Now that it’s May and we’ve officially left winter behind, what better time to buff up your knowledge of sunscreen before heading out into the sun? (And risking getting terribly sunburnt)
So, you may be asking yourself: ‘wait, sunscreen isn’t vegan?’
Yep, it’s true. It’s not just food that us humans use animals for. We put them (or some part of them) in all kinds of stuff. From plastic bags, to cell phones, to you guessed it – sunscreen.
Now, luckily some companies have seen the light and have begun phasing out the use of animal ingredients. And, while that’s certainly something to celebrate, that’s really only half the battle.
A lot of companies also test sunscreens (and lotions, shampoos, soaps, etc.) on animals! I know, right? And, here’s the kicker: these companies don’t exactly make it easy to find out if they’re testing on animals or not. I mean, why would they readily admit that they’re torturing animals?
So, what’s a newbie vegan (or family member/friend looking for a gift) to do? The below tips should help you out in determining if the product is vegan.
- Read the Ingredients
I know, I know, you’re not a chemist, I don’t expect you to instantly know every single ingredient listed. I would recommend starting with the list below. These are some of the most common animal-derived ingredients found in sunscreens (and sometimes lotions/creams):
- Chitin (commonly comes from the exoskeletons of crustaceans, insects and even arachnids. It’s essentially ground-up shell)
- Collagen (a structural protein found in animal connective tissue. Typically from cows, pigs or fish)
- Elastin (another type of protein. Found in the artery walls, intestines, lungs and skin of animals)
- Lanolin (Animal fat that’s extracted from sheep’s wool)
- Stearin/Stearic Acid – derive from the fat of cows, sheep and pigs
If the bottle has a few ingredients you’re not sure about, one of the best things to do is to Google it. Honestly, plugging the name into Google (or whatever search engine you prefer) will usually bring up a short about the product, and usually tell you where it’s derived from. (Sometimes it may tell you an ingredient can be both derived from animals or plants. In that case, I would check the companys’ website to see if they say which one they use)
2. Check If It’s Cruelty-Free
This isn’t always as simple as it sounds, unfortunately. While many companies have began using the universal cruelty-free symbol (or some variation of it) on their products, others don’t. It’s not always a simple procedure of a company slapping the logo on their products.
(These or some variation is usually somewhere on the back of the bottle/product)
Some companies legally can’t put the logo on the bottle, even if it’s cruelty-free in your country, because sometimes, when companies sell to different countries, those countries have different safety laws that require testing on animals.
For example, many companies have taken to adding, ‘(insert company name) doesn’t conduct animal testing of our cosmetic products anywhere in world, except in the rare situation where governments or laws require it.’ to somewhere on their website (usually on a hard to find page that takes some digging).
The biggest example of this, would probably be companies that sell in China. China requires certain products to be tested on animals before being allowed to be sold in their country. So, some companies – while they may be cruelty-free in your country – technically aren’t cruelty-free as a whole, because they sell in China.
Whether you choose to buy from a company that isn’t 100% cruelty-free is your own choice. Some people will swear off buying from that company altogether as a protest, which is great. But that’s not always feasible. Finding vegan products, while improving over the last few years, can still be a hassle. I would say, do your best not to feel guilty if there aren’t any other options around. Remember, veganism is about ‘being as practicable as possible’ – not being 100% all the time.
I would suggest not making a habit out of it (if you feel guilty), and instead try to find one of the vegan sunscreens I’ll list below. (Or try making your own natural sunscreen!)
3. Call/E-mail the Company and Ask
If you’ve checked the bottle and didn’t see the above listed ingredients, or the cruelty-free symbol, and you’ve scoured every inch of their website to no avail, the best thing to do is hear it straight from the horses’ mouth. (So to speak)
In my personal experience, it’s usually easier to e-mail the company then call, because sometimes the agent you get won’t know off the top of their head and will likely tell you they need to double check with the correct department and then get back to you. Or, the agent on the phone will give you a very quick yes or no answer and hang up. (Yes, this has happened to me on more then one occasion)
I don’t know why it happens – perhaps they’re busy and need to get to the next customer, perhaps they don’t want to actually check and give you a real answer, or maybe they actually do know that quickly because they get that question all day – whatever the reason, (since you can’t be sure), e-mailing is usually better. It will take longer than a phone call, but a company will usually take the time to explain things in more clarity for you if you e-mail them.
If even after you’ve e-mailed them and they just give you the generic line from their website, I would suggest checking the laws in your own country to see what’s required. You may be happily surprised in your findings.
If all of that seems like way too much work (which honestly, I don’t blame you), and you want something fast and easy, check out one of the below companies/sunscreens. The only research you’d need to do for these, is to see if they’re available in your country:
- Kiss My Face Organics Mineral SPF30 Air-Powered Spray (their FAQ states most of their products are vegan, with the exception of some containing honey or beeswax)
- Alba Botanica Cool Sport Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 (their FAQ says all products are vegan, except for those containing beeswax and honey)
- Pacifica Mineral Sunscreen Coconut Probiotic SPF 30 (the slogan on their website is ‘Pacifica: 100% vegan, cruelty-free’, so I assume all their products are good to use!)
- Nature’s Gate Mineral Sport Broad Spectrum SPF 20 (not all products are vegan)
These are just a few examples of sunscreens available. I personally haven’t used any of these yet, which brings me to a good point: I’m still finishing off a bottle I have that I received as a gift. I would hope that if you have non-vegan products laying around, that you don’t just throw them away and waste them. If you don’t think you could continue to use them after learning the truth about animal testings (among other things), see if you can donate it to a family member, friend, or even a local charity.
It’s much better to use up the product instead of waste it. It might sound weird, but to me, they already tested the product on the animal/put the animal ingredient into it, so the animal has already suffered/died. I’d much rather use the product then toss it, as if that animals’ suffering doesn’t matter. Some people might not see it that way, which again, is fine. But don’t feel guilty or like you have to trash almost everything you own just because you’re trying to be vegan.
There’s a reason we call it a ‘transition’.
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