The intensive production of palm oil is damaging rainforests. It’s also threatening the extinction of native species. But when palm oil is such a common ingredient in toiletries (and much more) is it even possible to go without?
Yes it is!
Sadly there aren’t that many companies making shampoo without palm oil. Plus, they’re a touch on the expensive side if you’re used to TRESemmé.
To help you out, we’ve sourced some palm oil free shampoo brands well worth a try. We’ve found some companies that use sustainable palm oil too. Because baby steps are better than no steps at all.
Why Is Palm Oil Bad?
The problem with palm oil isn’t that it’s dangerous. It’s the way it’s grown that’s causing environmental problems.
Any monocrop harvested on such a massive scale that it requires rainforest destruction will always become a problem sooner rather than later.
The main issues with palm oil are:
Greenpeace say a football pitch sized area of rainforest is cut down in Indonesia every 25 seconds to make way for palm oil production.
We need the rainforests to clear carbon emissions from the atmosphere and produce oxygen so the world can breathe.
Rainforest clearance is threatening some species with extinction. Bornean orangutan populations have halved since 1999.
Less habitat means Sumatran tigers and rhinos are under threat. As are clouded leopards, sun bears, pygmy elephants and proboscis monkeys.
This clearance also means sturdier passages through the rainforest. It creates routes for poachers, making it easier to penetrate the thick rainforest to kill rare animals.
Native Population Dependency
Imagine knowing that palm oil production was destroying your way of life. But having no other option than to work in it.
This is the situation many Indonesian and Malaysian workers find themselves in. They’ve become reliant on the palm oil industry to support their families.
Why Is Palm Oil Included in Shampoo Anyway?
Palm oil is a conditioning agent. It keeps the hair moisturised while cleansing chemicals remove oil, dirt and dandruff. It works well, but the main reason it’s used so widely is the price.
Palm oil is cheap.
It’s harvested from the palm fruit which has a very high yield compared to other fruits. This keeps the price down. This means that palm oil free shampoo is a rarity. But it’s not an impossibility.
How Do I Find Palm Oil Free Shampoo?
First up, we need to know how to recognise palm oil in an ingredients list. Because it’s not always called palm oil and brands are sneaky. The main thing I’ve discovered about palm oil is the multitude of names it can be called. Legally. It can be listed as any one of many, making it hard to spot.
Here’s a list, brace yourself – it’s long!
- Vegetable Oil Fat
- Palm Kernel Oil
- Palm Fruit Oil
- 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
- Hydrated Palm Glycerides
- Etyl Palmitate
- Octyl Palmitate
- Palmityl Alcohol
Some of the alternative names are obvious, like palmate, but stearic acid? I had no clue palm oil could be called anything like that.
Buying Shampoo Without Palm Oil
If you’d like to get on the palm oil free shampoo train, here are some shampoos that are completely free from palm oil.
- Beauty Kubes
- Lamazuna shampoo bars
- PHB Ethical Beauty
- Friendly Soap Natural Shampoo
- Pure Chimp
- Tints Of Nature Dry Shampoo
- Living Naturally Coconutty Soapnut Shampoo Bar
- Ecozone Baby Shampoo
Lush is getting there too by making its own in-house soap and shampoo bases without palm oil. They have a comprehensive statement on their use of palm oil. It includes ways they’re trying to cut down and stop its use.
In comparison there are some cosmetic companies who could do much better. Superdrug for example do a great job with vegan cosmetics but their palm oil policy is pretty poor.
What About Sustainable Palm Oil in Shampoo?
It’s much easier to find shampoo that uses sustainable palm oil, such as Green People’s Scent Free Shampoo.
Sustainable palm oil isn’t as eco friendly as none at all. It still has to be grown and harvested on a massive scale. But it does take into consideration the ethical and sustainability implications.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is worth looking out for when you’re searching for palm oil free products.
It’s a not-for-profit organisation, like the Forest Stewardship Council (FCS) for timber. The RSPO has developed a set of environmental and social criteria that companies must adhere to. Only then can they become a certified sustainable palm oil company.
Cutting Through the Bleating
It’s also worth reading a brands’ ethical and environmental policies. They’re usually hidden away on company websites.
Look right through the fluff and blurb. “We just want our children to breathe clean air” (get a grip, Clarins) is nonsense and means absolutely zero.
To halt the destruction of our rainforests we need real action. That means policies that apply to all mass harvested ingredients. Not just lip service to keep consumers off the scent of a poor environmental stance.
Here are some good examples:
Faith in Nature
The aim of Faith in Nature is to phase out palm based ingredients or be able to buy such ingredients from fully sustainable sources. We have made significant progress in recent years. We’re now in an almost fully sustainable position.
The palm oil used in Green People products is from certified organic sources. It’s from countries that don’t have native orangutans, such as the Philippines and Ecuador.
Overproduction of palm oil means the unnecessary diminishing of our rainforests. Plus the harming of wildlife such as orangutans. It also adds to the CO2 levels that are rising partly due to its manufacture: that’s why we are palm oil free.
You can find more shampoo without palm oil on Ethical Superstore. Or you could even make your own hair care products. That way, you’ll know exactly what’s in them.
Make Your Next Shampoo a Palm Oil Free Shampoo
Large scale use of palm oil is a problem. The only way to turn it around is to choose products that don’t contain it, or at least switch to products using sustainable palm oil. If we don’t do this, then deforestation and species extinction will carry on at the same rate.
Many of us want sustainable palm oil or palm oil free products. So we need to start buying from ethical companies with strong palm oil policies.
Living sustainably means taking small steps towards big change. When millions of people make a small change and support brands doing good, it leads to huge results. Switching your shampoo to a palm oil free one could be your small change.