Addressing The Use Of Palm Oil In Everyday Beauty

Addressing the use of palm oil in beauty

Since founding The Beauty Spyglass almost two years ago, I’ve learned so much about the beauty industry I buy into. In particular, the ethics behind some favourite brands and why we’re often drawn in by pretty packaging without stopping to look at the bigger picture.

Blogging has made me much more conscious of brand choice, ethical stance and what I’m putting on my skin.

Recently, I became interested in the use of palm oil in everyday beauty and so I thought it would be only right to share a little more about it and the damaging effects its growth is having on our planet.

Being a conscious beauty enthusiast, I often find myself checking ingredient lists for palm oil, but why is it such an issue?

Here’s why – touted as “dirty palm oil” and derived from fruit grown on the West African oil palm, this widely used and unsustainable vegetable oil has a lot to answer for. Contributing to mass deforestation, displacement and destruction of indigenous settlements, violation of human rights and are linked directly to climate change…

Did you know – trees capture and store carbon dioxide naturally but when felled and burned they release carbon gas into the atmosphere, accounting for fifteen per cent of the total, annual global warming.

Not to mention the loss of endangered species including the Borneo elephant and the Sumatran tiger, pushed ever closer to extinction. Six thousand Orangutans are killed each year as their native home is bulldozed and burned to make way for oil palm growth. Surely this can’t continue?


palm oil use in everyday beauty products


As it stands, eighty-five per cent of globally exported palm oil is currently produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. Rain Forests are disappearing daily, with a football pitch sized area being cleared every twenty-five seconds and replaced with oil palm plantations. A massive sixty-six million tons of the stuff is produced annually to keep up with huge demand from the food, fuel and beauty industries, turning large profits for those involved with its production and sale.

I was shocked to read that oil palm plantations now cover twenty-seven million hectares of the world’s surface and is one of the worst environmental disasters of the 21st century.

Seventy-two per cent of palm oil usage is for processed or unhealthy foods and hides in over half of the food in your local supermarket. A further eighteen per cent is used within the beauty industry and the remaining ten per cent can be found in Biofuel.

There is a glimmer of hope – According to Green Palm, forty per cent of the worlds palm oil producers are now members of the RSPO (Roundtable of sustainable palm oil) and are certified to meet specific criteria. It’s also worth mentioning that some oil palm plantations are growing on land which has previously been used to grow coffee etc and has not been cleared specifically for oil palm. The message seems to be getting through for brands choosing to use certified RSPO palm oil, which in turn, will encourage others to hopefully follow suit.

What does the future hold?

With big names such as Unilever, Colgate and Palmolive promising to stop using unsustainable palm oil by 2020, it seems common sense is beginning to prevail. However, reports suggest these companies have made little effort to stay on track and may not meet the deadline. We will have to wait and see.

Is there a viable alternative…

There could be. Researchers at the University of Bath have developed a way of chemically engineering an oily yeast that can mimic the most sought-after properties of palm oil. With yeast which has been used in the South African wine industry for many years, it’s believed an eco-friendly alternative is in sight.

Source: Green Planet.

So, it begs the question, Is the use of palm oil in our everyday beauty products really necessary?

The answer is no, but it’s cost-effective for the brands which continue to use it, and for its purpose, it performs well. Holding colour – particularly when used in lip products, it’s pretty much tasteless and resists melting in high temperatures, so it’s easy to see why it’s so popular within the beauty industry.

My Final thoughts: Realistically, we probably all own and use products containing unsustainable palm oil, albeit unwittingly. That said, If you naturally choose an ethical approach to beauty, you may find less widespread use in your products. conversely, if you use a diverse range of beauty and self-care you’re more likely to come across it in your everyday go-to’s.

Just be mindful that palm oil has two hundred alternative names so you’ll need to have your wits about you when looking at labels. Check the link above to see if you recognise any of its pseudonyms.

It’s also worth pointing out, with such a huge loss of wildlife, along with the threat to endangered species, the cruelty aspect can’t be ignored. If your makeup and/or skincare contains palm oil, essentially it is not cruelty-free.

I’m compassionate by nature and really struggle to comprehend the devastating effects of palm oil production. By becoming a little more conscious of what’s in our day-to-day products, we can stop buying into the palm oil industry and instead support ethical, earth-friendly brands such as PHB Ethical Beauty, Barefaced Beauty and Bloomtown which all have a fabulous range of products available.

Look out for the RSPO certification on your products, this way, you know the oil is produced sustainably and you’ll not be supporting the dirty palm oil industry.

Also, read about The Body Shop Colour Crush lipsticks I’ve tried. These are produced with certified sustainable palm oil and are cruelty-free.

I’d love to know your stance on palm oil. Do you choose sustainably produced everyday beauty products? Let’s discuss.

Image use: All content and imagery is the property of The Beauty Spyglass. If you would like to use any of the images featured (with credit link), please email with your request detail.


  1. November 7, 2018 / 2:21 pm

    Ok – I never knew about any of this! Very informative post. Besides The Body Shop, I really don’t use many brands that promote sustainability so I guess I’m just adding to this problem.

    Angela at Blush & Pearls

    • Samantha
      November 7, 2018 / 9:34 pm

      I don’t think many do. It’s not something we think of until it’s highlighted. The use of unsustainable palm oil is a big problem though! Thanks for reading x

  2. November 7, 2018 / 10:51 pm

    Six thousand orangutans! That is so sad. I’m not quite sure what it is lately but I’ve been shocked to the core about how much we as consumers are damaging our planet. Isn’t it frustraiting though how there are so many different names for palm oil? That should be stopped surely?! Really interesting read.

    Much love

    • Samantha
      November 7, 2018 / 11:00 pm

      We’re on the same wavelength lovely. It really is shocking isn’t it. The way we are going, what will be left for our children and grand children! The palm oil industry is terrible, I’m surprised it’s allowed to continue at such detriment to the planet. Let’s hope more become certified sustainable soon. Thanks for reading x

  3. Lisa's Notebook
    November 8, 2018 / 1:45 pm

    I’ve heard a lot about how bad the palm oil industry is but I have never actually read any figures like these. This is beyond shocking, I had no idea how bad the situation is. I don’t think everything I use is palm oil free by any means and it’s worrying that it’s classed as a generic vegetable oil too, which makes it much harder to identify. Thank you for such an informative article, definitely food for thought! x

    Lisa |

    • Samantha
      November 8, 2018 / 5:12 pm

      I know, it’s such a worry. I agree, with all the alternative names it would be a a task and a half to make sure you don’t buy Into to it all! But yes, definitely something to think about! Thanks for reading lovely x

  4. November 8, 2018 / 7:09 pm

    This was SO informative – I am going to need to do more research when I purchase new beauty products. I wish there was an app available that makes it quick and easy for consumers to understand the ingredients used in each product – what they are / what any potential effects are (both in terms of physical reactions/harm and environmental impact).

    • Samantha
      November 8, 2018 / 7:30 pm

      Thank you for you lovely comment! Yes, an app is a fab idea, sometimes is difficult to get a definitive answer when trying to find out about a certain product. I find getting into the habit of checking a bit difficult sometimes and I forget. Taken in by the pretty packaging. Really worth remembering though! x

  5. November 8, 2018 / 9:59 pm

    I absolutely loved this post, I’ve been trying really hard to be more conscious, ethical and environmentally friendly recently and this has really opened my eyes to something which I’ve not looked into enough. I can’t believe that 6000 Orangutans are killed each year- that’s an astonishing number and so so sad. I’m off to have a read of some of your other posts now

    Soph – x

    • Samantha
      November 8, 2018 / 10:13 pm

      Thank you so much! Generally, these things can be so easily overlooked. We have no comprehension of the impact unless our eyes are opened to it. I wanted to touch on the subject and highlight the plight of endangered animals and the terrible effects this industry has on the planet. Let’s hope a long-term solution is put in place soon. I’m glad to hear you’re trying to be more conscious! x

  6. November 9, 2018 / 1:14 pm

    I really really hate the affect palm oil has on our planet, and I know you and I had a discussion about it a while back. I think so many people dont understand the problem with it, and lets face it, the products with palm oil in are often cost effective. I struggled to find brands that are palm oil free, and I consider myself pretty well versed in the beauty industry, so I totally understand how people struggle to find products. I will have a look at the companies you have suggested, I dont know a couple of them so will investigate. I think just raising awareness is a start for sure xx
    Kerry x

    • Samantha
      November 9, 2018 / 1:51 pm

      You’re right, it’s easily overlooked as most don’t consider the provenance of the products they use. Being green beauty fans we are more aware of what goes on but I felt it would be a good idea to talk about the harm it’s causing and bring more awareness. Yes! you left your link Kerry! x

      • November 9, 2018 / 2:05 pm

        I totally agree with you. Perhaps you can do a “guest post: type thing on my blog on the same topic? Id love to talk about this sort of thing more, and palm oil is a great starting point. I Know! You taught me something! I did it, whoop whoop! haha xx

  7. Sandy C.
    November 10, 2018 / 6:49 am

    I never really look into the ingredients of the beauty items that I purchase but after reading this post, its something I will begin to do. Poor animals that have been affected by the dirty palm oil issue. I truly hope companies will keep their promise to stop using unsustainable palm oil by 2020. Thank you so much for sharing and for spreading awareness!

    – Sandy @ BeautyBlissandChaos

    • Samantha
      November 10, 2018 / 8:43 pm

      Thanks lovely. x

    • Samantha
      November 11, 2018 / 7:35 am

      My pleasure. Thanks for reading x

  8. November 11, 2018 / 11:19 am

    wow such an interesting read! I think it’s terrible that we can see the effects that we are having on the planet. Yet no big effort is being made to stop destroying the earth. We live in a world full of greed where people just want to make more and more money. So many successful and wealthy people in the world and yet we are destroying our habitat and other animals living on this earth. We are all stuck in this system of politics and economics – all systems we created. it’s scary to think what the future holds.

    Hayley | hayleyxmartin

    • Samantha
      November 11, 2018 / 11:52 am

      So very true. There’s so much greed in the world. It’s truly heartbreaking to think of all the animals suffering at the hands of greed. I’m so pleased Iceland are driving forward with their campaign to bring awareness after it was banned. Let’s hope the world wakes up soon! Thank you for your lovely comment x

  9. November 11, 2018 / 1:22 pm

    Those stats are very scary! I need to look at my product ingredients lists more closely xx


    • Samantha
      November 11, 2018 / 3:42 pm

      They are. It’s just about being mindful of ingredients. Thanks for reading x

  10. November 12, 2018 / 3:14 pm

    Such an informative post, you always teach me something new! I’ve only started reading the ingredients when I buy new products but oh my god, the stats are so scary! Thanks for sharing this blog post lovely, it was a great read x

    • Samantha
      November 12, 2018 / 4:02 pm

      Ahh thanks lovely. Definitely an eye-opener isn’t it. I think we could all be a little more mindful of ingredients x

  11. November 13, 2018 / 8:20 pm

    This was such an interesting and eyeopening post Samantha! I heard about palm oil recently when Iceland’s advert got banned! Hopefully the message has got through to people xx

    • Samantha
      November 13, 2018 / 8:54 pm

      Banning the ad has just gained the campaign more exposure! Something needs to be done and soon hopefully. Thanks for reading! x

  12. Ash
    November 24, 2018 / 9:45 am

    Very informative post. I like how you pointed out that if a company uses palm oil that it’s essentially not cruelty-free. It’s terrifying that palm is mass produced and used in so many products we consume. It’s really important we are conscious of the things we buy and the brands we support. Thanks for sharing xx

    • Samantha
      November 24, 2018 / 11:03 am

      Thank you! It’s just a different way of looking at the cruelty aspect with so many animals losing their homes and lives. Makes you think doesn’t it! We definitely need to be more conscious xx

  13. melissabeautyqueen
    December 13, 2018 / 2:36 pm

    It’s terrible what we are doing to the planet and nature isn’t it, thanks for posting this and shining more light upon a very important issue.

    Something that perhaps doesn’t get the attention that Palm Oil does but needs to is Plastic Pollution, have you ever considered using products from brands that are more plastic and waste conscious?

    I recently found a new brand, thanks to Reddit, they’re called Whitewitch Skincare and they are plastic free and vegan and have “harm none” as their ethos, I’ve just purchased their regenerating body balm and I’m very excited about it

    It would be great if you could do a post on this issue as it definitely needs more attention xo

    • Samantha
      December 13, 2018 / 3:11 pm

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I totally agree, the beauty industry is responsible for so much plastic waste, especially at this time of year with all the extra Christmas gift packs. However, in general we could all be more conscious of choosing brands (and food products) which support sustainability. I’ll definitely have a look at Whitewitch Skincare so thanks for the recommendation. I may publish a post on cutting down plastic waste so Keep an eye out! Thanks again x

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