“Your skin is a sponge.” How many times have you heard this?
Has all this talk about tasty, nutritious plant-based food prompted you to start thinking about what you put on your body as much as what you put in it?
Whether you’re a seasoned vegan or someone just looking to dip a toe in the pool of cruelty-free living, swapping out some of your current beauty and personal care products for cruelty-free, vegan swag can make a big impact for animals, the environment, and your health with very little effort. Today’s veg-friendly products have come a long way and require no sacrifice on quality, luxury, or effectiveness.
You see, most products out there are tested on animals (which is an unnecessary, cruel, awful practice) and/or contain animal products like lanolin (from sheep’s wool), crushed animal bones (in toothpaste!), beeswax, milk, honey, urea (ahem, which is animal urine – cue the “ew…”), and other animal derivatives you may never even know about. When I work with clients who are interested in “greening their routines,” I teach them ten simple strategies that enable them to avoid the “bad guys” and spot the “good guys” of the personal, home, and beauty care product world as they shop.
Today, we’re going on a journey – a journey to overhaul your personal care routine with kind, luscious, highly effective products that will have you feeling clean, spiffy, and happy about where your money is going. Get ready to learn the real definition of a clean conscience!
1. Start with What You’ve Got: Take a look at the products in your bathroom, your home cleaning products, and your makeup. Do any of your products explicitly say “Vegan” or “Cruelty-Free” on the bottles or packaging? Do any of them bear the Leaping Bunny symbol or another cruelty-free or vegan designation? Still not sure where your current products stand? Visit the company’s website, and consult the PETA Database of Companies that Do & Do Not Test and/or the National Anti-Vivisection Society’s Cruelty-Free Product Search. Delight in any products you currently use that turn out to be cruelty-free and vegan (hooray!), and vow to swap out the others that don’t make the cut when they run out. Even one swap can make a big difference, and you’ll likely find a luxurious replacement that you adore!
2. Go Where the Goods Are: While you can certainly find vegan personal and home care products at larger retailers like Walgreen’s and Target, you’ll find a better selection and transparency in labeling at retailers with a natural bend, such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Wild Oats, and your local health food store.
3. Read the Labels: Yes, this does require a bit more effort than, say, grabbing something random off the shelves. But, just as you are attentive to the ingredients in your food, you will be amazed by what mainstream manufacturers will have the nerve to put in body and home care, especially baby care! The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has an index of toxic (i.e. known to cause cancer, birth defects, and other awfulness) chemicals and substances used in cosmetics, home, and personal care products, and the PETA Database of Animal Ingredients can assist you in decoding whether there are hidden animal byproducts lurking in your favorite hand cream, shampoo, or shave gel.
4. See the Signs: Just like Ace of Base urged us in the early 90’s, look for the signs, folks, or, more aptly, the symbols. Keep an eye out for the Leaping Bunny or Cruelty-Free Bunny symbols (see below), and look for language like, “Against Animal Testing,” which means the company doesn’t just eschew animal tests, but actively lobbies against animal testing (Lush, for instance, has launched a global campaign to end animal testing).
5. Be Prepared: I recommend my clients download the Leaping Bunny iPhone or Android apps, or the PETA Caring Consumer iPhone app, so they can be prepared when they’re shopping anywhere. For the more old school among us, you can also tote the latest downloadable (and free!) version of the Leaping Bunny’s Compassionate Shopping Guide.
6. Think Beyond the Bottle: The use of animal ingredients and testing isn’t just limited to beauty and cleaning products. Razors, toothbrushes, dryer sheets, garbage bags, batteries, diapers, hair styling tools, feminine hygiene products, and other surprising items are subjected to routine animal tests and can contain animal byproducts. Look for these items made by companies like Preserve and Seventh Generation that are not only free of animal ingredients and testing but are also mindful of the environment.
7. Beware of Greenwashing: Just because a product claims to be “green” or “natural,” or is in a bottle with leaves on it, doesn’t mean bunk. In a world where advertisers are paid millions to sell at all costs, it’s up to you to be vigilant. A good example of this greenwashing can be seen via Neutrogena, a company owned by Johnson & Johnson, that regularly conducts animal tests. However, their recently-launched Neutrogena Naturals line boasts serene, eco-friendly looking bottles that state: “This product not tested on animals.” Well, that’s nice. What this really means is that this one iteration of this product has not been tested on animals, but the raw ingredients, combinations therein, and any other products the company makes may have been.
Take a pass: With so many wonderful vegan and truly cruelty-free companies out there fighting the good fight, there is no need to support companies who test any of their products on animals. Even one [insert sentient creature here] languishing in a lab and being subjected to painful tests is one too many.
8. Know that One Doesn’t Necessarily Mean the Other: In a perfect world, all products labeled “Vegan” would be cruelty-free and all products labeled “Cruelty-Free” would contain no animal ingredients. Alas, that is not always the case. Look for products that proudly declare that they are vegan and cruelty-free.
9. Get Advice: There are some fantastic blogs out there created by caring makeup artists and veg experts who do the work of researching and trying products to provide you with honest, trusted recommendations. I especially like Melisser Elliot’s Cruelty Free Face, the Vegan Beauty Review, and the My Beauty Bunny blogs to get the straight dish on products that are both vegan and cruelty-free. Stay abreast of recent news covering supposedly cruelty-free companies marketing in China or being acquired by parent companies that do test on animals. Better yet, go to the Beauty School section of our GetVegucated Forums and see what our Vegucator guys and gals swear by, and ask us your most pressing questions.
10. Most Importantly, Make This an Adventure: Discovering new products is a joy, and you’ll find a host of fresh new smells, textures, and ingredients. Delight in knowing that you’re getting a purer, healthier, and kinder product for minimal effort.Ashlee Piper is the Community Manager at Get Vegucated. She is also a social worker, AADP-certified Holistic Health Counselor, and owner of All Is Wellness, a boutique yoga and holistic health consultancy, where she shepherds people toward a more compassionate, cruelty-free, and joyful lifestyle. Her no-nonsense tips and insights for a happy veg life can also be found via her blog, The Little Foxes.