Vegan Haircare— From Niche to Norm

Vegan hair care isn’t a radical lifestyle change— it’s the future

Veganism is surging across the country. 9.7 million Americans have embraced plant-based diets. Popularized in niche communities on the East and West coasts, the vegan lifestyle is picking up in popularity and spilling over into the heart of the United States. Over the past decade, Veganism has shot up at a rate of 300%, making it one of the most quickly adopted lifestyle trends of the current century. 

The rejection of dependence upon animal-based diets has become a cultural staple. Many restaurants have specific menu symbols to indicate vegan-friendly meal offerings. This was virtually non-existent at the beginning of the 2000s.

There’s been a huge push to frame veganism as a healthier, more sustainable alternative instead of a “diet restriction”. It’s working. As vegan offerings continue to become more accessible, they’re becoming more mainstream and less stigmatized.

Veganism isn’t isolated to diet— this newfound sense of identity has driven huge innovations across other industries as well. Vegan momentum has transferred to the beauty industry with blistering speed.

The Vegan cosmetic industry is expected to reach over $20 billion by 2025 (via Grand View Research). Household brands and companies have taken note and lended a helping hand in the creation of vegan products. Among this list is Revlon, CVS, and Target.

Here’s where the innovation really takes off.

The vegan wave has inspired the beauty universe not only with product ingredients, but packaging. Lush is a leader of the pack, with 80% of its products being animal-free. The removal of egg-based ingredients was a huge driver in the vegan-compatible product list. Similar to Aveda’s efforts to become 100% sourced by post consumer recyclable materials, Lush is driving for the 100% vegan benchmark across its makeup lines.

Maddie Saunders, a Lush brand spokesperson explains the Lush strategy: “With vegan, our approach is: wherever we can, wherever the end results for the customer is unchanged or improved, we are looking to remove the animal by-products from our ingredients.”

Vegans have done an excellent job in removing the stigma from the practice. At its beginning stages, veganism was viewed as a harsh compromise— trading off personal benefits for the good of the cause. Now, the movement is getting traction by elevating the sentiment that veganism isn’t directly tied to a fall in customer product satisfaction.

The Hidden Commonality of Animal-Based Products

One thing veganism has exposed is the average consumer’s ignorance on the ingredients of the products we use every day.

Brush your teeth this morning? (We hope so...) As it turns out, almost all toothpaste contains animal-derived ingredients as well as some level of animal testing. Both animal fats and hooves are super common in toothpaste. 

Surprised? It doesn’t stop there. Odds are, unless your shampoo and daily moisturizer is marked as vegan, it contains hidden animal products.

Recently, beauty lovers around the world have been more cognizant of what they’re putting on their bodies in addition to what they put in them.

Cruelty-Free vs. Animal-Free

There’s an important distinction to be made between the two— they’re not the same.

Cruelty-Free

Products denoted as “cruelty-free” aren’t synonymous with being vegan. Cruelty-free claims generally indicate that the brand doesn’t directly test products on animals or source ingredients in harmful ways. This definition can be a little blurry. While animal testing is a black-and-white issue, “ethical sourcing” jumps into shades of grey. For products with egg ingredients, were the chickens producing the eggs free-range or in cramped cages? It’s hard to tell how strict a brand’s ethical sourcing claims are.

Here’s some popular (non-vegan) ingredients which may still appear in “cruelty-free” products: Honey (from bees, obviously), squalene (shark liver oil, queue Jaws soundtrack), and gelatin (generally pig or cow bones) just to name a few.

Animal-Free

This indication is a lot easier to define. It means no animals. Ever. No animal-sourced ingredients, no animal testing, no nothing. Just plant-based ingredients. In fact, the only animals involved are the human hands stocking it on the shelf.

Lots of brands are slowly making the shift between completely non-vegan, to cruelty-free, to animal-free. It’s a process, but the momentum is picking up, and consumers are holding brands accountable.

Why can’t all these brands just change the ingredients and make the switch? We’re glad you asked. Here’s where it gets complicated. Many beauty brands are either based or manufactured from outside of the United States of America. This presents issues with foreign product regulations. For example, China mandates animal testing on beauty products to ensure safety for human use.

Many beauty products are manufactured in China for cost purposes. When brands decide to distance themselves from animal testing proceedures, it follows that they must also change manufacturing processes. The issue becomes a lot larger than ingredients.

The desire to change something as seemingly simple as an animal-sourced ingredient which changes the consistency of a moisturizer turns into a product supply chain disruptor. It isn’t simple.

That’s why, no matter the social pressures, we don’t see brands making overnight changes or accommodations to vegan customers. While keeping the pressure on brands is necessary, it’s unrealistic to expect instantaneous changes.

Luckily, while companies iron out the kinks of manufacturing and ingredient-sourcing, there are plenty of viable vegan options to choose from.

No Longer Niche

In times past, one would have to make a trip to a specialty store or order online to purchase vegan products. It was a niche market. It was also a very narrow one.

Consider the number of moisturizers available from brand Olay. The brand currently has twenty moisturizers available for sale on its website. When brands such as Olay would create vegan-friendly products, they’d generally create one or two products per product time. A vegan moisturizer. A vegan moisturizer with SPF. A vegan shampoo. A vegan toner. It was normal for there to be only one product option.

Here’s the issue— one size does not fit all. Say you’re shopping for a vegan conditioner that is formulated to help boost shine. When you go to your favorite brand, they have one vegan conditioner option. It’s only selling point is being vegan. There isn’t a variety of options to focus on specific issues (dryness, hair damage, shine, texture, color-treated hair, etc.) 

This is where the vegan hair care market has vast room for improvement. It isn’t enough for a product to simply be vegan— beauty lovers want the same array of product selections with an animal-free guarantee. 

Revlon delivered on this. The brand recently launched a line of permanent hair color products across a wide range of the color spectrum. This provided vegan shoppers with a satisfying range of options so they weren’t boxed out of boxed dye fun. 

The demand is there. In fact, beauty brand directors have reported that “vegan” is one of the most-searched terms on their websites. No longer niche indeed.

A Broader Shift

At the end of the day, the shift toward an increasingly-vegan beauty market isn’t just about being vegan. It’s part of a much broader ethical cultural shift that is requiring all of us to interrogate how we live and how the choices that we make impact our environment.

Environmental ethics will continue to be a driving force of innovation in beauty and beyond. This fact is overwhelmingly supported by market data (skyrocketing compound annual growth rates for vegan markets), consumer demand, social normalization, and more. 

AER fits perfectly within this shifting sustainable equation. While AER might not have to worry about being vegan, we do have an ever-present role to play within the larger umbrella of sustainability.

This circles back around to our energy-efficient design— an integral part of what makes AER, AER. Using a third of the energy as other hair dryers, AER prides itself on being a step in the right direction when it comes to eco-friendly beauty.

We arrive at our green-centric goal— replace 10,000 normal dryers with our energy-efficient alternative. That’s equivalent to removing 450 car emissions from the road annually.

It’s just the start of building a better future, together.