Animal By-Product Glossary

Below is a list of potential ingredients that are commonly found in mainstream cosmetics and may be derived from animals and/or their by-products. Some of these ingredients can also be plant-derived or made synthetic. It is always best to check with the source to know if you are purchasing Vegan or not. 

We compiled this list to help consumers shop more ethically. If you have any questions or would like to make a suggestion please email us at



Found in eggs, milk, muscles, blood, and many vegetable tissues and fluids. In cosmetics, albumen is usually derived from egg whites and used as a coagulating agent.


Comes from uric acid of an animal, but can also be plant-derived or synthetically made. In the beauty industry, it's often used in creams and lotions designed to heal or reduce irritation.

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA's)

Most typically found in exfoliant and anti-wrinkle products, AHAs such as lactic acid may be animal-derived.


A substance derived from sperm whale digestive secretions and is still commonly used in both synthetic and natural perfumes.

Arachidonic Acid

A liquid unsaturated fatty acid that is found in the liver, brain, glands, and fat of animals and humans, generally isolated from animal liver. Used in skin creams and lotions to soothe eczema and rashes.

Beeswax (Cera Alba)

Wax obtained from melting honeycomb with boiling water, straining it, and cooling it. Found widely in lipsticks and many other cosmetics, especially face creams, lotions, mascara, eye creams, shadows, face makeup, nail whiteners, lip balms, etc.


In every living cell and in larger amounts in milk and yeast. Used as a texturizer in cosmetics, shampoos, and creams. It can also be plant-derived.

Caprylic Acid

A liquid fatty acid from cow or goat milk or can also be obtained from palm, coconut, and other plant oils.

Carmine, Carminic acid, Cochineal

Red pigment from the crushed female cochineal insect. Reportedly, 70,000 beetles must be killed to produce one pound of this red dye. Used as a colorant in cosmetics, shampoos and other foods.

Carotene, Provitamin A, Beta Carotene

A pigment found in many animal tissues and in all plants. When used as an additive, typically derived from plant sources. Used as a coloring in cosmetics and in the manufacture of vitamin A.


Creamy substance with a strong odor, originally from muskrat and beaver genitals but now typically synthetic. Used as a fixative in perfume and incense. While some cosmetics companies continue to use animal castor, the majority do not.


The raw material for cerebrosides in cosmetics comes from cattle, oxen or swine brain cells or other nervous system tissues and is the common name for a group of glycosphingolipids called monoglycosylceramides which are important components in animal muscle and nerve cell membranes.

Cetyl Alcohol

Was first derived from sperm whales and then dolphins but now is more commonly obtained from palm oil. Works as an emollient, emulsifier, thickener and carrying agent for other ingredients contained in a cosmetic solution. It keeps the oil and water parts of an emulsion from separating and gives products good spreadability.


Is a material found in the exoskeleton of crustaceans and the cell walls of fungi. It has found uses in a variety of industries including in cosmetics for delivery, hydration, film-forming and to modify viscosity.


This steroid alcohol is derived from numerous animal sources including fat, nervous tissue, eggs, and blood. It's used in many cosmetics including eye creams, shampoo, and hair cholesterol. Also, helps prevent the separation of the oil and liquid components in cosmetics and personal care products.


Unctuous secretion painfully scraped from a gland very near the genital organs of civet cats. Used as a fixative in perfumes.


A protein found mostly in hair, skin, nails, bones, and ligaments. It comes mostly from animal sources, such as beef or fish.


An amino acid found in urine and horsehair. Used as a nutritional supplement and in emollients. It can be derived from plants.

Egg Protein

This product is used as a raw material for a wide range of cosmetics, shampoos, masks, skin preparations, etc.


Protein found in the neck ligaments and aortas of cows. Similar to collagen.

Emu oil

From flightless ratite birds native to Australia and now factory-farmed. Used in cosmetics and creams.

Estrogen, Oestrogen (estradiol)

Also listed as Estradiol, this hormone-based can be found in most perfumes, restorative creams or lotions. Estrogen is obtained by extracting urine from pregnant horses.


Protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones in water usually from cows and pigs. Used in shampoos, face masks, and other cosmetics as a thickening agent.


This generally comes from animal fats, and is commonly used in a range of products including soaps, hair care, make-up, and moisturizers. Some products use vegetable glycerin, which is suitable for vegans.

Goat Milk

Milk from mother goats, commonly found in soaps and skincare products.


This is a crystalline material obtained from fish scales. In cosmetics and personal care products, Guanine is used in the formulation of bath products, cleansing products, fragrances, hair conditioners, lipsticks, nail products, shampoos, and skincare products.


A by-product from bees and is used as a skin moisturizer, a humectant, an antibacterial, and a flavoring agent.

Hyaluronic Acid

Can be made several different ways - animal-derived, plant-derived, from bacteria or synthetically in a lab - When animal-derived it is taken from the joints or eyeballs of slaughtered cows/horses or made from the combs of chicken.


Is often added to shampoos and hair products in order to repair damaged hair, and sometimes keep hair straight. Most keratin comes from ground-up animal hair, horns, hooves, and feathers.


The greasy, natural wax is an emulsifying byproduct of the wool industry and often used in hand creams, lip balms, and mascara. Sheep provide nearly all the world’s lanolin and it helps keep their coat protected and dry throughout the year.


A soft, white oily substance obtained by heating the fat from pigs. In cosmetics and personal care products, Lard and Lard-derived ingredients are used in the formulation of skin care products and makeup such as eyebrow pencils, eyeliner, and lipstick.


An amino acid from hair that can come from animals. Used in hair-care products and creams, and in wound-healing formulations. It can also be derived from plants.


Generic term to designate any group of yellow-brownish fatty substances occurring in animal and plant tissues which are amphiphilic – they attract both water and fatty substances, and are used for smoothing textures, emulsifying, homogenizing liquid mixtures, and repelling sticking materials.

Linoleic Acid

Commonly plant-derived and occurs naturally in ruminant milk fat and meat, this unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid is used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics. There is some research showing it to be effective as a skin restorative, an antioxidant and as a skin-soothing agent.

Monoglycerides, Diglycerides

Mono- and diglycerides are emulsifiers derived from fatty acid, which means they help oil and water to blend. It can be made Vegan.

Mink Oil

A pale yellow liquid obtained from minks that have been raised on farms for their fur. In cosmetics and personal care products, Mink Oil is used in the formulation of hair conditioners, hair sprays, lipsticks, skin cleansers, moisturizers, and other skin and hair products.

Myristic Acid

Typically found in nut oils but can be sourced from animal fat and is a minor component of many other animal fats and functions as an opacifying agent and a surfactant cleansing agent. In cosmetics and personal care products functions as a binder, and skin-conditioning emollient.

Nucleic Acids

In the nucleus of all living cells. Used in cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners, etc.

Oleic Acids

A fatty acid that occurs naturally in various animal and vegetable fats and oils and is used as a cleansing agent and texture enhancer. It's among the more stable fatty acids and has a unique ability to preserve the effectiveness of more delicate ingredients such as antioxidants by helping to protect them from light and air degradation.

Palm Oil

Palm Oil is derived from a palm tree therefore it naturally is vegan. However, there is a lot of controversy surrounding Palm Oil due to the way it is grown as a contributor to deforestation and has been known for destroying many eco-systems. Many choose to avoid Palm Oil for ethical reasons. There are many sneaky names for Palm Oil hiding in products: List can be found here

Palmitic Acid 

(also see Palm Oil above)

One of the most common saturated fatty acids found in animals and plants used in skincare as an emollient or moisturizer. Detergents, soaps, and cleaning products may use it as a cleansing agent or an emulsifying agent.


(provitamin B5 and derivatives)

An alcohol form of vitamin B sourced from both plants and animals. Commonly used in beauty products for moisturizing and skin-penetrating properties primarily as a lubricant, emollient.

Pearl Powders

Pearl powders aren't technically vegan since pearls grow in oysters. They been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as in cosmetics and as health food supplements.

Placenta, Polypeptides

Contains waste matter eliminated by the fetus. Derived from the uterus of slaughtered animals. Animal placenta is widely used in skin creams, shampoos, masks, etc.


Polysorbate of Oleic Acid, used as a stabilizer and emulsifier. Oleic Acid can have plant or animal sources.


Obtained from the liver oil of sharks and from whale ambergris. (See Squalene, Ambergris.) Used as a lubricant and anti-corrosive agent in cosmetics.


Is an endogenous steroid and progestogen sex hormone involved in the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and embryogenesis of humans and other species. This steroid hormone is commonly used in anti-wrinkle face creams.


This is a resin-like material made by bees from the buds of poplar and cone-bearing trees found in toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, supplements, etc.

Retinol (Vitamin A)

This animal-based ingredient can often be found in products that boast an “anti-aging” quality. Retinol is a potent source of Vitamin A, and it is almost always derived from an animal.

Royal Jelly

A honey bee secretion that is used in the nutrition of larvae, as well as adult queens. It is secreted from the glands in the hypopharynx of nurse bees and fed to all larvae in the colony.

RNA or Ribonucleic Acid

RNA is in all living cells. Used in many protein shampoos and cosmetics.

Shellac or Resinous Glaze

Is a resin secreted by the female lac bug, on trees. It is processed and sold as dry flakes and dissolved in alcohol to make liquid shellac, which is used as a brush-on colorant.

Silk Powder or Hydrolyzed Silk

Silkworms are boiled alive while nesting in their cocoons to obtain silk.  Silk is used as an agent in face powders, soaps, etc.

Spermaceti, Cetyl Palmitate, Sperm Oil

Waxy oil originally derived from the sperm whales or from dolphins but now most often derived from petroleum in skin creams, ointments, shampoos, candles, etc.

Stearic Acid

Animal-derived fat from cows, pigs, and sheep, etc. May also be of plant origin, including from cocoa butter and shea butter. Used in cosmetics, soaps, lubricants, candles, hairspray, conditioners, deodorants, creams, etc.

Squalane, Squalene

This substance is usually extracted from the liver of sharks but can also be sourced from plants. It is typically added to skincare, eye makeup, and lipsticks.


Sugar itself is vegan and comes from plants such as sugarcane, beets, or coconut, however some sugars are filtered through bone char therefore those sugars are non-vegan. Sugar is widely used in scrubs for face and body. For more information about vegan sugar please read here.


Also known as rendered animal fat is a common ingredient in many cosmetics including eye makeup, lipstick, makeup bases, and foundations. The process involves boiling the carcasses of slaughtered animals until a fatty substance is produced, ready to add to cosmetics and apply to one’s face.

Urea (uric acid)

Typically synthetic. When extracted from animals, it is excreted from urine and other bodily fluids. In deodorants, mouthwashes, hair colorings, hand creams, lotions, cosmetics, shampoos, etc.

Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)

It can come from fish liver oil, milk, egg yolks, and other animal products but can also come from plant sources. Vitamin D3 may be from an animal source in creams, lotions, other cosmetics, vitamin tablets, etc.