How to avoid vegan guilt: A guide to purchasing vegan-friendly products on a budget

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TDIV Q&A: How do you deal with vegan guilt -- like after purchasing makeup, soaps, etc that may not be completely vegan? I can't afford to purchase specialty items.

We’ve all been there. Sometimes animal ingredients sneak up in your hand soap or body lotion labels when you swore you checked them twice already. Don’t beat yourself up. The first thing I look for on beauty/bath product labels is the “not tested on animals” motto or logo. In terms of vegan guilt, I personally think it’s worse to buy nail polish remover that’s been put in rabbits’ eyes than Milk & Honey Softsoap.

With that being said, if I were to find out after the fact that the lipstick I bought contained animal fat (http://beautyguru.com/index.php/2011/02/eat-your-lipstick/), I would without a doubt throw it in the trash.

Another animal ingredient that is in a surprising amount of products -- edible and not -- is whey, or milk protein. I recently bought Organix brand (http://www.organixhair.com/hair) “teatree mint” shampoo and conditioner. After a few washes, I casually glanced at the ingredients again and surprise, there is milk protein nestled alongside Australian tea tree and peppermint oils. Some may disagree, but I didn’t throw them away.

As much as I enjoy treating myself to a fancy organic face wash once in a while, I’m a frugal grad student who can’t shell out $$$ for top notch vegan products all the time.

Here are some makeup, beauty and bath product companies I have found to be vegan-friendly without costing you an arm and a leg:
Products to avoid:
  • Advil “Liqui-Gels”, Aleve “Gelcaps” and Midol “Gelcaps” (gelatin).
  • Frederic Fekkai “Protein RX Daily Reparative Conditioner” (milk proteins).
  • Organix shampoos and conditioners in: “Brazilian keratin therapy” (keratin proteins), “coconut milk” (whipped egg white proteins), “cucumber yogurt” (whipped yogurt proteins), “passionfruit guava” (orange blossom infused honey), “shea butter” (whipped yogurt proteins) and “teatree mint” (milk proteins).
  • Suave Professionals “Keratin Infusion” product line.
  • Sunsilk “Hydra TLC Conditioner with Nutri-Keratin” conditioner.
Ingredients to watch out for:
  • Carmine, cochineal/carminic acid: red pigment made from crushing tens of thousands of female cochineal insects. Found in cosmetics, shampoos and food dyes. Read TDIV’s widely publicized coverage (http://www.thisdishisvegetarian.com/2012/04/no-more-buggy-coloring-starbucks-to.html) of cochineal dye in some Starbucks products.
  • Casein, Caseinate, Sodium Caseinate: all names for milk protein.
  • Keratin: protein from the ground-up horns, hooves, feathers, quills, and hair of various animals. Keratin is added to shampoos, conditioners and treatments. Some vegan alternatives for moisturizing and strengthening your hair are almond oil, soy protein, rosemary and nettle.
  • Lanolin: a product of the oil glands of sheep, extracted from their wool. Used as an emollient in many skin care products, cosmetics and medicines.
  • Pearlescence: a shiny, silver substance found in fish scales. Often used in cosmetics to give them a glow and shimmer.
  • Tallow: rendered beef fat. Found in candles, soaps, lipsticks, shaving creams and other cosmetics.
Check out PETA’s more detailed list (http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/animal-ingredient-guide.aspx) decoding scientific ingredients that come from animals.

In terms of your vegan guilt, all you can do is try to make a more educated choice next time. No one is perfect. And companies make it difficult on purpose for consumers to understand all the ingredients in their products. But knowledge is power. As long as you educate yourself on what to avoid the next time you are shopping, and make the conscious effort to purchase products that are animal testing and ingredient-free, you are helping to end the use of animals in what we use to beautify our bodies.

Feeling beautiful should never come at the expense of the suffering of others. So take comfort in the fact that there are great vegan companies out there with products you can afford. Like shopping for vegan groceries, shopping for animal-free beauty and bath products requires dedication to scrutinizing labels. But we know it's worth it.

Rachel Fryer | Email
Maryland A lifelong vegetarian and animal lover, Rachel Fryer enjoys writing, traveling, eating spicy food, drinking coconut water, reading historical fiction and sweating (she is also a Bikram yoga teacher). Rachel is excited to attend grad school for her Masters in English in Fall 2012 and to adopt a shelter dog in the near future.


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