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Guide to Cruelty Free Perfume and Vegan Aftershave

dolma vegan perfumes and cruelty free aftershaves

Are you looking to learn a little more about vegan perfumes and aftershaves?

Maybe, like me, you’re wondering why fragrances need to include the use of animals in the first place? Surely all perfumes should be vegan friendly? 

Unfortunately many designer brands including Armani, Calvin Klein, D&G, Hugo Boss, Jo Malone, Tom Ford (I could go on), are not vegan. These perfumes are tested on animals that are kept in captivity. A lot of them also contain animal-derived ingredients. 

So, let’s take a look at vegan perfumes in a bit more detail and why they are the way forward for fragrances.

Thanks to Dolma vegan fragrances for helping out with some of the information in this blog and for sending through a men’s discovery gift set. 

Why is perfume not vegan?

Generally speaking, perfumes and aftershaves are not vegan friendly for two main reasons:

  1. They contain animal derived ingredients 
  2. They are tested on animals

Testing on animals is cruel, which is why a fragrance is known as cruelty free if it doesn’t test on captive animals.. There’s a great list on the Cruelty Free Kitty which has researched almost all known perfume brands to see if they are cruelty free or not.

This marks a clear distinction between the traditional brands and the vegan, cruelty free perfumes. 

Instead of trusting an unsubstantiated marketing claim, look out for the Cruelty Free International leaping bunny logo so you know the claim has been independently certified to be vegan and cruelty free.

The fragrance market can be a tricky place to navigate with obscurity almost baked into brands by default. This is because companies don’t need to list out every ingredient they use as these are ‘trade secrets’. With this is mind, there’s a lot of room for the non-ethical to hide.

vegan mens discovery aftershave set
Men’s discovery gift set from Dolma Perfumes

What animal products are in traditional perfumes and aftershaves?

So, why do perfumes need to use animal products anyway? 

It’s thought that some animal ingredients can help to stabilise volatile components in the mixture to help it last longer whilst also adding base notes to support the fragrance. 

Perfumery and wearing fragrances has a rich history going back thousands of years. Back in the day it wasn’t possible to manufacture big quantities of synthetic chemicals, so they use animal products instead. 

You can find many different types of animal-derived ingredients used in perfumes and aftershaves, including:

  • Musk – comes from the Musk Deer. There are seven different species of musk deer that produce a very strong odour from their caudal gland, stored in small pods near the males genitals. To obtain the musk pod, the deer must be killed. Six of these seven species are now endangered and the trading of deer musk is controlled. 
  • Civet – civets are small, tropical mammals in the same Feliforma lineage as cats, hyenas and mongooses. They are coveted by humans as they excrete a musky paste that’s used in perfumes across the world. This civet excrement is also used in the famous Kopi luwak coffee making in Vietnam. Here, the Asian palm civet eats coffee cherries, which are partially digested and deposited out. 
  • Castoreum – this ingredient comes from the castor sacs of beavers. It’s the chemical that beavers use to scent mark alongside their urine. Must like the musk pods in deers, beavers are killed to collect these sacs, which is present in both males and females.
  • Ambergris – another type of fecal matter that comes from Sperm whales. It has been used for centuries in food and drink, as well as for creating fragrances. Ambergris has largely been replaced now by the synthetically made ambroxide, the key constituent of the odour. 

It is becoming common for companies to use synthetic chemicals to mimic and replace the natural animal-derived ingredients, which does bring with it a different sustainability and eco question.

For example, the trading of deer musk is now controlled by CITES, the organisation in place to protect endangered plants and animals. For this reason, a synthetic type of musk is now used in certain fragrances.

Can perfumes be vegan and cruelty free?

The good news is that perfumes and aftershaves can be both vegan friendly and cruelty free. 

A perfectly good fragrance can be created without animal products and without being tested on caged animals either. This is a much more environmentally friendly option for eco-conscious consumers. 

For example, the aftershaves I received from Dolma perfumes smelled fantastic and lasted all day, just like a non-vegan aftershave would.

On a side note, you’ll want to check that any vegan brands don’t sell their product in China as it’s a legal requirement for fragrances to be tested on animals. 

dolma vegan aftershave

What are vegan perfumes made from?

Vegan perfumes use a mixture of safe synthetic ingredients and natural ingredients.

The synthetic chemicals used are often bio-identical versions of the naturally occurring molecules they’re replacing. This is similar to how lab grown diamonds are identical to the natural varieties, but come without the negative environmental and social impacts that come from mining.

Although synthetic ingredients might come with an environmental footprint, so do natural products. For example, to fill a single 5ml bottle with rose fragrance requires 10,000 roses!

Natural essential oils often used in vegan fragrances, include cedarwood, jasmin, lemon, patchouli, ylang and many others. The International Fragrance Association have set out clear guidelines in terms of sustainability and safety through the IFRA-IOFI Sustainability Charter

Due to the ethical tendencies of the companies behind them, the good news is that vegan perfumes are generally free from the likes of phthalates, palm oil and parabens. 

About Dolma Vegan Perfumes

Dolma Perfumes are an independent British brand who produce 100% vegan, cruelty free, ethical fragrances. 

They create both women’s perfume and men’s aftershaves that are sustainable and made using fully transparent ingredients. 

Dolma keep their packaging at a minimum to reduce waste, whilst everything else – glass bottle, caps and pumps – are recyclable. Everything is recyclable except for the tiny pipette inside the bottle. 

On a wider front, Dolma are cruelty free Leaping Bunny approved and offset their carbon footprint with projects and tree planting service of Ecologi – the same organisation that I also use. 

Wrap up on vegan perfumes

Hopefully that makes things a little clearer for you on why traditional fragrances are not always vegan friendly and what makes vegan perfumes much better for wildlife.

Including Dolma, there are some very good options of vegan colognes to choose from in the UK.

With it being such an easy switch, it begs the question of why can’t all brands choose more ethical and sustainable ways of creating perfumes? In an ideal world this would be a straightforward and easy win.


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Ben & Murphy Peaks Mam Tor

Ben is the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about more sustainable, environmentally friendly living in and around the home.

Alongside this website, I love spending time in the natural world, living a simple life and spending time with my young family (Murphy the dog!) I round up my thoughts and recent blogs on the Eco Life Newsletter.