Once Seen as health conscious by some, and very, very picky eaters by others, vegans are all the rage.
The Economist declared 2019 the year of the vegan, signaling that a quarter millennials identify as vegan or vegetarian. Outspoken celebrities like Beyoncé and Jay-Z are encouraging fans to go vegan, if not for ethical reasons, at least for health and environmental benefits. In a 2018 report, the vegan food industry saw 20% growth from the previous year, with sales peaking at $ 3.3 billion.
This demand for anything vegan has caught the attention of other industries, especially beauty.
“Beauty follows food because we use a lot of the same ingredients,” said Tata Harper, founder of a predominantly vegan, natural beauty brand of the same name. “While they’re good to ingest, they’re generally great for topical application. “
Sunny Subramanian has been waiting for this moment since she presented her Vegan Beauty Review site in 2007. An animal lover in Portland, Oregon, Ms. Subramanian made the decision to go vegan 19 years ago. She cut meat, dairy products and eggs from her diet; she stopped wearing leather, silk and wool.
But with beauty, she faced a problem – she couldn’t find any information online about vegan beauty brands. So she did something.
“When I started it was crickets – I was the only vegan beauty blog,” Ms. Subramanian said. “At the time, we were a very small percentage of the population. “
What does vegan beauty really mean?
There’s a lot of confusing jargon around vegan beauty – ‘cruelty-free’ is one example, with many people assuming they’re one and the same.
Plain and simple, vegan beauty means the absence of ingredients of animal origin, while cruelty-free refers to a product that does not test on animals. In other words, it’s possible that a vegan item has been tested on an animal and that a cruelty-free product contains ingredients of animal origin.
The lack of guidance from the Food and Drug Administration adds to the confusion. A handful of organizations have deployed badges to indicate whether a product is vegan or cruelty-free. of the manufacturing process.
“A finished product might say it’s cruelty-free, but that’s not enough,” said Dennis Gross, a dermatologist and dermatological surgeon whose skincare line is certified by the Leaping Bunny program. “Most animal testing takes place at the ingredient level, so with the Leaping Bunny program you are 100% sure that no animal testing takes place in the lab. ”
PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program lists every registered business that is either cruelty-free or both vegan and cruelty-free, and has corresponding logos. In Britain, the Vegan Society charity, the world’s oldest vegan society, has registered thousands of brands that are both vegan and cruelty-free.
“It’s easy to pick a food and decide whether it’s vegan or not, but it’s harder with beauty,” said Dominika Piasecka, head of public relations and media for the Vegan Society. “There is a huge need for it to be labeled. “
Unpacking animal or vegan ingredients
Animal ingredients commonly found in beauty products include honey, beeswax, lanolin (wool fat), squalene (shark liver oil), carmine (crushed beetles), gelatin (cow or pig bones, tendons or ligaments), allantoin (cow urine), ambergris (whale vomit) and the placenta (sheep organs).
While they’re harmless, they’re not better for you either, although the idea of smearing animal parts found in moisturizers, cosmetics, and shampoos can be a deterrent.
“The animal ingredients have by no means been proven to be superior, and healthy vegan alternatives exist,” said Dr Gross.
But the term “vegan beauty,” which is synonymous with “herbal,” can also be misleading. It conjures up images of virtuous greens and, in turn, of wholesomeness, which is not necessarily the case.
“The crisps are accidentally vegan, but they’re not healthy, ”Ms. Subramanian said. “It’s the same with makeup. Just because it’s vegan and cruelty-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy. “Its ingredient list may be chock full of unhealthy chemicals and fillers.”
The next step is to clean up the ingredient list without completely eliminating preservatives, which Dr. Gross says can help maintain the freshness of a product.
“By using only natural ingredients, you will often see bacterial separation and growth, which can lead to contamination and loss of effectiveness,” he said. “With vegan beauty, you can use a pure ingredient derived from nature with important additives to keep them from spoiling. It’s in the right combination.
And there are plenty of brands – high-end and affordable – that already do, including Pacifica, Derma E, and Le Labo, to name a few.
“Vegan products don’t have to be very expensive and hard to find,” Ms. Subramanian said, naming Wet n Wild and elf as budget vegan options.
Give in to consumer demand
In the 30 years that Kathy Guillermo, Senior Vice President of PETA, has campaigned to end the use of animals in laboratory experiments, she can identify two industry-wide changes that boosted awareness of beauty vegans. The first dates back to 1990, when Estée Lauder and Revlon stopped animal testing.
Unfortunately, the same companies have started selling in China, where animal testing is mandatory for many beauty products. This sparked backlash and consumer demand for cruelty-free products, which ultimately led to the development of instruments to replace animal testing.
The second is happening now. In October, Unilever, the parent company of Dove, Ax, Dermalogica and many others, has announced that it is committed to a policy of no animal testing in all of its product lines. “The big companies that have held out for so long are changing,” Ms. Guillermo said. noted.
For many brands, she said, concern about the ethical and environmental impact of their products is the No.1 question for consumers they encounter.
“I think consumers, especially millennials and Generation Z, are looking to make purchases that align with their personal values,” said Dr. Gross, whose patients regularly ask questions about vegan and cruelty-free products. “This is causing a big change in the industry. “
Nine years ago, Dr Gross converted his skincare line to be vegan and cruelty-free, and it took three years to reformulate his offerings. (Now only two products in his 52-item line contain animal ingredients – pearl powder and beeswax – and those will be replaced once he finds alternatives.)
“It’s a more complex process to be vegan and cruelty-free because it’s cheaper and easier to do animal testing,” he said. “Clinical tests can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But since we made the switch, we’ve been able to manufacture products that don’t compromise their effectiveness. We are showing people that it can be done.
The Vegan Beauty Effect
Perhaps the biggest benefit of the vegan beauty movement is that it pushes consumers to evaluate ingredients. “People are starting to ask questions and research what they are buying, and I think that gives power,” Ms. Piasecka said.
All signs point to an industry striving to be not only cleaner, but also vegan and cruelty-free. (CoverGirl, for example, is now certified Leaping Bunny, the largest makeup brand to be so named.) Ms. Subramanian was familiar with all the vegan beauty brands. Now, she said, it’s impossible to keep up.
“The future of the beauty industry is vegan and not tested on animals,” Ms. Guillermo said. “Not all companies have realized it yet, but a lot of them have, and these are the ones that will grow and stay in business. We are in discussion with enough of them to know that this is, without a doubt, the trend.