Natural Cruelty-Free Bathroom & Beauty Products – Part 1: Top 6 Things to Avoid

This is Part 1 in a series. Also check out Part 2: What to Look For and Part 3: What I Use & Recommend.

Veganism is NOT a diet – who told you that? Not so! Let’s get that out of the way (again!) straight up. It’s about not consuming any products of animal use/abuse, which includes all consumption habits, not just food. Avoiding animal products in clothing and cosmetics is an important component of being a sexy vegan.

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cc Natural Cruelty Free Bathroom & Beauty Products   Part 1: Top 6 Things to Avoid photo credit: Jon Haynes Photography

Practicality vs Patchouli

Not everything in a vegan bathroom has to be SLS-free or smelling like patchouli. Plenty of vegan products contain plant-based ingredients combined with synthetic, lab-derived chemicals: some are safe, some are not quite so nifty… but then there are plenty of nasty substances in nature as well!

So if you want a nice bunch of natural AND safe products to douse your one-and-only precious temple in daily, you should pay a little attention. There is little to no regulation on beauty products, and “100% natural” doesn’t mean safe, organic, or even vegan… but that doesn’t mean you have to spend hours brewing up your own lotions and potions in the kitchen – unless you want to! It can be fun, but not everyone is in to that. Some people enjoy luxury products, and there are plenty of vegan items in that range (Aveda is well-known globally and vegan-friendly, De Lorenzo is an all-vegan Australian company ready to take on the world). And for some of us (hi!), we’re happy to dabble in quality DIY items here and there when it’s simple, effective, and thrifty.

The best skincare and beauty routine is good nutrition, but what’s a cruelty-free human bean to do when it comes to some extra fancying up of oneself in the bathroom? Raise ones standards, that’s what!

Top 6 Things to Avoid in Bathroom & Beauty Products

1. Animal ingredients - Cruel and uncool: go vegan! If the word “vegan” is printed on the label, bonus points for spreading the Good Word around, I think. How do you know if an ingredient is animal-derived or not? Whip out your smartphone and peruse an app like iVegan, of course! There are plenty of apps chock-a-block with comprehensive lists of additives that can be found in food and other products. If smartphones aren’t your style, go old-school with a thorough book like Animal Ingredients: A to Z and look it up (definitely worth having on the shelf at home as a back-up resource!). Google and Wikipedia are also your friends: The Internet Knows All.

2. Evil corporations – and parent companies, too, if there is one – must not test on animals (eg. L’oréal owns The Body Shop now, and they are most certainly NOT animal-friendly, with nasty testing and ingredients). I prefer to buy products from small businesses to make things easier, or occasionally I’ll email or call larger companies to find out what their animal testing and ingredients policies are. Some, like Mac Cosmetics, will email you a list of their current vegan-safe products. Or you could just go for a vegan-based company to make things simpler, like Inika or Everyday Minerals. Online stores like Vegan Essentials carry a varied range, too.

3. Ridiculously long lists of ingredients – The same rule applies as when buying packaged food: the fewer ingredients listed, the better. This rule applies to soap, shampoo, conditioner, moisturisers, washes, scrubs, everything! Short lists are easy to read, less likely to contain hidden nasties, less likely to contain irritants, and more likely to be The Good Stuff sans “fillers” to make up for a short-fall in quality.

4. Mystery ingredients – A no-brainer. If you don’t recognise something on the label, and you can’t find it in your apps, books, or on the internet, it’s probably a mystery best left unsolved. Find out if something is nice or not, and if you can’t find out, assume it’s nasty, and probably an indication of a dishonest company. Pass!

5. Common vegan no-nos – A short list to start with might look a little something like…

Glycerin and glycerides, beeswax, honey, gelatine, lactose, lanolin or lanolates, alpha-hydroxy or lactic acid, milk products, animal bristles or fur or hair in brushes, calciferol (vitamin D3), cetyl alcohol, L-form cysteine, elastin, progesterone and other hormones, stearic acid and stearates, placenta……

Yes, placenta. I mean, really: what the goshdarnswearypantsheck is up with that? Ick! Not that some of the other ingredients mentioned aren’t equally as blerktacular.

See why I prefer to go for products with short lists of ingredients or stuff that’s clearly labelled “vegan”? (Some labels will even specify things like “plant-based glycerin” or “synthetic beeswax” just so you know they’re looking out for you and the animals.) Or otherwise contact the company directly for details? It takes a lot less effort and eyestrain than reading the epic list of chemical concoctions found on the back of many bottles. Simple = important: veganism needn’t be complicated or time-consuming. Just B SMRT! (For further info, here are some lists of ingredients to bookmark at Happy Cow and Vegan Peace. )

6. Common chemical no-nos – These aren’t necessarily vegan issues, but they’re certainly health issues!

Parabens: methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butyl parabens are the main offenders, and sound like a family of unpleasant folks living next door. Parabens are a preservative and anti-bacterial found in many cosmetics, toothpaste, hair dyes, and other bathroom products, and have been linked to cancer… and are laughably common in “cancer-preventing” sunscreens.

Phthalates: in plenty of haircare products that you should DEFINITELY avoid if you’re pregnant. They’ve been linked to birth defects, and are alleged to disrupt hormones.

Nanoparticles: boy, are these little blighters trendy. “Nanoparticles” is a nonsense marketing term that describes a variety of itty bitty things, generally mineral dusts. They’re easy to absorb through the skin or breath in, and enter your bloodstream where they invariably cause or contribute to inflammation and other irritations… And what contains the most infamous nanoparticles of all? Asbestos.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate (ALS) – in many products that produce bubbles – it’s an excellent foaming agent and an effective irritant: it gets into eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. A great way to encourage dandruff, pimples, and rashes. If you have any skin problems, you should definitely ditch this stuff. Unfortunately vegan-friendly Lush use SLS/ALS in their hair products. Pifflesticks.

Nitrosamines: hard to avoid through label-reading alone, because it’s a contaminant that results when nitrates (preservatives) combine with amines (amino acids) in all sorts of skincare and beauty products. Diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) commonly contribute to the formation of this cancer-causing carcinogen. Nitrosamines are more toxic in more animal species than any other chemical carcinogen, so it’s not for your companion animals, either. Banned in Canada and the EU.

Formaldehyde: No, I’m not kidding. Gross, non? Common in nail polish along with toulene, acetone, non-biodegradable pigments, and phthalates. There are more and more vegan-friendly, health-safe nail polishes around, but they aren’t common in your average store-down-the-road just yet. Toss your old ones out!

Check out Safe Cosmetics for further health-conscious info.

The moral of the story? Good skin comes from within: eat well and you’ll look well. Magic lotions and potions that claim to keep your skin looking young and supple are usually toxic, irritating, and contributing to health problems and systematic animal abuse. Nothing magical about them!

Did I neglect to mention something to avoid that you think is super-important? Tell me about it: drop a comment!


Coming up next week

Part 2 of this series: What to Look For in vegan and natural/safe bathroom products – it’ll be a lot less scary than this post is! And fun. Stay tuned.

Part 3 of this series: What I Use & Recommend is coming up soon as well!

And it’s less than 20 days until my baby is due!


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  • Lou

    Hi Renée, I really like your site :) and thanks for the really informative post. I’m just wondering though where you read about Estee Lauder taking over The Body Shop, I’ve been googling to no avail. I had thought that in the grand scheme of things Estee Lauder wasn’t so bad because they’re anti-animal testing (though they do obviously use animal products in some of their lines).

    • http://veganza.com Renée MBM

      Oh dear, thanks for pointing that out – L’oréal is the evil parent corporation who owns The Body Shop now. Sorry about the gaff! I’ve fixed it. Cheers :)

  • Lidia Le François

    Nice article! I really enjoyed it. It’s funny how some products you don’t think about re: vegan just because it’s a bathroom product you’ve used forever. Thanks for making me think!

    • http://veganza.com Renée MBM

      Thanks, Lidia! :)

  • Jess

    If you are trying to avoid Estee Lauder, you might be interested to know they own MAC

    • http://veganza.com Renée MBM

      Trying to avoid L’oréal moreso, but thanks for the info! I’m not into make-up like MAC. I prefer mineral make-up when I use any at all.