Why You Need To Watch Out For Keratin As An Ingredient If You're Vegan

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Vegans generally share one goal: To live a life free of animal cruelty. But unfortunately, non-vegan ingredients have a way of sneaking into everyday foods and products — all without the vegan's knowledge. Keratin is one such shifty ingredient.


According to a 2012 paper in The Journal of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society, keratin is a protein found in the integumentary system of vertebrates. The Cleveland Clinic says that the integumentary system protects the body from the outside world, so it's no surprise that keratin is in found in skin, nails, and hair (via Healthline). Keratin is probably best known for its role in the Brazilian blowout — a treatment process that straightens and smoothes hair. As a hair care ingredient, keratin functions like it does for your body. One 2013 study found that keratin seals the hair cuticle and protects against damage from heat, color, and other environmental factors. 

Unbeknownst to many vegans, most store-brand health and beauty products that include keratin come from animal sources including wool and poultry feathers (via Refinery29). Here are some tips on how to avoid keratin and keep your beauty routine strictly cruelty-free.


Keratin can be found in many personal care products, not just hair straighteners

From lash lifts to hair serums, keratin appears in more beauty products than you realize. Healthline recommends that vegans pay close attention to each product's ingredient list, keeping an eye out for keratin hydrolysates. Keratin and its derivatives often appear in drugstore shampoos and conditioners that promise to tame frizzy locks and give your hair shine, which means it's in many, many products on store shelves. If you're at a salon, don't be afraid to ask your service providers for more information about the products being used.


Vegans may also encounter keratin as dietary supplements. People taking this non-vegan supplement do so because they believe eating keratin stimulates hair growth. Unfortunately, researchers haven't found compelling evidence that ingesting keratin does much of anything (via Livestrong). That's no problem for vegans who, according to Vegan Food and Living, can boost their body's natural keratin production by eating plant-based food like sunflower seeds, garlic, and kale.

You don't have to give up great hair just because you gave up animal products

Animal-based proteins like keratin may not meet vegan ethical standards, but that doesn't mean vegans don't have options when it comes to hair products. One of the most exciting alternatives to hit the market is an EPA-safe synthetic silk protein that hair care brands like Vegamour include in their vegan keratin formulas. This completely synthetic, non-animal protein shares the same chemical structures as the silk that spider wasps naturally produce. Other hair companies like Difeel use hydrolyzed corn, wheat, and soy proteins to achieve a similar, completely cruelty-free shine and bounce.


As veganism expands worldwide, the demand for cruelty-free beauty products will continue to grow. Minted reports that from summer of 2013 to the spring of 2018, vegan new product launches grew 175%. Who knows what fabulous vegan hair care products the 2020s will bring? No matter how your style your hair, it's easy to avoid keratin with a bit of mindfulness. The end result? Great hair and a kinder world.