vegan skincare ingredients guide

Vegan skincare: ingredients to avoid

The vegan beauty market is on the rise as more and more consumers demand skincare and cosmetics that are free from animal-derived ingredients – and trend forecasters predict it’s set to continue (hurrah). But how do you know whether your skincare products are vegan?

At Pai, we make it easy for you. We hate compromise. Avoiding certain ingredients and demanding outstanding formulas shouldn’t mean sacrificing credentials in other areas – and we know lots of you feel this way too.

That’s why our entire range is proudly accredited as vegan by the Vegan Society and certified as not tested on animals by Cruelty Free International. These certifications guarantee that our formulas are both free from animal derivatives and that both our finished products and raw materials are never tested on animals.

While cosmetic brands can claim to be ‘against animal testing’ without certification, this is no guarantee that their ingredient suppliers operate the same policy if they’re outside Europe.

The only hard and fast way to be sure of a company’s no-animal-testing policy is for them to carry the Leaping Bunny logo – so it’s one to look out for when shopping for skincare or make-up.

But while you can rest easy in knowing our entire range is vegan-friendly, we know there are plenty of other brands in your cabinet that you might want to check if you’re opting for a vegan skincare routine.

Here’s our guide to the most common non-vegan cosmetic ingredients to avoid.



All Pai creams are free from beeswax – which is relatively unusual in the natural beauty world.

We don’t just leave out beeswax for our vegan customers. We also leave it out because it’s not great for the skin.

Beeswax is considered an animal ‘by-product’ because it is produced from the honeycomb made by busy bees. It is commonly used in natural cosmetics as an emulsifier or thickener – an ingredient that helps the water and oil elements of a cream bind together.

Beeswax also forms the basis of balms, which create a protective barrier on the skin. Though Beeswax is a great natural ingredient, it is not absorbed well by the skin and can make face creams feel cloying and leave behind greasy residues. Because it can’t penetrate the epidermis, it can also suffocate sensitive skin and block pores.

Sheep and lanolin


Also known as ‘wool’s wax’, Lanolin is an oily residue from lamb’s wool that is used in a lot of mainstream hair and skincare products for its moisturising and emulsifying qualities.

Much like our stance on Beeswax, we avoid Lanolin not only because we’re certified vegan, but because it’s not the best choice for sensitive skin.

It can cause sensitivity and allergic contact dermatitis, even in those with otherwise unreactive skin, though it’s unknown exactly why. One theory is that Lanolin is similar to our own skin in terms of chemical composition, so it can penetrate deeper, increasing the risk of sensitivity.

Another theory is that sheep dips (very strong fungicides used to rid animals of parasites) are to blame, as they leave residues in the extracted Lanolin. However, Lanolin is a complex material, made up of thousands of molecules and there are so many variables in its production, making pinpointing a trigger tricky. Everything from the breed of sheep and its habitat to the way Lanolin is refined can affect a finished product and its potential to irritate.

Either way, it’s a no from us.


Retinol, also known as Vitamin A, is great for the skin but it’s important to note that it exists in two forms – and it can be animal-derived, though this is usually only in food. Most retinol and retinoids used in skincare are synthetic, but if in doubt check with the brand you’re buying from.

Plant-derived skincare Salvation Jane moisturiser

Lactic Acid

This can be found in animal tissue and can be derived from milk. Lactic Acid is often used in exfoliators and even skin peels, and can work well as a line and scar reducer. It is also used as a pH regulator.

At Pai we only ever use plant-derived Lactic Acid extracted from sugar beet – you’ll find it in products such as our moisturiser for mature skin, Salvation Jane, and our Middlemist Seven cream cleanser.

shark Amaranth plant


This antioxidant was historically extracted from shark liver oil, but thankfully there are now plenty of vegan alternatives, such as olives. We use Amaranth in our youth-boosting face oil Viper’s Gloss, which is a rich source of Squalene to help keep skin supple.


This powerful humectant can be derived from plant or animal sources, so before you slather it on it’s worth checking with the brand. Some will use synthetic versions, while we use organic vegetable Glycerin. You’ll find it in our most-hydrating formulas – read our guide to the benefits of Glycerin here for more.


You’re more likely to come across Collagen in supplements, which are usually made from fish or even cows – so definitely not vegan. But in skincare, that Collagen serum you have your eye on most likely doesn’t contain Collagen itself; it’s usually designed to stimulate your skin’s own production of it. If it does contain the real deal, it’s likely animal-derived – unless of course it’s certified vegan, in which case it’ll be synthetic or plant-based.

Our Vegan Collagen 0.9% Booster is a film-forming active that instantly restores and conditions skin, leaving it hydrated, radiant and silky-smooth. A groundbreaking product in the Collagen in skincare space, ours is derived from corn and soy protein. The great news is, it's actually more effective than animal-derived Collagen*. 

*4-week efficacy study of AC Vegetable Collagen PF

Shop our full range of 100% vegan skincare today, or for more advice book a free online skin consultation


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