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What Is Vegan Toothpaste?

A toothbrush with toothpaste on it.
Baking soda is a vegan alternative to toothpaste.
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  • Written By: Rachael Cullins
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 01 August 2014
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Vegan toothpaste refers to any brand of toothpaste that does not contain traces of animal products. Many types of toothpaste on the market today contain glycerin, a naturally produced bodily liquid found in animal fat. Toothpaste that is tested on animals may also be considered non-vegan, as the protection of animals is central to the vegan lifestyle.

Consumption of any kind of animal-based product in prohibited in veganism. Toothpaste is one of many products that some are surprised to find often contain traces of animal products — in this case, glycerin. The glycerin used in toothpaste is often derived from beef or pork sources, creating a conflict with some religious eating practices as well. Glycerin can also come from plant sources or be made synthetically, and many toothpaste manufacturers are switching to these sources in order to have their products fully classified as vegan toothpaste.

Avoiding glycerin in toothpaste and other toiletry products can be difficult for vegans and vegetarians. It is often found in hair care products and hand lotion as well. Although glycerin is listed in the ingredients for these products, it is often not specified as plant or animal glycerin. Doing research online or contacting the manufacturer before buying can help ensure that only vegan toothpaste is purchased.

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Many popular toothpaste brands qualify as vegan toothpaste. Vegans may, however, choose to avoid some of these brands because their parent companies perform animal testing. As protecting the rights and well being of animals is a key facet of veganism, certain toothpastes may be boycotted even if they are classified as vegan toothpaste. Vegans may turn to tooth powder instead of toothpaste to ensure that they are not using a non-vegan product or using toothpaste that has been tested on animals.

Plant-based glycerin has the same properties as animal-based glycerin, helping to thicken toothpaste and other products. It also sweetens toothpaste. Vegans should take care to ensure that vegan toothpaste still meets proper requirements for tooth care. Some animal- and eco-friendly brands do not contain fluoride, a compound that is key to preventing tooth decay.

Some mistakenly confuse glycerin with gelatin, a substance found in animal collagen. Gelatin is commonly found in horse hooves and, much like glycerin, can be found in unexpected foods. Marshmallows, gelatin desserts, gummy bears, and many other foods that have spongy, jelly-like qualities contain gelatin. Much like with vegan toothpaste, there are substitutes for all of these foods that do not contain animal gelatin.

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