What Is Vegan Makeup, Exactly?
Cruelty-free, organic, vegan-these are some of the consumer-conscious buzzwords you'll find on makeup packaging today. Some of these labels might be more self-explanatory than others. While we all know what a vegan diet consists of, what does vegan makeup really entail?
"Brands that don't use animal products or byproducts-even if animals aren't harmed in the process-are vegan," says Dianna Ruth, COO of Milk Makeup, a company that's entirely vegan. For makeup artist Sarah Biggers, founder of Clove & Hallow, the vegan seal can tell you a lot about the ethics of a company. "It represents conscientiousness," Biggers says. "It shows effort has been put into the formula because they're invested in finding alternative ways to make a product. Some manufacturers will push to use animal ingredients because they're cheaper and easier to source, so it speaks volumes about the ethos of a company that's willing to put the time and money behind their product."
Often times, conventional animal-based ingredients aren't needed to create high-performance products. "As a makeup artist, I've played with a lot of product, and when I became ingredient conscious, it was clear to me that animal-based ingredients weren't what made a product perform," Biggers says. "So for my brand, taking out animal ingredients was a no-brainer."
There are a variety of now-common ingredient swaps that brands like Milk Makeup and Clove & Hallow use. Instead of regular beeswax, for example, Ruth says they use synthetic beeswax along with hemp-derived cannabis seed oil as binding ingredients in their Kush High Volume Mascara. Instead of lanolin, a fatty sheep's wool-derived ingredient often found in lipsticks, Biggers says mango and shea butters can replicate that moisturizing, smooth texture. Carmine is also a common ingredient in red lipstick-it's a dye made from crushed beetle shell-and can be replaced with things like natural beet dyes.
A lot of clean beauty is vegan, Biggers says, but not all vegan beauty is clean. While a vegan product doesn't necessarily mean it's better for you, it is probably better for the environment. "We're in a conscious consumer movement," Biggers says, "and as a brand owner, it's about doing the extra footwork and thinking, 'what don't I need, and what will leave a negative footprint?'"