Welcome to the high street vegan beauty boom, with one product selling every single second

The big vegan beauty boom.

10 Jan 2019

Veganism’s recent growth is nothing if not rapid, and has quadrupled in the last four years. In 2014 there were 150,000 vegans, growing to 600,000 in 2018, that’s 1.16% of the UK population. This has coincided with a major trend for increased awareness around what goes into our beauty products. The result: an equally exponential boom in vegan and cruelty-free beauty – and - perhaps surprisingly – it is our high street favourites like Boots and Superdrug that are leading the way. Superdrug reveals sales of their own brand vegan products have rocketed by 414% since 2015.

According to The Vegan Society’s definition, and in lieu of a legal definition, a vegan beauty product means it has not been tested on animals and contains no animal ingredients or by-products
such as beeswax, honey or milk. Plus, the less commonly known glycerine, collagen, gelatine or retinol or colours such as cochineal red, which also come from animal by products and sources.

Not to be confused with the cruelty-free definition (featuring the leaping bunny logo), certifying products haven’t been tested on animals, but they may contain animal by-products or animal-derived ingredients.

In celebration of our January digital issue, The High Street Beauty Issue starring Drew Barrymore, we're looking at how the high street is slaying on the vegan front.

On that note, you won’t find Drew Barrymore’s cult new vegan make up range – Flower beauty – in some out of the way niche retailer – no, it’s being stocked by Superdrug. Not only is it also 100% cruelty-free, the range includes on trend must-haves, dreamed up by the celebrity after many hours sat in the makeup artist’s chair, including matte lipstick, highlighter palettes and liquid foundation.

Similarly, Superdrug’s own vegan and cruelty-free brand, ‘B’, with makeup colour masterminded by celebrity makeup artist Cassie Lomas has also been in high demand. “Our B. Makeup brushes and accessories have been best-sellers,” says Superdrug Head of Beauty, Sarah Gardner “as those looking for vegan, cruelty-free products know they can trust the brand. Animal-derived ingredients are in a multitude of makeup products and it’s not easy to create high quality cosmetics without compromise; we worked for almost two years on the new B. Makeup collection."

I tried the Micellar Water, Volumizing Mascara and Radiance Booster and found them all to be highly efficacious for products with a low price point and such impressive ethical credentials. The mascara took a few coats to really define lashes but certainly offered highly pigmented 'va va voom' and the micellar water was non-drying and effective in removing light makeup and cleansing.

And it's not just Superdrug on the high street. Lush describes itself as a vegetarian retailer, 70% of whose products are vegan. “We always keep vegans in mind when formulating new products, “ says spokesperson, Elizabeth Bowles, and recent successes include their Naked Vegan Skincare launch, which is packaging-free. The Body Shop is also 100% vegetarian and continuing to increase its substantial vegan offering, revealing they sold over 3 million vegan products in the UK alone in 2018, at a rate of 1 per second, with Tea Tree Oil as the best-seller.

[article id="DQ4mQ5D3YqO"]

But why now and what does the popularity of these ranges say about us as a nation? “The UK has seen a huge increase in the number of people turning to a vegan lifestyle, both full time and intermittently and the high street has seen an opportunity to offer more products to target the new vegan,” says Superdrug Commercial Director, Simon Comins. He points to the 1000+ own brand products in store, including skincare and personal care, that are certified vegan.

But creating a beauty brand which is vegan at a high street price point can presents a lot more challenges. “Absolutely, it is more difficult to create vegan products,” acknowledges Comins. “Products such as mascara, for example, have traditionally proved challenging, as the majority use beeswax as an ingredient to prevent smudging and smearing however synthetic beeswax and synthetic wax can be used – we use this in our B. mascaras, and we have amazing feedback from customers who until now have had real problems finding a vegan mascara which is affordable and works brilliantly too.”

One issue is vegan ingredients are often more expensive than commonly used ones and there are some categories, eg hair dye, where it's difficult at the moment to formulate a vegan product.

“Customers are now more aware of what goes into their products than ever before,” says Joanna Rogers, Commercial Director and VP of beauty at Boots. “The rapid increase of veganism has translated into the beauty industry and a significant demand for vegan beauty products. We are constantly listening to our customers to offer them the latest and innovative products and have a wide range of vegan products from popular brands such as Bleach London, e.l.f, bareMinerals, Isle of Paradise and Spectrum. Our Vegan Beauty Edit on boots.com contains some of our favourites and we also have signposts in a selection of our larger stores highlighting some of our vegan haircare brands.”

It seems there is no stopping the popularity of both vegan and cruelty-free beauty products. For the environment and for animal welfare, this is obviously a wonderful revolution going mainstream, and now there’s no need for anyone to compromise when it comes to looking good.