A comprehensive guide to vegan beauty

Cassie Steer,
Beauty Editor at Large

Vegan beauty is growing in popularity, with more and more of us wanting to follow a cleaner, plant-based way of life

Vegan Beauty Products

Once upon a time, the word vegan might have been met with a confused stare. But times are a changing, and plant-based diets and lifestyles have undeniably emerged into the mainstream.

‘The market for vegan products is booming,’ confirms Andrew McDougall, Associate Director of Beauty and Personal Care for Mintel. ‘This is in line with growing consumer concerns about the ethical and environmental impact of animal-related products.

‘Clean eating has grown in popularity, which has led to a rise in clean beauty – and our research has found that younger consumers in particular [Generation Z and millennials] are the driving force behind this, due to a growing desire to follow a plant-based lifestyle.’

But unlike a vegan diet, which is relatively straightforward, vegan beauty can be a little more ambiguous. Cruelty free, for example, doesn’t necessarily mean vegan, it simply means that no animal testing took place in any part of the product’s creation. Vegan, on the other hand, means that the product contains no animal products, byproducts or derivatives, although it should be pointed out that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is cruelty free or not tested on animals. The upshot? Get clued up on the ingredients to steer clear of.

Ingredients to avoid

Lanolin, for example, comes from sheep’s wool and is commonly used as an emollient in balms, glosses and creams. Keratin is regularly used in haircare products and treatments – it's a naturally occurring protein found in our own hair and nails and is obtained from animal horns and hooves.

N-Acetyl Glucosamine (NAG) is derived from the shells of crustaceans, and is most commonly used to treat uneven skin tone and pigmentation. Another ingredient to look out for is stearic acid – a common emulsifier in creams, it’s also the raw material for soap and generally comes from animal tallow (fat) but can be found in vegetable fats too (the alternative is usually palm oil).

Brands to know

According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, vegan product launches have more than doubled in the past five years, growing 175% from July 2013 to June 2018. Leading the pack are these brands, covering everything from fragrance to skincare to nail polishes.

Le Labo

Following a vegan lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to miss out on perfume – and US brand Le Labo believe it is ‘more humane to test cosmetics on New Yorkers than on animals’. From gentle hair care to hand-blended fragrances, the stylish products are changing the face of plant-based beauty.


Even your fingertips can be vegan thanks to Nailberry’s cruelty-free nail varnishes. Founded just six years ago, the brand started life in a Chelsea nail bar, when founder Sonia Hully devised a range of polishes in a 12-free formulation (meaning they are free from 12 harmful chemicals) to protect and restore damaged nails, while respecting both the environment and its critters.


Sensitive souls rejoice – this Vegan Society and Leaping Bunny-certified brand uses only the highest quality organic ingredients with no parabens, petrochemicals, detergents or other potential irritants. The ultra-pure, certified organic ingredients will soothe and calm skin woes.

Skyn Iceland

Free from parabens, petroleum, mineral oils and sulfates, this skin-soothing vegan brand uses potent natural ingredients to offset the stresses that cause skin conditions. From anti-ageing elixirs to hydrating treatments, your skin (and conscience) will be left as clear as a glacier.