The cultivation of palm oil is contributing to the destruction of rainforests and animal habitats, particularly in South-East Asia.
Forests are being cut down to make way for palm plantations in countries such as Indonesia, endangering orangutans and other native species.
Many, many products contain palm oil (about half of the products in the supermarket). This means there’s a lot of demand for it, so more and more palm oil is being harvested at the expense of wildlife and the rainforests.
Iceland’s banned 2018 Christmas advert (see below) helped to raise awareness of the damage palm oil production is doing to wildlife and the environment.
It’s quite an eye-opening animation which shows one of the effects palm oil production is having on rainforests and animals living in them.
A great place to start in the removal of palm oil from your everyday consumption is in your shampoo.
Lots of shampoos use palm oil, so it’s worth taking a look at your shampoo of choice’s ingredients list before you go and purchase it again.
How to Tell if Shampoo Contains Palm Oil
Palm oil is one of those ingredients which comes under many aliases. Often, there will be the word ‘palm’ hidden somewhere in the ingredients list, but there are some instances where you probably wouldn’t notice it by just scan reading your bottle.
Below is a pretty extensive list of ingredients that can contain or come from palm oil:
- Vegetable Oil*
- Vegetable Fat*
- Palm Kernel
- 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
- Hyrated Palm Glycerides
- Etyl Palmitate
- Octyl Palmitate
- Palmityl Alcohol
*Vegetable oil and vegetable fat can refer to many different types of oil, not just palm oil.
Out of these ingredients, one of the most common is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which can be made from coconut or palm oil.
SLS can irritate the scalp, so avoiding it could be good for your scalp health as well as the planet (see some SLS-free shampoos here).
Palm Oil Free Shampoos in the UK
It can be hard to find a palm oil free shampoo. Shampoos usually contain palm oil derived ingredients, and there isn’t a common palm oil free logo to look out for.
We’ve researched the market and picked out some of the best products that don’t contain palm oil.
1. Living Naturally Coconutty Soapnut Shampoo Bar
This shampoo bar from Living Naturally is just that – natural and solid.
This shampoo can actually be used for your face, hands and body as well as your hair, so it’s a pretty good choice if you like to keep things simple when it comes to shower or bath time.
Coconut milk is one of the key ingredients in this soap, adding to the overall scent and helping to cleanse the skin, removing dirt and sebum and also moisturise your hair and body.
Avocado oil will help to repair brittle hair (perfect in the winter) and condition it from root to tip.
The vitamins, fats and amino acids in this shampoo bar could reduce dryness of a flaky scalp and will help to promote healthy cell growth.
Living Naturally are a UK company whose products are handmade, organic and cruelty free.
They are best known for selling soapnuts, which are a natural and environmentally friendly laundry detergent.
- SLS and paraben-free
- Multi-use – can wash entire body
- Suited to many hair and skin types
- A little on the pricey side
- Solid bar might not suit all
- Could leave a mild residue on hair if not rinsed thoroughly
- Scent may not suit all
2. Friendly Soap Natural Shampoo Bar
Here’s another shampoo in bar form, this time from Friendly Soap.
Scented with lavender and geranium, you’re bound to have a pleasant experience when washing your hair with this shampoo – an experience that will last you the same amount of time as 3 conventional shampoo bottles!
The blend of essential oils in this shampoo bar have natural stress relieving properties too, so get ready to feel relaxed.
Blended with castor oil, coconut oil and olive oil to create a smoothing, nourishing treat for your hair.
Not only will this bar cleanse your luscious locks, it will also help to condition them, meaning you might be able to drop the additional time (and money) spent on applying conditioner to your hair after washing.
One great thing about this soap is that it’s not just palm oil free, it’s also 100% plastic free and zero waste. Friendly Soap are a British company that believe in “ethics before profits”.
All of their products are palm oil, plastic and cruelty free, as well as being free from SLS and parabens.
- Good value for money
- Paraben and SLS-free
- Pleasant, calming scent
- Solid format may not suit everyone
- Might not suit all hair types
- May take longer to rinse product out
3. Ecozone Organic Baby Shampoo
It’s not just your shampoo which might contain palm oil, your little bundle of joy could be getting their hair washed with a shampoo containing palm oil.
But here’s a baby shampoo from Ecozone which has none of this habitat-ravaging ingredient whatsoever.
It also contains no parabens or other chemical nasties such as SLS or silicone.
Enriched with vitamin B5, this baby shampoo is great for inspiring healthy hair growth and the lack of harsh chemical ingredients means this is safe to use on delicate baby bonces – without stripping natural oils from the scalp.
While it’s formulated for babies, there’s no reason why adults can’t also use this shampoo.
- SLS and paraben-free
- Gentle to delicate skin – Dermatologically tested
- Quite expensive
- Comes in a plastic bottle (although it is recyclable)
Which Shampoos Contain Palm Oil?
Almost all shampoos on the market at the time of writing contain ingredients derived from palm oil.
This includes the most popular shampoo brands in the UK:
- Head & Shoulders
- Herbal Essences
However, it’s worth noting that most of these companies are working towards increasing sustainability.
Should You Go Palm Oil Free?
Unfortunately, saving the world’s orangutans isn’t as simple as just switching to palm oil free products.
Palm oil has higher yields than alternatives such as coconut oil, so it’s a more efficient use of land. If all palm oil was switched for coconut oil, this could result in even more land being cleared for farming.
The best option might actually be to support companies that use truly sustainable palm oil, or try to reduce your overall use of shampoo and other personal care products.
Shampoos that Use ‘Sustainable’ Palm Oil
The concept of “sustainable palm oil” is quite controversial.
The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil’s criteria for environmental protection has been accused of being vague and easy to get around for palm oil companies.
Only supporting shampoo brands with the highest sustainability standards will put pressure on the industry as a whole to make their practices more sustainable.
While current sustainable palm oil certification may not be perfect, lots of brands are commited to making sure their palm oil is sourced in as sustainable way as possible.
These brands include the following:
- Burt’s Bees – “Our goal by 2020 is to obtain all our palm-oil-derived ingredients from sources that protect peatlands, respect human rights and do not contribute to deforestation” – See here
- Faith in Nature – “ingredients we use which do contain a percentage of palm oil are all sourced from suppliers who are signed up to the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil” – See here
- Green People – “the palm oil used in Green People products is from certified organic sources in countries that do not have native orang-utans such as the Philippines and Ecuador.” – See here
While palm oil free shampoo can be hard to find, there are a few options for going palm oil free when washing your tresses and now you know what to keep your eyes peeled for when looking through product ingredient lists.
It will be great when more brands get onto removing palm oil from their products.
Until then, solid shampoo such as this Friendly Soap Shampoo Bar could be a great option for you and your family, as not only are they often palm oil free, but they also tend to be plastic free and will last you a fair amount of time compared to a standard bottled product.
Solid shampoos are also brilliant for people who travel a lot, since they are super compact and easy to fit into your luggage.
If none of the palm oil free shampoos listed here appeal to you, Ethical Superstore have a larger selection here.