Veganism is moving from what we put into our bodies to what we put on our faces. In a decade, the number of vegans in Britain has increased from 150,000 to more than 540,000, according to the Vegan Society, fuelled by younger people, aged 16-34, who account for nearly half that number. It makes sense that those avoiding all meat, dairy and animal derivatives such as wool and leather would also be keen to avoid beeswax in lipbalm, animal fat in cream blushers and eyeshadows, and crushed cochineal beetles in red lipsticks. You don’t have to be vegan to be put off by this.
Tashina Combs has been writing about cruelty-free and vegan makeup for the last six years on her blog Logical Harmony and has recently noticed a surge of interest. “I think people are becoming more aware. For a long time, people didn’t really realise how common animal testing still was in so many places around the world. With vegan cosmetics, they start to look at the ingredients too and are realising a lot of them are byproducts of other industries they don’t necessarily want to support.”
The new vegan brands, she says, have a mainstream feel. “I think for a long time there was a stigma – that everyone thought they were these earthy, crunchy brands and now they’re realising you can go to department stores and buy this stuff. They are high-quality products that makeup artists are using and they perform in the same way as the conventional brands we’re used to.”
Justine Jenkins, a makeup artist who switched to cruelty-free products about seven years ago, now uses as many vegan products in her professional kit as she can. “I find that is what I’m asked about the most these days – people want vegan options,” she says.
This year, retail research company Mintel has seen a 100% rise in the number of “vegan” claims for cosmetics. “It is definitely a growing trend,” says Roshida Khanom, an associate director of beauty and personal care at Mintel. It is being driven by the parallel rise in veganism and the “free-from” trend in eating (gluten-free beauty products, for instance, have also entered the market). “Where, before, consumers were looking for products that didn’t contain the perceived ‘nasties’ such as preservatives, they are now becoming even more demanding, driven by being more conscious of both their health and the ethical practices of the companies they are buying into.”
In June, the makeup brand Nars announced it would have to test its products on animals in order to be sold in China, where this is required by law (animal testing of cosmetics is banned in the EU). Nars is not a vegan company, though many of its products are, but it did make much of its cruelty-free credentials. Judging by just some of the 15,000 comments left on the statement it made on Instagram, this angered customers who pledged never to buy the brand again. A petition against the company’s new stance on animal testing has attracted nearly 250,000 signatures.
“Social media is creating a more influential consumer who is not afraid to name and shame the brands they feel don’t live up to their ethical considerations,” says Khanom. “We are likely to see more companies introducing either vegan brands or sub-brands to cater to this growing demand.” This isn’t a niche development but one that is happening on the high street. Eight weeks ago, Superdrug launched its vegan makeup range B, following the 2013 launch of its vegan skincare brand. “A couple of years ago we noticed it was becoming far more important to have vegan-friendly products,” says Sarah Gardner, Superdrug’s head of beauty. “More and more customers were searching our site looking for vegan products. We feel quite confident this is absolutely the route we should be going down.” By the end of the year, the range will be in 500 of its stores.
The Body Shop has said it is moving away from using animal derivatives such as lanolin in its products (though it will still use the honey and beeswax it sources from its community trade partners). Kat Von D Beauty, a US company founded by the celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D and sold in Debenhams, has said it is committed to being 100% vegan by the end of the year. Other companies such as Urban Decay, Barry M and Lush specify which of their cosmetics are vegan.
There are a huge number of smaller brands that are increasingly 100% vegan, such as e.l.f. and Inika Organic. “I think the beauty market has massively changed,” says Gardner. “People are doing more research and not just taking what they see on the high street as the only offer.”
Jenkins recommends British company PHB Ethical Beauty – she rates their mascara – and she also likes Arbonne, and the long-established vegan company Beauty Without Cruelty. “I love Pacifica for their BB creams, and their mascara and eyeshadow is great. Lime Crime is a really fun brand – they do fantastic brightly coloured eyeliners and gorgeous lip glosses.” A lot of lipbalms have beeswax in them, she says, but a company called Hurraw makes “beautiful creamy lip balms, which I use a lot”.
When people tell her they don’t believe the pigments in vegan products are as punchy as non-vegan ones, she points them to the US brand Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics. “They are one of the most brilliantly pigmented brands I know. They are great for anyone who loves colour – I love the lip tars, which are bright and beautiful – and they do fantastic glitter pots.” She likes brushes – made from synthetic bristles, not animal hair – from EcoTools.
Although she only uses cruelty-free makeup, Jenkins still doesn’t use entirely vegan products. “It can be a challenge to do red carpet and editorial work only using 100% vegan brands. I don’t mean that those products don’t deliver – quite the opposite, they work beautifully. It’s just that a handful of brands isn’t enough and I would love to see more vegan options available to everyone.” Before long, there will be.