What Is Palm Oil & How Is It Sourced: Controversial Skincare Ingredient

What Is Palm Oil & How Is It Sourced: Controversial Skincare Ingredient

It is the most commonly used oil in the world.

Why is palm oil so widely used in cosmetics? What is its function? 

Palm oil is the worlds most used oil.  Palm oil is widely used in food, personal care and household products. It helps provide creaminess as well as help to improve product stability and shelf life

Palm oil is derived from the fruit (the pulp) of the palm oil tree. Palm kernel oil is derived from the kernel of the the same fruit.  From these two, many products can be derived based on various processes and refining. 

Both Palm oil and Palm kernel oil are used widely in a variety of cosmetics.

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2. In your professional experience, is palm oil necessary for a product's formulation? Are there other ingredients out there that can be substituted for palm oil that function similarly? 

— Ingredients like coconut oil, olive oil and grapefruit seed oil can be used as a replacement. 

3. There are concerns about the sustainability (or lack thereof) of palm oil in cosmetics. Why do so many brands include palm oil in their formulations despite this? 

—  Yes, there are sustainability and ethical concerns on how palm oil is produced.  Human rights might be violated in it’s production as well as potential endangerment of forests and wildlife.  

4. How can you tell if palm oil is in a skincare/makeup/hair product? How would it be listed on the label?

— It is important to note that although there are over 200 different names for palm oil based ingredients, very few contain the word “palm” in the name.

Palm oil and its derivatives can appear on the ingredient listing as:

Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol

- Ron Robinson, BeautyStat Founder & Cosmetic Chemist