Is It Vegan? 6 Ingredients to Watch Out For

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We all know the classic non-vegan additives to avoid. Eggs, milk and meat can’t hide their animal past, but with all the sneaky animal-derived ingredients that make their way into our beauty products, food and supplements, it can still be tricky to determine if something is actually vegan. 

You don’t have to go at it alone. Here are six hidden animal-based ingredients to watch out for and where they might pop up. 


Lanolin might just be one of the hardest to identify non-vegan additives. Most of us wouldn’t know we were consuming it even if we checked the package. How can that be? 

Well, lanolin is the most common source of cholecalciferol, or vitamin D3, added to just about every fortified food (think cereal or orange juice). It’s most people’s go-to vitamin D supplement on those sunless winter days. 

This oil might sneak into your cosmetics and lotion, so keep an eye out on those ingredient lists. 

Why Isn’t It Vegan?

Lanolin is an oil secreted by sheep’s skin, which helps them protect their wool. It’s extracted from the wool after the sheep have been sheared – and most shearing conditions can be pretty inhumane.

Are There Vegan Versions?

Vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, is a plant-based alternative to lanolin-based vitamin D supplements derived from mushrooms and other fungi. You can also look for a D3 vitamin that says it’s vegan, like Herbaland Vegan D3 and B12 gummies or Natural Factors Vegan Vitamin D3.

As for skincare, check to see that your product is made only with plant oils like coconut or jojoba. 

Related Article: 4 Plant-Based Pantry Alternatives You Need in Your Life


Shopping in the hair care aisle? Keratin is a popular additive applauded for it’s smoothing, straightening and strengthening abilities. Many salons offer keratin treatments, too, but what is keratin?

Why Isn’t It Vegan?

Keratin comes from horns, wool, feathers and even hooves. Some treatments contain dangerously-high amounts of formaldehyde. Keratin isn’t animal-friendly or human-friendly. Luckily, you don’t have to use it.

Are There Vegan Versions?

Instead of applying horn and hoof-based hair products, try one of these animal-friendly keratin alternatives:


Lots of protein powders on the market rely on whey, but why? Whey is praised for its amino acid content, creamy flavor and muscle growth stimulation, but it can also find its way into everyday food items you’d expect to be vegan, like crackers, salad dressings and protein bars. 

Why Isn’t It Vegan?

If you’ve ever seen the watery liquid floating atop dairy yogurt, you’ve experienced whey first-hand. Yes, that’s right. Whey is one of many pesky milk-derived ingredients.

Are There Vegan Versions?

Instead of choosing a whey protein powder, select a fully plant-based mix like hemp, pea, brown rice or a blend. If you haven’t found a vegan protein powder you love, keep trying. There are so many options on the market, and we promise there’s something perfect out there for you. 

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Collagen is our bodies’ main protein responsible for keeping the skin, ligaments and bones healthy and happy. Unfortunately, we produce less collagen as we age, which is where supplements come in. It’s commonly sold in powder form, but you may also find it as an ingredient in hair and skincare products.

Why Isn’t It Vegan?

Collagen is naturally abundant in skin, ligaments and bones, and that’s where these powders and supplements get their supply. Collagen is typically sourced from cow, pig, chicken or fish connective tissue, bones and hides. 

Are There Vegan Versions?

Check out these vegan alternatives to build collagen:


I hate to break it to you, but two of your favorite childhood treats, Jell-O and marshmallows, are not vegan-friendly. Even some fruity jellies and gummy candies may not be as animal-friendly as you’d think. The common culprit? Gelatin. 

Why Isn’t It Vegan?

Gelatin is actually derived from collagen, which means animal bones and skins are once again used. In fact, gelatin is just dried, ground and sifted collagen.

Are There Vegan Versions?

If you want to make some DIY versions of your childhood favorites, substitute agar-agar: a gelling substance sourced from algae. If you’re making jelly, opt for fruit pectin

Not in the mood to show off your culinary abilities? Try these store-bought alternatives:


Isin-what? You can’t blame yourself for not knowing this one. It isn’t listed on ingredient labels. Isinglass is used as aa filtration and refining agent in the beer and winemaking processes. Essentially, it just makes the drinks clearer. Only trace amounts of isinglass are left in the booze by the end, but we don’t think you’ll want it anywhere near your glass.

Why Isn’t It Vegan?

This brewing go-to actually comes from fish bladder. Once removed, it’s dried and shaped before it’s added to the beer or wine. Much like collagen, isinglass is a form of gelatin. 

Are There Vegan Versions?

Being vegan doesn’t mean skipping happy hour! It can be tricky to find fish-free drinks when isinglass isn’t an advertised ingredient. Some bottles explicitly state that they’re vegan, but most don’t. Search the Barnivore directory to double-check your spirits before you sip.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Get Creative with Fresh Herbs

Final Thoughts

There’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to quickly identifying any non-vegan ingredients in food, beauty and supplement products, but practice makes perfect!. Luckily, there’s no animal-based ingredient that doesn’t have a friendlier alternative. Keep those eyes peeled for sneaky additives. Happy shopping! 


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