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Cruelty-free, ethical, natural? What vegan skincare really means


Thanks to campaigns like Veganuary, people are increasingly looking for vegan credentials when buying products, including cosmetics. But vegan doesn’t necessarily mean they’re natural, and cruelty-free products aren’t always vegan. We are clear about the claims, to help you keep your conscience clear.

Over the years, Suprina Hilaire has noticed that customers entering Neal’s Yard Remedies, where she works part-time, have been increasingly asking for vegan skincare products. A quick review of the statistics reveals that Hiliaire’s observation is not just anecdotal. reported 56 percent increase in vegan-related searches in 2019, and a survey last year found that more than 60 percent of British women said their beauty product purchasing habits had changed due to increased awareness of how certain ingredients affect the environment.

The Veganuary campaign, in which participants commit to using plant products during the month of January, may be prompting people not only to get rid of animal products in their diets, but also in their bathroom cabinets. In fact, at the end of January 2019, some of the products of the vegan range of the Superdrug brand itself saw a whopping 750 percent increased sales.

When Hilaire launched her own skincare line last year, she took these trends into consideration and decided to make all of her products vegan. “I didn’t think it would be a problem for non-vegan people to use the products, [and at the same time, being vegan] opens my products to many more people, ”he says. MSA skin care, which includes a range of bath and body products such as shower gels and bath salts, is not only vegan, but also organic, natural, and cruelty-free.

But wait, doesn’t that mean being inherently cruelty-free vegan? And also, aren’t all natural vegan products? The simple answer to both questions is, not necessarily.

Veganuary: Suprina Hilaire launched a vegan skincare range last year

Suprina Hilaire launched a vegan skincare range after noticing that demand for plant-based cosmetics was increasing

What’s in a claim?

According to Niamh Hogan, a natural health therapist and creator of Holos Skin Care, “Cruelty-free” products may contain ingredients of animal origin because the label simply means they were not tested on animals. For example, lanolin comes from sheep’s wool and is a common ingredient in creams. Beeswax, similarly, is often found in lip balms, moisturizers, and makeup. These non-vegan ingredients may be included in cruelty-free skincare products.

Hogan also explains that the label has more to do with the marketing of some brands than anything else: “Cruelty-free is used to make it clear to the consumer that the product was not tested on animals, but no cosmetic product is sold. In the EU or the UK, it’s tested on animals. So technically they can all be called cruelty-free. ” However, keep in mind that pharmaceuticals are an exception to this rule. To make medical claims, doctor-prescribed creams or gels are always tested on animals, Hogan says.

No cosmetic product sold in the EU or UK is tested on animals. So technically everyone can call themselves cruelty free

Going vegan is often a lifestyle choice for people; they want to adopt a more natural and friendly way of life and assume that all vegan products are produced in this spirit. Not so, according to Gareth Després, director of the School of Natural Skin Care, which offers online courses for those who want to do their own. “We host an online event every January called The Skincare Detox Challenge. It’s about opening people’s eyes to what the products they use contain. And one of the things that comes up every year is the number of people who are surprised by the products they are using, ”he says.

Synthetic ingredients, for example, are sometimes used in vegan skincare products. Hogan gives an example of a conventional brand vanilla scented shower gel, which could be scented with synthetic vanilla. Parabens, used as preservatives, are another common synthetic. And while all synthetic ingredients have been approved for use in cosmetics by regulatory bodies and are therefore considered safe, many of them are derived from petrochemicals. Those who seek adopt a more natural, organic and sustainable way of lifeTherefore, you may not be comfortable with these ingredients.


Identifying truly vegan skincare products is harder than you might think. Image: School of Natural Skin Care

Tina Svetek is a biotechnologist and works with the School of Natural Skincare as a formulation tutor. “By choosing natural carrier oils and other naturally derived ingredients, you are choosing sustainable sources,” he says. “When it comes to making and processing them, the entire industry that supports them is usually much greener. And also the ingredients, from the point of view of the chemical composition, are richer, which means that they can offer more to your skin ”.

Seeing below the surface

Alright, now we know that cruelty-free doesn’t always mean vegan. So if it’s plant-based you’re after, make sure the product explicitly says vegan. But in the case of knowing if something has synthetic ingredients, or even what the ingredients are, this can be less straightforward.

“For a layman or non-scientist, a label is ineffective,” says Després, adding that ingredients by law must be listed, but that they are generally botanical or scientific names. To avoid this take a course on skin care formulation With a view to making yours, it might be a solution. Or just choose a brand you trust. After Hilaire had had enough of perpetually dry skin despite trying many different products, creating her own seemed like the best way forward. She enrolled in the Natural Skincare School Natural Formulation Diploma and hasn’t looked back. And he says it has not been a problem to find vegan ingredients for his products, nor are they more expensive. To replace the beeswax, she uses a vegan fruit wax, which she loves.

“The amazing thing about natural or organic ingredients and truly vegan products is that you don’t have to hide [behind labels]”, Says Després. And Hogan agrees. “As a consumer, I would question the brands. Their answers will tell you a lot about them. Transparency is key. “

Lead Image: Noah Buscher


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