Answer: It depends.
If you care about your hair the natural way, then you’ve probably heard about Cantu and perhaps even had a few products from them lying around your bathroom shelf. Cantu is known to be the fastest-growing hair care brand and this is because of their organic approach to their products as well as their market reach that promotes cultural diversity and unity under these common goals – own who you are, love who you are, and live who you are.
Their propaganda is pretty cute, and for a company that’s only started in 2003 by Rick Cantu, they’ve become almost synonymous with “hair care,” both in the US and the UK. You can find their headquarters over in Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in Texas and they’re even more popular due to their most-prized ingredient – shea butter.
Today, Cantu is currently owned by PDC brands since February 2020 under Alex Tosolini.
According to PETA, Cantu products are cruelty-free because they don’t test on animals, but they’re NOT labeled vegan. Thanks to this, they’ve got PETA’s Bunny Free approval and so the vegan news site suggests that vegans are welcome to try and retain (some) Cantu products, without guilt.
However, due to the severe lack of information on Cantu’s side about their vegan-friendliness, we have to take a closer look into their product ingredients first and shed greater light on the cruelty-free status of Cantu products. Cantu also claims that they don’t like testing their products on animals, but would rather test them on family and friends.
If you decide to read the ingredients on the back of a Cantu shampoo bottle, then prepare to be stunned, because there are a lot of them, most of which are chemicals you’ve never even heard before. Do you have to study all of those?
Nope, because we’ve already done that for you, and our conclusion? Not all Cantu products are vegan-friendly. So you can know better which products to avoid.
That may be immediately off-putting for the world-renowned brand, but since Cantu never really claimed to be vegan, it’s not surprising to see a few bad apples in the bunch. Still, most of their products are plant-based but try to stir clear from the Natural Hair line.
Most of Cantu’s Natural Hair products contain non-vegan ingredients. Although note that since we’re not sure how and where Cantu and PDC Brands take some of these ingredients from, we’re going to discuss how they’re generally made instead.
Cantu’s Anti-Shedding Styling Gel is infused with honey for maximum hold and to help elongate curls and protect against shedding. This is what they state in the product’s selection. Apparently, honey is absolutely non-vegan.
According to PETA, honey farming is cruel exploitation of bees due to the following reasons: mistreating the queen, smoking the bees, transporting the bees in ill-conditioned and sometimes life-threatening fashions, improper nourishment, and finally harvesting a third of their hard-earned honey and home.
Bees are important for our green world to continue, and hurting the bees, endangers our environment as much of our plants, flowers, vegetables, and fruits largely depend on pollinating bees. Keeping them inside farms where they’re mostly only allowed to feed on a singular plant type, prevents pollination diversity and results in the unbalanced nutrition of bees.
Honey is the main food source for bees to go through winter, and when commercial beekeepers who prioritize profits over the bees harvest the honey, they replace it with sugary compounds that are less healthy than real honey. This results in malnutrition for the majority of bees so a lot of them may not even survive the winter due to lack of food and proper nutrition.
Also, harvesting honey requires keepers to smoke the bees to calm them, although this may not be immediately dangerous, the bees become vulnerable and accidents will happen such as stomping and crushing a few of them while the harvesters do their dirty work.
Beeswax is known for its outstanding preservation and glossy properties, and this is because beeswax mainly comes as a byproduct of bee sweat that is used to build their homes or honeycombs. The bees store their honey in beeswax cells where they also nourish and nurse the young larva. The larvae that are fed with the special royal jelly, which isn’t fully proven to benefit humans, would grow to become the next queen.
So when keepers harvest beeswax along with honey, they’re actually taking a part of the bees’ home. Imagine something like a giant suddenly swoops into a hospital and takes a third of the rooms that are supposed to care for newborns. This exploit also ensures that the number of bees inside an artificial hive is kept on the count and that the queen is maintained.
Usually, keepers would nip off the wings of the queen, whose wings are practically irrelevant when she’s performing her duties, but once it’s time for the queen to retire, she’ll need the wings to fly off as she’s replaced by a new queen, otherwise, the worker bees would have to kill her. That, of course, can happen to the former queen inside a farmed beehive.
Two types of silk derivatives can be found in some of Cantu’s Natural Hair products: silk amino acids and hydrolyzed silk. Silk is also non-vegan and compared to honey farming, this one is far crueler.
The history of silk is thousands of years worth of silkworm exploitation and cruelty. According to PETA UK, it takes 6,600 silkworms for a kilogram of silk. From another source, 5,000 silkworm cocoons are needed to produce a full-silk kimono. Silk is expensive due to the insane amount of worm cocoons and the arduous process it requires to produce a bag of it.
Silk was first discovered when a worm cocoon fell into a cup of tea and unraveled into a strong and attractive thread. Since then, the Chinese have started cultivating silkworms and first produced silk by submerging the mature cocoons in hot water or tea, so that they would unravel and can then be worked with. Yes, they kill the mature worms in the process too.
They do this because once the worms mature and take off as moths, the inside of the silk cocoon becomes exposed to air and oxygen, and then it becomes brittle. People can’t make smooth and soft silk with a brittle cocoon, so they must harvest the cocoons while they’re fresh, with the worms inside.
This is why vegans shouldn’t wear silk, because it’s perhaps more or equally inhumane to wool and fur productions. Adult moths known as Bombyx mori are these cute, little, furry moths that only live for 5 days and spend most of their time breeding and laying eggs. Sericulture, or the practice of silk production, entirely depends on this species and one female would produce 500 eggs over her short lifetime.
Silk farmers contain these moths mostly for selective breeding, and since the whole, economic silk production depends on this moth species, you will almost never find them in the wild at all. You will always find them inside silkworm farms and laboratories being kept in trays and refrigerators as dispensable breeders.
After the female lays all her eggs, she’ll be crushed or dissected under a microscope to see if she spawned a disease. If she did, all her eggs are refused. The males are immediately discarded after breeding. When the eggs hatch, they’re fed and matured until they develop their silky cocoons, and once ripe, they’re either steamed or boiled to death. Such is the life cycle of the Bombyx mori.
Silk Amino Acids
Silk amino acids are the binding agent that keeps a silkworm cocoon secure, but once the cocoon is steeped in hot water, the amino acids separate from the silk, causing the unraveling. The silk amino acids are then harvested and refined into a powder that is mostly used for cosmetics. In fact, most hair sprays we use today, including Cantu’s, contain silk amino acids as their binding properties are very efficient.
Hydrolyzed silk is still silk protein that instead of a powder form, comes in a liquid mixture. It’s a very essential ingredient in hair conditioning products due to its protective and revitalizing properties. It’s very common and effective that a lot of organic hair care brands proudly promote it.
When our hair starts losing its natural protein barriers due to continuous exposure to harsh chemicals, hydrolyzed silk as an ingredient helps reinforce those barriers and strengthens hair. Though silk-based ingredients are super effective in hair conditioning treatments, just how many thousands of silkworms die for a bottle of conditioner?
We heal while they suffer, that’s very sad.
Every organic and natural hair care brand out there would want to respect vegans, which is why most of them are bunny-friendly and choose to never test on animals. However, a lot of their products would still contain vital ingredients that make the best outcomes, both product-wise and profit-wise. Cantu is no exception, especially since it doesn’t claim to be 100% vegan-friendly.
However, Cantu’s Grapeseed, Flaxseed, Acai Berry, and Avocado treatment lines are vegan-friendly and cruelty-free. You can opt for those plant-based solutions instead to fix your hair problems. Vegans have hair problems too!
Even though Cantu has some products that contain non-vegan ingredients, it’s your choice whether to put the whole brand out of the shopping list or not, but as PETA affirms, it’s alright to buy plant-based products from them.
To help you out, here are the Cantu products you should avoid, all from the Natural Hair line:
- Anti-Shedding Styling Gel – contains honey
- Deep Treatment Hair Masque – contains silk derivatives
- Clarify & Renew Bentonite Clay Mask – contains beeswax
- Coconut Curling Cream – contains silk derivatives
- Split End Mender Conditioning Mist – contains silk derivatives
- Moisturizing Twist & Lock Gel – contains silk derivatives
- Moisturizing Curl Activator Cream – contains silk derivatives
- Intensive Repair Deep Treatment Masque – contains silk derivatives
- Define & Shine Custard – contains silk derivatives
- Deep Treatment Masque – contains beeswax
- Conditioning Creamy Hair Lotion – contains silk derivatives
- Complete Conditioning Co-Wash – contains silk derivatives
- Coconut Oil Shine & Hold Mist – contains silk derivatives
Ingredients You Can Trust
- Hydrolyzed soy protein instead of hydrolyzed silk protein
- Lactic acid
- Shea butter
- Plant oils
- Essential oils
- Fruit oils