There was a time when the idea of vegan skin care would have been virtually impossible, when everything from toners to hair gel was routinely tested on animals as standard before hitting shelves.
Things have progressed, sure, but even though that practice is increasingly a thing of the past, animal by-products continue to make their way into men’s grooming products. That nourishing moisturiser that stops you looking like an unloved raisin could well be enriched with stearic acid found in pigs stomachs (yum), but it can also be subtle nuances such as honey, too.
“Other animal derivatives that can be found are lanolin, pearl, silk, snail gel and milk protein,” says skin care expert Dr Jonquille Chantrey, who also lists gelatine, glycerin, collagen and retinol as the most common.
For anyone willing to put the work in (and let’s be honest, it is work) it is entirely possible to create a vegan skin care routine, providing you swot up the ingredients to swerve and the brands to snap up. Here’s what you need to know.
5 Non-Vegan Cosmetic Ingredients To Avoid
What Is It? A fatty acid derived from cows, pigs and sheep often used in soaps and washes as a cleansing agent.
Vegan Option: “Use alpha-hydroxy acids for skin cleansing and smoothing of the skin surface,” says Dr Chantrey.
What Is It? A waxy substance used to treat dry and chapped skin, taken from the skin of wool-bearing animals.
Vegan Option: “A vegan alternative is shea butter,” says Dr Chantrey.
What Is It? Glycerin is an emollient (essentially the medical word for a moisturiser) produced from animal fat.
Vegan Option: “There are vegetable alternatives to glycerin that can be derived from soya and coconut oil,” says Dr Chantrey.
What Is It? A red dye made from crushed up bugs (usually found in South America) and used for cosmetics.
Vegan Option: “There are plant- or mineral-based alternatives available, depending upon the use,” says Dr Chantrey.
What Is It? Keratin is a protein found in the epidermis (the outer layer of both human and animal skin) and is an important component of skin health.
Vegan Option: “Botanical amino acids extracted from plants provide a topical protein alternative,” says Dr Chantrey.
The Best Vegan Grooming Brands For Men
Founded in 1988, Elemis is one of the UK’s leading skincare brands, with a broad range of vegan products in its repertoire. If you’re into luxury skincare, it has you covered with everything from acid peels to moisturisers and serums.
Hero Product: Dynamic Resurfacing Face Cream
A staple everyday product without any of the guilt. Elemis’ Dynamic Resurfacing Face Cream offers SPF protection while keeping skin cells in good nick. It won’t replace your sunscreen, but the result is smoother, hydrated skin, protected from day-to-day exposure.
Man’s best friend since 2005, FashionBeans Grooming Award-winner Bulldog is committed to being free from all animal derivatives across its range of wallet-friendly products. The brand has left no stone unturned in its quest to be ethical, and as well as using sustainable sugar cane packaging, is certified vegan.
Hero Product: Original Moisturiser
The original and the best, Bulldog’s hero product is a nicely formulated moisturiser without the sticky, greasy residue often found in products at the luxury end of the market. It’s kind to skin prone to breakouts and formulated with aloe vera to boost hydration.
While it’s not fully certified vegan, Bluebeard’s Revenge is committed to phasing out animal by-products in its skincare range. The men’s grooming brand also strives to use only sustainably sourced materials. Plus, it’s affordable as well as guilt-free.
Hero Product: Face Scrub
Great for hirsute men, Bluebeard’s Face Scrub has enough texture from the ground olive stones to get into your beard and exfoliate away any built-up grease and grime. It’s rich in texture, hydrating and scented with smells reminiscent of the barbers.
Hailing from Hungary, skincare brand Omorovicza channels the thermal spring waters of Budapest with its naturally vegan-friendly skincare products. Though they sit at the pricey end of the bathroom shelf, everything from its facial oils to its moisturisers have a premium feel and, most importantly, are all enriched with natural minerals.
Hero Product: Refining Facial Polisher
Despite all the talk of clean thermal springs, this gentle scrub’s hero ingredient is mud. While it does leave the skin feeling smoother and cleaner, it is a scrub, and one to avoid if you’ve got particularly sensitive skin.
Jack Black identified the growth in the vegan skincare market more than a decade ago and seized the opportunity to cater to animal-free lifestyles. As a result, the brand produces a stellar line-up of vegan products including a synthetic shaving brush (usually made with badger hair) to sit within the rest of its grooming range.
Hero Product: Double Duty Moisturiser
A guilt-free product that does more than just hydrate, Jack Black’s Double Duty Moisturiser is formulated with SPF20 for everyday protection against sun damage. It’s also enriched with antioxidants to promote collagen production and improve skin appearance. A healthy, younger-looking face? We’ll take it.
A staple skincare brand inspired by the South of France, L’Occitane is mostly all-natural. While the entire range from isn’t vegan due to some products containing honey, there is a vast amount of that is. That’s the olive branch we need.
Hero Product: L’Occitane Shower Gel
The classic L’Occitane men’s shower gel is one that leaves you feeling refreshed in the morning. It’s gentle on sensitive skin, nicely fragranced without being overpowering, plus it can double up as shampoo in a pinch.
It takes a lot to break through in the grooming industry, particularly as a no-frills, natural skincare brand. To do so, Ishga leverages a local Hebridean ingredient: seaweed. Known for being a potent antioxidant, Ishga products are all built on a foundation of the green stuff, which is natural, vegan and kind to all skin types.
Hero Product: Men’s Marine Face Cream
Almost like a mousse to touch, Ishga’s Marine Face Cream is incredibly light and soft, but noticeably hydrating. It’s easy to work into the skin, as well as through facial hair and doesn’t have a sticky or greasy residue.
A skincare brand committed to doing right by the book, S5 is not only cruelty-free, vegan and organic, but all products are eco-friendly and non-toxic to boot. Created to help blemish-prone skin, everything you’ll find here is gentle and effective.
Hero Product: Nourishing Cleanser
S5’s Nourishing Cleanser clears away daily grime with ease, so one wash leaves your feeling polished and fresh. Its luxurious feel is due to the rosehip oil, which doesn’t strip away moisture when cleansing. Basically, it does exactly what it says on the tin.