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What is Vegan Beauty?

If you’re kick-starting your 2020 with Veganuary, then it’s also time to veganize your beauty routine. From moisturisers to lipsticks, you’d be surprised to discover how many of your make-up bag faves actually contain animal derived ingredients. So to help you, here’s our guide to knowing what vegan beauty is, and which ingredients to look out for.

What does vegan beauty mean?

By definition, vegan beauty and vegan make-up are products that don’t contain any animal by-products, which includes animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients. Think beeswax and keratin. It can also mean that the products you love aren’t tested on animals either, but this generally falls under the label of cruelty-free beauty.

What’s the difference between cruelty-free and vegan beauty?

If a beauty or make-up product is labelled as being cruelty-free, it would’ve been created and produced without any form of animal testing. However, if a product is cruelty-free it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s vegan, as some beauty products that haven’t been tested on animals may include animal-derived ingredients.

Which beauty ingredients aren’t vegan-friendly? 

Whether it’s skincare or make-up, here are 7 of the key non-vegan ingredients you need to look out for this Veganuary.


Often found in moisturisers, squalane is made using the oils from shark livers. However, nowadays the plant-derived version is readily available, so always double-check it’s the vegan-friendly one. 

Vegan alternative:

With the likes of mango butter, cocoa butter and apricot oil available as an alternative, it’s easy to avoid the non-vegan Squalane. 


This ingredient is a type of waxy fat that’s found in lamb’s wool. It’s basically what keeps their wool waterproof. You’ll often find this in lip balms and other protective lotions, so keep an eye out. 

Vegan alternative:

Ingredients like cocoa butter, shea butter and vitamin E are all great, vegan alternatives, as they deliver a similar protective barrier. 


This one is a little gross. To add a little sparkle and shine to your fave nail polishes and eyeshadow, guanine is sometimes added. This is created by mixing dead fish scales in alcohol to create a shiny solution. 

Vegan alternative:

Swap the dead fish scales for shimmery, naturally-occuring minerals


You’ve probably noticed this ingredient on the packaging of your favourite shampoos and conditioners. A protein that’s known to give your hair a luscious shine, it’s naturally derived from mammals’ hair, nails and horns. 

Vegan alternative:

Thanks to revelations in the beauty industry, there are plenty of vegan alternatives to keratin. From Moroccan argan oil to natural butters, you’ll be able to add shine without harming animals. 


Although it gives your lipsticks and nail polishes a gorgeous red colour, the truth behind this ingredient isn’t so pretty. It’s actually made with crushed insect bodies and legs. 

Vegan alternative:

With the likes of sweet potato, carrots and tomatoes being tested, there are plenty of naturally-derived, vegan alternatives you can find to get the perfect red lip


From lip balms to candles, this ingredient can be found everywhere. So why isn’t it vegan? The beeswax is taken directly from the hive, and can take over 6 pounds of honey to create just one pound of wax! 

Vegan alternative:

Ingredients such as rice bran wax and sunflower wax are perfect, vegan-friendly alternatives to beeswax, as they deliver the same consistency without the toll on worker bees. 


Finally, this ingredient can be found in most anti-ageing skincare solutions, as it works to plump out fine lines and wrinkles. However, to get the true effects of this protein, the ingredient is taken from dead animal’s bones, connective tissue and skin. 

Vegan alternative:

100% plant-based glycerine delivers high levels of hydration, helping to firm your skin and reduce fine lines.

Ready to go totally vegan this January? Whether you’re new to vegan and cruelty-free beauty or a steadfast follower of this exciting beauty culture, we hope you found our blog super-helpful. And to really kit out your vegan-friendly shelfie, be sure to check out our amazing distillery vegan skincare and make-up.