Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use and consumption of animal products. The term is often associated with a health-conscious diet, in which vegans refrain from consumption of meat, eggs, dairy, and other animal-derived items (like honey, in some cases).
Personal definitions of veganism are best placed on a spectrum. While some vegans practice only through diet, many also take the philosophy elsewhere as well, like in the products they use. Veganism has become increasingly popular in the beauty industry in the past few years. In fact, the vegan beauty market is projected to reach $21.4 billion by 2027.
The rise of vegan beauty is deeply intertwined with the rise of “Clean Beauty.” Fundamentally, clean beauty focuses on how chemicals affect personal and environmental health. Though, like vegan beauty, its criteria is quite complex and can be best described as a spectrum. Thus, “vegan” often falls under the umbrella of “clean.”
For simplicity’s sake, vegan beauty can best be described as products made with ingredients that are not derived from animal or animal by-products. Additionally, the manufacturing process is generally free of animal content as well.
Motivations for the shift towards vegan beauty can be categorized into two groups: environmental and ethical.
A large proponent of the “animal-free” philosophy is focused on conservation. A 2018 study with data from nearly 40,000 farms in 119 countries found that meat and dairy production is responsible for 60% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. In the U.S. alone, livestock farms generate about 70% of the nation’s ammonia emissions. And this is just all on the dietary side.
Of course, another major part of the vegan philosophy is its stance against the cruelty and exploitation of animals. In addition to surrounding environmental concerns, factory farming practices are a large contributor to concerns about animal welfare— from cramped living spaces to exclusion from federal animal protection laws.
Ultimately, ethical and environmental concerns are making consumers rethink their dependence on animal products in their day-to-day lives, from diet to beauty. Thus, businesses should follow.
Implementing veganism in the self-regulated beauty industry is no small task. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to provide guidelines and regulate how brands make claims for their products. Thus, each retailer, brand, and even certifying body often has its own specific sets of standards and definitions on what it means for a product to be vegan.
For example, Sephora’s “Clean + Planet Positive” products must be cruelty free certified and free of animal products, by products, and derivatives. Comparatively, Grove Collaborative requires all of their products to be cruelty free certified and made with plant-based formulas.
If that was confusing, “vegan” is often used synonymously with other clean beauty claims— below is a list of vegan-aligned vocabulary and the beauty industry’s generally recognized definitions of them, from A-Z.
Means: raw materials and products that are not tested on animals.
Brands with this claim do not commission animal testing, nor do they source ingredients from manufacturers that do so. Cruelty free is one of the requirements for a product or material to be vegan. Read more about what “cruelty free” actually means in the beauty industry.
Means: raw materials and products that are derived entirely from plants.
Plant-based materials are not always vegan, despite the fact that these terms are often used interchangeably. These materials may still be tested on animals, which means they aren’t cruelty free, and ultimately not vegan. This term excludes minerals, synthetics, fermented materials, and biotech materials.
Means: raw materials not found in or harvested from nature (not derived from animals and/or plants) and are created entirely in a lab.
Synthetics get a bad rap, especially when the clean beauty movement prioritizes natural ingredients. However, synthetic materials are often better vegan alternatives. For example, while traditional squalene is often sourced from shark liver, synthetic squalene offers the same benefits with a comparably stable shelf life.
Means: raw materials and products that are free from animal and animal-derived by products, and are not tested on animals.
Vegan materials encompass synthetic, plant-based, and mineral materials— as long as they are also cruelty free.
A few major beauty retailers have already created their own standards for their brands to go vegan. Some, like Sephora, have labels or lines for a specific selection of vegan products. Others, like Grove Collaborative, apply vegan labeling across their entire store.
Below is a list of a few retailer policies with clear vegan standards.
All products labeled Clean + Planet Positive must be certified cruelty free and free of certain animal-derived ingredients beginning 2022.
All products under Credo’s Clean Standard must be free of animal musks, fats, and other derivatives. Exceptions include cholesterol, lactose, lanolin, and keratin.
All products sold by The Detox Market must be certified cruelty free.
All products sold by Grove Collaborative must be certified cruelty free and made with plant-based formulas.
Brands can self-certify their products as vegan, pursue a third-party certification, or do both— whatever route brands take, Novi can support the journey. Below is a list of standards available on our platform, as well as their criteria, to help you get started.
Cruelty free ingredients have not been tested on animals. Suppliers of cruelty free materials have not performed or commissioned animal testing on the trade material.
Ingredients free of animal/animal by products are not from animal origin or animal by-products.
Vegan suitable ingredients are not derived from, nor use any animal origin or animal by-products in manufacturing. Such ingredients are also not tested on animals.
In addition to self-certification, brands may also pursue a certification from a third-party organization. While these certifications can be costly, they can provide further credibility for any vegan or cruelty free claims that brands make, because they’ve been objectively verified by an unbiased entity.
Vegan.org offers this certification to companies that do not use animal-based ingredients in their product formulas or manufacturing processes.
PETA offers two different cruelty free certifications under its Beauty without Bunnies program: PETA Animal Test Free, and PETA Animal Test Free and Vegan.