Beauty Store Business magazine - January, 2020

The Vegan Beauty Movement

What started out decades ago as a small cry has become a movement. Here’s what you need to know to capture the growing number of vegan, beauty-loving consumers.

More and more beauty consumers are seeking products that do not use animal derivatives or animal testing. Twenty years ago, these conscious consumers didn’t have much to choose from. Today, you can give them vegan beauty options aplenty. The category now encompasses a multitude of brands offering beauty that is organic, eco-friendly, cruelty-free and more. The growth no doubt has been spurred by widespread awareness and commitment to healthier, more conscious lifestyles. But, as the movement has grown, so too has the variety of views on what constitutes vegan beauty. The one consensus within the group, however, is that the category will continue to soar.

“I am confident in saying that vegan beauty isn’t just a fad, but rather a market that is here to stay,” says Jim Markham, beauty industry icon and the founder of three vegan lines of professional beauty products–most recently ColorProof Color Care Authority, and before that ABBA Pure Performance Hair Care and Pureology. He adds, “With the rise of social media and the internet, information is so readily available that consumers can make more informed purchasing decisions than ever before possible, which I believe will continue to fuel this already growing market.”

Markham points to a GlobalData report, “Top Trends in Prepared Foods 2017,” which specifies that the percentage of U.S. consumers identifying as vegan grew from 1 percent to 6 percent between 2014 and 2017. That six percent equates to millions of U.S. shoppers; and it doesn’t include the increasing number of consumers who support and regularly participate in a vegan diet or lifestyle. On a worldwide scale, GlobalData found that 70 percent of consumers are reducing their meat intake. And these numbers are growing. Another report, “Think with Google: Beauty Trends 2017,” revealed that U.S.-based vegan skincare searches increased by 83 percent year over year.

Eschewing animal ingredients and byproducts is one element of the vegan beauty category. The other is being cruelty-free, meaning that products are made without animal testing. A Nielsen survey asked consumers which beauty product claims were most important to them. “Not tested on animals” ranked highest, at 57 percent. It surpassed a host of other beauty claims, including “antiaging/anti-wrinkle” (44 percent) as well as “no parabens” and “organic” (both ranking at 37 percent). Nearly half of survey respondents also said they would pay more for products with the beauty claims “not tested on animals” (43 percent) and “contains no animal products” (42 percent).

These figures come as no surprise to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a leading and long- time animal rights organization that has pioneered the fight against animal testing for decades. The organization has been campaigning since the 1980s for beauty companies to abstain from animal testing and has increased consumer support for cruelty-free and vegan beauty products. PETA boasts 6 million members and supporters, and it maintains a list of more than 3,100 companies that will not harm animals in the creation of their products. Companies are certified through the Beauty Without Bunnies program. Its “cruelty-free” label identifies businesses guaranteeing that no aspect of their products is tested on animals by anyone, worldwide. Its “cruelty-free and vegan” certification distinguishes companies with products that, additionally, do not contain any animal derivatives.

“What we consume has a tremendous effect on our environment, whether it be our food choices or the products we purchase.”

—Jim Markham, founder, ColorProof Color Care Authority

“PETA pioneered the movement to halt cosmetics and product testing on animals,” says Amanda Nordstrom, company liaison for PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies Program. “Today’s innovative technology and scientific advances have paved the way for companies to refuse to test on animals and use only nonanimal testing methods for cosmetics. ... The rise in the popularity of vegan beauty products also means that it is now more profitable for companies to choose to go cruelty-free and vegan.”

The speed at which the vegan beauty category is growing begs for a watchful eye. As a hot category, it’s a prime market for companies looking to exploit a profitable marketing claim. This puts vigilant vegan beauty consumers at odds with beauty retailers that have not done their due diligence in selecting their vegan offerings. Therefore, retailers should be at least as knowledgeable about vegan beauty as their customers.

For starters, retailers should understand the following: Vegan beauty denotes that an item does not contain any animal products (such as fish scales, animal fat, animal hair and ground-up hooves) or animal byproducts (such as beeswax and honey).

“I define vegan beauty as products that utilize ingredients that are not derived from mammal, reptile, fish, amphibian or arthropod sources,” says Rhonda M. Davis, founder and cosmetic chemist for A.P.D.G., which launched in 2016 and offers products formulated especially for women who endure the heat, humidity, rain and sweat of the American South. The inclusive, vegan brand offers more than 40 shades and is sold to consumers, performers and beauty professionals internationally.

But some vegans may expect more. The phrase “vegan beauty” often implies “cruelty-free.” However, retailers should be aware that a beauty product can contain no animal products or byproducts, but still be tested on animals. Thus, not all vegan beauty is cruelty-free. On the flip side, a brand may not test on animals, but its products may contain animal ingredients. It should also be noted that the term “vegan” does not mean “eco-friendly,” as some vegan brands may use processes or materials that are harmful to the environment.

A common misconception about vegan beauty is that it’s natural and clean. However, just as some vegans may regularly eat a host of unhealthy and processed foods, not all vegan beauty is made from natural sources such as plants and fruits. Some are made from synthetic chemicals or incorporate such chemicals in their processing.

"I define vegan beauty as products that utilize ingredients that are not derived from mammal, reptile, fish, amphibian or arthropod sources.”

—Rhonda M. Davis, founder, A.P.D.G.

Emani Vegan Cosmetics founder and creator Michelle Doan observes that consumers are generally unaware of the processes and practices involved in manufacturing products. Her vegan beauty brand is celebrating its 20-year anniversary with a special product launch at this year’s Cosmoprof North America. Emani caters to beauty consumers with sensitive skin as well as the professional market among makeup artists and studios. The products use a combination of science, nature and curated, California-grown ingredients. Doan explains that natural makeup brushes made from materials such as goat hair must be shaved, sanitized and dyed. “Those are the chemicals related to those processes,” Doan says. “When it’s been sanitized and dyed, those chemicals are going on our skin, our eyes, our lips.” This is notable, as some vegan consumers may have sensitivities to chemicals.

Furthermore, “vegan beauty” does not mean “organic beauty.” Organic beauty consists of ingredients that have been grown without using pesticides and similar chemicals. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not define “organic” or regulate the term as it pertains to cosmetics. As a result, products with organic beauty claims can vary widely in the percentage of organic ingredients they contain. Here’s a sure bet: “Certified organic” beauty products must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients.

There was a time when the average vegan beauty consumer was chiefly motivated by ethical benefits. After all, buying vegan allows ethically conscious consumers to feel good about the impact their purchase is having on the planet, including its animals. “Eco-consciousness and vegan beauty go hand in hand. What we consume has a tremendous effect on our environment, whether it be our food choices or the products we purchase,” Markham explains. “Livestock raised for consumption contributes to a huge portion of global greenhouse gas emissions, including methane and nitrous oxide, which cause rising temperatures and sea levels.” Davis adds that buying vegan slows the depletion of mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians and insects, and frees up the ecosystem to replenish itself.

Today’s vegan beauty consumers are also motivated by concerns about health and wellness. They’re natural guys and gals who prize skin care above makeup. They are glamazons obsessed with the latest beauty trends. They’re young; they’re mature; they’re every type of customer you can imagine. And each person’s idea of vegan beauty may be different from the next. But there’s one thing you can count on: Buying vegan is important to consumers, which makes the vegan category important to the beauty industry.

“The natural category is driving so much of what’s happening in beauty. And within natural, we really see ‘vegan’ as possibly the top trending topic.”

—Marlea Clark, EVP, Women’s Marketing

“Vegan products play an increasingly important role. The natural category is driving so much of what’s happen- ing in beauty. And within natural, we really see ‘vegan’ as possibly the top trending topic,” says Marlea Clark, executive vice president of marketing and insights for Women’s Marketing, which helps indie brands grow through marketing and media services aimed at female customers. “Women who buy natural spend more; and natural incorporates multiethnic and multicultural consumers. [Research firm] Mintel has reported that for African-American consumers, natural beauty products is their top trend. We’re excited to see that it’s interesting to women across the spectrum.”

According to a 2018 Nielsen report called “The Future of Beauty,” “natural beauty has been outperforming ‘conventional’ beauty for some time, taking market share in the process.” The natural beauty category, under which vegan beauty falls, earned $1.3 billion in sales in 2017. To tap into this market and meet the needs of their ethically, environmentally, cruelty-free and health- conscious consumers, retailers need to be vegan savvy. They should explore the practices and positions of prospective vegan brands so that they understand the type of benefits they offer, whether health, ethical, environmental or all of the above. Davis notes that vegan-beauty knowledge may even help retailers convert non-vegans to vegan beauty.

Markham urges retailers to tout the fact that they carry vegan products, “as nine times out of 10, a consumer would rather purchase a product with ethical obligations than one without.” He adds, “Making the switch to carry vegan beauty in stores and salons is a simple choice that comes with great benefits to you and your customers’ personal well-being, and the well-being of our planet.”

This also includes giving vegan beauty products prime placement in your store. “Increasingly, it’s going to be important to give these products more prominent positioning and to think about whether vegan-type products should be integrated throughout the personal-care area and not just relegated to a dark position in the back,” Clark says.

In the end, every retailer simply needs to know his or her vegan beauty customers. They may not be partial to plant-based vegan beauty; synthetic-based vegan beauty may be wholly acceptable to them. They may not support products that are tested on animals, but they may be OK with animal byproducts. Vegan beauty consumers are just as varied as the vegan offerings available to them, so retailers must know what “vegan” means to their customers.

[Photo by Amana Images Inc/]