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Are Cow Brains Lurking in Your Lipstick?

You’re probably thinking, “I hope not!”—but how can you be sure? The Food and Drug Administration recently told cosmetics makers to stop using the brains and spinal cord tissue from older cows in products like lipstick and hair spray in order to try to prevent the spread of mad cow disease to humans. Ready for the bad news? These same icky ingredients are “OK” if they come from cows younger than 30 months of age.

Cosmetics companies use animal ingredients such as tissue and tallow (fat) because they’re cheap, not because they’re better than plant-based or synthetic ingredients. Slaughterhouses kill billions of animals every year and have to dispose of the “byproducts” somehow; selling them to cosmetics manufacturers is one easy solution.

Unfortunately, even avid label-readers can’t always determine what they’re putting on—and in—their bodies. There are thousands of technical and patented names for ingredient variations, and many ingredients known by one name can be of animal, vegetable, or synthetic origin. And if that’s not confusing enough, some companies have slyly removed the word “animal” from their labels in order to avoid turning off consumers. For example, instead of saying “hydrolyzed animal protein,” companies may use a term like “hydrolyzed collagen.”Want to know more? Read PETA’s factsheet about hidden animal ingredients.

Now for Some Good News

Dozens of companies make lipsticks, shampoos, soaps, body scrubs, lotions, and other beauty potions without using slaughterhouse byproducts, milk and egg byproducts, sheep lanolin, honey, or beeswax. For a comprehensive list, click here. Look for these brands in your local natural foods stores, or order them online from Pangea or PETAMall.com.

Many cruelty-free companies that are not entirely vegan do have a wide range of vegan products—including Arbonne International, Bath and Body Works, Beauty Without Cruelty, The Body Shop, Ecco Bella, Kiss My Face, and Origins. You can help put even more vegan products on store shelves by asking your favorite brands to use only humane, animal-free ingredients. Search our database for contact information on specific companies.

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  • Stephanie says:

    Hi… I am not sure when this post was written but as of right now, Arbonne products are entirely vegan. I only started using the products recently and vegan ingredients were a main factor in my choice to purchase them. The lipsticks do not even use beeswax. :)

  • lisa says:

    Thanks for useful info

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