Is Charlotte Tilbury Legendary Lashes mascara vegan?

Legendary Lashes mascara is a breakthrough product. If you watch the YouTube reviews, they are almost universally positive. This product claims to enhance lashes 13x after 3 coats. The mascara is amazingly black and seems to lengthen lashes like magic.

Unfortunately, this blockbuster product also contains a hidden ingredient that’s not for the squeamish.

Coco Chanel quote

Legendary Lashes is most definitely not vegan

After witnessing these magnificent results, I quickly emailed Charlotte Tilbury to see if the product was vegan. The response came back within an hour:

We can confirm that the Legendary Lashes is in fact not Vegan-friendly.

Crestfallen, I looked again at the ingredients list. Why isn’t it vegan?  Charlotte Tilbury doesn’t test on animals or buy from suppliers that do. With companies like hers, I usually just look at the ingredients to see if they contain animal products.

The first ingredient touted on the website is “Marine Glycogen”:

“Marine Glycogen: a new, exciting hair tonic that is known to stimulate the growth of the hair follicle and the proliferation of keratin cells.” – Charlotte Tilbury website.

Hmm. I’ve never seen “Marine glycogen” on a label before, what could it be? Some kind of seaweed? In human beings, glycogen is the main way our bodies store glucose for energy (I’m a runner, we think about carbs a lot). Intrigued, I dug a bit deeper.

Marine glycogen – miracle ingredient or marketing?

On the ingredients list, the marine glycogen is simply listed as glycogen.

Enter the book Veganissimo, by Lars Thomsen and Reuben Procter. On page 83, the authors explain that glycogen is a “polysaccharide that serves as energy storage in the liver and muscle cells and to blood sugar (glucose) as needed. Obtained from oysters other bivalves or animal liver or muscle cells. Skin conditioner in cosmetics.” Glycogen is also known animal starch, phytoglycogen, liver starch and lyoglycogen.

So, marine glycogen is glycogen from oysters or other bivalves, and it’s a skin conditioner. Why on earth do we need that in mascara?

According to Tilbury, the glycogen* is a “new, exciting hair tonic that is known to stimulate the growth of the hair follicle and the proliferation of keratin cells. It does this by feeding the follicle with energy during its most active period of growth.”

I am highly skeptical any mascara has enough glycogen in it to stimulate hair growth. If it did, you’d need a prescription for it. Instead, it seems like a useless and cruel ingredient thrown in so that the company can make pseudo-scientific claims about miracle “hair tonic.”

It’s more likely to contain just enough shellfish to induce an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. If Charlotte Tilbury isn’t going to tell customers they are putting oyster goo on their eyelashes, she might at least let them know the product contains shellfish. 

Animal ingredients and labelling

Currently, cosmetics don’t require the same labeling that food does, and I think that’s a huge oversight. Allergic reactions to cosmetics are so common that many women just see them as part of life. Most countries require cosmetic companies include an ingredient list with their products, but they make it difficult for people with allergies to read these labels.

My daughter has an allergy, but fortunately it’s to one of the top 8 allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, wheat, milk, fish, shellfish and soy), so it’s usually clearly listed on food items. That isn’t always the case with cosmetics.

Consumers need to work to get legislation requiring that cosmetic companies provide an allergen statement and bold ingredients from the top 8 allergens (i.e., allergy warning: this product contains shellfish.

Of course, it’s also possible that by the time the oyster glycogen is processed, it bears little resemblance to the original source. Still, I think consumers might like to know they’re putting sanitized sea creature extract on their eyes.

Glycogen is a surprisingly common ingredient in mascaras – I was noticing that Urban Decay, a well-known cruelty free brand, also uses it. I’m not sure if it’s marine, bovine or porcine in origin, but I kind of think consumers who go out of their way to buy cruelty-free products might think twice about putting animal livers on their eyes.

Avoiding allergens & animal ingredients

If you would like to avoid sea creatures in your cosmetics, I recommend visiting Ethical Elephant. The author, Vicky, does an amazing job contacting companies individually to determine which products are truly cruelty free. She also has some great lists of vegan cosmetics and reviews. It’s the first place I go when I’m looking for new makeup ideas. Logical Harmony by Tashina Combs is another fantastic resource, with the most frequently updated list of cruelty-free and vegan companies you’ll find anywhere on the web.

I won’t be trying Legendary Lashes for now, but I’m emailing Charlotte Tilbury to let her know I would love to buy a vegan version of the product if she makes one in the future. Please email the company yourself to let them know you’d like an oyster-free mascara!

I’m curious what you guys think about this. Would you still try Legendary Lashes? Should companies clearly state animal ingredients?

2 Responses to “Is Charlotte Tilbury Legendary Lashes mascara vegan?

  • I’m glad to see you agree! Even if I wasn’t a vegan I feel like as a consumer I should know what animal products are in my cosmetics. And I agree – it’s so weird to me that companies like Urban Decay can use “cruelty-free” animal products. To me the whole idea is oxymoronic.

    I was actually thinking this might be a really good way to bring a mainstream vegan political issue at the forefront. If enough of the general public wants labelling, I think there’s a real chance we could change the labeling requirements for cosmetics.

  • I think companies should definitely note if they use any animal ingredients in any of their products. Before studying nutrition I don’t know if I would have noticed or even realized what glycogen was but now I wouldn’t purchase anything with it in any product I buy. I find it odd that Urban Decay can call itself cruelty free if they’re using animals.

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