Ingredients derived from Animals in your bathroom cabinet & makeup bag

There is a meme that goes round with a picture of a broccoli stalk with the small text on it saying *may contain milk. This meme has made me and I am sure many other vegans giggle over the years but sadly there is an element of truth to this. With so many animal ingredients lurking in products in this blog we explore what non vegan ingredients derived from Animals in your bathroom cabinet & makeup bag.

This blog is based on a social media series that we have been running since May 2021 on non vegan friendly ingredients and pulls them all together into one handy blog. We will be updating this blog weekly as we add more ingredients, so keep checking back!


Bees as we all know, live in hives with a queen bee and they go and collect nectar that they turn into honey. Worker bees secrete beeswax from a gland on a their underside. This translucent wax is then chewed by the worker bees and mixed with pollen and propolis (a saliva based bee glue) to make honey which is then put into the honeycomb. ⁠

This process is vital for the survival of the bee colony. The beeswax is used to construct the comb structure where they store pollen and honey for winter and raise their young. ⁠

Unfortunately in this modern age of farming things are done by farmers to ensure ‘their’ crop of honey and beeswax. This includes but is not limited to: ⁠

  • Clipping the queen bees wings so that she doesn’t move to a new hive where her loyal colony would follow. ⁠
  • The queen is sometimes artificially inseminated.⁠
  • Bee keepers have been known to remove all the beeswax and honey leaving the colony little to survive the winter. Some have been known to add a cheap sugar substitute in place of the honey but these do not have the same nutritional value as honey. ⁠
  • Bee keepers smoke the bees when opening the hive which makes the bees more docile. Many bees are killed or have their wings and legs torn off because of haphazard handling during the removal of the beeswax and honey.⁠
  • Finally the queen bee is often moved to a new colony. When this happens she is moved with a few ‘bodyguard’ bees. Once in the new hive these bodyguard bees are attacked and killed by the bees in the new colony. ⁠


In some ‘high end’ hair salons in the posher parts of London you can have an intense conditioning treatment. ⁠

And what is this treatment? It uses Angus Bulls Seamen mixed with the root of a protein rich plant katera. Apparently post treatment your hair will feel soft and manageable and be super shiny.


Cholesterol is a word we often see mentioned but normally it is in reference to diet. But did you know that it can also be added to cosmetics, eye creams, shampoos and many other beauty products. ⁠

Cholesterol is a steroid alcohol that is found in all animal fats and oils, nervous tissue, eye yolk and blood. Normally when it comes to beauty products it is derived from lanolin. ⁠

Now, I am sure we are in agreement that the use of Cholesterol from an animal makes a product not vegan friendly. I have seen brands proudly stating that this is there only animal ingredient and in the same sentence saying that there products are suitable for vegans. ⁠


Also known as Carmine.

Cochineal dye is a dye that is collected from a crushed Dactylopius Coccus, more commonly known as cochineal beetles. These insects feed on the cactus plants found in Central and South American. The female beetles eat the red cactus berries and when they are crushed an intense red dye is found.

This dye is frequently added to lipsticks and blushers to create a vivid red colour.


Collagen is mentioned frequently when it comes to beauty products and brands proudly claim how a cream with collagen will help make your skin look more youthful, firmer and plumper. ⁠

Unless stated as vegan friendly collagen generally comes from the bones, skin and connective tissue of animals including cows, fish, horses, pigs or even rabbits. ⁠

There is a vegan friendly version of collagen available which does obviously not come from these sources, so when you see it as an ingredient be sure to check where it comes from! ⁠


Estrogen is a hormone that naturally occurs in both men and women, but as you are probably aware, in much larger doses in women. It is responsible for many functions in the body such as breast development, maintenance of collagen in the skin, anti aging, prevention of memory loss, the list goes on and is huge! ⁠

As we age our production of Estrogen decreases. Estrogen / Estradiol is frequently given to older women in menopause treatments in tablet form. It is also given to trans women to help with the development of breasts and change in body shape. And because of its anti aging properties Estrogen can be applied topically through creams and lotions. ⁠

While as humans we only produce three different types of Estrogen, in horses this number is around 10! And these are increased when a horse is pregnant.. Can you see where I am going with this… ⁠

In most cases when Estrogen / Estradiol is listed as an ingredient it is typically collected from pregnant horses urine. They are kept in small stalls and impregnated each year with the sole purpose of having their urine collected. They don’t have any space to move and are frequently kept thirsty so that they produce better quality urine! ⁠

Luckily as with everything there are plant based alternatives made from soy and yams. ⁠


Also known as hide glue, gelatine, isinglass, kosher and halal gelatin.

Gelatin is very similar to Tallow. It is made from the boiled skin, tendons, ligaments and bones of animals. It is frequently used in face creams, body lotions, shampoos, hair sprays, sunscreens, bath salts and bubble bath. Gelatin is regarded as an ingredient that helps your skin to build more collagen due to the protein and amino acids.

Gelatin is also available as a plant based derived ingredient.



Glycerin/ Glycerol is an ingredient that can be found in both food and skincare and lip products. We will of course be focusing on the skincare and lip uses. ⁠

Glycerin/ Glycerol is a by product of tallow. If you aren’t sure what tallow is I will explain now but if you already know I would advise skipping to the next paragraph! Tallow is a animal fat that is rendered from cows and sheep. It is typically made using the fat the surrounds organs.

Glycerin is frequently used in soaps, skincare, toothpastes, mouthwashes, body lotions, perfumes, shaving products, hair products, water based lubricants and lip products. ⁠

It is used in products like soaps because of its ability to hold in moisture, which applies when someone is using the product. So it makes a soap have a moisturising quality. It is also thought to leave the skin feeling soft and smooth and due to these qualities its often used in products that treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis. ⁠

However its not all bad, it is possible to get glycerin/glycerol in a vegetable based form. Typically this is made from soybean, coconut or palm oils. ⁠


Fish scales (guanine) are often added to lipstick, eyeshadow, mascaras, shampoos, fragrances, bath products and nail polish to make them glimmer. ⁠


Lots of brushes, from makeup brushes to hair brushes, body brushes and even nail brushes are made using animal hair. While not an exhaustive list the hair used in these brushes could come from foxes, badgers, squirrels, mink, horses, rabbit, camel, goat, boar, weasel, honestly the list goes on! ⁠

I have no idea how this fur is actually taken and honestly its not something I want to google as I would just find it too upsetting. But I do know that most of these brushes are made outside of the UK where the animal welfare laws are even worse than our own.

There are lots of brands that claim to be cruelty free while selling brushes made from animal hair. What do you think? Would you consider this to be cruelty free?


Technically the use of these sponges is vegan. While they are classified as animals they have no brain, nervous system or organs. So no harm? ⁠

Lots of brands talk about how the sea sponges they sell are harvested in an ethical & sustainable way. Apparently lots of divers swim down and hand cut the sea sponge without damaging any of the surrounding coral or marine life. ⁠

As someone who has an affinity and love for the ocean I would not even dream of using one of these sponges for a number of reasons. ⁠

? Did you know that approx. 25% of the worlds ocean species depend on Coral reefs, despite reefs only taking up approx. 1% of the sea bed? ⁠

? Coral reefs form a very delicate eco system where life depends on each other. These sponges provide shelter for smaller fish who also find food, reproduce & rear young here.⁠

? The sea sponges that are deemed good enough to be harvested take approx. two years to grow to this size in just the right conditions including light, pH and temperature. ⁠

? Do you remember years ago some controversy regarding a ‘dolphin friendly’ tuna company who claimed to use line caught tuna that were actually using long lines to catch tuna and decimating many other species in the process including dolphins? The oceans are so wide and vast and many of the coral reefs are in areas on the world where the oceans aren’t monitored and managed. How do we really know that these ‘sustainable caught sea sponges’ aren’t just harvested by dredging destroying whole coral reefs and killing other species at the same time? ⁠

? The oceans are having a tough time, between climate change, pollution, unsustainable fishing practices, diseases, coral bleaching, ocean acidification, raising ocean temperatures and many more issues, do we really need to add harvesting sea sponges to this list? Especially when we can use plant based sponges that are just as affective and cause no harm? ⁠


Keratin is an everyday ingredient that is believed to make hair smoother and easier to manage. It works by smoothing down the cells that overlap on your hair cuticles. As a result Keratin also claims to make hair less frizzy and easier to style. ⁠

Keratin is found in hair rinses such as shampoos and conditioners, hair treatments and perm products. ⁠

But where does it come from? ⁠

Keratin can be made from a variety of sources. Generally Keratin is found in all vertebrates and can be found in hair (including some wools), the outer layer of skin, horns, nails, claws and hooves of mammals. ⁠

And yes you guessed it, its also found in the horns of impalas! ⁠


Lactic Acid is found in skincare including exfoliators, cleansers, moisturisers, masks and in a professional lactic acid peel. ⁠

It is added to skincare because it is believed that it helps to remove the older and dull skin cells on the surface. It also speeds up and stimulates cell regeneration. ⁠

But what is it? ⁠ Traditional Lactic acid is derived from dairy milk. ⁠⁠However it can also be made from cane sugar or beet sugar.⁠


Traditionally condoms were made from lamb intestines, seriously gross huh! Even in my pre vegan days I would not have liked that at all! ⁠

Some condoms available today are still made in this manner and have the ingredients listed as ‘lambskin’ so def watch out for that one! ⁠

Most high street condoms are generally made from latex. ⁠

However despite being made from latex they can still have a common animal ingredient. ⁠

A lot of condoms contain casein, a milk protein, which is added to give the condom a soft, silky smooth feeling. ⁠


Who looked at a sheep and noticed the wax secreted by the sebaceous glands and thought – umm, my skin would feel so much better if I popped a bit of that in my face cream… ⁠

Lanolin is found to help your skin retain moisture and therefore is frequently used in anti ageing products to help plump your skin, fill in lines and wrinkles.

Lanolin is also found in lots of lipsticks and makeup removers.


Lecithin is usually derived from eggs, fish or milk. It has has plant based alternatives such as soybeans, rapeseed, cottonseed and sunflower oil.

Lecithin is believed to enhance the appearance of dry or damaged skin by restoring suppleness and reducing any flaking.


As well as being farmed for their fur for coats and other winter accessories these gorgeous Mink are also abused so that their fur can be turned into false eyelashes. ⁠

Yes you read that right, eyelashes. ⁠

Mink are part of the same family as otters, weasels and ferrets. They can grow to an impressive 45cm in length and while we used to get native Mink in the UK the species you are likely to come across in the wild in the UK is now the American Mink. ⁠

Like most things where animals are involved there is a lot of dishonesty around how these animals are treated. ⁠

Lots of brands that make mink eyelashes talk about how the hair is humanely collected through brushing the mink or how they are 100% cruelty free. ⁠

Well of course this is what they want you to believe through some clever marketing and use of words. ⁠

These mink are kept in small wire cages without much space to move around. They endure immense fear, stress, disease including parasites and other hardships. There is certainly nothing cruelty free about this life. And when these mink are no longer of use they are disposed of. ⁠


Retinol is a potent source of Vitamin A and lots of brands are talking about this ingredient at this time.

Retinol is only naturally found in foods derived from animals. Milk, cheese, butter, fish, cod liver oil, liver and meat are all regarded as containing a good source of retinol. It is regarded as having many functions when it comes to skincare including being anti ageing, helping to treat acne and scarring.

Retinol works by changing the skin cells in the dermis and epidermis, increasing the rate at which these skin cells divide to make new cells.


Did you know that while silk is most commonly known for being used in scarfs, bedding and other items of clothing it can also be used in skincare. ⁠

Silk contains two proteins, sericin and fibroin. Sericin forms a protective layer over the skin and apparently helps to promote hydration. While the fibroin apparently helps to repair skin cells and balance levels of moisture. It is also thought that the use of silk in skincare can help to reduce wrinkles.

Now obviously this isn’t vegan friendly. Silk is made from the fibres spun by these gorgeous worms. ⁠

The most common process used is that silk worms are bred and raised on farms. Typically these worms are fed mulberry leaves (hence mulberry silk). Once they are ready to metamorphosis into a moth they secrete a liquid version of silk to form a cocoon around their body. In nature after time these moths would eat through the cocoon and emerge transformed. However in the silk industry the farmers drop the cocoons containing the silk worms into boiling water where the worms die and the cocoon unravels into silk threads. ⁠

According to PETA around 3,000 silk worms are killed just to make one pound of silk. ⁠

Its also worth noting that there is an alternative silk called Peace Silk where the moths naturally emerge from the cocoons and fly away before the farmers collect the abandoned cocoons. This is the type of silk that Stella McCartney uses but it is not the common silk. ⁠


Have you heard about snail mucin also known as Snail secretion filtrate and snail slime? ⁠

Yes. It is what you think it is. ⁠

Snail ooze/ slime is collected and used as an ingredient in skincare. It is thought that this type of glycolic acid and elastin in a snails secretion protects its own skin from cuts, bacteria and UV rays.

So of course it will do the same for humans? I know right, its a bit gross! ⁠

Apparently it also contains a high level of antioxidants which calm inflammation in the skin and promote healthy collagen production.⁠

This might sound like something that is only sold in a far away place where it has been used for century’s. But sadly this is not the case. A quick google and I found that a UK high street brand that have a large no of vegan products also have a range featuring this oozzy ingredient.


Squalene and its derivative squalane is derived from the oil found in shark livers that help them regulate their buoyancy. ⁠

This oil is also naturally found in olives, wheat germ, rice bran and other plants naturally. But sourcing it from these natural plant based sources costs around 30% more. ⁠

This oil is added to a wide variety of products from lip balms and lipsticks to foundations, body lotions, deodorants, hair conditioners, sunscreen and anti aging creams. This list could go on! ⁠

Studies carried out suggests that around 90% of all shark based squalene is being used in the cosmetics industry and this equates to around 3 million sharks a year. ⁠


Many people see this ingredient in the beauty industry as a miracle ingredient, I have even heard it called the skincare Unicorn! It works as an emulsifier and works to soften and smooth the skins surface while maintaining the skins barrier. It is found in moisturisers, deodorants, hair products and soaps.⁠

So where does Stearic Acid come from? Well it is generally derived from the stomachs of pigs, cows and sheep.

But… ⁠Don’t go and rush to check all the ingredients of your skincare just yet as there is a plant based version of stearic acid which are derived from various vegetable oils including cocoa butter and shea butter. ⁠


Tallow is a animal fat that is rendered from cows and sheep. It is typically made using the fat the surrounds organs. The process involved to retrieve the Tallow involves boiling the carcasses of the slaughtered animal until a fatty substance is produced.

Tallow is seen as being really nourishing and high in vitamins A, D, E and K and is frequently added in skincare for its anti ageing and antioxidant properties.


Also known as Ambergris

It is common for whale vomit to be used in perfumes. ?⁠

Commonly known as ambergris, it is believed that including this in perfume will help the fragrance last longer. ⁠



So now you have read our blog on Ingredients derived from Animals in your bathroom cabinet & makeup bag. Please be aware that a number of these ingredients are available in plant based versions and its not always easy to know which one is in the skincare in front of you.

To be sure to avoid these ingredients when they are from an animal source you can easily do one of the following: ⁠

? Only purchase items with the vegan society logo on. ⁠

? Ingredients don’t always state where it has been derived from and whether its plant based. So if you aren’t sure contact the brand to ask or google to see if someone has already asked the brand. ⁠

? Finally shop with a vegan business that you trust.. such as Greener Beauty.

As a vegan run and vegan friendly business, any of these ingredients found at Greener Beauty will be from a vegan friendly source.

Have you learnt something about Ingredients derived from Animals in your bathroom cabinet & makeup bag? Has this blog been helpful?

Do you have any tips you would like to share on how you avoid Ingredients derived from Animals in your bathroom cabinet & makeup bag? Add them below, we would love to hear!


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