Is Shellac Vegan?

When it comes to determining whether shellac is vegan or not, there is some debate surrounding this topic. Shellac is a resinous substance that is derived from the secretions of the female lac bug, which is found in India and Thailand. It is commonly used in various industries, including food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. However, whether or not it can be considered vegan depends on the individual’s definition and interpretation of veganism.

What is Shellac?

Shellac is a natural resin that is produced by the lac bug as a protective coating for their eggs. The insects extract the sap of host trees and create a hard shell-like substance when combined with their secretions. This substance is then harvested and processed into different forms, such as flakes or liquid, to be used in various applications.

Shellac in Food Products

One common use of shellac is in food products as a coating or glaze. It provides a glossy appearance and helps preserve the freshness of fruits, vegetables, and confections. However, some vegans argue that the use of shellac in food goes against their principles as it is derived from an animal source. They prefer to avoid any animal-derived ingredients, including those that are insect-based.

On the other hand, some vegans may consider shellac to be compatible with their lifestyle. They argue that shellac is obtained without causing harm to the lac bug, as the insects continue to produce the resin naturally. Additionally, shellac is not directly derived from mammals or birds, which are typically the main concern for most vegans.

Alternatives to Shellac

For individuals who choose to avoid shellac for ethical or dietary reasons, there are alternative options available. These alternatives provide similar functions to shellac without using any animal-derived ingredients. Some common alternatives include:

  • Vegan waxes: Plant-based waxes, such as carnauba wax, can be used as a natural glazing agent.
  • Vegetable gums: Gums like gum arabic or guar gum can offer a similar texture and glaze effect.
  • Plant-based coatings: Various plant-based coatings, like vegetable oils or plant starches, can be used to provide a protective layer for food.

It is important to read product labels or consult with manufacturers to identify shellac-free options in food products.

The Use of Shellac in Other Industries

Apart from its use in food, shellac also finds applications in other industries:

1. Pharmaceutical industry:

Shellac can be used as a coating material in pharmaceutical pills or tablets to enhance their appearance and protect them from moisture or deterioration. Vegans who are concerned about the use of shellac in medication may explore alternatives or consult with their healthcare providers.

2. Cosmetics industry:

Shellac is included in some cosmetic products, such as nail polish, as it provides a glossy finish. Similar to food products, vegan alternatives exist for those who prefer to avoid shellac in their cosmetics. Brands that cater to vegan consumers often label their products accordingly, making it easier to identify suitable options.


Whether shellac is considered vegan or not depends on an individual’s personal beliefs and interpretation of veganism. While shellac is derived from an insect source, some vegans may be comfortable with its use as it does not involve mammals or birds directly. However, for those who choose to avoid shellac, there are plenty of alternative options available to meet their specific needs and preferences.