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Why are Designer Perfumes Not All Vegan?

Why are Designer Perfumes Not All Vegan?

March 21, 2022 6 min read

Veganism isn’t just about eating a vegetarian diet; it’s a lifestyle. Vegans don’t wear fur and leather, avoid leather furniture, and make other wise choices on a daily basis. Skincare and beauty products many vegans buy are also vegan and cruelty-free. But, did you know you also have to be careful when buying perfume? Not all of them suit your vegan lifestyle. How? Scroll down to find out.

Why most perfumes aren’t vegan?

Short answer is that many perfumes are not vegan due to animal-derived ingredients. Those ingredients aren’t necessarily obtained through cruelty. However, cruelty-free fragrances are still not a vegan perfume if they contain a specific animal-based compound. Just FYI our perfumes and aftershaves are completely vegan.

Functions of animal ingredients

These ingredients act as fixatives. They’re usually oily and help stabilize the perfume’s volatile components. As a result, the scent lasts longer. Additionally, the animal derived ingredients such as anal secretions also function as base notes meaning they support the whole scent.

Some animal-based ingredients make perfume richer and they’re natural. Some people prefer these kinds of fragrances because they don’t contain synthetic ingredients like vegan perfumes. A vast majority of these compounds have a synthetic form, especially when the natural or original compound is difficult or expensive to obtain.

Synthetic versions are cruelty-free, easily accessible to brands, but some of them are unsafe. For that reason, it’s important to opt for vegan perfumes that use safe synthetics. However, many synthetic ingredients in perfume vegan have same quality as their natural form.

Animal testing

Yet another reason some fragrances aren’t vegan is animal testing. Although significant progress has been made and some cruelty-free brands don’t test their products on animals, many of them still do test on animals. Some countries require animal testing.

In one survey, 32% of respondents confirmed they are very likely to avoid buying beauty or cosmetics products from brands that aren’t cruelty-free and do animal testing.

At the same time, a UK-based survey found the number of vegans in this country has increased by 36% in the past decade. Moreover, 64% of perfume consumers were looking for a vegan perfumes on the popular online marketplace.

The cruelty-free perfume trend is widespread, many people prefer brands with strong ethics that don’t test on animals. Popular perfumes aren’t the exception. We can expect a huge selection of designer perfumes to be vegan-friendly and not animal-tested in the future. Good news is that buying vegan perfume is not difficult when you read labels.

Animal derived ingredients in fragrances

As mentioned above, some brands use animal-sourced ingredients in their perfume or they test on animals. For most people, it’s difficult to imagine someone would use animal products for a perfume. Below you can see some of the most well-known animal ingredients in designer fragrances.


Civet is a family of small nocturnal mammals native to tropical Asia and Africa. The Viverridae familyhas over a dozen of species of civets with African civet being the most popular.

Even though the term civet cat is frequently used, these animals are not cats. Civets are more closely related to mongooses.

Both sexes of these animals produce oil, which is also called civet. This glandular secretion is used as a fixative in the perfume industry. For example, popular Chanel No. 5 contains a civet. In a nutshell, this secretion is soft and almost liquid. When fresh, the civet is pale yellow and darkens in the light. Eventually, it gets a salve-like consistency.

As a pure substance, civet has a strong or putrid odor. That said, diluted civet is known for its pleasant and sweet scent. The distinctive smell of the civet’s secretion is due to a chemical called civetone. The oil also contains other chemicals which contribute to its scent.

Solvent extraction is used to produce a civet tincture, resinoid, or an absolute. Then, the secretion is ready for perfume making.

Different species of these mammals produce this fragrant secretion including Civettictis civettaor African civet, Viverricula indicaor small Indian civet, and Viverra zibetha or large Indian civet.

The African civet is most frequently used for this purpose. Cruel practices are often employed to obtain their secretion. The animals are held in African farms and put in cages. They usually secrete three to four grams of civet a week. Sometimes they are sold in Chinese market.

Some perfumers use a synthetic version of civet called ambretone, it has a scent like the natural form and it’s cruelty-free. Getting a real civet is tricky and expensive. While the US bans the import of civet animals, it permits the importation of civet oil.

TIP: Always look for vegan perfume with leaping bunny logo, which indicates the fragrance is cruelty-free and confirms animal-free status. No animal testing!


Musk is a popular ingredient in the perfume industry. The name refers to aromatic substances, mainstream scents, that act as base notes in fragrances. Sometimes musk in fragrances is obtained from plants or perfumers use artificial i.e. synthetic musk substances. However, in some cases, animal-derived secretion is used.

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on musk animal products. This substance is obtained from male musk deer, a herbivore that mainly lives in mainland China and forested habitats in the Himalayas and other mountains of southern Asia. This deer is represented in ancient art in China.

Male musk deer have a musk pod, which is a preputial gland in a sac or pouch under the animal’s abdominal skin. When fresh, the musk secretion is semi-liquid but it becomes dry and powder-like. Like civet, musk is made into a tincture with pure alcohol so it can be used in the perfume industry. The tincture needs to rest a few months first.

High-quality and the most expensive fragrances contain musk for distinctive scent and durability. Musk adds strength, tenacity, and character to most perfumes.

Besides musk deer, other animals may also produce this type of secretion. These include:

· Muskrat

· Musk duck

· Musk fox

· Musk turtle

· Musk shrew

· American alligator

Not all these animals are used to obtain musk for the perfume industry because doing so isn’t commercially sustainable.

Don’t rule out a designer perfume just because it contains musk. Many perfume companies opt for cruelty-free approach use plants or synthetic versions instead of animal-derived secretion. One of the most popular plants used for this purpose is musk mallow (Abelmoschus moschatus) native to Asia and Australia. Fragrances that contain plant musk scents or synthetic musk are vegan perfumes.


Ambergris, also known as grey amber, is a solid substance produced in the digestive tract of cachalot famously known as a sperm whale. This waxy and flammable substance has a fecal or marine odor when fresh.

As one of the most valuable animal products in the perfume industry, ambergris is used as a fixative. When processed for use in fragrances, the substance gets a sweet, marine, and animalic scent.

Unlike other animal-derived ingredients, ambergris isn’t obtained with cruelty so it’s among cruelty-free products. What happens is that sperm whales eject it into the ocean. Ambergris hardens in the ocean and it starts bobbing along. The substance is collected along the shores. That’s why ambergris is often referred to as whale vomit.

It is primarily found on the coasts of Madagascar, Brazil, Maldives, China, East Indies, India, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and the Molucca Islands. A vast majority of commercial ambergris, though, comes from the Bahamas.

Sperm whale secretions are rarely used in perfumes because they’re very expensive. Givenchy, Chanel, and Gucci used these animal by products in their fragrances.

TIP: If you are looking for Burberry perfume vegan or like a specific fragrance such as Marc Jacobs Daisy, but it’s animal-tested, not vegan you can save a small fortune by using our vegan perfumes. They have a huge selection of male, female, and gender neutral scents.


Castoreum is a substance secreted by male and female beavers native to Europe, Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. The substance comes from the animal’s castor sac which is found in the pelvis and base of the tail. Basically, these substances are animal anal secretions. Castoreum ranges in colors from yellow to grey depending on the species and gender of the beaver.

In the perfume industry, castoreum is used as a leather scent. It evokes the notes of ink, fawn, and fur. Many famous perfumes contain castoreum such as Chanel’s Antaeus and Cuir de Russie, Givenchy’s Givenchy III, just to name a few.

Other non-vegan ingredients

Besides the abovementioned, other animal-derived products in perfumes include:

· Kasturi (secretion from male deer)

· Honey and beeswax

· Hyraceum or African stone (obtained from Cape hyrax)

· Milk

Keep in mind that animal ingredients are often expensive. Perfume companies rarely use them and they’re usually present in very expensive perfumes.


Most perfumes aren’t vegan and cruelty-free (our range is!). Some ingredients are obtained with animal cruelty, others are not but are animal-tested. Perfumes with animal-derived ingredients aren’t vegan-friendly. Before you buy scents vegan perfume, take a look at the list of ingredients. See whether a designer perfume contains animal-derived ingredient or it is tested on animals. Many designers strive to formulate vegan perfumes due to a growing cruelty-free trend. Always look for a vegan logo when buying a vegan perfume to make sure it’s not tested on animals.