As you may know, there are tons of foods that contain animal-derived ingredients for no apparent reason. Throughout my vegan journey, I’ve spotted ‘milk powder’ and ‘casein’ in more labels than I can count. However, what you may not be familiar with are the common, seemingly innocent household products that contain hidden animal ingredients or by-products. This is because these ingredients sound nothing like the ingredient they’re extracted from. ‘Glycerin’, for example, when not labeled specifically as ‘vegetable glycerin’, may come from animal bones. And the mysterious ‘guanine’ in your cosmetics? — It may be obtained from fish scales.
That’s why we want to let you know what is ACTUALLY going into your typical household products. As consumers, we should all be able to easily recognize the ingredients used in the products we purchase on a weekly to monthly basis, or educate ourselves on each one. As a conscious consumer, you are not only helping the planet, but taking care of your own health, as well! So, keep reading and learn all about the items you didn’t know may contain animal ingredients.
Toothpaste (Culprit: glycerin)
As mentioned earlier, glycerin is an ingredient sometimes extracted from animal bones. This means, when the product is not labelled as ‘vegan’, or when the ingredient is not specified as ‘vegetable glycerin’, this ingredient is likely not vegan. Other than toothpaste, glycerin can be found in soaps, gels, moisturizers, sweeteners, paper, and hair products.
Crayons (Culprit: stearic acid)
Stearic acid, like glycerin, can be derived from animals or plants. However, if the product is not labelled as vegan, it is likely made from cow or pig fat — this is the case for most mainstream crayon brands. However, other products that may contain stearic acid are soaps, shampoos, and cleaning products.
Gummy candies (Culprit: gelatin)
Ever wonder why vegans don’t tend to eat candy? Well, aside from the fact that most vegans are somewhat health-conscious, most candy (unless labelled as otherwise) contains gelatin, which is made of animal bones, connective tissue, and skin — especially gummy candies. And yes, this includes gummy vitamins. However, even pills or vitamins that aren’t in gummy form may contain gelatin.
Watch out for this ingredient in marshmallows, haircare products, skincare products, and in medications, as well. A great substitute to gelatin is agar agar, which is extracted from seaweed and is commonly used in Japanese cuisine!
Beer (Culprit: isinglass)
Although isinglass is not an ingredient in beer, it’s sometimes used as a clarifying or filtering agent in the brewing process. However, not all beers are processed with isinglass. In fact, popular brands like Budweiser, Guiness, Samuel Adams, Corona, Coors/Coors Light, Heineken, Tsingtao, and Stella Artois do not use isinglass to clarify or filter their beers.
Great substitute(s): If your favorite beer brand is vegan or not, make sure to check out barnivore.com!
Nail polish (Culprit: guanine/‘pearl essence’)
Have you ever noticed the slight pearlescent shimmer in some nail polishes? Odds are, that glisten comes from guanine — or, fish scale extract. Not only is this ingredient found in nail polish; it’s also used in eyeshadows, fragrances, lipsticks, cleansers, and hair and skincare products. The good news is, many nail polish brands do not use guanine. In fact, there are many popular cruelty-free brands that avoid it entirely.
Non-dairy creamer (Culprit: casein)
Yes, you read that right! There are a few non-dairy creamers that are not vegan. This is because some creamer alternatives still use casein, the infamous and highly addictive protein found in milk — especially in cheese. In fact, even some cheese substitutes also contain casein. You’ll definitely need to watch out for this one!
Chewing gum (Culprit: lanolin)
If you’re grossed out by the concept of eating animal-based foods, you’ll definitely want to avoid certain chewing gums! Some brands contain lanolin (also called wool grease/wax/yolk), the grease found on sheep wool — you probably wouldn’t want to chew on that for hours at a time. You’d probably want to keep it away from your eyes and skin, as well; it’s used in makeup, lotions, and eye drops, too.
The Bottom Line
Although as a vegan you may want to avoid these products for ethical reasons, most of these items usually don’t directly increase the demand for animal products. That’s because these ingredients are by-products of the animal agriculture industry. And while most vegans would like to live an animal-free lifestyle, these hidden ingredients can make it quite difficult.
So, if you do decide to swap all of these products, you’ll be doing a great thing by voting with your dollar and sending the message that you prefer to shop vegan! However, what’s important is to do everything your time and resources allow. So, if that means avoiding meat, leather, seafood, fish, fur, eggs, and dairy, you will be working against the main problem: the animal agriculture industry. Once the supply and demand for these products are minimized, their by-products will no longer be as cheap and readily available for manufacturers as they are today! So keep it up, and we thank you for caring for the animals and our planet!