fatty product is created, which is then added to cosmetics, shaving creams and even lipsticks. Ew. 


ElevenBONUS: Natural Sources

Ok, so I went past 10 but this one is important. The term ‘Natural Sources’ is allowed to refer to  plant OR animal sources. Be careful as some companies will use this term to market products and you’d be forgiven for sub-consciously linking this to natural plant sources. 



The realities are that scanning the back of beauty products for all of these words, or frantically googling unknown ingredients to work out of something is vegan is a total pain. Also, many of these ingredients have vegan alternatives, but it can be hard to determine whether the ingredients used are animal or plant based. With animal-derived sources being far more common, it’s probably not worth the risk. 

The good news is that I’m creating a list of some great vegan skin care products, make up, hair products and other beauty products to save you time and to ensure you are supporting the cause you care about. 

Want more information on what goes into products? Check out my Quick Guide to Sulphates and Other Controversial Ingredients.

If you are looking for some animal-friendly alternatives? Head over to the Beauty page and check out some vegan friendly products, exempt from these non-vegan ingredients! 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 × 5 =