Oh, You’re a Vegan? Then Why Are You Rubbing a Cow on your Face?

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As many people wander through life, they aimlessly latch on to ideas and follow trends that are seemingly popular. Maybe it’s their need for acceptance, or perhaps it’s just the mere fact that America is amazingly good at the art of imitation.  One such trend is vegetarianism and the variations of this lifestyle.  I am not judging or choosing sides either way, but I feel as though there is a lot of hypocrisy in this decision.  For example, my favorite vegan friend chooses to omit meat and animal products from her diet due to reasons regarding animal rights (as opposed to health or dietary reasons).  However, she still carries her 100% leather Coach with her like a trophy.  Bless her confused heart, as I’ve tried to explain why people question her dedication.

With that said, hypocrisy, ignorance and vanity are part of our human makeup.  They’re also very prevalent in the actual industry of makeup.  Whether claiming to be all-natural, vegan, or just plain health conscious, it’s good habit to realize words like “natural”, “organic” and “whole” don’t necessarily mean they’re botanical-based or plant-derived.  Without mentioning a preference of plant vs. animal products, I have listed the following popular product ingredients that are frequently derived from animals or animal byproducts:

Lactic Acid has anti-aging and mild exfoliating properties. It is found in blood and muscle tissue of animals and milk, which is an animal byproduct. Instead, try Glycolic Acid (sugar), Citric Acid (fruit) or Salicylic Acid (willow bark).

Allantoin is used in sensitive skin products. It comes from Uric Acid, which can be found in cows and most mammals. An alternative with soothing properties is Comfrey or Aloe.

Arachidonic Acid is used to calm Eczema and rashes. It is a liquid fatty acid that is found in the liver, brain, glands and fat of mammals.

Beeswax (Cera Flava) is a very common component of lipsticks, mascara, balms and makeup. It is made by virgin bees.

Biotin is an essential building block of the skin. It is found in every living cell.

Caprylic Acid is widely used in cosmetic formulations. Usually found in cow or goat milk. Some alternatives with same the consistency are Coconut and Palm Oil.

Carmine (Cochineal) is used in cosmetics, but more commonly in foods like hot sauce, red lollipops and food coloring. This red pigment comes from crushing the female Cohineal insect.

Cetyl Alcohol is used for lubrication and as a surfactant. It is found in the sperm from whales or dolphins, unless Petroleum is listed as the alternative.

Collagen is very popular and very falsely advertised as being able to help build the skin’s collagen and fibrolast. It is a fibrous protein in vertebrates.

Cortisone is used to treat allergic reactions and inflammation. Usually animal-derived, it is a hormone extracted from the adrenal glands.

Gelatin is used as a thickener in foods, shampoos and cosmetics. It is obtained by boiling skin, ligaments or bones from cows and pigs. A very popular alternatives is Carrageen (Irish Moss) or Pectin, but it needs to be a listed ingredient.

Honey is antimicrobial, moisturizing and nourishing. It is the main food source of bees, made by bees.

Hyaluronic Acid is a hydration aide used in cosmetics that attracts the skin’s inner moisture to the surface. Unless it’s listed as “synthetic”, it is found in umbilical cords and the fluid that surrounds animal joints.

Keratin is used as a “protein” for hair strengthening and relaxing. It usually comes from ground up hooves, feathers and quills of animals in order to be effective

Retinol is the most popular form of Vitamin A for anti-aging purposes. It is most certainly animal-derived unless Carotene is listed as the alternative.

Squalene is amazing for nourishing the under-eye area, and for lubrication in creams.  A variation being Shark Liver Oil, Squalene is derived from the shark’s cartilage.

Silk is known for its smoothing properties. It is the shiny fiber made by silkworms to form their cocoons.

Stearic Acid is an emollient and used to keep other ingredients intact. It is a fatty acid derived from cows, pigs, sheep and other animals

This is not a complete list, just a selection of some of the most popular cosmetic ingredients. As a fellow omnivore, I simply prefer whatever works best for the skin and body. Whichever lifestyle you choose, just remember that if you’re going to stand for something or hop on the trend wagon, be sure you do your research.


By Noelle DiLeonardo, Medically Certified Licensed Esthetician