Are Your Beauty Products Plant-Based?

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Vegetarianism and veganism stretch beyond just what you can eat. Many are choosing to adopt these two diets in their lifestyles and choosing not to purchase animal-based products such as purses and furs. With these items, it is easy to see that they are made from animals. It gets tricky, however, when we look at our lotions and cleansers. The ingredient lists are full of unknown chemical names and the packaging is speckled with buzzwords.

But do not get overwhelmed! Plantie is here to help you make the transition to a plant-based skincare routine by teaching you what to look for.

What Does it Mean to be “Plant-Based”?

Plant-based skincare is skincare that derives its ingredients from plants! It does not necessarily mean that the product is organic.

Is this the same thing as organic?

Organic is not a word that is just applied to fresh produce anymore! A beauty product is also organic if it is USDA-certified. That affixation means that USDA has certified that 95% or more of the ingredients are from plants and animals grown without pesticides, fertilizers, and/or bioengineering. Thus, if a product is labeled organic, it may be considered plant-based. The ingredients must still be looked at.

Are natural products plant-based?

Unfortunately, we do not know for sure until we look into the ingredients list. Natural by description is not defined by the FDA or USDA so companies are free to label their products as natural even if they contain up to 30% synthetic compounds.

What should I be on the lookout for

Here are five commonly used ingredients in skincare that are NOT plant-based and some alternatives to them. Keep these in mind on your next shopping trip!

Avoid Lanolin

Photo by Jeran Renz 

Lanolin is present in hair products and lip products. It serves to soften and moisturize whatever it is applied to. It is even a key ingredient in mustache waxes! Also, it is derived from sheep’s wool.

What to Look For: Adeps lanae, Aloholes lanae, Amerchol, Lanolin, Wool fat/grease/wax

Plant Replacement: Try using products that contain coconut oil or olive oil. Both of these will act as emollients in the same way lanolin does.

Avoid Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a key ingredient in cleansers and facial treatments. It also speeds up wound healing and returns moisture to dry skin. It is also capable of reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Hyaluronic acid is derived from rooster combs – the red crest on a rooster’s head.

What to Look For: Acide Hyaluronique, Glycosaminoglycan, Hyaluran, Hyaluronan, Sodium Hyaluronate

Plant Replacement: Hyaluronic acid can also be created through bacteria-based bio-fermentation. While this form of hyaluronic acid is synthetic, it is considered plant-based.

Avoid Carmine

Video by North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Carmine is a bright red pigment that comes specifically from crushed cochineal insects. Surprisingly, that classic bright red lipstick is made from dead bugs!

What to Look For: Cochineal, natural red 4, E120, C.I. 75470

Plant Replacement: There are a variety of plant-based dyes that can be used instead, like beet and indigo flower.

Avoid Glycerin

Glycerin is another moisturizing agent found in many skincare and haircare products. It surely softens and strengthens skin. It is specifically derived from animal fat.

What to Look For: 1,2,3-propanetriol, Glycerol, Glycerite, Glycerin, Glycerol Monostearate, Glyceryl Alcohol, Glycerol

Plant Replacement: Vegetable glycerin is available. It is sourced from plant-based oils such as vegetable oils. However, many companies do not make the distinction in their ingredients list, so it is important to contact the company if there is doubt. Coconut oil and soy oil are also options.

Avoid Guanine


The shimmers in your holographic eyeshadows generally come from the scales of fish.

What to Look For: Guanin, 2-Amino-1,7-Dihydro-6H-Purin-6-One,

Plant Replacement: Certain legumes can be substituted in place of guanine. However, mica and rayon are more commonly used.

If there is ever any doubt about whether a vegan substitute has been used in a formula or if an ingredient is plant-based, reach out directly to the company!

Cultures around the world have historically used different herbs to address various skincare and health concerns so going plant-based is a tried and tested method! Not only will your skin flourish, but you will also be helping the Earth flourish. We at Plantie hope this guide helps you make the jump to plant-based skincare. Every little change counts!

Related Article: Do You Know What You’re Putting On Your Skin? Watch out for these harmful chemicals in your beauty products.


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