15-Year Cruelty-Free Beauty Entrepreneur Talks Greenwashing and Vegan Business Ethics

woman in pink rain jacket smiles with rainbow striped umbrella

Sally Malanga, board member at Friends of Animals, environmental and animal rights activist and pollinator-garden aficionado, also happens to be a thriving vegan entrepreneur and owner of cruelty-free beauty company, AVEGAN Beauty.

After more than a decade of participation in the current multi-billion dollar natural products marketplace, Malanga sat down with vKind to share her insights and reflections on how the cruelty-free beauty market has evolved, and why businesses can (and should) strive to do better. 

“I define ‘ethical’ as doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.” 

Malanga’s inception into the world of vegan beauty began with her experience as an activist with Friends of Animals, having left a very safe career path in her family business to volunteer. After learning of cruel animal-testing procedures for personal care products from Gillete, Malanga co-lead a campaign asking consumers to stop buying from companies who tested on animals.

“It became a pivotal campaign, other nonprofits engaged, and soon, ‘no animal testing’ and ‘cruelty-free’ became important words in the industry,” Malanga said.

Although nonprofits served a purpose in exposing animal injustices lurking behind the beauty industry, Malanga realized there was nowhere for consumers to find cruelty-free beauty alternatives.  

“I had the epiphany that businesses should get involved, because there’s a consumer here that needs to be served,” said Malanga, “That consumer doesn’t want to buy products that have been tested on animals.”

Malanga’s mission became to launch an ethical company whose products would be safe for both animals and humans, avoiding toxic products and risky ingredients while also avoiding animal testing, even through ingredient suppliers.

“I direct business to my ethics; I created this business to express my ethics,” Malanga said, “I define ‘ethical’ as doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.” 

Indeed, by supporting suppliers who do animal testing or by using inexpensive but harmful ingredients, companies are able to save money and simplify their supply chain, largely under the radar of consumers. 

“You have to be careful of the companies you choose to do business with,” Malanga said, “People glom onto wholesome ideas, then greenwashing starts.”

Having attended natural product expos for the past 15 years, Malanga has witnessed the exciting growth of the industry along with its dark underbelly: rampant greenwashing and the popularization of vague terms like “clean beauty,” which have allowed companies to cut costs and quietly lower their standards while misleading consumers. 

“Clean beauty? No one knows what that is. It lacks standards and clarity. With whatever 50,000 ingredients you can choose from, it’s hard to make standards,” Malanga said. 

AVEGAN Beauty sets its own standards based on health advocacy and an ethical foundation against the exploitation of animals, workers and the environment, and takes rigorous measures to avoid doing business with anyone who does not align with that standard. 

By upholding these standards at all costs, Malanga aims to set an example of a new breed of socially-responsible business that is regenerative, not exploitative. 

“Earth is a paradise; we don’t have to kill it off,” Malanga said, “We can regenerate it over and over by taking our share and replenishing [it].”

You can’t become beautiful with a karmic act of murder—it’s impossible.

Staying aligned with her definition of ‘ethics’ as what one does when no one is looking, Malanga applies the value of regeneration and sustainability to her personal life.

After learning about the severe lack of pollinating insects in suburban areas, she hired an expert to give her yard a regenerative makeover, planting 3,000 baby plants in accordance with how they would thrive, season-by-season, to enable the survival of pollinators year-round.

Since creating her pollinator paradise, Malanga has led initiatives with university students to have more pollinator gardens started in her area. At one event, members of the community were invited to tour Malanga’s garden, learn about pollinators, and purchase excess plants to start their own pollinator gardens. The initiative led to the sale of 500 plants, with all proceeds donated to charity.  

Malanga’s commitment to nature is just as present in how she directs the formulation of cruelty-free beauty products. AVEGAN Beauty sources the world’s most studied nutraceuticals—powerful, natural ingredients with deeply pigmented colors which, when ingested, directly impact the skin and allow the consumer to glow (quite literally) from the inside out. 

“We take the same nutraceutical that turns a salmon or a flamingo or a salmon pink—it’s an algae—and formulate it into a drink that’s bright red,” Malanga said, referring to AVEGAN Beauty’s NutraChic Beauty Drink, the ruby red elixir that allows consumers to drink their skincare, “It’s not just rubbing a cream on the outside, but working from the inside.”

It’s perfectly possible, it’s profitable, it’s the right thing to do—and we love doing it everyday.

Malanga stands firmly on both scientific and philosophical grounds for why plant products are superior to animal-based products like collagen when it comes to achieving optimal health and beauty.

“People think they can take the strength and beauty of an animal and imbibe it to make themselves more like that beautiful animal,” Malanga said, “But you just killed that animal to make yourself beautiful. You can’t become beautiful with a karmic act of murder—it’s impossible.”   

Instead of using powdered products made of the collagen from ground skin and bones of farm animals, Malanga advocates following the science that proves cruelty-free beauty nutraceuticals like vitamin E, lutein, and astaxanthin build up under the skin to effectively protect it from environmental damage. 

As to whether consumers should focus on consuming their beauty versus applying it, Malanga says there’s no reason to have to choose. 

“Beauty is about 60% internal and 40% topical,” Malanga said, “Topical is important, but you’ll never get the benefits of nutraceuticals topically because it’s hard for them to get through the skin. That’s where eating comes in.” 

Malanga advocates that we can achieve the best of both worlds in beauty by eating deeply-pigmented fruits and vegetables or sipping on a nutraceutical drink like AVEGAN Beauty’s NutraChic drink to know we’re protected from the inside, while also using hydrating, non-toxic creams to protect the skin topically.

“Your skin is your barrier to the environment, so it does need something topical,” Malanga said, “A cream can be hydrating if it has titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to protect you from UV light, the number one cause of wrinkles.”   

Malanga’s aim with AVEGAN Beauty, beyond providing customers with safe and cruelty-free beauty products that work, is also to set an example in the space. Consumers can do their part by voting with their dollar.

“There’s a 600 billion dollar market of beauty and supplements, rife with animal abuse from slaughterhouse products incorporated into products to animal testing,” Malanga said, “By shopping cruelty-free, consumers make the difference.”

“Businesses like ours are crucial to the world economy, and to consumers who want to know that the choices they’re making are beneficial to them, to the animals, and to the planet,” Malanga said, “It’s perfectly possible, it’s profitable, it’s the right thing to do—and we love doing it everyday.”

To purchase AVEGAN Beauty’s sustainable, healthy and cruelty-free beauty products and learn more about their mission, visit https://aveganbeauty.com/.  Find other mission-driven, conscious vegan businesses like AVEGAN Beauty on vkind.com. Own a vegan business? Claim your listing and build trust within the vegan community. 


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