Clean, Green and everything in between. Your cheat-sheet to decoding vegan and cruelty-free products that are not necessarily eco-friendly!
There has been a lot of buzz around vegan beauty products since a couple of years. Outspoken celebrities like Beyoncé and Jay-Z are encouraging fans to adopt the vegan culture. But what exactly is vegan and cruelty-free beauty? Let’s untangle the concept.
Simply put, Vegan beauty products and cosmetics do not contain any animal products, animal by-products, or animal derivatives. Commonly found ingredients sources from animals include beeswax, honey, shellac, and lanolin. Thanks to vegan cosmetics, they’re free from all these types of animal ingredients.
Vegan certifications and logos
Let’s decode popular logos, seals and stamps popularly found on the packaging of vegan beauty and personal care products :
PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies “Cruelty-Free and Vegan” logo is used to certify a vegan brand.
The Vegan Society‘s stamp certifies vegan products, not companies.
This Certified Vegan trademark by Vegan Action certifies individual vegan products, not companies.
What is cruelty-free beauty
Cruelty-Free and Vegan are often used interchangeably but they don’t always mean the same thing.
“Cruelty-free” defines a product and its ingredients and formulations were not tested on animals at any stage of product development, operations and manufacturing, anywhere in the world.
In countries such as Israel, Norway, India and across the European union, animal testing is banned and is considered illegal, thanks to the “Be Cruelty Free” campaign. There are also bills and petitions launched in 2013 eg., against testing and sales in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and The United States of America. On the contrary, in China, the law makes it mandatory to test new and imported products meant for sale on animals.
The easiest way to identify a cruelty-free product is to look for a certified cruelty-free bunny logo on product packaging.
Environmentally friendly or environment-friendly, (also referred to as eco-friendly, nature-friendly, and green) are the products that inflict reduced, minimal, or no harm upon ecosystems or the environment. Eco-friendly brands choose lifestyle that helps and respects the mother earth and its resources. These brands prioritise clean ingredients, source materials ethically, use eco-friendly packaging and shipping processes.
Now, let’s understand how vegan and cruelty free products differ from eco-friendly products. Brands, very slyly use these terms synonymously, often to mislead the audience. But here’s the deal : Vegan and cruelty free products simply speak of avoiding animal ingredients and animal testing while eco-friendly products focus on the health of the planet and it’s resources. It is important to understand that not all vegan and cruelty free products are eco-friendly. For example : There are some brands that might not have any animal derived ingredients ( vegan ) and also not test on animals ( cruelty-free ), however they might use packaging that are harmful for the environment (not eco-friendly )
Having said that, there are brands that are Vegan, Cruelty-free and Eco-friendly at the same time – best of three worlds. During an exclusive interview with the founder of IndiCultr, a homegrown skincare brand, we discovered that brand derived it’s products that are inspired by the Indian Culture. It directly sources the raw materials and ingredients from the farmers who organically grow the ingredients and then curates handmade products in limited batches. He says “ Agriculture is the celebration of Indian culture”. This process makes the products authentic and true to their values. The processes are eco-friendly, the products are vegan and cruelty free.
Meanwhile, there are brands that claim to be eco-friendly, but if we look closely, they are not. For instance, an eco-friendly skincare brand, might have a range of scrubs and exfoliators, which essentially contain micro-beads. Now, micro-beads are small, solid, plastic particles that do not dissolve in water. This makes the product harmful for the environment, for the fish and even for those who eat fish and therefore the brand – non eco-friendly. This is also how brands greenwash ( much like brainwash ) the consumers and trick them into believing that the over the top claims of the brands are true. Let us now understand Greenwashing.
Even though “natural beauty” has been enjoying a glamorous boom, most of us are still left scratching our heads over what exactly is “natural” and “clean”, what exactly should we be buying, and indeed, what we should be avoiding.
While walking down the beauty aisle or surfing through online portals of your favourite beauty brands you are most likely to see labels and seals that scream “natural” and “organic”. At the first glance, these terms may be tempting and would salivate our conscious taste buds. Did you know that most of these claims might actually be untrue? This is exactly how some beauty brands greenwash you.
Logically speaking, no matter how heartbreaking it may seem, you cannot plant a plant expecting to grow out a luminous moisturiser or a voluminous mascara! Say hello to greenwashing, or clean-wash.
Greenwashing is a fancy marketing trick that brands use by using “fluffy” unsubstantiated terms to market a product as clean, safe and effective, appealing to the consumers emotions without proper ingredient disclosure or safety research.
Case in point – Aveeno. Let us understand how the brand is successfully brainwashing and greenwashing ( AND fooling ) it’s customers. It’s a common sight to see the following carefully packaged claims on Aveeno’s packaging
- Active Natural Total Soy Complex
- Gentle enough for everyday use
- Made with soy extracts and ingredients sourced from nature
- “We strive to bring you active natural ingredients and more sustainable formulas, our first focus is on ensuring safety and efficacy”
Sounds all ethical right? Wrong! Now let’s decode the actually ingredients so you can decide how “clean and green” the brand actually is!
- Sodium laureth sulfate
- Synthetic fragrance
If you know the complexities of these ingredients, you’ll realise how harmful they are. So there you go, the brand just green-washed you.
Some of the commonly used words used by brands to enjoy the benefits of green washing are :
Here are some brands that slyly use tactic to win the hearts of their eco-conscious consumers. Aveeda, Pixi, Origins, Nivea, Simple, Tarte Cosmetics, Charlotte Tilbuty, amongst others.
The anti-greenwashing guide :
The Leaping Bunny Seal : This is an easy indicator to access whether the products have passed their respective cruelty-checks.
Look out for the COSMOS logo : This certification sets standards for organic and natural cosmetic products. This logo makes it simpler to differentiate between tens of thousands of “natural” and “clean” beauty claims.
Check the ingredients : Portals such as The Soil Association and Environmental Working Group, publish toxic and harmful ingredients that one may look out for before hitting “add-to-cart”. This makes it convenient to spot the ingredients that might not be “clean” even though the packaging says otherwise.
So now that you know how to spot brands that greenwash you, pledge to avoid them and welcome and support local and authentic brands.
INDIAN BRANDS TO LOOK FOR: