Palm oil has long been the world’s most popular vegetable oil: this cheap, versatile oil is found in everything from snacks and spreads to shampoo and even biofuel. However, this ingredient is incredibly bad for people and the planet: it’s, not to mention, it’s bad for your health!
Our 15 favorite palm oil free products
Thankfully, thanks to the growing awareness of the issues associated with palm oil production, there are now plenty of palm oil free products of virtually every kind. Here are our favorite palm oil free soaps, moisturizers, spreads, laundry detergent, and more!
This palm oil free soap from Simplici is made from all-natural ingredients, including lemongrass essential oil for an invigorating scent, and calendula flower petals for its moisturizing properties. This refreshing citrus smell will wake you up in the morning or give you an extra boost after a long day.
Another key ingredient is coconut oil which helps the soap to lather without needing harmful chemical lathering agents found in many mainstream soaps. The coconut oil also helps to harden the bar, helping it to last longer, so it won’t disintegrate in your shower.
The soaps are handmade in the USA and come in zero-waste packaging.
This hand and body lotion’s key ingredient is Dead Sea salt from The Land of Israel, which is believed to have anti-aging properties, restoring the skin’s moisture and flexibility. It also boasts other beneficial natural ingredients, including shea butter, avocado oil, calendula, patchouli, and vitamins A and E for intense moisturizing without being greasy.
A unisex product designed for both men and women, it contains no artificial fragrances, only the gentle, calming aroma from its natural ingredients. You can use it to keep your hands soft and supple, apply anywhere on your body after a shower, or as an after-sun treatment.
Hello Oral Care toothpaste uses only natural ingredients, such as farm-grown mint, coconut oil, tea tree oil, Aloe Vera, and Stevia Rebaudiana Leaf Extract, to keep your teeth white and your breath fresh. Unlike most kinds of toothpaste, it contains absolutely no palm oil, no artificial flavors, dyes, or gluten.
This vegan and cruelty-free product will help to strengthen your tooth enamel, detoxify your gums, and prevent cavities thanks to its key ingredient, activated charcoal. The kit also contains a plastic-free activated charcoal and sustainable bamboo brush to further boost your oral health and whiten your teeth.
For more eco-friendly toothpaste options, check out our guide to the best zero waste toothpaste products.
If you want to take care of your entire beauty routine with all-natural ingredients, this popular bundle from Upcircle could be for you! It includes a face serum, face moisturizer, eye cream, cleansing balm, coffee face scrub, and eye cream.
All of the products are entirely vegan and free from palm oil, parabens, phthalates, silicones, mineral oil, or artificial fragrances. The brand also aims to reduce waste by using 100% recyclable packaging and including at least one repurposed ingredient in every product.
These laundry powder pods from Stoneworks are made from naturally-derived, non-toxic ingredients, including patchouli, geranium, clove, and peppermint essential oils. The pods are formulated to deeply clean your laundry, eliminate odors, remove stains, and soften your garments.
The product is certified US EPA Safer Choice, meaning it contains ingredients that are safer for human health and better for the environment. It’s completely free of phthalates, solvents, ammonia, phosphates, fillers, optical brighteners, masking agents, or dyes.
This oil-free skin serum will keep your skin soft and supple without making it greasy or causing breakouts. The water-based, lightweight, and non-greasy moisturizer is suitable for all skin types, from dry to oily.
The product contains no palm oil, but instead boasts a range of natural ingredients, including honey and sea kelp extract, which help to condition the skin and keep it hydrated. Additionally, watermelon, apple, and lentil fruit extracts promote uniform hydration, while sodium hyaluronate binds water molecules to the skin.
The product also contains potent antioxidants, vitamin E and pomegranate extract, as well as palmitoyl tripeptide-5 to reduce the visible signs of wrinkles.
While most peanut butters you’ll find on supermarket shelves contain palm oil, this one from Whole Earth has no palm oil, sugar or salt additives and only contains natural, vegan ingredients. It’s made of a blend of roasted organic peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and naturally-occurring sugars, so is a good source of proteins and fiber.
It’s perfect for making a healthy PBJ, or adding to your smoothies and milkshakes. It will give your snacks and drinks a natural, sweet flavor thanks to no added sugars, sweeteners, or artificial flavors.
Another excellent choice for an all-natural peanut butter is Crazy Richard’s crunchy peanut butter. This product doesn’t contain any palm oil, as it’s only made from one ingredient: peanuts!
This also means it has no added sugar or salt, fillers or stabilizers. Keep in mind that due to the pure nature of this product, the oil can separate out, but all you need to do is stir the peanut butter and it’s ready to enjoy!
Scottish Fine Soaps makes a wide range of sustainable soaps and bath products. This set contains a hand wash and moisturizing hand lotion, both packed with the natural power of sea kelp to clean and hydrate your hands.
Both products have a refreshing, natural scent reminiscent of the sea. The bottles are made from 100% recycled and recyclable plastic, and the set also comes with a zero-waste ceramic caddy to keep your bathroom tidy.
This chocolate spread from TipTree is made from real Belgian Chocolate and is nut-free, palm oil free, and certified kosher. It’s perfect for nut allergies (though it contains milk and soya) and is entirely vegetarian.
Made by Wilkins & Sons in Essex, England, this intensely-dark spread will take your waffles, pancakes, smoothies, and ice cream sundaes to the next level!
This vegetable glycerin is ideal if you want to make your own palm oil free soaps, bubble baths, or foods. USA-based brand Pure Organic Ingredients make it to food and pharmaceutical grade standards.
The glycerin is made from various vegetables depending on seasonal availability and is colorless, odorless, chemical-free, and kosher-certified. Vegetable glycerin is ideal as a carrier oil, a filler, and helps oil and water-based ingredients to mix. It also has natural moisturizing properties.
This means you can use it to make a wide range of all-natural products in your own home, including cooking oil, snacks, moisturizer, shampoo, toothpaste, and candy.
These Larabar bars don’t contain any palm oil or GMO ingredients and are entirely vegan. In fact, they’re made from just five natural ingredients: dates, unsweetened coconut, almonds, cashews, and extra virgin coconut oil, which gives them their coconut cream flavor.
High in protein and nutrients, they’re an ideal, energy-boosting snack for when you’re hiking or on the go. The bars are also gluten, soy, and dairy-free, so they are perfect for people with allergies!
Keep your lips moist and protected from the elements the natural way with the beeswax lip balm from Burt’s Bees. This is the famous brand’s original product, first launched in 1991 and continues to be popular today.
Along with the key ingredient, beeswax to condition the skin, the lip balm has antioxidant-rich vitamin E to moisturize and peppermint oil for a refreshing touch. The balm is available in the classic plastic tube (which the brand will recycle for you if you can’t recycle curbside) or a reusable tin.
These crackers have a simple, natural ingredient list: flour made from almonds, sunflower seeds and flax seeds, tapioca, cassava, organic sunflower oil, sea salt, organic onion, organic garlic, and rosemary extract.
They’re ideal for healthy snacks, lunchboxes, or taking with you whenever you need a quick energy boost. It’s also available in bulk: you can buy a pack of six boxes for a discounted rate, so if you love these crackers, why not stock up?
If you’re looking for an intense, deep moisturizing product, this facial moisturizer from Palmer’s is for you! Infused with coconut water, hyaluronic acid, and papaya enzymes, it provides up to 24 hours of dewy, radiant skin.
The brand only uses sustainably-sourced shea butter, cocoa butter, and coconut oil – all of their products are palm oil free. This product has also been dermatologist tested to ensure that it’s hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic.
What is palm oil?
Palm oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the fruits of oil palm trees. Although most commercial palm oil trees are today grown in Southeast Asia, they’re not native to that part of the world: the African species was introduced more than a century ago as an ornamental tree.
Oil can be produced by either crushing the kernel of the palm fruit or from the reddish pulp of the fruit’s flesh.
The commercial value of palm oil became apparent during the 20th century, and the region started to plant large plantations of palm-oil-producing trees, cutting down native rainforests to do so. Malaysia and Indonesia produce around 85% of the world’s palm oil.
Palm oil is both cheap and highly versatile, with a range of different properties that make it ideal for foodstuffs, cosmetics, and personal care products. Therefore, it’s not surprising that it rapidly became the world’s most popular vegetable oil, and the industry is now worth over $90 billion and growing.
Even with growing awareness of the problems associated with palm oil production, you’ll still find the oil is in around half of the packaged products on supermarket shelves. It is a common ingredient found in foodstuffs such as long-life snacks, shampoo, deodorant, detergents, and animal feeds.
It is also used as a biofuel worldwide, although Europe aims to phase palm oil out of biofuels by 2030.
Why should you avoid palm oil?
Palm oil may be cheap, but it comes at a cost. Animals, people, and the environment more generally all suffer in order to produce palm oil, from growing the palm oil tree to extracting its oil.
Here are some of the main reasons why palm oil production is devastating for people and the planet.
It causes deforestation
As the demand for this cheap, versatile oil continues to rise, countries like Malaysia and Indonesia clear more native forests in order to plant more palm oil trees. According to the Say No to Palm Oil campaign, “every hour an area the size of 300 football fields” is cleared by the palm oil industry in these two countries alone.
Most of this land contains ancient rainforests that have existed for thousands of years, featuring giant trees and rich levels of biodiversity, being home to a wide range of plant and animal species.
Although this involves planting new trees, it’s not nearly the same thing. Replacing biologically-diverse old growth forests with monocultures like palm oil plantations destroys the habitats for a large number of plants and animals, contributes to climate change (more on this below), and can cause soil erosion as well as air and water pollution.
It’s putting species at risk of extinction
As great swathes of rainforest are cut down to make room for palm oil tree plantations, this destroys the habitats of countless animals. In Malaysia and Indonesia, this mainly affects the orangutan, an endangered species under threat of extinction, largely because the palm oil industry is destroying their natural habitats.
According to the non-profit the Orangutan Conservancy, over the last 20 years, orangutans have lost more than 80 percent of their natural habitat. Not just orangutans but a large number of birds and animals are under threat because of palm oil, including Sumatran rhinos and tigers.
It contributes to climate change
Old-growth forests like Southeast Asia’s ancient rainforests are highly-efficient carbon sinks capable of absorbing large amounts of CO2. Although they’re made up of trees, palm oil plantations simply don’t compare when it comes to absorbing greenhouse gases and mitigating climate change.
Cutting down rainforests and planting palm oil trees contributes to global warming, driving extreme weather, which could make distant parts of the globe uninhabitable and putting many more species at risk of extinction all over the world.
It can cause child exploitation and other human rights abuses
Unfortunately, the palm oil industry is largely unregulated and human rights organizations report that it rife with unfair labor practices, child labor, and other human rights abuses. The industry drives the demand for human traffickers, who illegally bring people, many underage, to work on the palm oil plantations for low or non-existent wages under terrible working conditions.
It’s bad for you, too
Palm oil not only has a range of terrible impacts on the environment and the people involved in its production, but it’s also bad for your health. Palm oil may be a vegetable oil, but it’s high in saturated fats, and there’s scientific evidence that it’s bad for your health.
In one study, participants ate a diet rich in palm oil for five weeks. The study found an increase in LDL cholesterol levels, the type of cholesterol that’s been linked to cardiovascular diseases, among the participants.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also recommends consumers avoid palm oil because when processed at high levels it can contain carcinogenic substances.
Fight palm oil with your wallet
The palm oil industry has a range of devastating impacts on the environment, causing deforestation, contributing to climate change, and driving animals to the point of extinction. Furthermore, the palm oil industry has been linked to child exploitation and human trafficking, not to mention that eating palm oil is actually pretty bad for your health.
Thankfully, we as consumers have the power to drive change in this area. By looking more closely at the items we buy and choosing palm-oil free products, we do our part to reduce the demand for palm oil and help stop this devastation from continuing.
This also sends a message to brands that sustainability matters, and encourages them to use more ethical and eco-friendly ingredients in their products.