Squalene, carmine, guanine, caprylyl glycol… how well do we really know our makeup?

With plenty of ‘anines’ and ‘oxyls’ to perplex us, knowing what these ingredients do and where they come from can be a mystery. And for conscious consumers, the plot thickens. Figuring out which ones are ethically sourced or derived from animals requires research before you buy.

But at delilah, we like makeup that’s easy to love. That means choosing ingredients that are 100% vegan, 100% cruelty-free and 100% simple. Our mission is to make makeup from plants - not animals. So with more mystery ingredients out there than ever, how do you know which ones to dodge? Here’s our handy roundup of the secret animal ingredients hiding in your makeup. 


Found in lip balm, mascara and concealer, this ingredient is sadly not vegan-friendly. Beeswax is made from melting and straining honeycomb, but rough handling of the bees who make this honey injures their legs and wings.  


Biotin is a B vitamin that helps to maintain healthy skin and hair. Vegan sources of this vitamin can be found in legumes, lentils and whole grains, but it’s still worth checking the label - biotin is sometimes sourced from beef liver, chicken liver, salmon and eggs. 

Caprylyl glycol

This preservative is a common ingredient added to makeup to extend its shelf life. Although vegan alternatives like coconut oil are available, manufacturers often extract caprylyl glycol from animal milk. 



Carmine, cochineal extract or E120 is a red pigment used in lipstick and blusher. It’s made by crushing female cochineal insects and harvesting the dye. 70,000 insects are killed to make just one pound of this pigment.     


This not-so-secret animal ingredient is a protein found in skin, nails, bones and ligaments. It has two main sources - marine collagen, taken from fish scales - and bovine collagen, taken from cow hide. 


Gelatin is sometimes added to face creams and primers to smooth and hydrate skin, but if you’re a conscious beauty buyer - steer clear. This ingredient is made from boiling up pig and cow bones, skin and tendons.


This material is added to lipstick, nail polish and eyeshadow to give a pearlescent sheen. Sadly guanine is extracted from crushed fish scales, so it’s a no-go for vegans and vegetarians. 


The fluid secreted by sheep to keep their wool conditioned, lanolin is added to cosmetics to moisturise skin. Whilst the harvesting of lanolin doesn’t harm sheep, their farming and the mass production of their wool often entails cruel treatment. 

Silk powder

Silk powder is a common ingredient in powders and mineral makeup, added to absorb oil and bring colour. It’s created by boiling silkworms in their cocoons. Look out for milkweed seed-pod fibres or synthetic silks for cruelty-free alternatives. 

Snail Mucin


Although there are cruelty-free ways of harvesting mucin - a secretion from snails - it’s best to look for information on how this is sourced if it pops up in an ingredient list. Traditional methods involve boiling snails with vinegar to extract their mucin. 



All plants and animals produce squalene, a hydrating, colourless oil. It’s added to moisturisers and primers to reduce redness and smooth skin - but at a cost. Most makeup brands source their squalene from shark livers, meaning this ingredient isn’t cruelty-free.