What Makes A Beauty Product Vegan?

These days, many diet trends have also crisscrossed into the beauty industry. Anything from clean to cruelty-free to vegan. But what exactly does it mean for a beauty product to consider itself "vegan"?

This is where the lines become a bit blurry. Cruelty-free and vegan don't mean the same thing, although they are sometimes used interchangeably and can often be found in vegan beauty products. According to PETA, "cruelty-free" means the product has not been tested on animals. However, it could still contain animal byproducts, such as beeswax.

"By definition, vegan skincare products are not produced from an animal or an animal byproduct. This means that traditional ingredients like beeswax, honey, collagen, lanolin, and keratin are not used," Dr. Hooman Khorasani, chief of the division of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at Mount Sinai Health System, explained to Today. "Some brands may be cruelty-free without being vegan, so if you are looking for the latter make sure it is explicitly stated," Dr. Anthony M. Rossi, assistant attending of dermatology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, cautioned when speaking to the publication.

How to tell if a product is vegan

"The term 'animal derived' isn't always such a clear designation. Lanolin, a fantastic moisturizer, comes from the washing of sheep's wool. It doesn't hurt the sheep and it's actually necessary to shear the sheep so their coat doesn't get too heavy. But many vegan products avoid this ingredient," cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos explained to Today. Vegan beauty brands would not only avoid lanolin but also honey, beeswax, carmine (crushed beetles), shark liver oil known as squalene, allantoin (cow urine), gelatin that comes from the pig or cow bones, sheep placenta, and ambergris (essentially whale vomit, but in fancy lingo), according to The New York Times.

If you're a vegan, you might want to brush up on your Latin to understand the terms used in the beauty industry to avoid inadvertently buying a non-vegan product. A quick way to tell if a beauty product is vegan is to check the tag. If the product doesn't have a vegan tag, you can move onto the ingredient list. If there are unfamiliar words, definitely look them up to confirm whether or not they are derived from animals. 

It's important to keep in mind that "there is no one official certifying agency," Dr. Robert Anolik, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, told Today. However, he continued, "there are groups such as PETA that do label certain products as being vegan or cruelty-free." Bottom line: A beauty product can only consider itself vegan if it doesn't include any animal-derived ingredients or byproducts.