Are Dermal Fillers, Botox, and Cosmetic Surgery Vegan Friendly?

Updated: Nov 1, 2018

I admittedly spend quite a bit of time on social media, including scrolling the insanely popular, picture-sharing app, Instagram. As a plant-based eater, I often check out hashtags that relate to veganism, vegetarianism, and other veggie-related pursuits.

On a recent cruise around the ‘gram, a lovely vegan woman caught my eye. Her feed was fabulous and full of colorful images documenting her omnivorous life journey. Upon closer inspection, one thing struck me, and that was the amount of cosmetic work she seemed to have had done on her face. From a frozen upper eye and forehead area to a plump “trout pout,” I definitely got the feeling that some sort of dermal fillers and Botox had to be involved in creating the trademark mannequin stare.

I have no problem with people improving their appearances responsibly and safely, so that isn’t even this issue here. What I was most curious about was whether or not getting dermal fillers and muscle-paralyzing Botox actually coincided with her, and anyone else’s, vegan lifestyle.

Vegan Lifestyle Explained

Most vegans don’t just avoid animal-derived products on their plates, they also carry that ideology into all other areas of their lives, too, including in their quest for products---shampoos, dyes, makeup, household cleaning, clothes, shoes, etc.---that are labeled “cruelty-free” and “vegan-certified.” This usually means no animal testing (from the ingredients used to make the formula in the lab to the finished product), synthetic or plant-derived materials (no leather, animal-derived glues, no furs, etc.), natural plant-based ingredients, and refusing to support certain brands because of their non-commitment to animal testing, among others.

Medical Industry Animal Testing

When it comes to the medical industry, there is some animal testing you simply can’t avoid, unless you choose to forfeit taking your doctor-prescribed medication (not recommended) and elect to forgo any and all invasive and non-invasive (including potentially life-saving) treatments. Unfortunately, the medical industry still tests heavily on animals under federal law, though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims it is looking for ways to reduce animal testing.

There are opposing views, of course, one being the NIH’s and FDA’s sides and the other being the animal advocate’s side, though the latter is very well researched and insists that there is a money-making agenda on the NIH’s, FDA’s, and pharmaceutical industry’s part, which I honestly don’t doubt for a moment. According to the FDA, “Animals are sometimes used in the testing of drugs, vaccines and other biologics, and medical devices, mainly to determine the safety of the medical product.” Whether or not you believe this testing is “mandatory,” or less frequent based on the entity’s use of the word “sometimes,” depends heavily on your personal belief system and willingness to do independent research.

Are Dermal Fillers Vegan-Friendly?

Soft, injectable dermal fillers eventually absorbed by the skin are designed to plump lips, fill in facial wrinkles, enhance shallow contours, improve scarring, reconstruct facial deformities, and more. The benefits are great in a society obsessed with anti-aging and holding on to every last shred of youthful beauty, but are they cruelty-free?

According to Medical Depot, Juvederm and Restylane, two of the most popular and well-known dermal fillers, are comprised of hyaluronic acid made from bacterial fermentation (non animal-derived), a naturally occuring, vegan ingredient. However, as required by law, the product, and possibly every new batch, has been tested on animals at some point in time.

Are dermal fillers vegan-friendly and cruelty-free? No.

Is Botox Vegan-Friendly?

Medical Depot also explains that Botox is derived from the Clostridium botulinum bacteria and is a neurotoxin produced by bacteria, not animals. But vegans aren’t out of the woods yet. Botox also contains human albumin, which is a protein derived from human blood, with the alternative source being eggs, also not vegan.

Botox is heavily tested on animals, particularly mice, to determine the lethal dose of each batch, subjecting the mice to a slow agonizing death due to the subsequent paralysis of their internal organs and lungs. The Humane Society reported that in 2011, Allergan, the pharmaceutical company responsible for Botox and Juvederm, among others, pledged to reduce Botox mice testing by 95 percent by mid-2014 due to pressure from Human Society shareholder petitions.

Is Botox vegan-friendly and cruelty-free? No.

Is Cosmetic Surgery Vegan-Friendly?

Other surgeries such as breast augmentations, Brazilian butt lifts, face lifts, lip lifts, and any other cosmetic procedure that requires an implant or general anesthesia is not vegan or cruelty-free because the medical industry has required the product and/or drug be tested on animals. There are even reports of pigs having small silicone breast implants placed under the skin, half being intentionally infected with staphylococcus epidermidis to test the outcome of capsular contracture, a common side-effect of faulty or infected breast implants in patients.

Is cosmetic surgery vegan-friendly and cruelty-free? No.

Do Cruelty-Free Anti-Aging Alternatives Exist?

As reported by Glamour magazine, there are two cruelty-free anti-aging alternatives---I have not been able to confirm or deny whether or not these procedures were tested on animals before being brought to the market, though I think from the above, we can assume that at some point they were tested by the FDA---are laser resurfacing and body-sculpting machines. It seems, however, that these devices are not continuously tested on animals in the same way fillers and injectables are, and thereby do not endorse the proliferation of animals in medical testing.

The laser treatments are able to “reduce the appearance of wrinkles, encouraging collagen regeneration,” and can be used “on some of the most delicate parts of the face, even up to the lash line.” Whereas the body-sculpting procedures can reduce inches by targeting fat and delivering a “collagen-boosting, fat-busting, blemish-fighting, anti-inflammatory end result.”

Do vegan-friendly and cruelty-free anti-aging alternatives exist? Depends. How you view potential FDA-mandated animal testing before a product is brought to the market will determine whether or not you believe lasers and body-sculpting are vegan-friendly and cruelty-free.


Although the answers herein appear to be clear-cut, they will still present as ambiguous to others in spite of their vegan lifestyle. As with all things, the limits to which one will go is dependent upon personal beliefs unique to the individual. It seems that, with the exception of laser and body-sculpting procedures, all dermal fillers, Botox, and cosmetic procedures at this time are not suitable for vegans.

What’s your take? Do you think it’s unfair to eliminate fillers, Botox, and other cosmetic procedures from a vegan’s life?

Would you consider the woman I spoke of earlier in the article to be an exemplary model of the vegan lifestyle if she does, in fact, partake in having fillers and Botox used on her face?

Let me know your perspective in the comment section below!

© 2020 Jamie Duncan