By Chere Di Boscio
Hooray! Kind of. Thanks to campaigns like Veganuary and the growth of vegan eating, sale of vegan beauty products are trending! In the UK, sales of these increased by a whopping 38% in the 12 months to end of January 2018, according to the NPD Group, a global information company.
Cruelty-free certification is also becoming more important for consumers, as more people become aware of the beauty industry’s impact. Beauty brands with cruelty-free certification grew by 18% in 2017 and now account for 20% of the women’s face skincare market. Popular brands like Charlotte Tilbury, Decleor, Elemis, La Prairie and Liz Earle are leading the way, according to the report.
It’s clear that consumers don’t want dead animals in their skin creams, and don’t want their perfumes sprayed in the eyes of bunny rabbits – and that’s great news! It seems before, we were either unaware of the extent of animal cruelty in beauty products, or were brainwashed into believing it was necessary to protect our health somehow. But thanks to the spread of information on the internet, shoppers are far more conscientious about not about only the beauty products they purchase, but also the fashion they wear.
This should be super-good news, right? But there’s one pretty big caveat.
Hidden Dangers Behind Popular Vegan Beauty Products
Vegan beauty is often lumped in with the wider natural beauty market, which was valued at £124 million in 2017. Natural beauty products, including organic and naturally-derived brands, grew by 16% between February 2017 and January 2018, and outstripped the rest of the beauty market (up 7%). But the thing is: vegan beauty is not equal to natural beauty. In fact, sometimes, it’s far from it.
Slapping a vegan friendly label on a product is often an easy way to simply greenwash it. That’s right – many cruelty-free brands may not contain animal products or be tested on animals, but they’re often still full of seriously toxic ingredients that can harm your health.
This is especially true for colour cosmetics – these can often contain heavy metals like aluminium, Blue or Red Lake colourants, lead, chromium and cadmium, which are bio-accumulative, meaning their toxic effects build up in the body. Vegan products could also contain nanoparticles – which are especially hazardous since no one yet knows the extent of the damage they can do to human tissues and the environment.
A Small Test
Let’s take a look at just a few of the most popular vegan and cruelty-free beauty brands’ ingredients, shall we?
Rather than go through the multitude of products by this lauded MUA, let’s just take one product as an example. This eyeshadow palette contains several hazardous ingredients including: Butylparaben, Propylparaben & Methylparaben – endocrine system disruptors that are banned in Europe, and Ultramarine Blue – derived from aluminum, which is linked to Alzheimer’s.
Not surprisingly, this contains…well, Caviar, which is not vegan friendly – as well as Ascorbyl Palmitate, which comes from palm seed extract, which is killing the rainforests and orangutans. How on earth is this brand being sold as cruelty-free then?
The ingredients list for this product includes Phenoxyethanol – a known skin irritant, Butylphenyl Methylpropional – a bioaccumulative toxin Fragrance which is a ‘company secret’ that doesn’t need to be articulated on the label, but very often contains neurotoxins (chemicals that affect the brain), Phthalates (chemicals that can affect development and fertility…very often not listed in the ingredients, but rather under the guise of “Fragrance”) and Synthetic Musks (chemicals that may disrupt hormone production, and studies have also shown that they have a negative impact on the environment and aquatic life).
Recently launched by chemical giant Henkel, Nature Box is a range of 22 personal care products including shampoo, conditioner and skin creams that feature oils extracted from fruits and nuts. Which is great, right? But what they don’t advertise so much is that in addition to those great ingredients, there’s also a lot of crap, including Phenoxyethanol, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Benzophenone-4 and more. Sure, the brand is transparent about that, listing the ingredients of their products on their site, but given that there are so many totally clean vegan brands out there, why would you choose this one?
This is possibly one of the most popular vegan makeup brands around, but according to the EWG, its ingredients rate it overall as a 2-5, meaning it is moderately dangerous. But that being said, there are also some ‘red alert’ ingredients the label uses, including Citral, Oxybenzone, and Fragrance.
The worst thing? There are some sites, such as www.skinsafeproducts.com that actually list those products as being safe! And often, nanoparticles are not even listed on the label.
How To Take Action
So, what’s an animal-loving beauty addict to do about the hidden dangers behind popular vegan beauty products?
In short, vegan certified products are a great idea for animals, but don’t assume they’re not going to harm your health. Instead, look for Leaping Bunny AND organic certifications, like the Soil Association or USDA Organic on the label. Download an app like Think Dirty or check the Environmental Working Group to see if an ingredient you don’t recognise on a label is safe or not.
There are some non-toxic vegan labels we love, which you can see here.
But above all, never assume ‘vegan friendly’ is synonymous with ‘clean beauty’.
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