The welcome rise of vegan beauty



It’s not just diets that are going plant-based. According to a report released last year by The NPD Group, sales in animal-friendly, cruelty-free beauty products shot up by 38 per cent. And while vegan beauty brands may still account for only 1% of women’s skincare, that staggering 38 per cent indicates that the only way is … more. 

This is good to hear. Most conventional products contain ingredients that mask animal origins with names that, in some cases, have become synonymous with results. Collagen and elastin touted for their ability to help skin ‘glow’, are both derived from animal tissue; in the case of elastin, from the neck ligaments and aortas of cows. Keratin, popular for adding lustre to hair, is made from the ground-up horns, hooves, feathers, quills, and hair of various animals. The list goes on.

Jessica Blackler, foundered Jecca Makeup.

Jessica Blackler, foundered Jecca Makeup.

For those scaling back on meat and dairy in their food for Veganuary, smearing animal products over their faces and bodies seems counter-intuitive, to say the least. At the same time, concerns about health and safety as well as a growing interest in environmental issues amongst millennials are driving this particular conversation forward at a cracking pace. Luckily, for every animal product, there is often a botanical and/or mineral-based alternative and more and more brands are creating lush products, using only plants and herbs. Headline names include Kat Von D, Too Faced, Urban Decay and the already iconic Fenty Beauty by Rihanna - but there are plenty of niche labels nipping at their heels. 

Jessica Blackler is founder of PETA and vegan-certified Jecca Makeup. “Consumers expect more from their products,” she reflects. "They want transparency in every aspect: what a brand stands for, ingredients, testing methods, results, safety, sustainability. Being vegan plays an important part in this. Consumers are questioning brands on their choices - which in turn is leading to change.”

“Today, we have information at our fingertips,” says Nazan Schnapp, of Nazan Schnapp Skincare. “Consumers are educating themselves, communicating directly with each other and sharing tips and recommendations. It's wonderful people have taken the power back in this way and the demand for vegan products is just one positive example of this shift.”

One of the joys of creating vegan ranges are the ingredients: plant-based, grown and borrowed from the earth, with kindness and respect. For Laurie Hooper’s The Natural Deodorant Co, for example, essential oils “set the deodorants apart because the scents are fun to create and the oils themselves act as both a fragrance and powerful antibacterials.”

“I love each of my products equally, like children,” smiles Schnapp. All are made with a blend of crystals such as aquamarine, amethyst and rose quartz and natural, organic, wild-crafted plant-based products. “I personally source ingredients from all over the world to make sure that each is of the highest quality,” she says. She then hand makes products in small batches in her lab in Zurich.”

There are challenges, however. “Since the entire range is 100% natural, we sometimes run into issues with the availability of ingredients,” reflects Schnapp. “In moments of frustration, I remind myself that Mother Nature, like most women, knows exactly what she's doing and should never be rushed.”  Plus, due to the range’s popularity, the label needs more hands. “I am not complaining, though,” laughs Schnapp. “This is a good problem to have.”

Sticking to ethical guns can be difficult. “There will always be decisions where we can choose profit over sustainability - and I'm so proud of our strong values,” says Hooper. “At every step, we've made bold, sometimes expensive, choices, such as sourcing metal lids when we could have kept things as they were. It's not enough to just say we're a clean, sustainable and ethical brand … we have to walk the walk too.”

For Blackler, the tricky bit was in launching a gender-fluid brand. “This has sometimes been a challenge when the mainstream beauty industry hasn’t been ready for it,” she admits. “Thankfully, this is now changing as both consumers and the industry are becoming more aware of what we are trying to achieve.”

Nazan Schnapp, founder Nazan Schnapp.

Nazan Schnapp, founder Nazan Schnapp.

For those who adopt the vegan skincare lifestyle, the rewards are endless. Quite apart from the peace of mind, knowing that no sentient being has died for your beauty routine, there are benefits to the environment, to health - and to skin. “Vegan beauty products are generally kinder to the skin as often they don’t contain the chemicals that can aggravate skin issues,” says Hooper. Blackler adds: “And vegan products can be higher in vitamins and natural minerals. Just because a product is vegan doesn’t mean to say it’s basic or not effective. A lot of time and thought can go into committing to a vegan beauty lifestyle but the rewards are worth it."

Then there is the 360 degree approach to sustainability that commands the daily practices of most vegan brands. Once locked onto issues of animal welfare and environmental health, it’s unlikely for your vegan beauty product to be soaked in petrochemicals, tested on animals and wrapped in plastic ….

“I can’t speak for all brands, but I’ve found that vegan beauty brands tend to be eco-friendly and promote sustainability,” agrees Schnapp. “Our brand culture, for instance, is based on experiencing and enjoying beautiful, luxurious products with a good conscience.”

Laurie Hooper, founder The Natural Deodorant Co.

Laurie Hooper, founder The Natural Deodorant Co.

Meanwhile, Hooper is committed to sustainable sourcing and organic wherever possible while Blackler donates 5% of profits every year to Stonewall, the UK’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights charity; she is also an ambassador for the charity and a children’s mentor. The issues of personal and planetary health reach into every sector of culture and society.

“The vegan movement is more than just a trend or passing fad,” says Hooper. “Consumers are doing more research than ever before and in turn, brands are taking note. As sustainable living becomes more of a focal point, people are naturally looking at making healthier and vegan choices.” Hear hear.

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