Which cosmetic ingredients are animal derived?

When the INCI Dictionary was first published there were about 2000 cosmetic ingredients listed.  The latest edition has over 14,000 ingredients.  Hundreds of new raw materials are added to the INCI dictionary every year, so cosmetic chemists always have something new to try.  This is fortunate because there are a number of ingredients listed in the dictionary that most cosmetic chemists wouldn’t use any cosmetic animal ingredientsmore.  One of the most common type of these “abandoned ingredients” are those derived from animals. A large segment of consumers just do not want ingredients that were once part of an animal.  And cosmetic manufacturers have responded by avoiding all animal derived ingredients.

Avoiding Animal Based Cosmetic Ingredients

But how do you know what cosmetic ingredients are derived from animals?

As a formulator this is information you should get from your ingredient supplier.  Just ask them whether the ingredient is derived from animals or not.  And if you are working on a natural based brand that avoids animal ingredients as part of its marketing story, you should get something in writing from the supplier.

Of course, not every cosmetic ingredient can be derived from animals so it’s useful to know which ones may or may not be animal derived.  Unfortunately, there is no readily available list of animal derived ingredients for people to search.  At least, I thought that was the case.  But indeed there is!  It’s right here.

Animal Derived Cosmetic Ingredient Database

The US government commissioned a company to create a list of all the cosmetic ingredients that might be animal derived and could potentially spread disease.  They were worried about Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) the so called “mad cow” disease.

The database contacts records of 273 ingredients that could potentially be derived from animals.  If you have software that can read a database, then you can see it.  But to make things easier for formulators, we’ve converted the list into a spreadsheet.  You can get that spreadsheet of potentially animal derived ingredients here…

Spreadsheet of Animal Derived cosmetic ingredients

Now, some of the ingredients on the list may or may not be animal derived.  For example, Glycerin can be an animal derived ingredient or plant derived.  You’ll have to check with your supplier to be certain.


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