Common ingredients to avoid when searching for vegan products

Posted by Shannon McGough on

    1. Albumen: In eggs, milk, muscles, blood, and many vegetable tissues and fluids. In cosmetics, albumen is usually derived from egg whites and used as a coagulating agent. May cause allergic reaction. In cakes, cookies, candies, etc. Egg whites sometimes used in the wine filtration process.
    2. Angora: Hair from the Angora rabbit or goat. Used in clothing.
    3. Animal Hair: Often found in blankets, mattresses, brushes, cosmetic brushes and furniture
    4. Beeswax/Cera Flava/Cera Alba: Wax obtained from melting honeycomb with boiling water, straining it, and cooling it. From virgin bees. May be harmful to the skin. Very cheap and widely used. In lipsticks and many other cosmetics, especially face creams, lotions, mascara, eye creams and shadows, face makeup, nail whiteners, lip balms, etc.
    5. Bone Char/ Animal bone ash: Used in bone china and often to make sugar white. Serves as the charcoal used in aquarium filters.
    6. Carmine/Cochineal/Carminic Acid: Red pigment from crushed female beetles/cochineal insect. Often used in cosmetics such as eyeshadows and lipsticks, red lollipops and red colouring. Reportedly, 70,000 beetles must be killed to produce one pound of this red dye. E120 is another name for carmine and is often listed in food products particularly sweets that have red colouring! Carmine is also known as C.I. 75470 in cosmetics often found in lipsticks and eyeshadows.
    7. Carotene/ Provitamin A/ Beta Carotene: A pigment found in many animal tissues and in all plants. When used as an additive, typically derived from plant sources. Used as a colouring in cosmetics and in the manufacture of vitamin A.
    8. Casein/Caseinate/Sodium Caseinate: Milk protein in “non-dairy” creamers, soy cheese, many cosmetics, hair preparations, beauty masks. Used in many cosmetics, hair preparations and beauty masks.
    9. Cashmere: Wool from the Kashmir goat. Used in clothing.
    10. Collagen: Fibrous protein in vertebrates. Usually derived from animal tissue. Can’t affect the skin’s own collagen. An allergen.
    11. Cysteine, L-Form: An amino acid from hair that can come from animals. Used in hair-care products and creams, in some bakery products, and in wound-healing formulations.
    12. Down: Goose or duck insulating feathers. From slaughtered or cruelly exploited geese. Used as an insulator in quilts, parkas, sleeping bags, pillows, etc.
    13. Estrogen/ Estradiol: Female hormones from pregnant mares’ urine. Considered a drug. Can have harmful systemic effects if used by children. Used for reproductive problems and in birth control pills and Premarin, a menopausal drug. In creams, perfumes, and lotions. Has a negligible effect in the creams as a skin restorative; simple vegetable-source emollients are considered better.
    14. Feathers: From exploited and slaughtered birds. Used whole as ornaments or ground up in shampoos. (See Down and Keratin.)
    15. Fish Scales: Used in shimmery makeup.
    16. Fur: Obtained from animals (usually mink, foxes, or rabbits) cruelly trapped in steel-jaw traps or raised in intensive confinement on fur farms.
    17. Gelatin/Gel: Protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones in water. From cows and pigs. Used in shampoos, face masks, and other cosmetics. Used as a thickener for fruit gelatins and puddings (e.g., Jell-O). In candies, marshmallows, cakes, ice cream, yogurts. Gelatin is also commonly used in the wine filtration process.
    18. Glycerin/glycerol: A byproduct of soap manufacture (normally uses animal fat). In cosmetics, foods, mouthwashes, chewing gum, toothpastes, soaps, ointments, medicines, lubricants, transmission and brake fluid and plastics.  Derivatives: Glycerides, Glyceryls, Glycreth-26, Polyglycerol.
    19. Guanine. Pearl Essence: Obtained from scales of fish. Constituent of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid and found in all animal and plant tissues. In shampoo, nail polish, other cosmetics
    20. Honey: Food for bees, made by bees. Can cause allergic reaction. Used as a coloring and an emollient in cosmetics and as a flavoring in foods. Should never be fed to infants.
    21. Isinglass: A form of gelatin prepared from the internal membranes of fish bladders. Sometimes used in “clearing” (filtering) wines and in foods.
    22. Keratin: Protein from the ground-up horns, hooves, feathers, quills, and hair of various animals. In hair rinses, shampoos, permanent wave solutions.
    23. Lactic Acid: Typically derived from plants such as beets. When animal-derived, found in blood and muscle tissue. Also in sour milk, beer, sauerkraut, pickles, and other food products made by bacterial fermentation. Used in skin fresheners, as a preservative, in the formation of plasticizers, etc.
    24. Lactose: Milk sugar from milk of mammals. In eye lotions, foods, tablets, cosmetics, baked goods, medicines.
    25. Lanolin, Lanolin Acids. Wool Fat. Wool Wax: A product of the oil glands of sheep, extracted from their wool. Used as an emollient in many skin-care products and cosmetics and in medicines. An allergen with no proven effectiveness. Derivatives: Aliphatic Alcohols, Cholesterin, Isopropyl Lanolate, Laneth, Lanogene, Lanolin Alcohols, Lanosterols, Sterols, Triterpene Alcohols
    26. Lard: Fat from hog abdomens. In shaving creams, soaps, cosmetics. In baked goods, French fries, refried beans, and many other foods.
    27. Leather. Suede. Calfskin. Sheepskin. Alligator Skin. Other Types of Skin: Subsidizes the meat industry. Used to make wallets, handbags, furniture and car upholstery, shoes, etc
    28. Lecithin. Choline Bitartrate: Waxy substance in nervous tissue of all living organisms. But frequently obtained for commercial purposes from eggs and soybeans. Also from nerve tissue, blood, milk, corn. Choline bitartrate, the basic constituent of lecithin, is in many animal and plant tissues and prepared synthetically. Lecithin can be in eye creams, lipsticks, liquid powders, hand creams, lotions, soaps, shampoos, other cosmetics, and some medicines.
    29. Lipase: Enzyme from the stomachs and tongue glands of calves, kids, and lambs. Used in cheesemaking and in digestive aids.
    30. Milk Protein: Hydrolyzed milk protein. From the milk of cows. In cosmetics, shampoos, moisturizers, conditioners, etc.
    31. Monoglycerides. Glycerides. (See Glycerin.): From animal fat. In margarines, cake mixes, candies, foods, cosmetics etc.
    32. Pepsin: In hogs’ stomachs. A clotting agent. In some cheeses and vitamins.
    33. Retinol: Animal-derived vitamin A.
    34. Sable Brushes: From the fur of sables (weasel-like mammals). Used to make eye makeup, lipstick, and artists’ brushes
    35. Shellac, Resinous Glaze: Resinous excretion of certain insects. Used as a candy glaze, in hair lacquer, and on jewellery.
    36. Silk. Silk Powder: Silk is the shiny fibre made by silkworms to form their cocoons. Worms are boiled in their cocoons to get the silk. Used in cloth. In silk-screening (other fine cloth can be and is used instead). Taffeta can be made from silk or nylon. Silk powder is obtained from the secretion of the silkworm. It is used as a colouring agent in face powders, soaps, etc. Can cause severe allergic skin reactions and systemic reactions if inhaled or ingested.
    37. Squalene: Oil from shark livers, etc. In cosmetics, moisturisers, hair dyes, surface-active agents.
    38. Stearic Acid: When animal-derived, a fat from cows, pigs, and sheep and from dogs and cats euthanised in animal shelters, etc. May also be of plant origin, including from cocoa butter and shea butter. Can be harsh, irritating. Used in cosmetics, soaps, lubricants, candles, hairspray, conditioners, deodorants, creams, chewing gum, food flavoring. Derivatives: Stearamide, Stearamine, Stearates, Stearic Hydrazide, Stearone, Stearoxytrimethylsilane, Stearoyl Lactylic Acid, Stearyl Betaine, Stearyl Imidazoline.
    39. Tallow. Tallow Fatty Alcohol. Stearic Acid: Rendered beef fat. May cause eczema and blackheads. In wax paper, crayons, margarines, paints, rubber, lubricants, etc. In candles, soaps, lipsticks, shaving creams, other cosmetics. Chemicals (e.g., PCB) can be in animal tallow. Derivatives: Sodium Tallowate, Tallow Acid, Tallow Amide, Tallow Amine, Talloweth-6, Tallow Glycerides, Tallow Imidazoline.
    40. Vitamin B12:  Can come from animal products or bacteria cultures. Twinlab B12 vitamins contain gelatin. Vitamin B12 is often listed as “cyanocobalamin” on food labels.
    41. Vitamin D/ Ergocalciferol/Vitamin D2/ Ergosterol/ Provitamin D2/ Calciferol/ Vitamin D3: Vitamin D can come from fish liver oil, milk, egg yolks, and other animal products but can also come from plant sources. Vitamin D2 is typically vegan. Vitamin D3 may be from an animal source. All the D vitamins can be in creams, lotions, other cosmetics, vitamin tablets, cereals etc.
    42. Whey: A serum from milk. Usually in cakes, cookies, candies, and breads. Used in cheesemaking.
    43. Wool: From sheep. Used in clothing. Ram lambs and old “wool” sheep are slaughtered for their meat. Sheep are transported without food or water, in extreme heat and cold. Legs are broken, eyes injured, etc. Sheep are bred to be unnaturally woolly and unnaturally wrinkly, which causes them to get insect infestations around the tail areas. The farmer’s solution to this is the painful cutting away of the flesh around the tail (called “mulesing”). “Inferior” sheep are killed. When sheep are sheared, they are pinned down violently and sheared roughly. Their skin is cut up. Every year, hundreds of thousands of shorn sheep die from exposure to cold. Natural predators of sheep (wolves, coyotes, eagles, etc.) are poisoned, trapped, and shot. In the U.S., overgrazing of cattle and sheep is turning more than 150 million acres of land to desert. “Natural” wool production uses enormous amounts of resources and energy (for breeding, rearing, feeding, shearing, transport, slaughter, etc.). Derivatives: Lanolin, Wool Wax, Wool Fat.

This is by no means a complete list these are just the most common animal derived ingredients that I have come across in my over a year and a half of being vegan. Please see for a more detailed list. I have also listed some useful resources that have helped me to figure out if a product is vegan or not.

If you copy and paste an ingredients list into it will tell you whether the ingredient is animal or plant derived or if there is a possibility of it being one or the other. If the product doesn’t state that it is synthetic such as synthetic beeswax then your best bet is to email the company for clarification on what the ingredient/s is derived from.

Barnivore is a very useful website for identifying which alcoholic drinks are or are not vegan. Make sure you check the date the information was published as sometimes they may be outdated and ingredients can change. If the information isn’t current then I would advise either emailing or messaging the company via Facebook for clarification. Veggie Beers is similar to Barnivore but is in app form.

The E additives app is very helpful  for identifying whether an ingredient is plant, animal, chemical or bacteria derived. It will also tell you if an ingredient may be derived from multiple sources. In this instance I would advise contacting the company for confirmation.

Another thing I found helpful is if you check on the back of a packet often common allergens such as whey, milk proteins, egg etc are written in bold. If a product says contains milk, egg or another animal derived ingredient then avoid it. If it says may contain this is often a cross contamination issue whereby there is no actual milk etc in the products but the product may have been manufactured in a factory that uses milk. This is so companies have covered themselves if someone had an allergic reaction but it would be extremely rare so I purchase products such as oreos that say may contain milk. Also companies can often be sneaky and instead of listing a commonly known animal ingredient such as milk they may write Whey or list it as an E number this is where the E additives app is extremely usually for establishing whether or not the additive is animal derived. Veganeasy and The Vegan Society also list non vegan E numbers and E numbers that may be vegan as well as other common animal derived ingredients.

Please feel free to let me know in the comments any other useful resources you have found and I will add it to the list! :) I really hope you guys find this helpful and I will do future blog posts on vegan sweets, alcohol, cosmetics, household products, companies to avoid etc Thanks for reading! :)


Useful Resources:

Veggie Beers app

E additives app

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