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A quick guide to vegan health and beauty products

The ingredients list on your cosmetics could be hiding all manner of animal products. In this article, we discuss what vegan beauty means and how to find vegan products, as well as listing some of our favourite vegan brands.

What is vegan health and beauty?

Vegan health and beauty products do not contain any animal ingredients, such as milk, honey or any other well-known animal products.

But they also dodge more specialist and less well-known animal ingredients, like carmine, a red colouring used in shampoos and shower gels, and shellac, which is used to bind mascara and add shine to nail varnish, both of which are made from beetles.

Many vegans will also avoid products associated with animal testing. In the UK, it is illegal for companies to test finished cosmetic products on animals. However, most products will contain ingredients that have been tested on animals.

Ethical Consumer rates companies on their animal testing policies, to check they’re not funding ongoing testing of ingredients.

What animal ingredients are used in health and beauty products?

Health and beauty products can contain a whole host of animal ingredients. While some of them have names you’ll recognise – like milk, beeswax, and honey – many are much less well-known and difficult to spot on the product label.

For example, the protein collagen has been hyped up for skin care because it is supposed to give you 'firmer, plumper, more youthful looking skin'. But often it is produced from animal sources like beef and fish. While it can be made vegan, it is impossible to know the origin of the collagen in your product, unless the brand has marked it as vegan.

We give the rundown of animal ingredients in cosmetics in a separate article.

Logo: Vegan Society

How to find vegan health and beauty brands?

Luckily, a growing number of brands mark their products as vegan. Look out for the Vegan Society logo if you want to find products that are certified as both free from animal ingredients and animal testing.

Our in-depth article on cruelty-free and vegan animal free logos and certification schemes examines other accreditation schemes such as the Leaping Bunny. Whilst these other schemes will have vegan products and brands registered, not everything with these logos is vegan. But, some many have stricter rules than the Vegan Society scheme such as on fixed-cut off dates for testing ingredients. There is a handy table in the article which explains what each scheme allows so you can make decisions based on what's important to you.

Ethical Consumer shopping guides also always mark vegan products with a [V] on our tables.

Some companies have a few vegan products or a specific vegan brand while using plenty of animal products or being involved in animal testing elsewhere.

For example, KVD Vegan Beauty is owned by luxury goods giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Other brands owned by the company sell leather products or do not have adequate policies on animal testing.

Our guides highlight entirely vegan companies so you can be sure your money isn't funding something you disagree with.

We also rate and rank companies based on their policies and track record for all their brands. So KVD Vegan Beauty loses marks under Animal Rights and Animal Testing because of the poor practices of its sister brands.

Some ethical vegan health and beauty brands

Our shopping guides to make-up, skincare, shampoo, perfume & aftershave, soap and shower gel list vegan companies and brands.

For example, vegan shampoo brands made by vegan companies include: