In 2019, we saw many retailers and beauty magazines establishing their own clean beauty standards as a way to differentiate themselves and with the intention of protecting consumers from using products containing either harmful or irritating substances to humans or the environment. Part of the clean beauty movement is focused on avoiding undesirable materials that have been linked to potential illnesses. The other part of the movement is very marketing driven; for example, not all silicones are bad, yet some companies have decided to use silicone-free claims to create a differentiation. Beauty is constantly evolving, and what’s after clean beauty, naturally, is vegan beauty. It is considered one step beyond clean.
What is vegan? By definition, it is very simple. It means the product does not contain animal products or animal-derived ingredients and is not tested on animals, which also includes cruelty-free not only as a finished product but at the ingredient level as well. A clean product does not necessarily mean it is vegan. The best example is beeswax. Beeswax is used in many clean products as an effective emollient or a thickener. In fact, over 90% of natural lip balms contain beeswax. However, beeswax is considered a bee by-product because it is harvested from beehives where bees live. How would you like your house to be messed up so some human can take what you have built for the vanity of beauty? Thus, using a natural beeswax is not cruelty-free and cannot be considered vegan. There are some companies that meet the vegan criteria claiming they use synthetic beeswax. In this case, it is legit vegan beauty but it loses the meaning of natural, which in the mind of consumers is still important. Consumers are in constant fear of using so-called “chemicals.” They much prefer products that are natural; therefore, using a synthetic beeswax to fit a vegan claim may not be the best strategy.
If the above sounds confusing, how do you think the consumer feels? How will a consumer know if the beeswax is from a synthetic source or a natural one? There are organizations that issue vegan certifications but they are not required to state if a product is vegan. It is simply a certification that none of the ingredients used are animal-derived, or animal tested. To a certain extent, it is also an honor system without in-depth scrutiny. Many organizations will issue a logo when you pay an annual fee based on sales revenue, allowing brands to put their logo on products as an easy identification for consumers. There is no legal requirement to have such a certification. A simple Google search of vegan beauty certification will surface a list of organizations that issue such certifications.
For new beauty brands, if you know going in you want to be vegan (the price of entry of any indie brand), you will have to make sure that not only is your final product not animal tested, you will also need to ensure each of the ingredients used has never been tested on animals. This can get tricky, especially if you get ingredients from Asia. Many Asian countries not only require animal testing on the finished products but also to test for the activity of active ingredients, animals are often used. If there are ingredients that are claimed to have quasi-drug status (a cosmeceutical status for efficacy), you can be certain they are tested on animals because that is the requirement to achieve such status.
Additionally, to avoid inefficiency with labs, be clear about your blacklist upfront. If you do not have your own, let the lab or contract manufacturer know your desired retailers and make sure all of your ingredients comply with their standards. Additionally, request a source identification from each raw material supplier and ask for certification that the raw material has never been tested on animals. This may seem like a lot of work, but we live in a world that demands transparency—it is expected that you know how raw materials are obtained and tested. Remember, just because you do not test your finished product on animals does not mean the ingredients used in your product have never been tested on animals.
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