When a person is committed to avoiding animal ingredients wherever possible, it doesn’t have to mean going without every day products like shaving creams and sighing resignfully “Viva la beard!” - there are now vegan alternatives for virtually everything a person could need.
It is simply a matter of informing ourselves about the possible animal ingredients and how to identify them which empowers us to make choices that are in alignment with our values. This may feel a little overwhelming at times, so addressing one area of concern at a time can assist in taking another step forward on your personal journey.
When shopping for shaving products even though they may not be clearly marked “vegan friendly” on the front they may still be suitable – so second point of call is to check the back panel for any symbols or claims to this effect which may include statements like "vegan friendly”, "no animal derived ingredients" or even "no animal ingredients - contains beeswax" (or similar inclusions/exclusions) which lets you know of those ingredients that still fit into the “no animal ingredients” arena, however may still not appeal to a vegan.
If not clearly identified - you may need to check any accompanying marketing materials like signage, brochures, instruction leaflets or even their company website for further information, but a quick look at the ingredient listing may also be adequately revealing.
Ingredients to watch for in shaving products include:
Allantoin may come from uric acid (from cows and most mammals) and is used in creams and lotions to treat of wounds and abrasions like ulcers. Derivatives include Alcloxa and Aldioxa. Alternatives include extract of comfrey root or synthetics. So if allantoin is mentioned in the listing and no pro-vegan claims are listed – further investigation may be required here.
Benzoic acid is found in almost all vertebrates (but also in berries) and is commonly used as a preservative in mouthwashes, deodorants, creams and aftershave lotions. Therefore choose one derived from cranberries or gum benzoin (tincture) which is from the aromatic balsamic resin from trees found mostly in Asian regions. Again further investigation may be required.
Casein/caseinate/sodium caseinate is a milk protein used in many cosmetics, hair preparations, and masks. Instead choose soy protein, soy milk, and other vegetable milks – this should be stated as such but if not – check with the manufacturer.
Glycerin(e) or Glycerol is used in soaps, lotions, skin care products, shaving cream, hair care products, and water-based personal lubricants. It can be synthetic, or derived from plants (usually soybeans) or animals (usually tallow). It can also be a blend of both animal and vegetable oils. Glycerides tend to be derived from animal fats. The Vegetarian Resource Group report that glycerin is mostly derived from plant materials when used in food, however, often in the case of cosmetics and body products, this is not a guarantee, so unless the label lists the ingredient as ‘vegetable glycerin’ it is best to contact the manufacturer for clarification.
Lauric acid can be found in cow’s milk and goat’s milk. Choose the coconut oil alternative instead where possible.
Myristic Acid is often from butter fat. It is also found in spermaceti, which is from the spermaceti organ located in the head of a sperm whale. Look for sources from nutmeg or coconut oil.
Stearic acid (often used in soap making) is also used to form stable creams, lotions and ointments -including shaving creams. One of the most common fatty acids it is frequently derived from tallow (animal fat), with some even coming from herrings and sardines. Used as a softener, it may be further refined to make stearyl alcohol, which is used as a thickener and lubricant. Instead, look for plant oils such as avocado, cotton, coconut, castor beans, rapeseed, soy, and sunflowers - natural sources of stearic acid.
Manufacturers are becoming increasingly aware of the needs of the vegan community. The more they are approached to provide more accurate ingredient details the more readily accessible information will be supplied and become available in the public domain. This will also effect change in their packaging and labelling – giving more thought to adding easily identifiable ingredient names and vegan symbology going forward. So have no qualms about approaching them to get the answers you need to make an informed choice – it ultimately helps us all – including our furry animal friends!
Michelle Vogrinec is an Aussie mum of three, creator of GAIA Natural Baby and MD of GAIA Skin Naturals Australia. Passionate about total wellbeing achieved primarily via natural/organic health and living an ethical lifestyle, she actively supports numerous efforts to bring readily available cruelty-free products to the masses as an essential part of her personal ethos.
- Published: 26 May 2015
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