I try my best to make the right choices for my family and the environment, but sometimes the choices are endless and it is easy to get lost in the labels and how marketers define their products.
Is a cruelty free product the same as a vegan product? Is a product that is not tested on animals the same as cruelty free? Are we taking into consideration the individual ingredients or the product as a whole? It can get even get more complicated if we consider the skincare industry…
Clarity is essential….here is what I discovered.
Vegan and Cruelty Free?
A vegan product is a product without the addition of ANY animal by products, a cruelty free product is one whose ingredients were never tested on animals….they can be both, or one and the other.
Cruelty free does not mean vegan. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few brands that define themselves as “cruelty free” that are not vegan brands. By the same token, there can be a brand defining itself as vegan, but that is not necessarily cruelty free. Confusing? Even more confusing is that the term “not tested on animals” does not always mean “cruelty free”! This is so because you can have the individual ingredients tested on animals, but not the finished product.
As parents and citizens of the world our biggest responsibility is ensuring we and our families are given the greatest chance of happiness and well-being. Making better choices for our health often leads to making better choices for the environment as well, and vice versa.
How do we begin to make better choices? Sometimes it’s as easy as reading a label and understanding what it means. There are many ingredients we should be avoiding to live healthier lives, as well as ingredients we should be avoiding to live better lives.
The list of animal-derived skincare ingredients is lengthy….surprised? Here is just a taste…
- Placenta Lipids – yes, you read correctly, generally companies use pig or sheep placenta as an addition to skincare creams.
- Gelatin– this is actually the boiled skin, tendons, ligaments and bones of an animal. You will generally find gelatin, identified as gel, hide glue, isinglass, kosher and halal gelatin. This ingredient is also often found in processed foods.
- Tallow– also known as rendered animal fat, and very often found in eye make up, lipstick bases, as well as foundations.
- Coachineal Dye– also seen on labels as carmine, is a dye obtained from crushed beetles. The female beetles eat red cactus berries, and when crushed a red dye is produce, often used in blushes and lipsticks.
- Lanolin– is an oily residue from lambs wool, found in creams and hair products
- Beeswax– considered an animal byproduct, it is commonly used in natural cosmetics as an emulsifier or thickener.
- Squalene– is extracted from shark liver and added to eye makeup and lipsticks
- Ambergris– is derived from whale’s stomach as a waxy oil.
- Collagen– you will often see this ingredient in facial creams. It is a fibrous protein obtained from animal tissue. Applying collagen to your skin has not been proven to reproduce collagen to minimize wrinkles and increase elasticity. A vegan alternative can be found in plant based collagen, often identified as phyto-collagen.
- Retinol– often found in “anti-aging” creams, this ingredient is very often animal derived. A vegan alternative would be Viatmin A.
- Lactic Acid– is found in animal tissue and is derived from milk.
- Snail gel– also known as snail filtrate is commonly used in cosmetic skincare due to its high content of peptides and anti-microbial uses.
For a more complete list of animal derived ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products read here.
Some multi-million companies, like Estee Lauder (M.A.C Cosmetics) , claim they are on track to becoming cruelty free, but due to required animal testing in certain countries, like China, it is not currently possible to do so. In addition, this may be an excuse to use the data they obtain from testing in countries that require animal testing in their products in general. Oh yes and by the way…..China no longer requires animal testing .
Other companies believed to use animal testing are Olay, Avon, Garnier, Neutrogena….for a complete list read Peta’s no-fly list below.
Skincare companies can apply for various certifications to add to their labelling. Organizations such as Leaping Bunny or Peta do much to advance and encourage consumers in making better choices but often, it’s only the richer, bigger brands that can do so. Organizations can charge upwards of 500$ to license their logos, with fees going up to 5000$.
How about smaller companies who claim to be vegan and/or cruelty free?
There are many smaller companies that do not test their products on animals and that are both cruelty free and vegan, but have not applied for certifications. This is because, being smaller, often, resources are reinvested in keeping the business running and paying employees. The integrity and reputation of a company is vital in your choice when purchasing the right product for you and your family. Smaller, less known companies have much more to lose, as often their only source of income is the limited line of products they are selling.
It is not extremely difficult to avoid brands with animal derived by-products, but it is not extremely easy either. No one can avoid all animal ingredients, but beginning to make the right choices for yourself and the environment will do no harm. PETA’s no-fly list is an excellent place to start if you want to make a difference.
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One thing I always profess is making one change at a time, one step at a time to make a change, and stick to that choice. A few days or weeks down the road, make another change, and then another…it can be your skincare cream, or your shampoo….it can be simply be deciding to change your toothpaste.
Live well! Live Healthy! Enjoy the Journey!
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