Extending veganism to your hair and beauty regime is getting easier thanks to a growing industry response to the movement, writes Rachel Marie Walsh.
Pursuing Veganuary with conviction in the kitchen or even staying dyed-in-the-Tencel vegan year round, can make using non-vegan cosmetics feel a little like cheating.
“For me, as long as people wear leather and eat meat, I don’t get the message,” the late Karl Lagerfeld told the New York Times of those who protested his using fur as fashion, and surely he’d say the same of anyone condemning Chanel’s definitely-not-vegan cosmetics.
Consistency matters in these polarising times, and it is possible to get a sophisticated, vegan-approved hair and beauty regime together, if still a little pioneering.
Need your cosmetics to meet an independent standard of veganism? The European Commission was scheduled to begin work on one for vegan food just last year, so cosmetics may take a while.
Products can be approved by The Vegan Society, a UK-based charity that regularly requires re-registration to ensure brands and products meet their standards.
Outspoken artist, vegan, and makeup brand Kat Von D notes the lack of legal guidelines for US consumers.
Her e-commerce store uses its own definition (“a product that does not contain any animal products or by-products, and has not been tested on animals”) and marks vegan formulas like her new Kat Von D Everlasting Blush, €27, #VeganAlert.
Inspired by flowers and packaged in a petal-detailed compact, this blush is available in warm shades of pink, peach and coral.
It is a highly pigmented, soft matte formula that — as the name suggests — both lasts all day and only requires a touch to make an impact.
Clarins applies a similar definition of vegan-friendly to selected formulas. Their millennial-targeted My Clarins range is also more purse-friendly than their other products.
I particularly rate the My Clarins RE-BOOST Refreshing Hydrating Cream, €25, for normal-to-dry skin, its rich blend of acerola cherry, Vitamin E and coconut is very comforting.
Many vegan beauty products arrive on my desk with claims of being better for sensitivity or acne-prone skin or even better for children and babies.
Maybe some really are great for these delicate types, but there is no evidence that it is their veganism that makes them so.
Veganism may be making more cosmetics animal-free and cruelty-free but it is not a dermatological innovation in itself.
Ingredients like alcohol and perfume (even organic alcohol or natural perfume oils like lavender and eucalyptus, as well as the common fragrance compounds linalool and geraniol), are just as irritating and sensitising in vegan formulas.
Animal-derived ingredients from collagen to beeswax to squalene have been used in skincare for newborns since long before the stars went green, so unless your politics conflicts, there really is no need to feel like you are not making the most nurturing choice for your own skin or that of your baby if your products are not as vegan as Alicia Silverstone’s.
That said, if a product is fragrance and alcohol-free and vegan — as well as packed with goodies like proven antioxidants and plant fats — you can stick to your principles while still making a great choice.
Veganism is an increasingly popular dietary choice, and hair and beauty trends are frequently influenced by food trends long before topical benefits are well-established.
The jury is still out on whether vegan diets are a route to superior health, and it is worth noting that the skin absorbs ingredients topically in a radically different fashion than the way the body breaks down and extracts nutrients from food.
I still feel the choice to go entirely vegan with your beauty is a political one — at least until we have adequate independent dermatological research to prove it the more healthful choice.
Don’t bin any favourite buys before looking them up, as brands that aren’t exclusively vegan sometimes have quite a few vegan options.
TooFaced is famously cruelty-free but not totally vegan, so the brand offers a list of their vegan buys at TooFaced.com.
Living Proof, the innovative US haircare brand, has several vegan formulas, including Perfect Hair Day Triple Detox Shampoo, about €28.97 plus shipping, exclusive to cultbeauty.co.uk.
This is a gentle coconut and charcoal-based shampoo that combats the effects of pollution, tough-to-rinse products and hard water.
It doesn’t have much of a scent, which is actually great for scalp health — but if you love perfumed shampoo this also works as a clarifying alternate for weekends when you’ve used lots of styling products.
If you are anything like me, your attachment to perfumes is an emotional thing, governed by positive memories and moods.
It is troublesome, then, that fragrance seems unlikely to make a major shift towards veganism, if only because the biggest names make billions from the existing formulas we love. Musks alone make perfume halls a minefield when you are shopping for a vegan.
Consider the hit fragrances of Christmas 2019 — YSL’s Libre, Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet, Lancôme’s Idôle… there is not a vegan-friendly blend among them, and you probably like at least one.
If you are really going cold gherkin, you might try Clean Perfumes, Floral Street, or Lush Cosmetics.
Staying vegan from your pedicure to your perfume really is impressive but this last category is still a swap too far for me.
Will there ever be v-quivalents to my favourite fragrances? Maybe next Veganuary.