Vegan cosmetics: Your guide to choosing with a clear conscience… and confidence

29/05/23
O'Naturalis : Blog article Vegan cosmetics: Your guide to choosing with a clear conscience… and confidence

Wondering what vegan cosmetics are and how to recognize them? Would you like to understand the difference between vegan, organic, natural-origin or cruelty-free cosmetics? Are you also a little lost in the constellation of labels and certificates?

This article aims to shed a little more light on the world of vegan cosmetics. We also explain our position on the subject, and briefly present our range of vegan cosmetics under the O’Naturalis brand.

What are vegan cosmetics?

A cosmetic product can be qualified as vegan when it contains no ingredients of animal origin, either totally or partially, and when its production or the production of its ingredients does not involve any form of animal exploitation or cruelty.

This means two things:

  1. Vegan cosmetics do not use any ingredients of animal origin in their formulation. All ingredients are of vegan, mineral or synthetic origin. If, in addition, the cosmetic is of natural origin, for example if it is Cosmos Organic or Cosmos Natural certified, it will not contain ingredients of synthetic origin either.
  2. Vegan cosmetics are never tested on animals, at any stage of development or production. The same goes for all their ingredients.

What’s the difference between vegan, organic, natural-origin or cruelty-free cosmetics?

You’re probably asking yourself this question. It’s not easy to find your way around all these names. So let’s clear this up once and for all.

A vegan cosmetic product contains no ingredients of animal origin, either directly or indirectly. For example, carmine, a red dye obtained from the insect cochineal, is not vegan, nor is the beeswax used in lip balms.

A certified organic cosmetic, on the other hand, refers to a product in which a certain proportion of ingredients have been grown according to organic farming practices, without GMOs or chemical pesticides, and respecting the natural cycle of crops. An organic product may not be vegan if it contains, for example, organic honey or organic goat’s milk.

A product of natural origin simply means that the ingredients come from nature and are not synthesized in a laboratory, but this does not exclude ingredients of animal origin or non-organic cultivation methods. An olive oil-based soap is natural, but not necessarily organic or vegan.

Finally, a cruelty-free product is one that has not been tested on animals, and this is totally independent of the product’s composition. A brand can therefore offer a lipstick containing carmine (non-vegan) that is nevertheless certified cruelty-free.

In conclusion, keep these distinctions in mind when making your purchases. If you’re looking for products that are compatible with a vegan and environmentally-friendly lifestyle, look for both vegan and organic certifications. Always check the labels and the list of ingredients to be sure of your choice.

By the way, do you write “vegan” or “végan.e”?

Well, it’s up to you. The term “vegan” originated in English. In French, the Larousse suggests “végan, végane”, a variable adjective or noun. Le Robert (like the Quebecois, who are very often right) suggests always writing “vegan”, even in the masculine form. It has the advantage of “sounding” like English.

So if you choose to write “vegan” without the acute accent on the “e”, it’s invariable. If you choose to write it “vegan” (and we’re going to stick with the choice of the Robert and, above all, the Quebecois, because we love them so much), it becomes variable.

So we’ll write: a vegan soap or a vegan soap, a vegan cream or a vegan cream and, much more rarely, vegan crocodiles or vegan crocodiles.

It’s all very convenient for us: if you read “vegan”, it’s neither an oversight nor a mistake, just laziness…😉

Why choose vegan cosmetics?

An ethical choice for animal welfare

Choosing vegan cosmetics is above all an ethical choice. These products are formulated without any ingredients of animal origin, thus respecting the life and well-being of animals.

Indeed, veganism goes beyond a simple diet and extends to a philosophy of life. It’s a conscious effort to reduce animal exploitation and cruelty as much as possible. Choosing vegan cosmetics means saying no to the use of animals as resources.

Protecting the environment: every gesture counts

Beyond ethics, opting for vegan cosmetics is also a gesture for the planet. Indeed, the production of animal-based ingredients is often more resource-intensive than that of plant-based alternatives. By choosing vegan cosmetics, you’re helping to reduce this ecological footprint.

Health and well-being: more natural cosmetics

The third benefit of vegan cosmetics relates to health and well-being. Vegan products are also often formulated without controversial ingredients such as parabens, phthalates or silicones.

So, as well as being kind to animals and the environment, they’re also kind to our skin. Not to mention that the absence of animal products reduces the risk of allergies and irritations.

How can I check if a cosmetic is vegan?

First of all, you need to read the label carefully, or the product data sheet on the retailer’s or manufacturer’s website.

The guarantee of a recognized label

First, look for the presence of an official label. They are numerous and do not all offer the same guarantees. So it’s hard to find your way around. Here are the most frequent and serious ones:

VEGAN logo - Certified VEGAN product

This is the logo of one of the most widespread labels in the world, that of The Vegan Society, a charity founded in the UK in 1944. The association ensures that all ingredients in a product do not contain by-products of animal origin, and are not subject to animal testing or exploitation.

It also ensures that the manufacturer respects good manufacturing practices, including strict separation of vegan and non-vegan production.
This is the label that O’Naturalis has chosen for its entire range of vegan products.

Label Expertise Vegan Europe (EVE)

The Expertise Vegan Europe label is more recent. It is issued by a French certification mark dedicated to the evaluation of vegan products and services. It is obtained after a compliance audit. This is a very serious guarantee for the consumer.

O'Naturalis - Cruelty free vegan Peta

The Cruelty-Free and Vegan label is issued by the Peta organization. It’s a world-famous association, founded in the 80s in the USA, whose name is an acronym for “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals”, and which campaigns for the ethical treatment of animals. This label guarantees vegan products free from cruelty to animals.

Here are a few other equally valid labels that you might recognize on a cosmetic product’s packaging:

O'Naturalis - autres logos vegan jpg

When you see the logo of a recognized organization, such as those shown above, on the label or MSDS of a cosmetic product, you can be sure that it is a product that respects the vegan lifestyle.

If, in addition to the Vegan logo, the product displays a Cosmos Organic or Cosmos Natural logo, go for it with your eyes closed! Definitely a good choice. The proof of a global concern for a fair balance between the needs of the individual and respect for the environment, in our own interest and that of future generations.

But watch out for fake logos! Rely only on safe, recognized labels. Want to know more? The Cosmébio association has written an excellent article on the subject, entitled“Comparing vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics labels“.

Deciphering the ingredients list

If there’s no recognized label on the label or product sheet, you need to roll up your sleeves… and, above all, put on your glasses! You’ll need them to read the list of ingredients, which is generally printed in small type (not necessarily to hide it, but for lack of space) and in a language that’s meant to be universal, but is actually rather incomprehensible to most of us.

If you’d like to learn more about deciphering an ingredient list, also known as an “INCI”, read our article “How to read the ingredient list of a cosmetic product”, or this article from the Slow Cosmétique association.

In this case, what you really want to do is find out which ingredients in the ingredient list might be incompatible with your vegan convictions. And there are lots of them!

Take squalane, for example. The oil we use at O’Naturalis for certain balms and creams is of vegetable origin, derived from olives. But that’s not always the case. It can also be of animal origin, notably extracted from shark liver oil.

So, without the guarantee offered by a recognized Vegan label, how can you be sure that the squalane present in the formula of the cosmetic you’re holding in your hands didn’t come from the liver of a poor shark that’s not really concerned by your skin problems?

Shark carrying a sign that reads "You won't get my liver!"

Of course, the relationship of trust you have with the brand can reassure you. And if so, so much the better! Just because a product doesn’t have a label doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad product.

For some ingredients, however, it’s a bit more clear-cut. For example, if you see “Adeps Bovis”, “Tallow”, “Beef Tallow” or “Sodium Tallowate” in the list of ingredients, then the product contains… beef fat. “Lanolin? This is the yellow waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep’s wool. You’ll also find it under the INCI names “Lanolate”, “Laneth” or “Lanolinamide”.

Do you use carmine lipstick? Chances are it contains a colorant, “CI 75470”, obtained from the crushed corpses of cochineal insects. It is also found in yoghurts and other food products, under the mild name “E120”.

We’ll be bringing you a list of ingredients to watch out for soon. I promise. In the meantime, if you want to know more, take a look at the article“Animal-derived ingredients in cosmetics“, on the blog “La Coquette Ethique” by Caroline, a committed vegan blogger.

Are vegan cosmetics more expensive? (spoiler: it’s a myth!)

While browsing the shelves of your favorite store or browsing your personal care online store, you may have thought that vegan cosmetics seemed like an unattainable luxury. There is a persistent prejudice that these products are systematically more expensive than their non-vegan equivalents. However, this is not always the case.

Indeed, while some vegan brands that claim to be “high-end” offer products at high prices, the same is true for non-vegan brands. Thus, price is not so much a question of vegan composition, but rather of brand positioning, specific formulation, packaging or company policy.

In fact, there is a very wide range of vegan products. A number of brands specialize in affordable vegan products, without compromising on quality. The transition to a vegan beauty routine doesn’t necessarily mean a higher beauty budget.

Don’t be fooled by the prices of luxury products, and don’t forget to look at the more affordable alternatives that do exist on the market.

And you, at O’Naturalis, are your products vegan?

You’ll recognize them by the “Vegan” logo they bear, attesting that The Vegan Society has certified them vegan. You’ll find them in the “Vegan Products” category of our store.

O'Naturalis - VeganTM Palette1 VEGAN GREEN 72dpi

But not all our products carry the Vegan logo: either because they are in the process of being certified, or because they contain honey, beeswax or organic goat’s milk. It’s because we believe these ingredients have certain virtues, in certain products and for certain skins. And the delighted feedback from our customers doesn’t contradict us.

How’s that? No good? Neither, we think. We take care to choose producers who are genuinely concerned about animal welfare, and who use techniques that do not exploit their animals beyond what is necessary. This comes at a cost, of course. And that’s normal. We accept to pay the price of quality and respect for living beings, whether animal or vegetable.

For example, at the organic farm where we source our goat’s milk, Ferme Lamberty in Petit-Thier, near Vielsalm in Belgium, the biquettes roam freely and are pampered by the whole family. Don’t hesitate to pay them a visit, and see for yourself! We do it regularly.

We are also careful to use honey, beeswax or goat’s milk only in products where experience and feedback from our customers show that they really do make a difference to the skin.

So, as we write this article, at the end of May 2023, we have decided to rework the formulas of a few products in which we used beeswax, and for which we have found a substitute vegetable wax with similar characteristics. But we’ll keep our honey soap, O’Melia and the with goat’s milk and honey, O’GatteAs long as our partner producers show at least as much respect for their animals as our olive oil supplier does for his olive trees, as long as we can work with passionate human beings who love the natural world around them.

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