Palm oil continues to be one of the most popular ingredients used in the beauty industry. It has formed the basis of soaps for years, with the first brands to use it being Lever Brothers (now known as Unilever), Sunlight Soap and Palmolive.
It appears on the label as Elaeis guineensis Oil and it is obtained from the pulp of the fruit of the palm.
Its material state at room temperature is a red solid mass due to natural occurring carotenoids (pro Vitamin A) and in this form it is sometimes used as a natural colourant. With great emollient properties, it can be found in surfactants and emulsifiers used in general skincare and make up, especially lipsticks.
Given its natural origins has generally been considered a safe and non-irritating ingredient and can be used at all concentrations.
Palm Oil and Health
Palm oil is a very important source of calories and is a basic food in some communities where is produced (Indonesia, Malaysia, West Africa, Thailand and Colombia).
Palm oil is not be confused with the “palm kernel oil”, derived from the seed of the fruit itself, or with the “Coconut oil”, obtained from the seed of some palm trees of which the best known is the Cocos nucifera. The differences between the two oils are:
• colour: the palm kernel oil is not red, but pale yellow
• the content of saturated fats: palm oil contains 41%, while the palm kernel oil and coconut oil contain 81% and 86% respectively.
Wide scale use of palm oil by big industry has meant the expansion of crops often at the expense of areas of Indonesian forests. Unsurprisingly, this concerns many environmental groups.
In 1992, in response to questions on deforestation, the Malaysian government pledged to limit the expansion of palm oil plantations in order to keep at least half of the national territory in woodland form. Later in 2004, an industry group known as the “Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil” (RSPO) was founded which collaborates with the palm oil production companies for a more sustainable production process.
However, there has been significant reduction in the natural habitat of the orangutan, of which two species are in real danger not to mention the impact on natural flora and fauna. Between 2000 and 2012, in Indonesia 6.02 million hectares of tropical forest (an area the size of Ireland) has been eaten up for land dedicated to palm oil production.
While there are currently several campaigns worldwide promoting sustainable palm oil as a formulator it is my responsibility to replace it with other natural alternatives and curb its use altogether.
Here is a list of some ingredients that contain or derived from palm oil
Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Retinyl Palmitate, Palm Olein, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis Oil, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hydrogenated Palm Glycerides, Ethyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol