The term vegan usually springs ‘not eating animals’ to one’s mind, but veganism is a whole lifestyle that avoids consuming or using any animal products in all parts of life. With foodstuffs, it’s clear one needs to avoid meat, dairy products, animal fats, eggs, etc., but animal parts are used in unexpected ways in the manufacturing of many products that isn’t openly advertised, and which definitely doesn’t appear on the label.
These days, many cosmetics companies don’t test on animals anymore, but many products still have animals hidden in their ingredients lists, like in toothpaste, perfume, lotion, dyes and colouring, shampoo, and conditioner. Anti-aging creams are notorious for having a few of their common ingredients secretly derived from animals. Collagen comes from chicken feet and animal horns; hyaluronic acid is found in rooster combs (and, incidentally, human umbilical cords); elastin is extracted from ligaments and aortal parts of cows. Anti-aging effects can be achieved by changing your diet and having your own body produce collagen or elastin naturally. That beautiful iridescent shimmer in eye shadows and highlighters is thanks to fish scales. Carmine, an intense red dye, is made from grinding up a ton of beetles.
Leather is obviously an animal product, but some clothing and accessories also use glues and dyes derived from animals. Many artificial leathers aren’t helping things because they’re made from plastic, a petroleum product that poisons ecosystems, and which ends up sitting practically forever in landfills and oceans after being tossed away, which is bad news for animals. A super neat and beautiful example of a totally vegan fashion line is the bags and accessories made by Eve Cork at www.evecork.com which use, you guessed it, cork sustainably harvested from trees in Portugal. The trees don’t need to be cut down, and they regrow their bark layers over several years. The makers of these soft, luxurious bags use vegan glue and all-natural vegetable dyes, too, so no animals are used or harmed in their production.
Even something as presumably straightforward as white sugar – from sugar cane or sugar beet plants – sometimes uses cow bone char in its refining process. If you’ve seen raw sugar in the grocery store and wondered what that means, it avoids this bleaching and filtering process. There are lots of sweet vegan alternatives. Honey is a superfood because, in its raw form, it contains lots of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that are great for your health, but not everyone considers it to be purely vegan. Other alternatives include maple syrup, brown rice syrup, root syrups, agave, and molasses. Stevia leaves also produce a super sweet taste with no calories and have been used to sweeten food and drink in South America for 1500 years.
Being 100% vegan is a difficult philosophical and practical choice, and it takes a fair amount of research to be successful at it. Luckily, there are a lot of good companies making high quality products that look gorgeous and last a long time, and others that are nutritious and tasty. You just have to know where to look.