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What is shellac?

Shellac is a natural resin secreted by the female lac beetle (scientifically known as Kerria lacca), which is native to Southeast Asia and India. The resin is harvested by scraping it off the trees where the lac beetles reside. Once collected, shellac is processed into flakes or a refined form for various applications.

What is shellac used for?

Shellac serves diverse roles across industries. It's a traditional wood finish, a coating for pharmaceuticals, and a food-grade coating. In cosmetics, it's used in nail polish and hair products, while also finding applications in dental products, printing inks, art and craft, electronics, instrument making, and bookbinding. Its versatility lies in its glossy finish, adhesive properties, and protective qualities, making it a valuable ingredient in numerous manufacturing processes.

Are products containing shellac considered to be vegan or animal-free?

Products containing shellac cannot be deemed vegan or animal-free. Female lac beetles, as insects, are classified as animals within the Kingdom Animalia. Despite shellac being a natural substance, its extraction entails the collection of lac resin from lac beetles, raising ethical concerns due to the unavoidable harm to insects during the harvesting process. Consequently, many vegans opt to steer clear of products containing shellac because of its insect-derived origin.

Vegan alternatives to shellac?

For individuals seeking an animal-free alternative to shellac there are plenty of options available including: 

  • Carnauba Wax

  • Vegetable-based Coatings (e.g. starch or cellulose) 

  • Plant-based Waxes (e.g. soy or Candelilla) 

  • Vegetable-based inks (plant sources) 

Shellac in Medications

To determine if medications contain shellac, check sources like DailyMed or the package insert. Our pharmacists can also help identify animal-derived ingredients. Below, you'll find a selection of medications our team has identified as containing shellac. Please note that this list is not exhaustive and not all manufacturers of the listed drugs use shellac, but includes some frequently inquired-about medications:

  • Aromasin

  • Balsalazide

  • Bisacodyl

  • Bupropion

  • Cephalexin

  • Dabigatran

  • Desvenlafaxine

  • Dicyclomine

  • Diltiazem

  • Divalproex sodium

  • Flucytosine

  • Galafold

  • Mesalamine

  • Nifedipine

  • Oxybutynin

  • Paliperidone tablets

  • Pantoprazole

  • Xeljanz XR

For information on which ones are animal-free, please contact us.


In conclusion, while shellac offers versatility in various industries, it cannot be considered vegan due to its insect-derived origin. Alternatives like carnauba wax or plant-based coatings provide animal-free options. In medications, shellac is used in certain formulations, prompting consumers to carefully check ingredients for animal-derived components. Our team at VeganMed is dedicated to helping you maintain your lifestyle by providing information on which medications are animal-free.


Disclaimer: The product and/or information provided on VeganMed is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We do not lab test the products to confirm that they are free from animal ingredients, and it is possible that the formulation and ingredients could have changed. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or product. The information provided in this post is accurate and up to date as of the date it was written. However, please note that circumstances and facts may change over time, and new information may become available that could alter the accuracy or relevance of the content. We encourage readers to verify and cross-reference any information provided here with trusted sources or consult relevant professionals for the most current and accurate updates.


Looking for certified and verified animal-free products?

Thank you for your awareness and concern for animal-derived ingredients!

As a reminder, please comment on our FDA Citizen Petition, requesting clear labeling of animal-derived ingredients in medications. Together, we can make a difference.

If you have any further questions about ingredients in your medicines and supplements, feel free to reach out to the VeganMed team!

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