Is perfume Vegan?

With veganism making big news across the world, more and more people are looking at their every day products looking to see if they are free of animal products and animal testing. And rightly so, just 5 minutes looking into the horror that is animal testing and extraction of animal based products is enough to make a big change. We then inevitably ask ourselves if our perfume or aftershave is vegan? The short answer is no.

Studies have proven that animal testing correctly predicts human reaction to cosmetics only 40 to 60% of the time, while alternatives are accurate 80% of the time. Not only is animal testing inefficient, it’s also expensive.

Animal testing and ethics

Even though a product is not necessarily tested on animals in the UK or EU, if it’s sold in China, it most likely is. Unfortunetly that means that a lot of companies are offering you a vegan product however their company ethos does not reflect vegan principles.

The question then turns to ethics. Companies may not be testing in your region, but they allow testing to tap into the Chinese and other markets. The question then is whether we should support vegan products or boycott companies for not following through on the initiative. This was also a huge debate in 2019 with the boom of meat alterantives – should we support non vegan food chains?

On a positive note, however, China is making some reform on animal testing. It’s not nearly where us animal lovers want it to be but any progress is progress. Their laws are complex and conditional but essentially, the people of China are becoming more conscious. The pet industry is soaring. The Chinese population are changing their perspective and relationship to animals a positive step towards ending the abuse of animals rife across Asia.

Does cruelty-free mean it’s also vegan?

The short answer is no. Even if it’s cruelty-free, it may still not be vegan. For vegans, it’s quite a strange thought that the terms are not synonymous but to commercial companies, the distinction is quite clear. Thye can still use animal ingredients but claim no animal testing. Be sure to check your products thouroughly to avoid inadvertently supporting non-vegan products.

Why do commercial companies use animal ingredients in perfume? Animal-based ingredients in perfumes offer two functions. Firstly they act as fixatives. The oils in these ingredients help to stabilize volatile components of the perfume to allow the scent to last longer. Secondly, these ingredients function as base notes to support the entire scent.

We won’t deny that the use of animal ingredients make fragrances rich but that does not necessarily mean they are that better. People are afraid of synthetics but there are synthetics that are proven to be 100% safe for us to use. Safe for us and safe for animals.

What animal ingredients do perfumeries use?

Perfume is an acient practice dating to thousands of years back. And it’s understandbale. People enjoy smelling good. But does that waarabt imposing ourselves on others environments? Or even worse, killing them for substances they naturally produce?


Whales produce Ambergris, a thick waxy substance. After some time they secrete it into the ocean. Ambergris floats in the oceans for years – the longer the better. In technical terms, sourcing Ambergris isn’t doing any harm to whales. But the question of animal safety comes into play when sperm or pigmy whales beaches themselves and people are ready to extract raw ambergris. Even though the raw ambergris is useless for perfume, it can still fetch hefty prices on the market putting whales at risk.


Civets secrete a paste used in perfumery. Civet farms exist mainly in Africa with the paste sent all across the world. About 500g of paste can take up to 4 years of collecting from a civet. There are farms opening in Thailand that aim to collect it in a more ethical way but caging is still used. As a vegan, prohibiting the freedom of an animal is still an issue.

Musk Deer

They produce the scent from small little sacs around the genital region. Musk deer numbers have declined to the near point of extinction and there are efforts being made to protect them and raise them in controlled environments. The concern is not just controlled environemnts but ihibiting the freedom of another. Synthetic versions of musk are available however don’t replicate the original therefore commercial perfumeries still use animal musk. At Dolma, we offer a beautiful Musk version made from the combination of certain floral notes. Read more about VegaMusk.

African Hyrax

This is a small mammal in Africa that lives around rocky areas. It’s excrements collect on the rocks and overtime becomes petrified into a substance used in perfumery. This is cruelty-free and in technical terms it’s vegan. The concerns however over people interrupting their natural habitat to collect the excrements in larger and larger quantities.


Castoreum is collected from sacs of beavers and collected from both male and female beavers. They are bred and killed for this substance that is used not only in cosmetics but even food!

Some of these clearly violate our vegan principles and some appear to pose no harm. Some ingredients boil down to the finer ethical components of what it means to be vegan. Despite it not hurting the animal directly as in the case of whales and the hyrax, what is the result of us imposing on their environment. How far will people go to attain ambergris that’s valued at 20,000 USD a kilogram?

It’s up to you to make the choice.

Animal testing is dated and unnecessary. If we managed to get ourselves to the moon 53 years ago, we can devise methods of scientific inquiry that don’t use animals. We must insist that new, sound methods are introduced.

In terms of quality, well, is it worth it? Would you, a non-perfume expert really spot the minute difference between real musk and synthetic? Does it really matter that you have to re-spritz in the afternoon than only once in the day? Brands like Dolma Vegan Perfumes achieve the same quality while also maintaining a strong ethical code and commitment to the rights of our furry friends.

Our call to action is that people forgo a little convenience and brand status to stop the mistreatment and abuse of aminals. They are not commodities. The natural world is ordered toward freedom and we should aim for all creatures to have that right.

Dolma Vegan Perfumes and Aftershaves are an independent company that focuses on quality and is certified vegan and cruelty-free. We do not support third-party testing or operate under a parent company. We believe in a world where we can enjoy good things without detriment to the natural world.