Vegan Makeup 101 - QC Makeup Academy

Choosing your products carefully is an essential step in becoming a professional makeup artist. You’ll want to avoid products containing ingredients that might be harmful to your skin. One great way to ensure that your products are skin-friendly and safe for you and your clients is to look for makeup made of vegan ingredients. Vegan beauty products skip not only the harsh chemical ingredients that damage your skin, but also ingredients derived from animals. Vegan manufacturers also avoid testing their products on animals before selling them. You’ll often hear vegan makeup referred to as “cruelty-free” for these reasons. Using vegan products is beneficial to both you and the animals who would otherwise be hurt for the sake of product testing.

With current trends relating to health and fitness and the popularity of clean eating and green living, the demand for vegan, cruelty-free makeup has risen greatly. More popular and professional makeup brands are turning to vegan formulas to create their products than ever before.

Artist using vegan makeup

What is vegan makeup made of?

Makeup has been made from different materials throughout history, and the central ingredients haven’t always been skin-friendly. Imagine how much damage your skin would endure if you used products made from ash or lead, like women did in the late 1800s. Beauty products have also historically contained chemicals that can be cancer-causing. Primarily, however, makeup through the years has been made of various forms of animal fat. This is both cruel to animals and bad for your skin.

Vegan makeup products bypass the harmful ingredients of days gone by in favor of using safe, natural plant and mineral based ingredients. You’ll find oils, nut butters, and herbs on the ingredients list rather than chemical names that you can’t pronounce. To be considered specifically vegan and not just “natural”, however, the product must contain absolutely no animal product or byproduct. This includes milk, wax, and honey. A facial cleanser that advertises itself as vegan but contains goat’s milk is not truly a certified vegan product. Vegan beauty companies avoid all animal-related products, refrain from any type of animal testing, and generally hold animal-friendly practices as a central tenet of their business. Many vegan companies have also begun placing emphasis on using only organic ingredients and creating their products in a way that is environmentally-friendly and sustainable.

Your makeup tools can be purchased from vegan companies as well. These tools are created from nylon and synthetic fibers that contain no animal products or byproducts. They are hypoallergenic, easier to clean, and therefore more hygienic as well. In the past, brushes were made of animal hairs, most often goats, mink, horses, and squirrels. Besides not being cruelty-free, these hairs are more likely to carry bacteria and even fall out of the brush more easily. It’s in the interest of both you and your client to use good quality vegan brushes.

Vegan makeup brushes

Ingredients to avoid

The following materials should not be included on the ingredient list if the product you are using is vegan and cruelty-free.

  • Keratin: This is a protein found in the hair, nails, and horns of mammals. It is particularly common in hair products.
  • Squalane: This ingredient is found in many different types of moisturizers and cosmetics. It is made by squeezing the oil from a shark’s liver.
  • Collagen: This protein is naturally produced in the bodies of all animals. It is collected by cooking the bones, connective tissues, and skins of dead animals and is commonly used as a temporary plumping or firming agent in facial creams, body lotions, and lipsticks.
  • Guanine: This ingredient is made from scales that have been scraped off the bodies of dead fish. The scales are soaked in alcohol, which creates a substance that gives many products a shimmery effect. Guanine is used most commonly in sparkly eye shadows, pearly blushes, and nail polishes. You might see it referred to on ingredient lists as CI 75170.
  • Lanolin: This ingredient is most commonly used in body lotions and lip balms. It is derived from the grease of sheep’s wool.
  • Beeswax: This ingredient is the wax from a beehive. It is used in many different makeup products, including eye shadow, foundation, and lipstick. Beeswax is collected much faster than it can be produced, which is can lead to environmental distress, or harvested directly from the bees’ glands. You might also see beeswax called cera alba or cera lava on cosmetic ingredient lists.
  • Carmine: This ingredient is commonly used to give lipsticks and blushes their color. It is a deep red substance collected from crushed bodies and eggs of cochineal insects. You might also see it referred to as cochineal, cochineal extract, crimson lake, natural red 4, CI 75470, or carminic acid.

Beauty products containing any of these ingredients are not truly vegan, as they contain some form of animal product or byproduct. Switching to vegan products benefits your skin, but also animal welfare and the environment.

Check out these vegan companies and products!

Here are some reputable cosmetic companies that create vegan, cruelty-free beauty products.

Vegan makeup products

The following cosmetic companies create vegan, cruelty-free, and in most cases, eco-friendly makeup products. They offer foundations, mascaras, eye shadows, blushes, and so on, that are formulated from plant and mineral based products.

  • Tarte Cosmetics
  • Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics
  • NYX Cosmetics
  • Physicians Formula
  • Wet n’ Wild
  • Kat Von D Beauty
  • Urban Decay
  • Milani
  • E.L.F. Cosmetics
  • Too Faced
Crushed makeup with brush

Vegan cruelty-free tools, applicators, and brushes

These well-known companies have committed to creating and using only vegan, cruelty-free makeup brushes and tools. Their tools are high quality and used by many professionals.

  • Urban Decay
  • Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics
  • 100% Pure
  • Beauty Blender
  • The Body Shop

Switching to vegan, cruelty-free products

Making the switch from mainstream makeup to vegan, cruelty-free beauty products can be a challenge. Many companies appear cruelty-free because they don’t test products on animals, but they are not exclusively vegan because they use carmine or beeswax in select products. Other companies have great vegan lines, but still create other non-vegan makeup that contains animal byproducts. Switching entirely can take time and research. Look up your favorite cosmetic companies and see what their products and tools are made of. There are plenty of online resources available for makeup artists who would like to know more about the products they are using. Always read your ingredients lists in detail.

Would you like to learn more about makeup products and how to choose which companies are best? Check out the courses here at QC Makeup Academy and see which one is best for you!

Author Ana Scholtes

More posts by Ana Scholtes

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Alicia says:

    Great post Ana!

    I’m a vegan beauty blogger at and am looking at taking the Master Makeup Artistry course. Does this mean that the starter makeup kit included with the course is vegan? It’s probably my only concern because the course looks awesome. 😉

    • Mireille Pitre says:

      Hi Alicia!

      The makeup provided to QC students is not vegan, because it does contain beeswax. It is, however cruelty-free. Hope this helps!


Leave a Reply