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Products you might not realise aren't vegan

fruit and vegetables

From its numerous health benefits to supporting animal rights, more and more people are choosing a vegan lifestyle. As well as avoiding food derived from animals, veganism is about changing your lifestyle to only use products and brands that are cruelty-free and ethical towards animals and the environment. 

Although many retailers are doing their part to offer more vegan alternatives for consumers, there is still a long way to go, and there are still lots of products out there that you may be surprised to find out aren’t actually vegan.

We spoke to several vegan bloggers to find out what products they were shocked to find out weren’t vegan-friendly, and what vegan alternatives they’d recommend.

Food & Drink

Bowl of chilli

Dark chocolate

Ally, Ally The Earthling: I was shocked to find out just how many dark chocolate brands aren’t vegan, as I'd always thought that if it wasn't milk or white chocolate, then surely it wouldn't have milk in it? It's so important to check the ingredients in dark chocolate, even if it says it's 70% or above and looks very dark in colour, as it may still contain milk.

“There are so many 100% vegan dark chocolate brands that I love, including Ombar, Vego, Pana Chocolate and Loving Earth. Those brands do a range of vegan milk chocolates that are deliciously creamy, as well as dark chocolate that you know, will always be vegan.

“When it comes to dark chocolate that's easy to find in UK supermarkets, I always go for Lindt 70% or 85%, or Green & Black's 70% (plain, not flavoured). I also love the Organic Cacao Liquor Buttons by My Protein, which is 100% cacao - so they might not be for everyone!”

Brown sauce

Tanesha, Tanesha Jade: “How random, right? Like ketchup, I always thought brown sauce would be vegan, however, some brands contain anchovies. It's an item I’ll always have to check the ingredient list before using. HP is vegan though!”


Tanesha, Tanesha Jade: “The hardest truth to face for most new vegans including myself! Some wines aren't vegan due to methods used within the fining process of the wine (I'm not a wine buff, I just researched all my facts). The most common fining agents are casein (from milk), gelatin (from animal bones) and isinglass (fish bladder).

“M&S and Co-Op are the market leaders for labelling their wines as vegan-friendly or not and Aldi Organic Prosecco is suitable for vegans and apparently doesn't give you a hangover!”

Luisa-Christie, “I was surprised to find out a lot of alcohol isn't vegan. This is due to either ingredients used in the process of making them, or things that they are filtered through. For example, gelatine is often used in cider, and fish in wine!

“To find vegan alcohol brands, there's a fab website called Barnivore that I’ve bookmarked to help me when I'm out and about. I've memorised some of my favourites (eg. all of the Old Mout and Brothers Cider flavours are vegan) so that I don't always have to check. But if in doubt it's so handy checking that website!”

Curry paste

Amy, Nourishing Amy: “One product I was surprised to find isn’t vegan are curry pastes. I love making red Thai curries for a speedy dinner, although a lot of supermarket brands use seafood in the paste mix like shrimp or anchovy extract, which sadly makes most pastes off-limits for vegans.

“After a lot of searching and label-reading, I’ve found one that I really love which contains no animal or fish products, by Thai Taste. It is packed with flavour and you wouldn’t notice the lack of seafood.”

Fashion & Cosmetics


Makeup & skincare

Rae, Raelikesfroot: “When I became vegan and started looking into changing my beauty products and researching what did and didn’t contain animal derivatives. I was surprised at how much of my makeup and skincare contained beeswax. I knew that beeswax wasn’t vegan, but I didn’t realise that it is in most lip balms and often a lot of mascaras too!

“As an alternative, I love the Dr Botanicals Hemp range. Their hemp oil works as an incredible moisturiser, and I actually reviewed the new vegan Alex Steinherr skincare line from Primark on my YouTube channel. The range is extensive and very affordable.”

Siobhan, Vegan Babe Life: “I was surprised to learn lanolin isn’t vegan. It’s a common animal-derived ingredient that comes from sheep’s wool and is used in lots of balms and hair products. A great alternative is products that use coconut oil or shea, like my favourite brand Shea Me who don’t use lanolin, but just shea butter and other natural vegan ingredients in their butters and balms.

“I was also surprised to find the ingredient squalene wasn’t vegan. The way it is advertised makes it come across as this amazing natural ingredient that is magic for your skin, but in reality, it often comes from shark liver oil. I’ve seen it used in lots of high-end skin care products. Biossance do a whole line of skincare with squalene that’s 100% vegan and not from livers. Instead, olives and wheat germ are great sources of plant-based squalene, which is amazing for your skin and has great anti-ageing properties.”


Tanesha, Tanesha Jade: “Even before becoming vegan I tried to lead a cruelty-free lifestyle as I believe the two go hand in hand. The biggest surprise for me was how many perfumes weren't cruelty-free nor vegan. A lot of perfumes contain milk, honey, ambergris or musk for example which are all animal-derived and none of the usual suspects on the market offered anything vegan. Fortunately, I came across Eden Perfumes last year and they do 100% vegan and cruelty-free perfumes at a fraction of the price of your current scent.”

Jess, Simply Living Vegan: “Upon first going vegan, I never thought that my perfume may have been tested on animals. It was only until I researched into the manufacturing processes that I found there could be traces of lanolin, animal-derived musk and even feline secretion (civet). Thankfully, living in Brighton I stumbled across Eden Perfumes. Little did I know that they made vegan and cruelty-free composites of much-loved high-street scents. Not only can I still wear my favourite perfume, but it’s a fraction of the cost and no animals were harmed in the making. Smelling great and having a clear conscious is a perfect combination for me!”


Ally, Ally The Earthling: “A lot of toiletries aren’t considered vegan because of animal cruelty reasons. For deodorant, I switched to using Natural Deodorant Co's Grapefruit and Mint Deodorant Balm, for shampoo and conditioner I now use the solid bars from LUSH, and as for my make-up, I buy it all from e.l.f. as they also don't test on animals.

Shellac nail polish

Rae, Raelikesfroot: “Shellac was one ingredient that I was shocked by, and honestly an ingredient that I was very happy to now avoid. You’ll know what I mean if you look into what Shellac is!”

For an alternative to shellac, Green Destiny offers a range of polymer gel nail polish. The polishes require shaping and curing under a UV or LED lamp like traditional acrylic and gel polishes, but the application is much lighter.

Clothing & shoes

Tanesha, Tanesha Jade: “Only recently did I find out that a lot of clothing and shoes aren't vegan. Aside from the obvious leather and suede, a lot of shoe manufacturing uses animal-derived glue (e.g. from fish bones) to piece together each element. This is a lot trickier to avoid, but there are a few high street options out there if you do some research.”

You can find a comprehensive list of vegan manufacturers and retailers on the PETA UK website.

Tips & Advice

tips and advice

Romy, RomylondonUK: “When I first went vegan, I didn't buy anything that had ingredients on the label that I didn't know (which is probably the healthier option anyway)! I then slowly educated myself on what names dairy can have on labels, and then slowly expanded into other things I was buying. This was the easiest way around for me rather than overwhelming myself with too many complicated labels in the beginning.”Ally, Ally The Earthling: “For a long time I only thought about veganism in terms of food, and it wasn't until a few months into being vegan that I realised just how many brands test on animals. They may not contain animal products, but the way they're manufactured isn't vegan. You really have to do your research to find which brands don't test on animals.”

Amy, Nourishing Amy: “A major tip for anyone transitioning to a vegan lifestyle or simply trying to incorporate more plant-based foods, is to quickly scan labels for anything in bold, as this highlights not only gluten and allergens but also milk, fish and other animal products. This won’t always be the case though, so take your time reading the back of packets.”

Luisa-Christie, “At the end of the day I really do believe it's about doing the best you can. So many products from food and drink items, to household items such as cleaning products and toiletries aren't vegan. It can be a minefield and somewhat overwhelming. But if you can make gradual changes it can help. And if you're ever unsure there are so many YouTubers, bloggers and influencers that have usually covered the frequently asked questions, and if you can't find an answer, they are usually happy to help!”

Being vegan is just one of the many ways we can look to lead a healthy and ethical lifestyle. But don’t forget about your mental and emotional wellbeing too. Why not take some time out for yourself and book an overnight spa break in Yorkshire at our eco-friendly spa? Get in touch with the Titanic Spa team today.