Vegan Perfume 101: The Facts About Vegan Fragrances

July 06, 2016

Vegan Perfume 101: The Facts About Vegan Fragrances

There has been a real buzz around vegan beauty lately. Most natural skincare brands are choosing banish any animal derived ingredients, and there are very few that still use animal testing.

Gradually, a range of vegan cosmetics have emerged that use alternative waxes in their makeup ranges, such as carnauba, instead of beeswax. But when it comes to vegan perfume, the move has been much slower.

The history of animal ingredients in perfume

Animal ingredients have been used in perfume for centuries. Some were (and occasionally still are) attained using cruel methods that harmed animals.

These include:

Musk – attained by removing glands from a male musk deer to obtain a musk odor (which was used as both a fragrance note and a fixative in perfumes)

Civet - the civet (an African cat-like animal) is held in a tiny cage purely for the purpose of collecting the excretions for perfumery.

African stone – derived from the aged excrement of the African hyrax, a small mammal. While the practice of obtaining African stone is cruelty-free, vegan perfume buyers will still want to avoid this one.

Castorueum – beavers were caught and killed to remove their castor sacs and obtain a musk scent.

Ambergris - ambergris (a substance derived from sperm whale digestive secretions) is still commonly used in both synthetic and natural perfume. In the past the whales were often caught and killed for this purpose, but nowadays the ambergris is collected as ocean waste and not actually removed from the animal.

Thankfully nowadays the barbaric practices that harm animals for perfumery are all almost completely eradicated, and similarly smelling ingredients are mostly synthetically manufactured. However, if you are choosing to live a vegan and cruelty-free lifestyle, it can still be difficult to find organic perfumes that contain no animal ingredients. For the most part, perfume companies don’t label their products with such details, so the buyer often has no idea about the ingredients that make up their fragrances, whether they be natural perfumes or synthetic.

What is vegan perfume?

In order to be classified as vegan, a product must contain no animal-derived ingredients whatsoever. Many perfumes still contain ingredients such as beeswax or honey and so may be classified as vegetarian but not vegan.

How to find vegan perfumes

Many perfume and beauty companies have been known for having questionable practices around animal testing and animal ingredients, so it can be difficult to determine what is an ethical product and what is not.

Furthermore, research suggests that many large perfume companies may only be declaring around fifty percent of their ingredients on the label, so it is likely that there are many ingredients you will never be aware of.

The best way to ensure your perfume is cruelty-free is to choose a product that declares itself to be vegan and cruelty-free, and preferably is registered cruelty-free. You should also look for a transparent policy on labelling and ingredients. For the most part, these companies are often natural perfume brands, but not always.

If you need more assurance than that, ask for a positioning statement on animal testing, or make sure they are registered with a cruelty-free certifying organization. If you are looking for a perfume that is not only cruelty free but also vegan, be sure to look for that information on the label. If there is nothing on the label to state that the perfume is vegan, or made entirely from botanical ingredients, chances are the perfume still contains some animal-derived ingredients.

There are so many beautiful natural perfumes out there, and more being launched each year. By choosing to buy natural, vegan perfumes you are not only contributing to a more friendly planet, but a healthier one too.

For more help finding perfume brands that are registered cruelty-free, you can visit:



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