By Mikaela Rose Alioto

What comes to mind when we think of vegan beauty products? I used to imagine vegan products were formulated with some holistic blend of organic hemp oils and wheatgrass, which don’t summon the same feelings of childish delight I experience every time I see a conventional beauty product in millennial pink packaging. While there are differences between vegan, cruelty-free, and clean beauty products, their misconceptions are similar. We automatically assume that by choosing products without the use of harsh chemicals or animal by-products, we are somehow sacrificing the efficacy or affordability of a product. I’ve come to find this assumption isn’t the case at all. In fact, much like with food, there are usually equally effective, if not more sophisticated alternatives for animal-derived ingredients. And while no one should feel pressured to use makeup and skin care, I personally use it as a form of self-care, a self-soothing ritual built into my daily routine.

What Does Skin Care and Makeup Have to do With Veganism?

Technically nothing, but veganism is more than a hobby or a trend- it is a fundamental belief system. Those who identify as vegan can have a wide range of interests that might include the use of skin care and make up products. Living a consummate cruelty-free lifestyle means we must be vigilant of everything we consume-including the products we put on our bodies. Though I follow skin-care best practices religiously, there are some beliefs I am unwilling to compromise- no animals need to be harmed in my prudent quest for effective beauty products.

The billion-dollar beauty industry disseminates a blend of positive and negative messaging, so the products we use and the brands we support are ways we can contribute to ethical movements within the industry. Thanks to greenwashing, there are a surprising number of brands that carry a vegan label, but that doesn’t always mean they are completely cruelty-free. It’s important to do your research and double check the ingredient label.

Pesky Ingredients to Watch Out For:

Giving a new meaning to “Mind your own bee’s wax”, this pesky ingredient, also known as Cera Alba, is often used in natural products to create a balmy texture and seal in moisture. According to The Tasty Vegan, products containing beeswax (and honey) are often labeled as vegan, but it is still an animal-derived ingredient. Lanolin is also a common ingredient that prevents products from being vegan. Lanolin is a by-product of the wool industry and is often used as an emollient. Collagen is a popular beauty buzzword in the industry, but it is another ingredient to avoid. Collagen, keratin, and elastin are all derived from animal tissue and therefore are not cruelty-free. No thanks! Additionally, glycerin and squalene can either be animal derived or plant-based, so be sure to look closely at the detailed ingredients. You can find a more comprehensive list of non-vegan ingredients here.

Build Your Vegan Starter Kit with Local Finds!

Searching for quality beauty products that are also vegan can easily become a full time job, but fortunately there are some great local options! I’ve curated a list of some of my favorite must-have brands and products available at shops in the New England area:

Image source: Follain

South End 53 Dartmouth St, Boston, MA

Beacon Hill 65 Charles Street, Boston, MA

Image Source: Credo Beauty

177 Newbury St, Boston, MA

Image source: Farmaesthetics

44 Bellevue Ave, Newport, RI

So there you have it! Your vegan starter kit can be built locally! While these brick and mortar locations are closed indefinitely due to shelter-in-place, hopefully in a few months you can look forward to a stroll in the Back Bay or a day trip to Newport. In the meantime, feel free to support these stores online and any local businesses you can! It is certainly a time for increased compassion, local support, and self care.

Mikaela Rose Alioto is a recent Northeastern grad with an affinity for all things plant-based! A lifelong animal rights advocate, she was a vegetarian for 13 years before making the switch to veganism two years ago. In her spare time, she enjoys researching cruelty-free beauty products, spending time with her two rescue kitties, and working on her French proficiency. You can follow her and her “Unnecessary pairings” on Instagram at @m.rose.alioto