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By Arwa Lodhi
Since the EU has banned animal testing, most of us here would think we could buy just about any cosmetic today and consider it cruelty free. But we’d be wrong.
Much to the horror of many vegans and animal lovers in general, there are still myriad animal based ingredients hiding in cosmetics, and some of these are even derived from endangered species. Despite the EU’s new laws against animal testing of cosmetics, these ingredients are, for some reason, still allowed!
Eluxe’s research has uncovered seven animal parts used in cosmetics – some of which may surprise you. It’s time to check your skin care and makeup ingredients list for these words – you may not have known what they were before, but when you read the rest of this article, I have a feeling your bathroom may need a purge!
7 Gross Animal Parts Hiding in Cosmetics
1. Ambergris From whale intestines. Used as a fixative in perfumes
2. Keratin Protein from the horns, hooves, feathers, quills, and hair of various animals. In hair rinses, shampoos, hair straightening and curling solutions
3. Castor A creamy substance with strong odour from muskrat and beaver genitals. Used as a fixative in perfume and incense. Not to be confused with Castor oil, which is derived from a bean.
4. Cochineal Red pigment from crushed female cochineal insect. Reportedly, 70,000 beetles are killed to produce one pound of this red dye. Used in cosmetics and shampoos
5. Spermaceti Waxy oil derived from the sperm whale’s head or from dolphins. In skin creams, ointments, shampoos, candles
6. Turtle oil From the muscles and genitals of giant sea turtles. In soap, skin creams, nail creams
7. Shark Squalene Derived from the livers of endangered deep sea sharks. Used in creams and serums.
Though all of these products require killing the animal to extract them, perhaps the cruellest of them all is squalene: sharks are often caught, de-livered whilst alive, then thrown back into the sea to die.
At least one celebrity, model, actress and activist Lily Cole, is determined to do something to stop this. “There is no reason for any beauty products to contain shark squalene,” she said at the Hay Festival in 2013. She’s since teamed up with British department store Selfridges to draw attention to the issue.
Although the oil does have moisturising and cell regenerating qualities, these are very similar to those found in other natural product–olive oil, which can be used as a cruelty-free alternative.
Some large manufacturers like Unilever, L’Oreal and Proctor and Gamble claim to have phased out use of shark squalene in their face and body creams, but the Sunday Times reports that loopholes in European labelling regulations allow companies to avoid revealing the presence of the substance, and some, such as Estee Lauder, blatantly list it as an ingredient in many of their products. What’s more, shark squalene is still used by companies based outside the EU, and is in particularly high demand in the Far East, with Japan accounting for 40% of total global demand. Don’t forget that when you buy a brand like Shiseido or other Asian beauty brands, you’re tacitly supporting animal abuse for cosmetic use.
The EU anti-animal testing laws have raised the bar for global cosmetics ethics. While Europe doubtlessly leads the way in cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics, we cannot grow complacent. Our products may no longer be tested on animals, but they may contain them – even endangered ones – without the label letting us know.
Like Lily Cole, we must all make an effort to ensure the ugly practice of killing animals for beauty stops now.