Palm Oil – What you need to Know

Palm Oil. Its become the big no-go ingredient for those of us concerned about the ethics behind the brands we use. I do however, understand that for some people, they have no real idea what it is, or how it impacts so greatly on this little planet of ours.I think being a fan of travel has made me even more passionate to do my bit for the planet!  I spoke last month about how I wanted to start a new series on the blog, (you can see it here, Ethical, natural, green Beauty) all of us learning together and sharing information on ethical beauty.

palm oil what you need to know

This series is completely without judgement, but, I am not going to lie about not wanting to perhaps tell you things you may not already know, to help you make more informed choices. I know its confusing out there! I work in the skincare industry, so I am very aware of the marketing terms used by companies to make their products seem more ethical. I am hoping through this series we can all become more aware of what these things actually mean!

I am starting with palm oil – what you need to know, as this is so in the media at the moment with that banned Iceland ad. Its a long one, get comfy!  We can build on the knowledge that you may have already learnt. I do not profess to being an expert, but I will promise you that my posts will be fully researched, my passion to gain knowledge will be shared, I am committed to learning, I will speak to experts that I know through my job to see what is being done on the larger scale, and I will add this to my knowledge I have from 20 years in the skincare industry. Hopefully thats a start.

Palm Oil – What you need to Know

So, lets start with the basics of what it is;

Palm oil is an edible oil extracted from the palm fruit that the oil palm tree bares. There is a nut in the centre of the palm fruit, and this is where the palm kernel oil is extracted from, and palm oil is extracted from the fruit itself. These trees are an incredibly efficient crop, so can produce a lot of oil. The tree is not edible to almost all animals, and the fruit too is inedible, except to rats and snakes. Therefore, animals cannot thrive or live in the areas that palm oil trees are planted. Shockingly, about half of the products stocked in supermarkets contain palm oil. Food, beauty products, cleaning products, everything! There is even palm oil used in the bio fuels that are named as “green fuels” to power vehicles and airplanes. To make life even harder when you are trying to avoid palm oil, there are over 200 names that are used for it! Sneaky eh…. I have linked here to a site that gives you companies that do not use palm oil. To give you a small indicator, any ingredient listed with the words Stear, Palm, Laur or Glyc in them usually means a palm oil product.

palm oil what you need to know

Why is it damaging the planet;

Palm trees need a fair bit of room to grow, around 3m diameter around the base of each tree. The palm trees flourish in warm, humid climates so the rain forests have the climate that the palm trees love. This has resulted in thousands and thousands of hectares of rain forest being destroyed across Indonesia. I spoke to the owner of one of the Palm oil free brands that I have discovered, and he told me that flying over Borneo, and seeing the devastating destruction of the rainforest absolutely broke his heart. Indonesia is losing an average of 917,000 hectares of natural forest per year, (around 300 football pitches per hour)  through palm oil!!! As I am sure you can understand, if you clear the rainforest that is home to thousands of species of wildlife, they have no where to go. They cannot live in the palm trees as they are not edible, and the palm trees do not support the ecosystem that was there.

Another problem is that the cheapest way to clear the forests is to “slay and burn”.  The fires that this method causes not only causes suffocating pollution for all of the people living near by, but destroys the habitats for all the species that live there. It is incredibly prolific in wiping out and killing the wildlife. It is also causing a major problem in rising green house effect. It is estimated that the deforestation is causing up to 20% of global warming. Its just a disaster all round!

The Affect on People;

Not only are we wiping out entire species of animals with palm oil, we are also destroying peoples lives and homes. The fires from the rain forest destruction cause smog for miles and miles around, as well as taking the lands from them. The workers in the industry are also rumoured to be treated unfairly.

The affect on the wildlife;

I cannot tell you the amount of frustrated tears I have cried over the last year looking into ethical beauty. I have, at times, felt heartbroken and helpless. We are so destructive, and all for money!! I have spoken with brands that have such passion to try to make changes, that I knew that I needed to do my part, no matter how small. It is devastating to learn what man has caused. It has kept me awake at night. Now, most of us know the danger that the orangutang are in due to palm oil.  It is estimated that over 50 are killed every week due to this industry. The orangutang are either burnt to death in the fires, caught up in the logging machinery, left to starve with their food source taken away, or stranded in pockets of forest that cannot support them. The orangutang, trying to survive, then wander onto the palm oil plantations and are killed by the palm oil companies “pest busters” Yep, the animals that we have stolen the homes from, are then seen as pests. What a twisted world we live in!

palm oil what you need to know

Elephants also are victims of the palm oil trade. They are often poisoned by the palm oil companies, again, because of the loss of the elephants feeding grounds means that they too wander into the plantations so are “dealt with”. The Borneo Rhino has almost been made extinct by the palm oil industry. It just goes on and on, the destruction we are causing.  I could go on and on about how cruelly and disgustingly these poor animals are treated, but I know how devastated I felt by learning it, so I don’t want to depress you. I am sure you get the idea, and if you want to know more, prepare yourself, then google it. It will break your heart…

Why do Brands Use Palm Oil;

the short answer? Cost! Yep, that devil money as ever is the guiding force. It is cheap to buy, and brands are all about their profits! It is also incredibly versatile. It has no real taste so is widely used in food, and increases the shelf life so is used as a preservative. In beauty and cleaning products it is used widely, especially as a foaming agent or emulsifier. Other oils can be used in place of palm oil, but they are more costly to the brand, so are ignored.

palm oil what you need to know

What is sustainable Palm oil;

Ohhh did I fall down a worm hole when I was starting to research sustainable palm oil! Is there even such a thing? The basics are, that sustainable palm oil is regulated to ensure that it doesn’t contribute to deforestation, violation of human rights or animal cruelty. The RSPO (Roundtable of Sustainable Palm oil) has strict regulations that are enforced and checked on a regular basis to ensure the standards are upheld. There are so many arguments as to whether palm oil can ever be truly ethical and sustainable, that it was a head spin! My thoughts are, that if a company is using sustainable palm oil, then they are at least making roads into limiting their negative impact. This can only be a good thing surely? Of course, NO palm oil is the better option, but I think it will take time for more brands to get on board with that. If you have concerns about the use of palm oil, but are struggling to find palm oil free products, then sustainable palm oil is at least a conscious effort. I have learnt about a fab new app, that can help you really quickly when out shopping, know how eco friendly a product is, just by scanning its barcode! I have started using it and its so quick and easy. See the app here – Giki Badges

So What Brands are making moves to stop the Destruction;

Sadly, not enough at the moment, but I have seen at least some changes in attitude in the last year. I have started to compile a list of Palm Oil free brands, and will perhaps do a blog post purely to keep updated and current as a list of palm oil free brands. I am also going to try to feature brands in this series, so we can all find amazing products. There are some logos that you can look out for that guarantee no palm oil, and I have pictured them below.

palm oil what you need to know

palm oil what you need to know

Im not suggesting for one moment that you go into your cupboards and throw away all your products that have palm oil in. What I am making a teeny weeny suggestion of, is as your products run out, perhaps look at palm oil alternatives…….Some Uk companies that I have found that are palm oil free are listed below. Iv only just started on my list, but its a start! Please feel free to suggest any others that you may have come across. I would love us to all learn from each other.

All Natural Soap Co – Beautiful handmade soaps

Bloomtown – Bath and body products, skincare and candles.

Bodhi & Birch – Beautiful skin and body care products

Cacay Naturals – Anti aging skin care

Heavenly Organics Skincare – All hand made with pure ingredients

Humblestuff – Household cleaning products

Raw Passion Skin Food – Skincare

Wild Sage & Co – Skin balms

palm oil what you need to know

Researching this post has been a little harrowing, and at times, made me feel so disillusioned by mankind. I have learnt that money, politics and greed all drive this industry, but thats a topic for another day! I at times felt so utterly beaten down by the things we do, but, I then remind myself that people are trying to make changes. I have spoken to brands, my day job clients, brands I work with in my day job, my friends and family, and so many of us want to make changes. To force the brands to take responsibility. We can all do our bit once we know about it cant we. Education is key I think. I really hope that this post has given you a little knowledge. I would love to hear what you think. All changes start with one person saying they want to change after all don’t they! 



  1. November 28, 2018 / 3:54 pm

    Crikey! this is REALLY interesting reading Kerry and I never knew about of this – so thank you for educating. Great idea on listing brands that are palm-oil-free and you are right about educating people – I don’t use palm oil myself but I’d now opt for the sustainable kind if I felt the need to. xx

    • kerrylifeandloves
      November 28, 2018 / 4:01 pm

      Ahhhh Lauretta that makes me so happy that you have learnt something! The trouble is, Palm oil is in over 50% of the things we eat and use, so you are probably using it without knowing. Most foods have a form of palm oil as it’s used as a preservative as well as an ingredient. Crisps, chocolate, biscuits, cleaning products, the list goes on and on! Honestly, go to your cupboards and look at ingredients. You will be shocked at what you see xxxx Thank you so much for reading. I think we all just need to share any knowledge as so many are unaware. Xxxx

      • November 28, 2018 / 4:05 pm

        Bloody hell…I’ve already found 2 products with it in. I do like my crisps though – are they in all crisps? x

        • kerrylifeandloves
          November 28, 2018 / 4:09 pm

          See, it’s frightening isn’t it! 72% of palm oil is actually used in the food industry. No, not all crisps are bad. You can google food brands that don’t use Palm oil. Waitrose come out as the most ethical supermarket when it comes to palm oil. Iceland food have vowed to have no palm oil what soever in their own brand products by the end of this year Honestly Lauretta, you will be shocked if you look into it!

          • November 28, 2018 / 4:12 pm

            Thanks Kerry – this puts a whole new meaning on ‘you learn something new every day’ – I honestly didn’t know any of this. Thank you! x

          • kerrylifeandloves
            November 28, 2018 / 8:20 pm

            Well you have made my day! Thats exactly what this series is about. Sharing the knowledge xxxx

  2. November 28, 2018 / 7:20 pm

    Kerry, this is so informative and helpful. So many products contain it – it’s quite overwhelming. Despite this making the national news I still come across people who haven’t heard of it – so will be sharing your post to increase awareness. If you would consider including a list of brands that do attempt to use sustainable palm oil that would be really helpful and appreciated (even though I note what you said about is anything really sustainable) I believe Boots is one such company? I’ve found finding information on this near impossible – I’ve been contacting brands I use directly to see if they do! Also there are a lot of brands claiming to be cruelty-free but if they use non-sustainable palm-oil is this claim really valid? Thanks again – excellent post Kerry! x

    • kerrylifeandloves
      November 28, 2018 / 8:28 pm

      Hi Alex, thank you so much for reading. You have hit the nail on the head as to why I started this series, its so confusing for people, and marketing is VERY clever! My goal is to publish a post, just with a list of Palm Oil free and Sustainable Palm oil, that we can update on a regular basis as we all learn. The research into companies that claim to be ethical is taking me forever! I totally agree with you about the cruelty free aspect if they are using non sustainable palm oil. How can they claim that! It really is a can of worms once you start looking isn’t it. I am so happy that you too are making changes. We can start with us cant we!

  3. November 28, 2018 / 8:52 pm

    This is so educational and makes it all so much easier to understand – love it! I’ve suddenly become so aware of how many products I currently use that contain palm oil, it’s crazy! Good on you for doing that research, we’re certainly reaping the rewards xx

    • kerrylifeandloves
      November 28, 2018 / 10:40 pm

      Thank you so much for reading lovely! Its hard because Im very passionate, but hate to come across preachy. The information available to consumers is so confusing isnt it. I am so glad that you found it useful, thats makes me so happy. We can all educate ourselves together! xxx

  4. November 29, 2018 / 10:31 am

    Great post, I totally agree with you on this post. I too have been looking into this and it is heart breaking. I am into my journey of been palm free and until there are more changes it will be so hard.

    • kerrylifeandloves
      November 29, 2018 / 11:05 am

      Natasha I’m so pleased that you agree that there must be changes. I truly believe knowledge is power so just making people aware can only help can’t it. I feel so passionate, so frustrated. I’m on a mission! Thank you for reading, just the people that have commented on this post about raised awareness is a start isn’t it.

  5. November 29, 2018 / 9:02 pm

    Thanks for writing this Kerry. I started cutting out Palm oil out of all our foodstuffs (not easy when you’re pesco-vegetarian and GF), but I have been lazy with beauty products. And must absolutely make more of an effort. And all those heartbreaking stories. Humans…. 😡

    • kerrylifeandloves
      November 29, 2018 / 9:36 pm

      Ohh well done you for making that change. Im the same as you, vegetarian and Im finding it quite overwhelming with the food! We ARE making changes though, so we have made a start. I cant bear the destruction we cause. Thank you so much for reading xxx

  6. Jean
    November 30, 2018 / 2:28 am

    Very interesting and informative post Kerry. I knew a little about palm oil nut must admit did not understand the extend it was used and in so many products. I am sure there are lots of people unaware of the extent of just how widely this oil is used, including me. So sad to read about how destructive the effect is having on wildlife and the rainforest. I wonder in years to come how man will look back and regret on such destruction and all through greed. Brilliant post Kerry, I feel more informed and in my small way I will try to be aware and make changes

    • kerrylifeandloves
      November 30, 2018 / 10:01 am

      Thank you so much for reading. I am so glad that you found it informative, that is exactly what I hoped for. It is so confusing how brands describe ingredients and things, it frustrates me! Im thrilled that you want to make changes, that is a great start! Makes me happy xx

  7. February 2, 2019 / 6:32 pm

    I have bookmarked this post. As you inform us later of palm oil free products, will you plan on creating an extra page where we can quickly access the information from one place?

    I did not know much about this until Iceland made it known and their feelings on the matter. I bought mince pies from them that had no Pam oil.

    You making it aware to us just how widely used, astonishes me in just how widely used it is. It’s sad the effects from it all and needs to stop.

    • kerrylifeandloves
      February 2, 2019 / 10:39 pm

      Hi Liz, yes totally that is my plan. I am compiling a list of companies as we speak. i am a thorough researcher though, so it is taking an age to get responses from some companies on their palm oil stance. I will be persistent though, I am passionate to make small contributions to change! I hope to get the page up this month (Feb) if possible xx Its so important to raise awareness I think. Thank you for caring xxx

      • February 3, 2019 / 9:19 am

        Thank you for researching. I can imagine this being painstaking, as I will imagine some will try and skip around the topic in question.

        • kerrylifeandloves
          February 4, 2019 / 7:45 pm

          It seems some brands want to confuse you with smoke and mirrors! I am not easily fooled lol x

          • February 4, 2019 / 9:06 pm

            I’m glad to hear you are not fooled. Yes, I agree some brands will try to confuse. I know I would be confused on this and I certainly don’t want to buy something that doesn’t treat the planet and the animals that live there with care.

  8. January 14, 2021 / 9:55 am

    oil-free and you are right about educating people – I don’t use palm oil myself but I’d now opt for the sustainable kind if I felt the need to. xx

    • January 14, 2021 / 1:53 pm

      That is so good to hear and I appreciate you reading. People are becoming more aware, so I feel hopeful we will make progress.

Please feel free to comment, I love reading them x

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