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What is vegan skincare and what ingredients aren’t vegan?

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Krista & Mel
Krista & Mel

Scence Co-Founders

The Vegan Society define veganism as…

“a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”


How do you start being a vegan?

For most people, when they begin a vegan lifestyle, it usually starts with what they eat. A vegan diet is different to a vegetarian diet as it includes no animal products at all.

For example, where a vegetarian would say no to a steak, they may have eggs and cheese in an omelette (diary products).

If someone is a vegan, they choose to avoid all dairy products, such as milk, cheese, eggs and cream, but also products that are derived partly from animals such as honey.

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What other lifestyle changes do vegans make?

As the definition explains, living a vegan lifestyle means excluding, wherever possible the exploitation of animals for food, clothing or other purposes.

In practice this means vegan people usually choose to avoid leather shoes, or wool jumpers, for example.

When it comes to cosmetics and skincare, vegan skincare products don’t contain any animal ingredients, derivatives or by-products.

Many of us don’t look closely at the ingredients of the products in our bathrooms, and people are often surprised to discover that there are animal-derived ingredients in there.

The good news is that there is another way! There are so many wonderful plant and mineral-based ingredients available that as a company that makes natural skincare, we know we don’t need to use ingredients derived from animals to create beautiful, soothing products.




So if I want to choose vegan skincare, what ingredients should I avoid?

Let’s take a look at some of the most common ingredients that are often found in skincare that aren’t vegan…


Lanolin (wool wax) – Used in cosmetics as an emollient, and as a hair and skin conditioner. A secretion from the sebaceous glands of sheep. Is washed out of the wool of shorn or slaughtered sheep and purified.

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Ingredients from insects

Shellac (E 904, Gum Lac) – Used in nail polish & hair fixatives in cosmetics. Dark brown resin from the excretions of lac scale insects, collected from the branches the insects live on.

Carmine (CI 75470) – Used as a colorant in cosmetics, this red dye comes from crushed female cochineal scale insects. More than 150,000 insects may be required for 1kg of the dye.


Ingredients from bees

Beeswax (cera alba) – Used in cosmetics as an emollient and emulsifier. Beeswax is secreted by bees to build their honeycombs, in which larvae are reared and honey and pollen are stored. This ingredient is sourced by being cut out of the beehives.

Bee Pollen – Used in cosmetics as a skin conditioner. It is gathered by bees to feed their larvae. Collected using pollen traps at a beehive entrance that strip the pollen off the legs of the bees returning home – their legs and wings can be torn off in the process.

Royal Jelly – Used as a skin conditioner in cosmetics, Royal Jelly is a secretion for the glands of worker bees, used to feed larvae.

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Keratin – Used in cosmetics as a hair and skin conditioner. It is a protein that comes from ground horns, hooves, claws, nails, hair, scales and feathers.


Collagen  – Used in skincare products to prevent wrinkles and a popular humectant (an ingredient that keeps things moist) in cosmetics. It is a fibrous protein in the connective tissue of vertebrates. Various forms are present in bone, teeth, cartilage, ligaments, sinews and skin. Is obtained from “slaughterhouse waste,” such as cartilage, sinews and skins of cattle and fish.


Elastin  – Used as a smoothing agent and skin conditioner in cosmetics. Elastic is an elastic fibrous protein, naturally present in the connective tissue of animals. Obtained from elastic “slaughterhouse waste” rich in connective tissue, such as the neck ligaments and the aortae (largest arteries) of cattle.


Milk- based ingredients

Lactoferrin – Often used in cosmetics as a skin and hair conditioner, lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein in milk.

Lactose – Used in cosmetics as a humectant and skin conditioner. Lactose is a sugar that comes from the whey of cow’s milk.

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So what’s my alternative?

If you prefer to avoid animal-based ingredients in your skincare, you’ll find so many other options out there.

Take the time to do a little research (Google is your friend!) and you’ll discover lots of wonderful companies big and small who know they don’t need to include animal ingredients in their products.

Thinking about getting a lovely moisturiser or natural deodorant? Why not check out what we do! We’ve put together a detailed list about the plant-based ingredients we’ve chosen, and why, plus you can find out more about all our products in our shop… or if you wish to speak to someone in more detail, you’re always welcome to get in touch!

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