Is palm oil bad for you? Rightly or wrongly public opinion has demonised a number of ingredients skincare and palm oil is one of them!
The thing is, there is nothing wrong with the product per se. It is destructive farming methods that have caused the problem. I would like to tell you some good things about Palm Oil…
The Positive Side
We are able to use every part of the plant and we incorporate palm oil into a myriad of products use. Manufacturers use it to produce food, skincare, makeup, biofuel, and furniture, household products and much more!
Palm oil is one of the best in terms of renewable resources. Compared to other oil products, farmers produce more of this oil per acre of land. This means that they can produce more oil using less land, in fact between 4 and 8 times more oil can be produced.
It has a long shelf life and is healthy and inexpensive to produce. The trees continue to produce for over a hundred years.
So what is the problem?
The farming practises are the problem! Unsustainable farming is causing massive damage to wildlife which must be tackled! Banning is not really an option as we need to consider the consequences of such an action. Think of all the communities that now rely on Palm Oil to make a living? There are no easy answers!
In addition, to add to the problem, several countries are planning on increasing the use of Palm Oil.
Usage is not reducing either! Many governments around the world are, in fact planning an increase its use for biofuel. So, a ban is just not going to happen! However, even the most committed environmentalists agree that a boycott is not the answer. “Palm oil is cheaper and more resource efficient than other vegetable oils.”*
What if we all just stop using Palm Oil?
What will happen to all the communities that rely on this product? The likely response from “big business would be to plant something else instead. Their marketing people would create a huge buzz about the new product, for example, coconut. (Coconut trees are a lot less sustainable than Palm Oil trees.)
When we look back at other ingredients, such as Argan Oil. This is what happens:- The buzz is created through marketing, resulting in everyone wanting that ingredient. Many natural ingredients have been produced for generations, usually by the women of the indigenous communities. Along comes “big business” and literally destroys their livelihood – it’s heart-breaking!
The industry has been put under pressure to produce a more sustainable version. Small producers like myself find it difficult to identify sustainable palm oil, because of sheer number of products made with the product. For example, in skincare, many emulsifiers contain palm oil. It is very difficult for small producers like myself to track sustainability. (Put simply, emulsifiers are products that help oil and water to mix and stick together). On the other hand, I use a supplier that has animal welfare as a core value. I trust them to do the absolute best they can. The bottom line is, I control much less buying power than they do! The controversy about palm oil has resulted in the implementation of regulation of farming methods. However, it is a work in progress and environmental organisations are working hard to tackle the issue.
What I have done about the problem?
Many people have focussed on the use of palm oil in the cosmetic/beauty industry. However this sector’s consumption is responsible for a small level of consumption when compared to others. It is in our daily food, and in up to 50% of our household products. As a tiny producer, I can make little impact on changing what is, unfortunately, controlled by worldwide economics!
I have addressed this issue on an exceedingly small scale. I reformulated some of my products using a palm free emulsifier. My intention was that the purchasing choices by many of us would influence the decisions of the farmers. The manufacturer discontinued the product so I have had to reformulate again using the latest on the market. I worked for two years on the formulations and had them tested too. The expense, not to mention additional work and was helped me to understand why producers continue to use palm oil.
I have used palm oil-containing emulsifiers in the past and they are, on the whole, easier to work with. On the other hand, I have seen an improvement in the quality of the products. The ingredient provides benefits to the skin. Because I included this ingredient, my products help the skin to retain moisture. In addition, because I have taken positive action to reduce my use of palm free emulsifiers I am in the happy position of having several products that are palm free. I now formulate all moisturisers, masks and eye creams using the palm free version. The Firm and Nourish Range has been formulated with palm free emulsifiers.