Is vegan beauty set to hit the mainstream?

With participation in Veganuary at an all-time high this year, beauty industry giants and small cosmetics businesses alike are foregoing animal products more than ever before.

Just two weeks into January, and #Veganuary2021 has already amassed a whopping 53K hits on Instagram, and almost five million views on TikTok. The eco-conscious movement, which sees non-vegans ditch animal products from their diets for the first month of the year, is growing with unrelenting force and the beauty industry is taking note.

Though this certainly isn’t anything out of the ordinary – considering demand for vegan beauty has been gaining traction for some years now – the pandemic has brought about a newfound consumer interest in sustainability, and vegan-friendly formulae is on the up.

‘People will shun animal-derived ingredients as they now understand the zoonotic origins of Coronavirus,’ explains Jenni Middleton, director of WGSN. ‘Instead, they want to turn to nature’s apothecary to provide tried, tested, and time-honoured beauty and wellness solutions.’

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It’s unclear whether or not the outbreak of Covid-19 is to thank for the record-breaking participation of 440,000 people in Veganuary this month, but one thing’s for sure. Given that 30% of Gen Z, a highly influential group of consumers with a combined spending power of $140bn, say they do not eat any meat and 80% expect brands they buy from to offer some form of plant-based alternatives, there’s no denying that Veganism is well on its way to hitting the mainstream.

The only question is, will beauty follow suit?

In short, yes. Not only does there currently exist a wealth of PETA-approved cosmetics companies certifiably avoiding anything that’s been tested on animals or animal-derived ingredients like beeswax, gelatine, or lanolin among others, but more industry giants than ever before have begun making strides to get on board.

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Recently, Ulta introduced ‘vegan’ as one of the qualifications for its new Conscious Beauty programme and only yesterday, Aveda (which is owned by Estée Lauder), the already cruelty-free haircare and makeup brand announced it would be removing beeswax from all its lines in an effort to encourage employees and customers to go vegan in 2021.

‘Aveda was founded on an environmental mission, so becoming vegan was a natural next step for us to continue to lessen our impact on the planet,’ says Christine Hall, VP of Research and Development. ‘We were further compelled to expedite the process when faced with the facts around the impact of animal-derived ingredients on the health of the planet.’

It’s a huge (not to mention incredibly promising) step away from the habits of an industry traditionally reliant on animal testing and animal derivatives, as well as a prime example of the way in which brands are becoming increasingly aware of the need to change their ways.

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And for the smaller, independent businesses that have long eschewed animal products, its progress that’s being welcomed. With sustainable ingredients now easier to come by as suppliers start offering more alternatives to non-vegan options, identifying as a ‘vegan’ brand is coming in handy. Many are now bringing this to the forefront of their messaging, adopting multiple initiatives (such as donating to animal rights charities) to highlight their vegan credentials.

‘I’ve seen a dramatic transformation within the industry since we first launched 25 years ago,’ says Brook Harvey-Taylor, founder of Pacifica. ‘We used to sit at the trade show and have to explain to people what vegan beauty meant, now we prominently display ‘vegan’ in our tagline and we’re expanding our range of products with the word front-and-centre.’

Vegan beauty has, without a doubt, undergone a significant rebranding. It’s empowering to see how customer awareness and interest has successfully pushed the industry to innovate and there’s no reason not to suggest it’ll be upended any time soon.

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