Many soaps, skin creams, shampoos and other items contain palm oil. Go for brands that don’t do this. The main one is soap (labelled as ‘sodium palmate’). Its use is causing all kinds of harm to orangutans and other endangered creatures. Read more on why we should give up palm oil. But be careful, as many other items in the chemist also contain palm oil. It’s often labelled under different names including:
- Palm kernel oil
- Stearic acid
- Palmitic Acid
- Sodium lauryl sulphate is the foaming agent used in most shampoos (can be from palm oil, coconut oil petroleum – petrol!) A good reason for choosing natural shampoos.
Also found in soap (‘sodium palmate’ if not sodium tallowate (beef fat), palm oil is also found in cleaning products, laundry goods and most chip shops use it. There are alternatives (like local rapeseed oil, which also helps prevent climate change, by not importing oil from the other side of the world). Countries like Indonesia are far better earning money from eco-tourism, to help protect these beautiful creatures.
Even Ethical Consumer rates companies as to whether they use RSPO palm oil, surely they have read articles by Greenpeace? There are now petitions to ask vegan brands to stop using palm oil (and stop calling it ‘sustainable’). Here are some alternatives to common beauty items containing palm oil: also look for products with palm oil free certification (another scheme is run by Orangutan Alliance).
Choose Palm-Oil-Free Bars of Soap
Nearly all bars of soap in supermarkets and chemists (since the demise of sodium tallowate – beef fat) are made with palm oil, usually labelled as ‘sodium palmate’. As stated above, there is no such thing as susainable palm oil, so all these bars of soaps are indirectly harming or killing orangutans and other endangered creatures, and destroying native forests. The oil is used as it’s good to make fast-curing bars of soap, and it’s cheap.
There are many good brands of palm-oil-free bar soaps but you likely have to visit a farmers’ market, an indie health store or buy online. Good soaps to look for in shops are Alternative by Suma and Oliva (a big ugly cheap bar of unscented olive oil soap that you’ll find in all health stores). Not posh – but great for your skin!
Avoid essential oils for pregnancy/nursing and medical conditions like epilepsy and asthma. Also avoid rosemary, citrus and sage oils for high blood pressure. Avoid shea butter for latex allergies.
The best-selling soaps in England nearly all use palm oil. The top selling three soaps by far (used by nearly everyone) are Carex (also a liquid soap), Dove and Imperial Leather. Let’s take a look at what’s in them:
- Carex soap bars are now packaged in cardboard, and likes to advertise as such. Good, but everything else about this soap is not eco-friendly. It contains palm oil along with parfum (artificial fragrance that will cause algae bloom when it washes down sinks and goes into the sea and chokes oxygen out of the water – this in turn harms marine wildlife). It also contains tetrasodium etridonate, hexyl cinnamon, butylphenyl methylpropianal and benzyl salicylate. And if you don’t know what these mean, they have no business being on your delicate skin!
- Dove Beauty Bar is always advertised as a soap and moisturiser in one. However, one user on Holland & Barrett’s website said that after using it on her delicate skin, her skin was so red, she had to visit a dermatologist who prescribed other options that didn’t work. So she visited the health store and bought the £1.99 cheap bar of unscented Oliva (olive oil) soap and her skin started to heal within the hour. Even Dove’s Bar for Sensitive Skin contains all the usual chemicals, and the company website states that it’s not reached ‘sustainable palm oil’ status yet, as it’s working towards it (see above, there is no such thing anyway).
- In fact, nearly all the ‘gentle soaps’ contain the same kind of ingredients. Like Pears Soap, often promoted as being pure and gentle. But the usual ingredients are all there including fragrance (one of the most irritating ingredients for sensitive skin) and sodium lauryl sulfate (another irritant, also used in engine degreaser).
Beauty Brands with No Palm Oil
Again, nearly all the main beauty brands (including ‘green ones’ like The Body Shop use palm oil in some items. Again you’ll have to go small and artisan, to usually find companies prepared to spend a little more on ingredients (for less profit) to ensure their line is palm-oil-free. Scotland’s Amarnathine has become the first beauty brand to receive worldwide palm-oil-free status, although not all of the range is plant-based (some items contain beeswax).
Awake Organics is a great brand that is plant-based, organic and free from palm oil, sold in zero waste packaging. Their shampoo powder is even mixed with water to save weight and water, and has ingredients to help combat hair loss.