The search phrase “vegan skin care” has increased over 83% this last year in Google searches. When I found that out, I had to ask myself: what is making vegan beauty so popular all of a sudden? It has become a genuine trend and the skincare aisle is starting to reflect that with more and more products labeling themselves “vegan”. That means only one thing for sure. It is time for me to dig a little deeper.
Most of us are not, uhm, “hugely”, as president Trump might say, into totally avoiding delicious food for the sake of our health. If we can believe the people at vegetariantimes.com, America is about 3% vegetarian and approximately 0.5% vegan. That means chances are that you, dear reader, use animal products and keep meat in your diet. Regardless of the exact numbers, vegetarians are a minority and vegans are an even smaller group. So how is it that so many people that are not vegans, or even vegetarians, care so much about “vegan skin care” (note the separate words as opposed to “skincare”. Both are acceptable)?
Honestly, any day before and I would have zipped right past any vegan related questions, probably with some leftover pork chops lining my teeth. But things are changing. It turns out that the tiny group called vegans is getting…less tiny. The sheer number of people in America interested in going vegan, to one degree or another, is making ripples. That doesn’t make it any more clear whether vegan products are actually any better compared to non-vegan products. Ignoring, for example, if some people have an allergy situation, there must be a solid benefit, a good reason for people to go vegan with their daily skin care regime, beyond animal cruelty beliefs.
Personally, I call bluff on every vegan who eats some dairy here and there and every vegetarian who eats cheese and fish. You are living a lie, people. But that’s not really what I’m talking about as I search for the secret benefit of vegan skin care products. The people searching for and buying these products are mostly what I’m calling beauty vegans. These are people that will line their vanity cabinet with vegan products but head to breakfast when they smell the bacon. Real vegans are hyper-strict about using any animal products whatsoever. Maybe these dedicated beauty vegans found the answer in the skin care industry. After all, it is the skin care industry that created the demand and is now catering to a growing group of beauty vegans. As they make more and more products for people following the vegan beauty trend, they must be explaining what makes vegan products better than others. That must be where the answer lies!
I have to admit, if a skincare product claims to be vegan, it has my attention, and the makers, well they probably have my dollar. Over the years I’ve become much more attentive to the ingredient lists on the products I use. But these lists can be hard to decipher. A natural skin care product that claims to be vegan just sounds like it is extra good and that’s a damn good gimmick. But it’s not a new gimmick. While beauty vegans are a new trend, a few of the skincare products in the vegan category have actually been around for decades. That alone might be some proof for how good the products can be. If you’ve ever used Dr Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap, then you already use a vegan skin care product. But what makes their vegan soap better than normal soap? What are the facts? What do vegan skin care products have that others do not. What do companies even mean when they declare their product to be vegan? The devil is in the details!
As far as the vean skin care company Beauty Without Cruelty (www.beautywithoutcruelty.com), they tell us that being vegan, or animal-by-product free, means a focus on using herbal extracts for cleansing and essential oils for fragrance. But that’s not exactly ground-breaking, turn-my-life-around information. Beauty Without Cruelty’s website lists the ingredients they use in their products, provides a short company history, and lists two, vegetarian, animal welfare activists as founders. Two vegetarians, not vegans. Say cheese…if you are a cheese eating vegetarian! But what drove these people to push their product line up into full vegan territory? What is the unique offering to us as buyers because of that vegan push?
Do you hear that?
Beauty Without Cruelty doesn’t say a word in defense of switching to vegan skin care on their website. They don’t explain why or how animal ingredients in beauty products are bad for you, or what exactly their vegan skincare ingredients replace in terms of conventional ingredients. They generally don’t explain anything at all about how they are better. Beauty Without Cruelty was a dead end, unfortunately. But I was sure the other companies in the vegan skin care biz were still the places to go for answers. Undeterred, I took my search onward to a New Jersey based company called Ecco Bella.
Ecco Bella (www.eccobella.com) is a “mostly vegan” beauty product line based in New Jersey. But I’m not going to keep you on the line about this. Unfortunately, in terms of the answers we want, Ecco Bella has been largely disappointing. There isn’t much in the way of a story telling us about their ingredients or how their vegan bits and bobs are better than another brand’s non-vegan bits and bobs (to use highly scientific terms). So, yes, I was disappointed again. And it really makes no sense to me. I
f you tell me your skincare product is vegan, like I said, you have my attention and you’ll probably soon have my money. Yet this crucial thing is being left of out the basic marketing – what makes vegan skin care so much better? Tell us, vegan skin care companies!
So I had to end it there. I didn’t really drink deep the vegan beauty Kool Aid, even though I still want to. At this point, I’m certain of one thing – vegan beauty product companies have the benefit of a warm and fuzzy feeling whenever we see “vegan ingredients”. But while they are taking advantage of a good vibe, they should be cruising on “more than a feeling”. I guess there is no secret, no benefit to using vegan products versus standard skin care products at all. It is simply a decision based on people’s ethics and relationship with animals. For vegan skin care companies, especially the ones that have been around for decades, like Dr. Bronner’s, and Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC was founded in the 1960s) while they have been around and doing just fine for a while, based on making good products, it seems unusual that they don’t talk more about what makes their product better. Maybe the point is that it doesn’t matter. Perhaps the only real point is that more and more people are gaining interest in vegan skin care. So my message to vegan skin care companies is this: take our money, damn it!
In conclusion, as far as I can tell, vegan skin care is not necessarily better in terms of their performance than your standard non-vegan skincare. That’s it. Rather, it’s a lifestyle choice that aligns with your purchase decisions. At the end of the day, some of these vegan skin care products are just good products, vegan or not. There is little or close to zero about the superior effectiveness of the stuff inside vegan skin care products, so keep that in mind too. I guess that’s good enough for me, because I’ll admit that the vegan products I’ve used are pretty good products, Dr. Bronner’s being high on that list. For now, there was just one last thing I found.
As I searched for top vegan beauty brands, Google brought me to the Cruelty Free Kitty website, which was among the first page of search results for vegan skin care (www.crueltyfreekitty.com). It looks like there is a somewhat big ol’ chance that there is a lot of confusion about what people think vegan beauty or vegan skincare means. This is pretty typical. Everyone picks up a buzz word with zero idea or regard for what these things actually mean. That isn’t that unusual either, just ask Ms. Teen U.S.A. 2007 contestant Lauren Caitlin. The Cruelty Free Kitty lists over one hundred beauty brands on the “Cruelty Free and Vegan” list. Names that I would never expect to see are coming up in that list: Bourjois, Kat Von D, Nars… Whoa, rewind. I am a makeup junkie with no qualms about talking about my skin care and make up addiction. With that authority, take it as you like, nobody can tell me that most of the companies on the list at Cruelty Free Kitty really vegan companies. Not a problem though, as it turns out. Because, as it turns out, it’s enough to be a vegan beauty product or skincare company if you claim you are not testing on animals. That’s something to consider. While people are hung up on the search term “vegan skin care” they might actually mean “not tested on animals”, or “natural skin care”, or “green tea face mask” (contains honey, but honey is vegan, right?). Choose your products for how well they work, is what I say. If you have ethics about one thing or another, then throw that in the mix too, that’s your call and you have that right, just take care to be sure that what your skin care product is giving you is not a confused label.
PS. Many vegetarians eat cheese, some don’t eat cheese. Tell me if there is a name for the one group to distinguish from the other, ok?