Animal Ingredients In ‘Cruelty Free’ Cosmetics

The term 'cruelty-free' in cosmetics has become synonymous with 'animal testing free', but even without animal testing, animals are harmed in the beauty industry.

100% vegan, animal testing free and eco-conscious. Image via Elate Beauty

Animal testing for the sake of beauty products is an incredibly cruel practice responsible for the suffering and death of approximately 500,000 animals every year globally. 

However, even products marketed as ‘cruelty free’ and ‘not tested on animals’ still often contain cruelly sourced animal ingredients.

Labelling products as ‘cruelty-free’ when they are free from animal-testing, but not animal exploitation or slaughter, is misleading and wrong.

There is no need to exploit animals for beauty products in this manner, as there are plenty of 100% vegan, animal-testing free beauty companies to support. Additionally, many animal-testing free companies have a list of their available vegan products.

Here are just some of the cruel animal ingredients that vegan cosmetics avoid…

Ingredient name: Tallow

Image from a butcher selling ‘grass-fed beef tallow’. This is what the fat looks like before it is processed and put into cosmetics.

Found in: foundations, shampoos, moisturisers, lipsticks and more.

What it is: Tallow is hardened animal fat. Tallow is made from the boiled carcasses of slaughtered sheep and cows, which the fatty product is then derived from.

Ingredient name: Squalene or Squalane

The yellow toned organ exposed is the liver.

Found in: sunscreen and skin-care products for hydration and healing 

What it is: Squalene (0r squalane, the same ingredient in a slightly different form) can be made from plants and grains, but sometimes it is made from shark liver oil. It is taken from many different shark breeds who are killed such as the deep sea shark, as well as the school, gulper and basking sharks, who are all listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. These animals are all vulnerable or threatened due to over fishing.

Ingredient name: Lanolin

A sheep who has just been mulesed and tail-docked. Photo: Animal Liberation Victoria / Patty Mark

Found in: lip, eye, facial and hair products, amongst others.

What it is: Lanolin is essentially wool grease and is collected and farmed by the wool industry. The wool industry is a slaughter industry. Sheep are killed about half way into their natural life span when their wool degrades in quality because they are considered more profitable sold as mutton meat. Sheep are legally mulesed, castrated and tail docked without pain relief in Australia and shearing is often a painful practice.

Ingredient name: Beeswax

Bees are clever and work as a team.

Found in: lipstick, lip gloss, hair pomades, eyeliner and more

What it is: The wax secreted by bees. Bees are often denied their own honey, fed a cheap sugar-water alternative which lacks the nutrients they need. It’s common for queen bees to have their wings plucked off so that she cannot leave, as other bees would follow her and make a new colony elsewhere away from a keeper’s farm.

Ingredient name: Hyaluronic Acid

In a broiler farm. Image by ALV

Found in: hyaluronic acid serums and creams

What it is: Hyaluronic acid can be derived from fermented grass yeast, or from the combs off of a slaughtered rooster’s head.

Ingredient name: Caprae Lac or Goat’s Milk

Baby Mercury was rescued from the dairy industry.

Found in: soaps, moisturisers and other skincare products

What it is: The milk mother goats produce for their newborn babies. In order for it to be used by humans, baby goats are taken from their mothers and if they are male, they are slaughtered.

Ingredient name: Guanine

Fish are beautiful and sentient beings who feel fear and pain.

Found in: lots of sparkly cosmetics such as eye shadows, lip glosses, highlighters, bronzers and more

What it is: Guanine is from fish scales scraped off the skin of slaughtered fish.

Ingredient name: Keratin

Many horses and other aged animals are killed at knackeries, where their hooves and other body parts are harvested.

Found in: many common hair products

What it is: A protein made from ground up horns, hooves, feathers and hair of various exploited and slaughtered animals.

Ingredient name: Carmine

A Cochineal bug.

Found in: Lipstick, nail polish, blush, lots of products with a red colour to them

What it is: Cochineal bugs are crushed and killed for this colouring ingredient. Up to 70,000 dried bugs are killed to produce just a pound of carmine (also referred to as carminic acid).

Ingredient name: Casein

Want to know more about dairy? See

Found in: hair conditioning products and facial treatments

What it is: Casein is a protein found in cows’ milk. The dairy industry kills male baby calves because they do not produce milk. They also kill their milk producing mothers when they are no longer profiting farmers. Learn more about dairy via Cow Truth.

Ingredient name: Shellac

A female lac bug.

Found in: Hair-spray, mascara, eyeliner, nail polish

What it is: Shellac is the secretion of the female lac bug. It is harvested by scraping the ‘resin’ off the branches these bugs live on and many bugs are scraped and killed during this careless process.

Ingredient name: Glycerine

From ALV’s Pig Truth campaign

Found in: Soaps, hair-care, many makeup products and moisturisers 

What it is: Just like tallow, glycerine can be made from animal fats from pigs, sheep, cows and other animals. There is also vegetable-based glycerine, so you will need to check with the distributor if it isn’t labelled as vegetable-based.

Axiology’s vegan, animal-testing free and palm oil free lipstick, in a recycled metal tube

The use of these ‘ingredients’ makes much of the beauty industry a very dark and cruel place. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

When you choose vegan makeup, hair care and skin care, you help the world become a kinder place!