Why Your Vegan Beauty Products Might be Doing You and the Environment Harm

With more than five hundred million adherents worldwide, veganism is on the rise. Whilst this is a positive for our environment, our wildlife, and human health, it also means that vegans are now well and truly in the sights of marketers. Suddenly, veganism is trendy: a rising, powerful market segment that promises riches for those who can tap into it.

Beauty is one area where the rise of all things vegan has been particularly noticeable. Suddenly, vegan skincare, vegan shampoos, and – increasingly – vegan makeup are all the rage. A quick visit to any major online beauty store will tell you all you need to know. Products that are touted as vegan are everywhere, a key component in marketing campaigns designed to convince you that products are cruelty free, good for you, and good for the planet.

But here’s the thing. Whilst vegan claims might guarantee that a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t mean that the product is good either for you or the environment.  

To explain, let’s head back to our online beauty store. There are some wonderful vegan products to be found there, made by ethical manufacturers, using only the highest quality natural ingredients. But there are other products too; products that make much of their vegan credentials but which, when you do a little digging, you realise you really should avoid.

Here’s one example (without naming names). A listing for popular makeup products, heavily marketed as vegan and with the additional claims that they’re 100% safe and 100% cruelty free, good for you and the planet. But they’re not. 

The first thing you notice, when you look a little closer at the listing, is the lack of an ingredients list (always a red flag). So, you decide to dig deeper, heading to the manufacturer’s website, where you find the ingredients list at last. And... there’s not a single natural ingredient to be found. Everything is synthetic and almost impossible to pronounce. Not all of the ingredients are harmful, of course, but some of them are, because amongst them you find:

  • Aluminum powder: Listed by EWG as potentially high hazard, a known human nervous system toxicant.
  • BHA: Listed as potentially high hazard by EWG, a known endocrine disruptor; and classified by the National Institute of Health as ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen’.
  • Propylparaben: A known human endocrine disruptor.
  • Chromium Hydroxide Green: Classified as expected to be toxic or harmful.
  • Epoxy Resin and Phenolic Epoxy Resin: These two ingredients are the final kicker.  They’re not even listed on the EWG database, because who, seriously, would want these substances anywhere near their face?  Epoxy is widely used in the construction industry as an adhesive and sealant, notorious as a cause of allergic skin disease amongst workers and suspected of causing airway and eye irritations, as well as more serious diseases like cancer.

So, are these products vegan? Yes. Are they 100% safe? Good for you? Good for the planet? No, no, and no.  

These chemicals don’t break down easily, if at all. When you wash them off your face, you wash them into the environment, where they accumulate, exposed to the very animals and ecosystems that most of us want to protect. And as for what they’re doing to your skin? Well, you be the judge.

Sadly, when it comes to beauty products, vegan claims often amount to nothing more than greenwashing. The good news is, once we understand this, we can take action.  We can start to learn about the ingredients in the products we use, we can take advantage of apps like ‘Think Dirty’, and we can look for products that are certified organic.

Do this, and we’ll be doing ourselves, the environment, and – ultimately – the whole vegan movement, a favour.

Disclaimer: This blog post was written for educational purposes only. It is not designed to diagnose, treat or cure. For individual health concerns The Organic Skin Co. recommends that you consult with a relevant health professional.