Veganuary, a global challenge launched by a UK nonprofit in 2014, encourages people to adopt -- or at least get closer to -- a vegan lifestyle during the month of January. And it's a challenge that concerns your plate as much as your wardrobe and your beauty routine. So why not take the opportunity to sort out your bathroom, and embrace a vegan beauty routine with no looking back? Here are some things to consider when taking the plunge.
Organic and vegan are two different things
Faced with the profusion of terms used to describe cosmetics -- eco-friendly, organic, vegan, clean, etc. -- it's important to know exactly what's involved in a beauty routine that rejects all forms of animal cruelty. The first thing to know is that vegan cosmetics are above all beauty products that do not contain any ingredients of animal origin -- the objective being to end all animal suffering.
Consumers often confuse vegan cosmetics with cruelty-free cosmetics, which are not necessarily the same thing. While both are supposed to be respectful of animals and their well-being, there are some subtle differences to take into account. But, in theory, vegan cosmetics should supposedly be cruelty-free by definition, but that's not necessarily the case the other way round. Still, it's important to bear in mind that cosmetic testing on animals is prohibited in the European Union -- a fact that can help you make informed choices.
A long list of ingredients to banish
Just as with food, switching to a 100% vegan beauty routine means giving up a long list of ingredients. Animal fats, typically found in the most nourishing creams, are among the easiest to identify -- and eliminate.
"Glycerin" is another compound often seen on the packaging of face and body creams, soaps and even some hair products -- a term that generally promises elasticity, suppleness and moisture. If you want to move towards a vegan lifestyle, you should opt for vegetable glycerin and avoid all products where its origin is not specified. This is also the case for collagen, which is very widely used in the beauty industry.
Other animal-derived ingredients used in cosmetics include fish oils, which are easily identifiable, but also carmine, a pigment obtained from cochineal insects that is found in some lipsticks. And that's without mentioning makeup brushes made of (natural) animal hair. Vegans also shun products from the hive, although this is often subject to debate. While some argue that bees do not suffer physically when they produce honey, others point out that collecting their produce is still harmful.
Labels and certification schemes
It's not always easy to know and identify all the ingredients present in our cosmetics, and to work out whether they are vegan or not. Fortunately, there are many labels and certification schemes around the world to help us understand what we're buying.
To be sure you're choosing cosmetics containing no animal-derived ingredients, look for marks and labels such as the Vegan Society, V-Label, Eve Vegan, Vegecert, VeganOK or Certified Vegan -- to name just a few.