I remember years ago while I was doing my shopping and walking thru the aisles searching for supplements. If memory serves me correctly, I was looking for an iron supplement. I had always aimed to opt for the cleanest with organic ingredients, non GMO, and no synthetic fillers. I had also known about gelatin being used in the capsules for supplements and was adamant about avoiding it, but I had not been prepared for what I was about to find out. I had picked up a bottle of supplements and it was labeled as being "vegetarian." I continued to read the back and all of its ingredients, which were minimal and pretty much identifiable. And nope, there was no gelatin listed. Why did it only have the vegetarian stamp or suitable for vegetarians listed? Why wasn't it vegan? Admittedly, I was a little stumped. So I went home, took note, and did some research. What was in the supplement bottle that kept it from being vegan? L-cysteine was my answer.
What is L-cysteine?
L-cysteine is commonly found in bread products, supplements, and shampoos and conditioners. If this is something that you want to avoid, this is why (one of the reasons!) to be certain to read labels when shopping. If your bread, supplements, or shampoo contains L- cysteine, it will say so in the ingredients. It can also be labeled as E920, although I don't ever recall seeing this as such.
L-cysteine is an amino acid (a building block of protein) and is mainly derived from human hair, duck feathers, cow hooves, and pig hair. It is used primarily as a food additive and is widely used in commercial breads and dough. It acts as a conditioner and strengthener in the dough and as a preservative. Sourced from China, it is synthesized to form a powder, which is then added to breads and dough to allow it to stretch and also to extend its shelf life. It can also be found in supplements, and as a strengthener in shampoos. While it is not considered to be harmful, it might be something you want to avoid all together - especially when following a vegan lifestyle.
What to do?
If you are a bread eater, it's important to make smart choices to your benefit. Choose a better quality type of bread, like a whole grain bread - but keep in mind that your store bought ones will have some type of preservative. Even better if you can bake your own and you will know all of the ingredients that go in to the making. And you can add whatever you like to it like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon and raisins, or whatever!
It took me a while to find a good quality and affordable shampoo and conditioner that I really liked. Currently, Avalon Organics does it for me. And they can be found at Wholefoods, and most other retailers. I really like how they are completely affordable and are made with clean ingredients, vegan, and EWG verified, which is important to me because I know that what I am putting on me is not harmful. But you don't have to go with Avalon Organics at all, it's just what I use. Pick one out that you like and for your type of hair, it is merely a suggestion.
You have power in your choices
My whole point in telling you about L- cysteine is that the more you know, the more power you have in your choices. Going vegan (and plant based!) gives you the upper hand in what you choose to buy and put in to your mouth and on your body. And it also comes down to supply and demand. If you are buying it (and unknowingly, too,) they they will keep producing it and animals will continue to be harmed. That is not what I want at all.
I hope this has been helpful to you and the next time you turn a product over to read the back of a label, this will pop out to you and you will say to yourself, "I know exactly what this is, and I will have no part in it." and put it right back on the shelf.
Have a question or something you would like me to talk about?