When we say we scour the Internet for vegetarian and cruelty-free beauty products, we mean it. We spend hours looking for the perfect company to feature. Why does it take so long? Well for starters, you’d be surprised how many companies don’t make the cut. It happens daily: we find a new company that sounds promising, start checking out their products, and then find some infraction that means we have to send them packing. The worst part is, many of these issues are because of mere website wording, or lack thereof.
It’s as if many of them half-attempted to appease the conscious consumers who might come to their website, but they didn’t actually take an hour out of their day to read up on the actual issues that concern their consumers. What we find because of this is a lack of information, or worse, a bunch of misinformation. It does seem odd that this occurs, because if you run a small, organic, “natural,” beauty product company, it seems that you would know your demographic.
Well here it is from an insider: five very common mistakes that vegetarian beauty product companies make that could cause them to lose business.
Stating: “Our final products are never tested on animals”
Why it is bad: Not sure you realize what this means, but this wording is wiggle room that is consistently used by big beauty product companies, such as Bath & Body Works, to indicate that, while the finished product was not tested on animals, the ingredients were. This wording is enough to send any savvy-consumer running for the hills.
How to avoid this: Be clear and honest. If neither your ingredients, nor your finished products, are tested on animals, say so. A simple, “We love animals and ensure that neither our ingredients, nor finished products, are tested on them at any phase of production.” is perfect! If you are unsure of your ingredients, let us know that, too! A “We are currently working with our ingredients suppliers to ensure that they’re commitment to being cruelty-free is as strong as ours,” lets us know that you are actively making sure that your products meet high standards. If you cannot guarantee that your ingredients were not tested on animals, again, please let us know. We are much more likely to just look elsewhere, but someone who never became a customer in the first place is easier to deal with than a current, livid, customer who just found out that a component of her beloved organic sea kelp pomegranate body scrub was tested on animals.
Simply stating: “Our products are almost all vegan/vegetarian”
Why it is bad: Because that is such a vague statement, and we don’t want to go searching through each and every product to see which is the one in the bunch that is a no-no. Especially because if you just mean there is beeswax in some of your products, some conscious consumers won’t mind, but if it turns out that some of the products contain carmine or lanolin, then your website guests will be less than pleased to have spent all that time searching for a needle in a haystack. Also, since there is no real standard of what is considered “vegan” vs. “vegetarian” in the bath and beauty product world, saying that “most” of your products are either vegan or vegetarian holds us to your standards of what what you consider to be vegan/vegetarian, and we’d like to make that decision on our own, thank you very much.
How to avoid this: Simply add a few more words on to that sentence, “Our products are almost all vegan/vegetarian….some contain beeswax.”
Not divulging information about your palm oil sources.
Why it is bad: Palm oil, its implications for the rain forest and the brutal destruction and displacement of orangutans that its harvesting causes, is at the forefront of many environmental campaigns right now. Even so-called “sustainably sourced” palm oil is iffy. These days, mentioning that palm oil is an ingredient in your products, and casually glossing over that fact without ne’ery a mention of its source, is like casually mentioning that the makeup brushes you carry are of high quality because they are assembled by “small hands.” It’s going to stop people in their tracks and make them wonder what you mean by that. And if you don’t explain yourself, they’ll just keep on moving.
How to avoid this: If your palm oil is from sustainable sources, say so. If it’s not, time to change that. And really, palm oil is getting such a bad name, regardless of whether or not it is “sustainably sourced,” that it is not a bad idea to consider a less controversial ingredient to use. Plenty of high quality beauty product companies are managing to not use palm oil, and you don’t want them snapping up all of your business.
Not educating yourself about what is considered “animal free” and “cruelty free”
Why it is bad: As mentioned earlier, everyone has a different definition of what is considered vegan or vegetarian in the bath and beauty product world. Some consider your company non-vegan if you use beeswax, and some consider you not cruelty-free if your products contain lanolin (link to our article). It is very important to understand the issues because, rest assured, your consumers know them like the backs of their hands! If you come across as trying to dupe them, or being at all dishonest, this will create a serious backlash. Remember, this is an actual lifestyle for them and pulling the wool over their eyes about these issues (pardon the pun) is like sneakily feeding a vegetarian a casserole with ground beef in it.
How to avoid this: If you use *anything* that is sourced from an animal, such as beeswax and lanolin, be prepared to know the source of the product, how those animals are treated and any of the big issues facing that industry. It is important to your consumers, and being savvy about these issues will show them that you care and this will create life-long partnerships.
Not saying anything at all.
Why this is bad: If you are touting yourself as being green and organic, those who care about animals will automatically be drawn to your website. It is often assumed that being green, organic and caring about the environment goes hand-in-hand with caring about the animals who share the earth with us. We are stunned by the number of beauty product companies who have a whole page of their website devoted to their post-consumer recycled, soy-ink packaging wrapped in paper made of recycled elephant poop, but who don’t mention a word about whether their products contain animal ingredients, or are even tested on animals.
How to avoid this: Tell us!
The bottom line with this matter is the same as the bottom line for any issue for a company who is aiming to be ethical: be transparent. Tell us, the good, the bad and the ugly. What people tend to hate more than finding out that a company uses carmine to color their red lipstick is finding out that they’ve been lied to (even by omission). Being transparent is the difference between someone simply clicking away from your website, and you getting a very angry customer and, perhaps worse, becoming the target of an angry, Internet consumer backlash.