Choosing a body wash to fit your vegan standards can be a challenge, especially if you have sensitive skin or some other restriction, such as being gluten-free. Many of the claims you’ll find on the front of the package (such as “vegan” or “cruelty-free”) aren’t regulated, but you do have some options on how to choose the best products for you.
Make sure you’re getting the type of product you’re looking for by understanding which ingredients are derived from animals and knowing a bit about the company’s testing practices. You can also reference non-government organizations such as the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), an international coalition created to find help you find products that fit your standards.
The best vegan body washes have good quality, non-GMO, organic ingredients that are free of any animal byproducts. Ideally, they’ll also be paraben-free and use essential oils for fragrance rather than synthetic fragrances to ensure that they don’t cause any skin reactions or other health problems.
And if you’re concerned about animal welfare, you’ll likely also be hunting for cruelty-free products. That’s a lot to think about! Luckily, we’re here to help you sort it all out.
Untangling the Terms
While the term “vegan” doesn’t automatically mean “cruelty-free,” the two standards often go hand in hand, and many vegan-friendly products are also cruelty-free. Some aren’t, however, so if that standard is important to you, look for clear labeling or reach out to the company to find out about their testing practices.
For a product to be vegan, it must not contain any ingredients that are derived from animals, not even insects if you’re super strict about it. So beeswax and honey are out for the strictest of vegans.
Other names for non-vegan ingredients aren’t necessarily obviously derived from animals, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with the list of terms. It can get confusing though, because some of the terms we’ll identify can be derived from vegan sourcing.
This is why clear labeling and knowing the ethics of the company that makes the product is so important. Here are some names of non-vegan ingredients to look out for:
- Carmine (also labeled as cochineal, natural red 4, E120, or C.I. 75470): a natural red dye derived from beetles
- Stearic Acid* (or anything that starts with “stear”): derived from the stomachs of certain farm animals (most often pigs, cows, or sheep)
- Lanolin*: usually made from sheep’s wool and used as a moisturizing ingredient
- Glycerine*: also used as a moisturizer, and is derived from animal fats
- Squalene*: derived from shark liver oil
- Oleic acid* (also labeled as oleyl stearate, oleyl oleate, or tallow): used as an emollient (skin softener and conditioner) and derived from animal fats
- Collagen and elastin: both derived from the connective tissue of animals and used in anti-aging products such as eye creams and deep facial moisturizers
*Indicates that this product can also be created using vegan ingredients. Often they’re labeled as vegan (ie, vegetable glycerine, oleic acid derived from coconut oil or olive oil), but sometimes they aren’t. For example, squalene derived from olive oil might not be specified as such on the packaging, so you might want to follow up with the company to find out more about sourcing.
For a product to be cruelty-free, it must not be tested on any animals, whether as individual ingredients, or as the finished product. This detail can get tricky. For example, a company might source a particular ingredient from a separate company, and if that company has tested that ingredient on animals, then it’s not considered cruelty-free, even if the company you’re purchasing from doesn’t engage in those practices themselves.
Because the demand for cruelty-free body care is growing exponentially, more companies are switching to better practices and are a lot more transparent about their sourcing and testing practices. So go ahead and ask if it’s not clear from the packaging, just to be sure. A reputable company like Feel will offer an ingredients page so that consumers can be confident when purchasing their products.
As is evident from the list of non-vegan ingredients, most of the animal-derived ingredients are included to provide moisture or emollient. This might lead you to believe that there aren’t any good vegan options for folks with dry skin looking for moisturizing body washes, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are a number of vegan alternatives to animal-derived ingredients that will nourish your skin and your conscience by using natural ingredients that don’t harm animals. Shea butter, olive oil, coconut milk (and oil), and cocoa butter all offer supreme moisture in a nourishing body wash, and often they’re labeled exactly as they are rather than with a long, confusing name. We also mentioned vegetable glycerine and olive oil-derived squalene. For alternatives to anti-aging collagen and elastin, look for soy protein, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, aloe vera, green tea, or almond oil.
You don’t have to limit yourself to the austere Dr. Bronner’s for your vegan shower gel or bar soap just because you’re looking for a vegan, organic body wash. Pure castile liquid soap (or bar soap) can leave your skin feeling pretty dry, but rest assured, there are lots of other great options to choose from, no matter your skin type.
Brands that adhere to high-quality vegan standards include Feel, Avalon Organics, SheaMoisture, Kiss My Face, Ahava, Puracy, and Alba Botanica.
Shortcut: Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC)
CCIC was launched in 1996 by a collection of animal protection groups from all over the world (including the Humane Societies of the United States and Canada) as a way to help standardize terms around animal treatment in cosmetics. Because many of the terms aren’t legally regulated, the CCIC created a set of standards around animal treatment and usage and developed a Leaping Bunny logo to represent their high standards.
By choosing products that display the Leaping Bunny logo, you’re taking a shortcut to guaranteeing that the body wash you’re choosing fits both vegan and cruelty-free standards that are internationally recognized.
Nourish Your Skin With Vegan Body Wash
Understanding the term and standards for vegan and cruelty-free body care products, like body wash, bubble bath, and moisturizers, will help you make an informed decision. You don’t have to compromise your values to get high quality, well-performing products that nourish, moisturize, and leave your skin feeling soft and supple. After you’ve used your new vegan body wash, follow it up with Feel’s Balanced Moisture Balancing Cream for a beautiful, dewy look.