Common Cosmetic Ingredients That Are Made From Animals

If you are dedicated to vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics, then you are part of a growing number of makeup wearers whose shifting priorities are forcing cosmetics brands to change the way they make their products. However, the changes they make are not always for the better.

On the growing wave of consumers against animal byproducts in makeup, some cosmetics brands are introducing new vegan lines. However, so many others are just simply changing the names of the animal byproducts they include to something a little less obvious. While it is easy to find certified vegan cosmetics, it is even more common to find misleading ingredients on the label. Not only does this continue to enforce that it is okay to use animal byproducts, but it can actually be harmful to those with allergies to certain animal ingredients.

Next time you are reading through your cosmetic labels, keep your eyes out for these common animal byproduct ingredients. If you want to see the full list of animal byproducts (though not all of them used in cosmetics) you can view the full list on PETA’s website.

Where to Buy
Makeup Remover; with Organic and Natural Ingredients
Rose Clay vegan natural cheek and lip tint balm
Morphe 10 Piece Vegan Makeup Brush Set
Kirei Cosmetics Luxe 9-Piece Cruelty


If you have lipstick allergies, then this is probably the culprit. Lanolin is the greasy wax that is pulled off wool of animals like sheep and then used in lipstick and some makeup remover. Lanolin is used to help trap moisture and keep your lipstick and skin nice and moisturized as well as to give a degree of waterproofing. As it is extracted from wool, it doesn’t actually hurt the animal to get it, but it is one of biggest allergens in cosmetics.


Collagen is a fibrous protein found in almost every animal, even humans. It is what keeps your skin nice and young looking. In cosmetics, it is used in face creams and even cosmetics like lip-plumping lip gloss to give you that youthful appearance. However, rubbing the collagen of another dead animal on your skin does nothing for your own collagen production.


This is a tricky one. Squalene can also be extracted from some plant sources, but the major source of this substance still comes from the livers of sharks. This is what makes it so iffy. If it was extracted from plants, that is fine, but if it is made from shark livers? Not so fine. Usually it is added to lipstick and eye makeup to retain moisture.


You would be hard pressed to find an anti-aging cream that doesn’t have retinol in it. Retinol is technically a highly potent form of Vitamin A, which is great for the skin. Retinol can actually be made from carotenoids such as beta carotene in carrots, but more often they are formed from retinoic acid that is found in the liver, kidneys, eggs, and dairy products of animals.

Stearic Acid

You need to be careful of this in non-vegan cosmetics not only because it is made from animals, but because it is harsh and highly irritating. While stearic acid can be made from cocoa or shea butter, mostly it comes from the fat of cows, pigs, and sheep. It is basically a different name for tallow. You can find it in everything from creams and soap to chewing gum. The other unfortunate bit is that it comes in many different names, including:  Stearamide, Stearamine, Stearates, Stearic Hydrazide, Stearone, Stearoxytrimethylsilane, Stearoyl Lactylic Acid, Stearyl Betaine, Stearyl Imidazoline.

Our rule of thumb? If it starts with “stear,” then steer clear.


Often confused with guano, or bat poop, guanine is actually obtained from fish scales. This actually isn’t too much of a problem since fish scales often go to waste anyway, but the problem is that some people can have allergies or sensitivities to it.


Also labeled as glycerol, glycerin is the byproduct of the animal fat soap making process. This makes it a byproduct of a byproduct, so it can’t be all that great. Typically it is used in making creams and other cosmetics more viscous.


Also labeled as caseinate and sodium caseinate, this is actually a protein from milk. Not only can you find this in supposedly non-dairy creamers, but it is frequently used to soften skin in cosmetics and beauty masks. Not only does it come from animals, but it can be an irritant if you have dairy allergies.


Also known as cochineal or carminic acid, carmine is made from the ground up cochineal beetles that feed on a particular cactus. When ground up, these beetles produce vibrant red coloring which makes any red cosmetic or red dyed food you use at risk for using it. It is rumored the 70,000 beetles need to be used to make one pound of this dye. However, all that aside, like lanolin, this is one of the most skin-irritating ingredients you can find in cosmetics.


Used as a texturizer to give that silky texture to cosmetics, creams, and shampoos, you can find biotin in every living cell. However, most frequently it is harvested from milk or yeast as they have larger amounts of biotin than anything else.

“Natural Sources”

If they don’t specifically say whether it is plant or animal but say natural sources instead, go ahead and assume it is animal unless it is something that is clearly a plant.