To start with, here are a couple of resources for checking if a product is vegan.
Firstly, my page of company vegan lists. Also on this page I have linked to lists that other bloggers have put together.
Logical Harmony is also a great resource for all things cruelty free and vegan, including vegan lists.
And one of the most useful tools I've ever found for shopping online especially, as you can cut and paste a whole ingredient list: Double Check Vegan. I'd highly recommend bookmarking this site.
So why am I writing this post? I see a lot of people say they don't understand the ingredients list or know what to look for and that's not really surprising. Ingredients labels can be super confusing, due to the EU laws regarding having to use chemical/INCI names in the lists. Quite often you'll see a list that looks like this:
Great if you know what all that stuff is, right? But if you don't, all those CI numbers are a bit scary. CI numbers are usually colourants; so in this list above we have Blue Lake colouring, Carmine, Mica, Chromium Oxide Green, Ferric Oxide or Red Iron Oxide, Black Iron Oxide, Manganese Violet, Tin Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, respectively.
The one to look out for there is Carmine, which you may or may not know, is a red pigment that is derived from crushed beetles.
Some brands will use the code as well as the common name for the ingredient (for example you might see Cera Alba listed, some brands will also put beeswax in brackets to help you out), like this list, where they have given the common name as well as the INCI code for the colourants:
So what should I look out for?
The most common animal based cosmetic ingredients I see on makeup, include:
- Carmine / CI 75470
- Beeswax / Cera Alba
- Honey / Mel
(Right at the bottom of the page, there is a little graphic I made of the above ingredients, so you can save to your phone and favourite it for easy finding later.)
These are the main ingredients that I personally look for when I'm reading ingredients. If I don't know the company well, I will probably email them and ask for a list or at least to see if they tend to use animal or vegetable based ingredients aside from the obvious ones; a lot of companies have started to swap out animal based ingredients for vegetable derived. Some brands I will buy if they do not contain any of the above ingredients.
But this list is not exhaustive. There are also some ingredients that can be plant or animal based and the only way to know for sure would be to email the manufacturer. Just a few examples include:
- Squalene (most commonly nowadays derived from olives but can also be extracted from shark livers!)
- Retinol (often animal based but can be sourced from plants)
- Panthenol (usually derived from honey or meat but can be veg-sourced)
- Lecithin (can come from soy or from eggs)
- Stearic Acid
This is kind of the tip of the iceberg for ingredients that could be animal or could be vegetable based, which is why sites like doublecheckvegan are soooo useful!
The best way to know for sure is to email the company and ask. Also, google the company and vegan list as chances are another blog has done this for you.
There are some brands that will not confirm if products are vegan and you will have to go by the ingredient list. The ones that springs to mind here are NYX and the TAM Beauty brands (Makeup Revolution, Freedom and I heart Makeup). TAM Beauty for example, won't confirm if products are vegan, but when they first started they told me that the animal ingredients are obvious ones. So I go by that with them and read their ingredients labels. Generally if there's no carmine or beeswax you're good to go. (UPDATE: Please see this post about why I don't do this anymore with Revolution and NYX.) Kiko are another example; they have confirmed they only use carmine, beeswax and lanolin and everything else is vegetable derived, so those are the things to look out for on their labels.
Obviously this method is not fool proof and I've made mistakes before. So it really comes down to how comfortable you are about reading the labels and making a decision. Hopefully this will give you a good start.
Have I missed anything obvious? Please let me know in the comments or tweet me @sal_on_toast
Also, if anyone wants a more in depth post about labelling (for example what some ingredients are used for, +/- lists and their purpose....) just let me know.
Love & stuff