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Vegan Ingredients: What They Are and Why You Should Care

Going vegan is having a moment: Beyoncé’s done it, as has Kim Kardashian, just to name a very few. But being vegan is nothing new. For many, famous or otherwise, it’s been the status quo for years — and that’s also the case for Glow Recipe’s ingredient lineup. 

Glow Recipe’s entire line is built on the idea of pairing antioxidant-rich fruit extracts with gentle actives — so going plant-based is pretty much a no-brainer. Being vegan and cruelty-free is central to the brand’s formulations, and has been a part of its ethos from the beginning. Even before Glow Recipe was creating products of its own, the site only offered products that fell into the cruelty-free category. And today, every product that GR offers — with the exception of only the Avocado Melt Sleeping Mask, which harnesses the power of manuka honey — are vegan and cruelty-free.

Not only are these types of ingredients better for animals and for the environment, but they’re just as potent as their animal-derived counterparts. “Studies show that vegan ingredients can be appropriate substitutes for non-vegan ones,” says board-certified dermatologist Caren Campbell, MD. “The source — vegan versus non-vegan — shouldn’t matter as long as the compound is stated and the concentration is equal.”

With that in mind, why wouldn’t we use vegan actives? Scroll through for the ones you’ll find in our products, and why we love to slather them on our faces.

The ingredient: Vegan squalane 

The swap: Shark oil-derived squalane

Where you’ll find it: Banana Soufflé Moisture Cream, Pineapple-C Bright Serum, Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask, Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask

Why we love it: Squalane has become one of the buzziest moisturizing ingredients on the shelf, thanks to its smooth texture and anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. While there are a number of different sources of the stuff — it can come from things like olive oil and sugarcane, or be produced in a lab from bacteria and yeast — the cheapest and easiest way to get it is by way of shark liver oil. A  2012 report showed that nearly three million sharks were killed each year to meet the demand of the shark liver oil market, and a follow-up study from 2015 found that you can still find shark-derived squalane in beauty products. At Glow Recipe, we only use squalane derived from sugarcane and sugarbeets. Not only is our version cruelty-free, but it’s also just as good as the non-vegan version. “The source shouldn’t matter as long as it’s the same concentration,” says Dr. Campbell. 

The ingredient: Vegan retinol 

The swap: Animal-derived retinol

Where you’ll find it: Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask, Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask

Why we love it: Cell turnover is the holy grail of skin-care, and using retinol is the best way to fast-track the process. “The efficacy of vegan vs non-vegan retinol should be the same if the chemical compound is the same,” says Dr. Campbell. While some of the more potent prescription retinoids out there like tretinoin and adapalene have to come from animal sources, retinol (the over-the-counter version) can be plant-based, which is what we use in our products. It will help to stimulate new cells rising to the surface and replacing old dead ones, leaving your complexion glassy and smooth. 

The ingredient: Coconut oil 

The swap: Lanolin

Where you’ll find it: Watermelon Glow Lip Pop

Why we love it: Lanolin, an oil common in lip balm that serves as an emollient, comes from sheep’s wool — making it non-vegan — and could potentially cause rashes and irritation in those with sensitive skin. Coconut oil is a great plant-based alternative, and has moisturizing and emollient powers that will leave your lips baby-soft. It also helps to prevent transepidermal water loss, which means that not only will our Watermelon Glow Lip Pop hydrate your lips immediately after you apply it, but it will help keep them that way all day long. 

The ingredient: Natural, plant-based colors 

Where you’ll find it: All of our skincare products

Why we love it: Brightly-colored products in your collection might look pretty in a #shelfie, but did you know that those bright pigments could come from crushed insects? Carmine, for example, is a dye that comes from beetle shells and is used to give red lipsticks their color. Plant-based colors—which are used in all of Glow Recipe’s skincare—can be just as bold as what’s derived from dead bugs, but a lot less gross. 

The Ingredient: Lactic Acid

Where you’ll find it: Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask, Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser, Pineapple-C Bright Serum

Why we love it: Lactic acid is known to be the gentlest of the exfoliating acids, making it suited for dry and sensitive skin types while also effective enough to work on oily and acne-prone ones, too. It’s well-known as the “milk” acid — its name comes from the word “lactose,” which is what it’s derived from — but what you may not realize is that it can also come from fermented fruits and vegetables. “The source, whether from dairy or fruits and vegetables, doesn’t matter,” says Dr. Campbell. “It is the same chemical compound and should have the same efficacy as a chemical exfoliant and moisturizer.”


Glow Recipe

Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Cream


Glow Recipe

Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask


Glow Recipe

Banana Soufflé Moisture Cream


Glow Recipe

Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser


Glow Recipe

Pineapple-C Bright Serum


Glow Recipe

Watermelon Glow Lip Pop


Glow Recipe

Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer


Glow Recipe

Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask


Glow Recipe

Watermelon Glow Ultra Fine Mist


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