Beyond face value: Understanding vegan skincare

It’s 2024 and clued-up consumers are asking for more transparency in the beauty industry. They want to know how their products are made, which ingredients are in them, and what values their favourite brands stand for. 

At Hera Beauty, we believe this is a great step forward. Increased transparency can only be a good thing. It paves the path for skin care manufacturers in the UK to reach higher standards and for customers to understand exactly what they’re getting.

As consumers become more conscious about the products they use, the demand for ethical and sustainable skincare continues to grow. One element that can’t be overlooked is opting for vegan ingredients. But there’s more to this than first meets the eye. 

Let’s delve deeper into the principles, practices, and ethics of vegan skincare.

What is vegan skincare?

Put simply, vegan advocates placing botanical extracts and plant-based ingredients centre-stage. These products are made with the exclusion of any animal-derived substances. By adhering to this standard, brands demonstrate their commitment to animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and ingredient transparency.

So, here’s a quick rundown of just some non-vegan ingredients:

  • Carmine - a red pigment derived from insects
  • Lanolin - a wax produced from sheep’s wool
  • Beeswax - a natural wax produced by honey bees
  • Gelatin - a thickening agent derived from animal ligaments and bones
  • Collagen - a protein from animal tissue (although Hera Beauty has sourced a vegetable-derived version, made from corn, wheat and soybeans)
  • Guanine - found in crushed fish scales
  • Squalene - made from shark liver oils (although a plant-derived substitute is available too)
  • Ambergris - produced in the digestive system of sperm whales 

However, it’s not as simple as that. For personal care products to be classed as vegan it also means ensuring that no animal derivatives are used in the harvesting, processing, filtering, refining or preserving processes. This can be more complicated to prove.

There are also some added complications. Unless crops are mechanically extracted, producers may use animals within harvesting processes. For example, monkeys have traditionally been used to harvest coconuts in South-East Asia. And did you know that, in Morocco, goats can be part of the harvesting process for argan oil? These nimble creatures climb the trees, eat the fleshy outer fruit, and pass the hard nut kernels ready for collection. 

Answering these tricky questions is one of the reasons why it’s important to work with a trusted private label manufacturer, who can source and verify vegan ingredients along the supply chain on your behalf.

What about cruelty-free? 

Choosing vegan beauty products means ethically sourcing ingredients and minimising environmental impact. However, when it comes to ‘cruelty-free’, this can be complicated to certify too. Unfortunately, some products can be mislabelled as vegan but still be tested on animals.

Put plainly, vegan beauty means that absolutely no animal ingredients are used and cruelty-free means that no tests are carried out on animals. Instead, alternative methods of testing are used to ensure product safety; such as in vitro tests, computer modelling, and human volunteer trials.

Since 1998, there has been a UK ban against testing beauty products and cosmetics on animals. Whilst the UK was a forerunner in banning animal-tested cosmetics this legislation is now part of EU Cosmetic Products Regulation 1223/2009. However, in other countries - including China and the USA - animals can still be used to test cosmetics ingredients.

Ultimately, it’s up to manufacturers and beauty brands to educate consumers on the benefits of choosing cruelty-free and vegan products.

Meeting the standard

Whether your brand chooses to be vegan-friendly or wants to achieve full vegan certification, Hera Beauty is here to help.

To achieve independent certification, there will be additional costs and extra administrative tasks required, and many brands decide that this is not a necessary route for them to go down. However, if your product range carries vegan certification from a reputable organisation then it means it is independently verified. Certification assures consumers that their favourite brands are meeting the standard. The criteria can be very stringent, but your manufacturer can submit the paperwork on your behalf to gain accreditation.

The two Vegetarian Society Approved trademarks (one for vegetarian and one for vegan) can be seen on thousands of products. 

Established in 1990 by The Vegan Society, the Vegan Trademark is an internationally recognised vegan product certification. Brands are put through a strict vetting process to determine that products are not tested on animals and that there are no ingredients derived from animals.

Most people will recognise the Leaping Bunny emblem by Cruelty Free International: the global standard for cruelty-free products. For certification, brands must meet rigorous criteria that extend over and above laws governing animal testing.

Another alternative for beauty brands is to generate their own logos to communicate vegan or cruelty-free values. However, do bear in mind that this won’t demonstrate independent auditing.

Looking at clean beauty 

Alongside vegan and cruelty-free, what does ‘clean beauty’ mean? This is a broad description, having no formal definition or universally recognised criteria. It is, however, another way to put the quality of your ingredients centre-stage and retain transparency.

Clean beauty means setting a rigorous standard when it comes to the safety of ingredients in skincare formulations. Clean beauty advocates avoid chemical ingredients in favour of natural products. They also don’t use ‘fillers’ to bulk up the formulation. All ingredients must have a clear function and purpose. Brands who prioritise vegan formulations often focus on all-natural ingredients too.

A manufacturer who will mirror your values

Vegan skincare is not just a passing trend. It's a long-term movement towards ethical and sustainable beauty practices. By partnering with a private label beauty manufacturer that shares your ethics, you can access the expertise and resources you need to bring high-quality vegan products to market easily and efficiently.

See the story of how we worked with a vegan beauty brand to develop a range of natural and 100% plant-based formulations.

Want to work with us too? Get in touch today.