A massive victory was achieved in 2013 when the EU introduced a complete ban on the sale of all new cosmetics that have been tested on animals. The first steps towards this were taken in 2004 and since 2009 animal testing on ingredients that may be used in cosmetics has been illegal across Europe.
But wait a minute. This doesn’t mean that animal ingredients cannot be used in cosmetics and most people are probably completely unaware of what might be lurking in their lipstick or bottle of shampoo.
So listen up people! Here are some of the most common animal bits and pieces that you might want to think twice about using in your daily regime.
Carmine or cochineal is probably one ingredient that we have all heard of because it is used as a ‘natural dye’ in the food industry. It is also commonly used as a red colouring for lipsticks. The insects are tiny and live on cactus plants – usually prickly pear. Female insects eat the red berries and the colour is concentrated in their bodies. The colour is extracted by boiling up beetles in a large pot (picture the witches in Macbeth here) drying them out and crushing the shell to provide your lips with that lovely red Marilyn Monroe pout that you have been hankering after. About 70,000 insects are needed to produce about 450 grams of dye (source: live science).
Hyaluronic acid (HA) has been branded as the ‘must-have’ skincare ingredient for quite some time now but what is it and where does it come from? HA is a protein found in umbilical cords and is highly prized because it can hold up to 1,000 times its own weight in water. The most common source of HA in the cosmetics industry is from rooster combs which is the red fleshy crest on top of a roosters head. Roosters are bred to have larger than normal combs and when the cruel deed is done the substance is extracted to provide creams and lotions with this ‘magical’ ingredient. Most if not all the HA skincare products on the high street will be from this source.
Apologies for this next one if you are squeamish. Gelatine is a protein obtained by boiling the skin, bones and all the leftover parts from dead animals which is basically all the waste from an abattoir for use in products like face masks and shampoos. Anyone for a cow skin face pack?
Mash up a mixture of hooves, hair and horns with a few feathers for good measure and you have keratin. This is found in numerous hair and nail care products and is claimed to strengthen both.
Lanolin is derived from the oil glands of sheep and is highly allergenic. I found this out the hard way years ago when my doctor prescribed a lanolin based cream and I didn’t even realise what the heck it was. Extracting the lanolin itself is not a cruel process but it is extracted from the sheep’s wool. Sheep for the wool industry are bred to have excessive folds to produce more wool which is not a pleasant existence for the sheep. If they are not eaten alive by maggot infestation in their excessive skin folds they are eventually slaughtered when they don’t produce enough wool. The most common use for lanolin is in lip balms and hand creams.
Squalene otherwise known as shark liver oil is found in many products including deodorants, sun creams, moisturisers and lip balms. It is used as a base for creams because it is non-greasy and softens skin. A recent investigation by Bloom, a French marine conservation charity, suggested that about 3m deep sea sharks were being caught each year for the cosmetics industry. A few years ago model Lily Cole spoke out about the cruel use of shark liver in the cosmetics industry and you can read the full story here.
The list of animal ingredients that are widely used in the cosmetics industry could literally go on and on. I am shocked by the sheer number that are used and the fact that many of us are blissfully unaware. Will you be checking out the labels on your favourite products?
Why use animal ingredients when there are an abundance of plant alternatives? If we start asking these questions and stop using products that include these ingredients then I hope we will start to see positive changes.