Animal Parts In Your Nail Polish?

by: Kyle Nordwall

Years ago, as I was mindlessly surfing the web, I came across a headline about horse urine being a common ingredient in lipstick. I looked this up and quickly found that urea, which used to be extracted from horse urine, is an effective skin-softener and humectant, which means it helps to collect and hold moisture in the skin.
But don’t worry, we’ve been able to make a synthetic version of urea for almost 200 years now, which comes from inorganic compounds, ammonia, carbon dioxide and some fancy chemistry work. I don’t think horse pee is used in lipstick at all these days.

But that made we wonder…

What animal products are still used in body care? A lot actually, let’s look at nail polish specifically, where there are at least two common animal ingredients still used to this day. I found the following information with a quick Google search:

Guanine, or pearl essence, comes from fish, usually herring scales, and gives the nail polish the shimmery effect. Then there is carmine, which is commonly used as the red color in nail polish and lipsticks and is derived from the shells of the female Cochineal insect. And finally I found that perfumes are often used in nail polish as well, either to give a specific fancy scent (fragrant nail polishes are becoming increasingly popular) or to hide the harsh chemical-like smell. The exact ingredients in perfumes are not required to be disclosed in most countries. Animal-derived ingredients that are likely to be used to make perfumes include Musk oil (dried secretion painfully obtained from musk deer, beaver, muskrat, civet cat, and otter genitals), shark liver oil and Ambergris (derived from whale intestines).

So what’s the point? Why even bring this up?

As stewards of this planet, if we can make as high of quality of products, or even higher, without using animal products, why not!? It’s not a blanket statement of “using animals is bad,” but more of an acknowledgment that it is usually better for the environment and to use plant, mineral, or other compounds AND, most importantly, many times using animal products does involve animal cruelty. This, to me, is a reason to look for vegan options whenever possible.

“The greatness of a nation, and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
-Mohandas K. Gandhi