Vegan Beauty: 7 Animal-Derived Ingredients to Watch Out For

Vegan Beauty: 7 Animal-Derived Ingredients to Watch Out For

Vegan beauty is top of the agenda for 2020. But did you know that some of the most common, sought-after products are based on animal-derived ingredients? Don’t worry – there are great plant-based alternatives.

Biologi founders Lucy and Ross

Biologi is Australia’s hottest new skincare brand. Pictured: founders Lucy and Ross

We’ve enlisted cosmetic chemist and co-founder of Biologi, Ross Macdougald, to list the cunning culprits. While some brands focus on promoting the efficacy of their products, they omit mentioning the elephant in the room – that key ingredients are made from animals.

It’s time to clear the air around vegan beauty. If you’re a practicing vegan or want to be mindful about what you’re putting on your skin, hair and body, read on.

Animal-Derived Ingredients To Ditch:


Lanolin has seen a surge in popularity, most often seen in lip care, lipsticks and moisturising products. What many don’t realise is that lanolin is derived from the oil glands of mammals; namely sheep. The excretion is taken from their wool.

Putting it simply, lanolin is made from the grease build-up found in wool, which is then put into products for people to put on their face

Sounds pretty gross, right? Well, it is. For a natural alternative to lanolin for the lips, try Biologi’s new BL Nourish Lip Serum. It contains a single-plant extract of native Australian blood red finger lime, chosen for natural healing and protection properties. The extract is packed with 100% active natural phytonutrients that work in synergy to reduce redness, calm inflammation and leave lips soft and supple.

For a natural alternative to Lanolin for the lips, try Biologi’s new BL Nourish Lip Serum

For a natural alternative to lanolin for the lips, try Biologi’s new BL Nourish Lip Serum


Squalene is also surging in popularity, with many brands creating ‘hero products’ such as moisturisers, deodorants and lip product using the ingredient. Essentially, squalene is an oil that is extracted from shark livers.

The thing to note is that there are some vegan squalene alternatives. However, if it isn’t stated on the product you will need to do some digging to find its true source.


If you’re interested in skincare, it’s likely you would have heard of retinol before. Many people sing its praises thanks to the supposed anti-ageing and acne-clearing qualities.

What many don’t realise is that retinol is an animal-derived ingredient obtained from sources including fish livers, milk and egg yolks

It is important to note that retinoids are only found in foods of animal origin, however, there are some alternative plant sources for Vitamin A, which is what carotenoids are. These are found in fruits and vegetables like spinach, carrots, mangos and sweet potatoes. Synthetic plant-based alternatives alternatives to retinol are also available.


Collagen, retinol, Hyaluronic Acid and more ingredients are not vegan and derived from animals

Collagen, retinol, Hyaluronic Acid and more ingredients are not vegan and derived from animals

Similarly, collagen has also seen a huge surge in popularity this year, with a rise in collagen-based beauty supplements. It’s also used in anti-ageing skincare and lip plumping products. However, the jury is still out when it comes to the efficacy of the ingredient.

Unfortunately, collagen also happens to be animal-derived. It comes from a fibrous protein such as animal tissue, skin, bones and ligaments – and is then put into skincare products. Another problem with collagen is that while it has been marketed incredibly well, there is actually no proven effect on collagen reproduction.

Hyaluronic Acid

Another trendy ingredient, Hyaluronic Acid has been marketed as a hero ingredient, with claims it can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water. It is meant to hydrate and plump the skin. However, Hyaluronic Acid’s water-binding capabilities means that the efficacy of the product can be questionable. This is because the actives can be used up in the bottle. And that’s not the only issue…

Hyaluronic Acid is commonly derived from rooster combs, or the red crown that sits on the head of a rooster

Biologi’s Bf Hydration Serum. Biologi’s Bf Serum (centre)

Biologi’s Bf Hydration Serum (centre)

A non-animal derived version can be found via biofermentation. However, again, you’d need to do some research to ensure you’re getting the right version. If you’re looking for an alternative source of hydration, check out Biologi’s Bf Hydration Serum. The hero Serum contains a unique combination of fruit acids that nourish and protect the whole body. It is the ideal serum for anyone with sensitive, dry and irritated skin who is looking for a boost of hydration.


Ah, elastin! This ingredient is used in high end skincare products mostly for its supposed anti-aging powers. Elastin is also animal derived, and comes from fibrous bovine animal skin, bone and ligament protein. Similar to collagen, this ingredient does not resemble the elastin in our body which is a living complex tissue – and not a powder or liquid.


The placenta is an organ which links the foetus to the mother in mammals for the transfer of oxygen and nutrients to the foetus. It also facilitates transfer of foetal waste products to the mother. For placenta to be incorporated into skincare products, the placenta must be dried and powdered, or turned into a liquid extract. There is no benefit in adding this to a cosmetic product because any benefit it may have had has gone once it is removed from its living source.

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Deni Kirkova
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