February 6, 2023

Hidden Non-Vegan Products That Will Surprise You

Vegans still use non-vegan products in their homes without realising. Are you one of them?

brown sugar granules close up
Photo by John Cutting on Unsplash

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All Key Points

Food & essentials

  • White and brown sugar
  • Wine
  • Cheese alternatives
  • Candy, gum
  • Medication

Beauty products

  • Artificially red colouring; Lipstick, nail polish
  • Shampoos, conditioners; Creatine, lecithin
  • Perfume; Musk (Not Elon)
  • Tattoo ink

Household items

  • Most plastic bags
  • Detergents, soaps, dryer sheets, fabric softeners
  • Toothpaste
  • Candles; Beeswax


  • LCDs


Knowing what goes into your products is always a good idea, as is finding alternatives if you want to, and following the 3Rs at any stage — Reuse, reduce, recycle.

Veganism is a lifestyle choice that is growing in popularity around the world. It involves avoiding animal products for food, clothing, and other items. However, some products contain hidden animal-derived ingredients.

Here are some standard non-vegan products that may surprise you. Note that doing what you can do is more important than being perfect.


Both white and brown sugar is filtered or processed using bone char, a porous, black, granular material produced by charring animal bones from cattle.

Vegan and healthy alternatives are coconut sugar, maple syrup, stevia, dates, and agave syrup/agave nectar.


Some wine is filtered using animal-derived products such as gelatin, isinglass (a substance made from fish bladder membranes), or egg whites. To ensure your wine is vegan, look for labels that indicate it is “unfined”, “unfiltered”, or “vegan”.

Some cheese alternatives

Though it might seem counterintuitive, many cheese alternatives, such as those made from soy or nuts, could contain casein, a protein derived from milk. To find vegan cheese alternatives, look for those explicitly stating vegan ingredients.

Candy and gum

Some contain gelatin, which is made from animal collagen. To find vegan candy and gum.

As an example, Gummy bears and marshmallows typically contain gelatin. Instead, look for vegan marshmallows made from aquafaba (the liquid from a can of chickpeas), agar-agar, or other plant-based ingredients.

Red food colouring

Artificially dyed food such as candy, sweets, juice, and cosmetic products such as red lipstick and nail polish use carmine or cochineal extract derived from crushed insect shells.

To avoid this ingredient, look for food colouring from red beet juice or other plant-based sources.

Household items

Some popular household items are not vegan, with sugar, plastic bags, medication, shampoo and laundry products on top of the list.

Most plastic bags

Most plastic bags contain slip agents, made from mainly animal fat (beef tallow in most cases), to reduce the friction of the material.

Generally speaking, it’s better to bring a cloth bag or reuse your plastic as much as possible to avoid single-use products.


Some candles are made out of beeswax, a natural ingredient. Also, you can get some beautifully scented soy or coconut wax candles which are great natural alternatives.


A lot of vitamins and other tablets have a gelatin coating so that they dissolve in your stomach rather than when placed in your mouth as well as to disgtaste the bad taste, giving the medicine a slow release effect. Also, the coating makes it easier to swallow.

For medication, oftentimes there is no reasonable alternative. You could always ask your pharmacist if it seems essential for you to do so. For vitamins, I always found a vegan option, that was usually just a search away.

Shampoos and conditioners

Besides the fact that most of these hair products are tested on animals, many of them also contain lecithin taken from dairy sources. Mind you that soy lecithin also exists.

There are plenty of vegan alternatives out there if you’re looking for some, try brands such as Love Beauty and Planet, Lush or The Body Shop’s 100% vegan collection.

Detergents & soaps

Fats and oil are essential for making soap, which some soap brands list as “fatty acids’’ in their ingredients, meaning they could contain animal-derived ingredients such as tallow, which is made from animal fat. Lanolin is another fat extracted from sheep’s wool.

To find vegan cleaning products, look for those that are labelled as cruelty-free & vegan.

Most perfumes

Musk, extracted from Musk deer, is a compound used in perfumes to make the scent or fragrance last longer. Musk deer will surprise you with their long canine tusks, which harbour the musk glands that are of economic value to humans.

Tattoo ink

Most black dyes are made from charcoal from burning animal bones. However, the majority of tattoo inks are made from glycerin from animal fat, gelatin from hooves, or insect parts.

TV, Computer, tablets and phone screens

All modern TVs, computers, phones and tablets use animal cholesterol in LCD (Liquid-Crystal Display) screens.

Choosing to not use such technology products can be very difficult in our current world. However, you can use those devices until they give up and find trustworthy places where you can buy second hand electronics.

Some toothpaste

Your toothpaste may contain glycerin, to help it dry out and reduce bacterial activity.

In conclusion

It’s essential to remember that just because a product is labelled as vegan doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cruelty-free. To be genuinely cruelty-free, a product is not to be tested on animals at any stage of development.

By being aware of the hidden non-vegan ingredients in these products, you can make informed choices that align with your lifestyle, vegan or not.

It can be challenging to understand which products are genuinely vegan at first glance, as ingredients are hidden in unexpected places and can have complicated names.

However, by reading this blog, you already know much more! By being vigilant, you can make informed choices and stick to a lifestyle that aligns with your morals.