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What is Palm Oil and Why Do We Avoid it?

September 29, 2018 | Faye Lessler

Shea Brand is committed to using powerful, all natural ingredients, and nothing else. All of our ingredients are sourced with the utmost care from ethically run operations around the world. We never include parabens, phthalates, chemical stabilizers, manufactured synthetics, or palm oil. Shea Brand products are meant to nurture luxurious, healthy, and life-enhancing experiences, and our supply chain upholds those values as well.

Having an entirely ethical and sustainable supply chain requires a number of decisions that are not cut and dry, but the decision to omit palm oil from our ingredient list was an easy one. Palm oil is a ubiquitous ingredient used in many beauty, cleaning, and packaged food products. It’s a vegetable oil derived from the fruit from an oil palm (not to be confused with a coconut palm!) that makes for an excellent shelf-stabilizer in both edible and inedible products. In fact, up to 50% of the items in an average American grocery store include palm oil or some derivative of it, meaning that this ingredient is in ultra-high demand around the world.

Unfortunately, the global demand for palm oil is difficult to meet without disastrous environmental effects. The oil palm tree species can only grow within 10 degrees on either side of the equator, meaning that the areas where palm oil can be cultivated are limited — and also happen to be among the most dense tropical rainforest areas in the world. As demands for palm oil go up, tropical forests are cleared to make way for monoculture plantations. The clear cutting of these forests not only rids our planet of carbon consuming vegetation, it also displaces a number of sensitive animal species from their natural habitats.

Shea Brand has always held a deep reverence for the beauty and wonder of mother nature, which is why we always choose to source alternatives to palm oil in order to make our products perfect. Instead of using vitamin E derived from palm oil in our blends, we have found a supplier of vitamin E that comes from certified non-GMO soy harvested in Spain. Our Director of Operations, Marie Arlet, painstakingly researches each and every ingredient and its origin in order to ensure that there is no trace of palm oil – a feat that’s surprisingly hard to accomplish considering the prevalence of palm oil derived ingredients.

Since there are so many ingredients which are derived from palm oil, it can be tough to find responsible alternatives that offer the same type of performance at an affordable price. Nevertheless, we pride ourselves on being diligent and transparent around our sourcing, which is the exception rather than the rule in today’s beauty industry. Many brands will find palm oil in their products disguised as ingredients such as beta carotene, fatty acids, glycerin, lecithin and over 200 other unexpected monikers.

With palm oil hiding out in so many of our food, home, and beauty products (think dish soap, gummy bears, deodorant, frozen pizza dough…the list goes on) it can be disheartening to think that the industry may never lessen it’s reliance upon this environmentally-destructive ingredient. Its versatility has quickly helped palm oil to rise to the top of the world’s most traded commodities (just behind petroleum) and caused its price to fall drastically below that of similar oils such as soy in recent years. Despite this, we are committed to finding other, better ways to make our products work. Being transparent about our ingredients and sharing with you the hurdles we have overcome in order to achieve a cleaner, greener product is one way to begin turning the tide within the beauty industry.

We hope to set an example for other brands as well as give our customers the tools they need in order to make informed decisions on their own. While Shea Brand recognizes that perfection is nearly impossible when it comes to sustainability, we are dedicated to always doing our best and constantly improving wherever we can.

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