Skip to main content

Knowledge is beauty: cruelty-free makeup to look your best

Cruelty-free makeup completes the look
Cruelty-free makeup completes the look

This season is often filled with social occasions and dinners out with friends and family.  A perfect time to get dressed up and look your best!  When it comes to make-up some strict vegetarians and vegans run into a problem when they are trying to live as cruelty-free as possible.  Here is a small sampling of notably animal-derived cosmetic ingredients.

Carmine: Carmine, also referred to as cochineal or carminic acid, is a red pigment obtained by crushing tens of thousands of female cochineal insects. This coloring is used in cosmetics, shampoos and food dyes. Beet juice or alkanet root are non-toxic options or those who may have allergic reactions to carmine.

Collagen and Elastin: Collagen is a fibrous protein usually derived from animal tissue. Elastin is a similar protein found in animal ligaments. Collagen and elastin are popular ingredients in many moisturizers and face creams. Some experts say that applying collagen or elastin to your face will have no positive effect on skin firmness, as these products claim it will. Instead they cover the skin in a layer of petroleum or another heavy oil that forms a water impenetrable barrier. This gives a temporary appearance of plumpness by slowing the release of moisture from the skin. For a non-animal alternative, look for products with soy protein, almond oil or amla oil.

Keratin: Keratin is found in animal horns, hooves, feathers, quills and hair. Human hair and nails also contain keratin, so to keep our hair lustrous, cosmetic companies put keratin in their products including hair rinses, shampoos and permanent wave solutions. Some alternatives to keep your hair strong are almond oil, soy protein, rosemary and nettle.

Stearic Acid: Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid often from the tallow (fat) of animals including cows, sheep, and pigs. You may see stearic acid listed on ingredients lists as Stearamide, Stearamine, Stearates, Stearic Hydrazide, Stearone, Stearoxytrimethylsilane, Stearoyl Lactylic Acid, Stearyl Betaine or Stearyl Imidazoline. It can be found in cosmetics, soaps, hairspray, conditioners, deodorants, facial cleansers and creams.

Take a look at the following websites that may help you decide if your current products are in line with your lifestyle, ethics and choices. – A non-profit group of US-based health and environmental groups that aim to promote non-toxic beauty and health-care products by providing information on the ingredients of many products on the market. – Similar to Safe Cosmetics, the Cosmetic Database provides ratings (much like Consumer Reports) on many popular cosmetic and health-care products.  You may be surprised where products like Neutrogena, L’Oreal and Olay rank.

For accessible beauty products that are certified cruelty-free check out: - Urban Decay’s line of makeup that includes no animal ingredients and has not been tested on animals. & are both committed to not testing on animals

There are many PDA phone applications that act as a virtual pocket guide for consumers.  Check out “Food Additives” which clarifies from where ingredients have been derived as well as “Vegetarian Smart List” which acts similarly, with company recommendations.

And finally, PETA (while sometimes controversial), offers a pocket-sized company resource guide for the savvy consumer.  Free from this website via PDF or snail mail.