Palm oil is ubiquitous in beauty products. It helps keep skin smooth and hair shiny. It’s found in everything from lipsticks to sunscreens, soaps and hair conditioners. But some critics claim its benefits come at a big environmental expense. Not quite. Two respected beauty publications recently educated readers about why, instead of boycotting palm oil, they should actively support the use of sustainable palm oil

Glamour confronts the palm oil boycott idea
In an article titled, “Here’s why you shouldn’t boycott palm oil just yet,” Glamour magazine writer Lottie Winter cautions that sensationalist media picks up unfounded arguments. 

“This is perfectly exemplified in the case of palm oil,” she writes. “Multiple headlines spin it as the enemy and a threat to the planet and to sustainability that must be boycotted. Influencers and beauty brands have been quick to encourage their audiences to do the same. And yet there’s rarely a full consideration or investigation into the claims that are being churned out.”

While pointing out that palm oil production in some regions is causing deforestation, Winter quotes Sally Smith, head of sustainability at Upfield, the parent company of plant-based spread Flora, who says “palm oil …requires less land to produce, when compared with other oils and their sources.” To swap palm oil for another oil would require more land.  

Winter’s article goes on to explain that certified sustainable palm oil production is based on criteria that include principles on ethical and legal compliance as well as forest management and to halt and reverse land degradation. She makes the point that if consumer demand only sustainable palm oil, producers will be more likely to pursue and comply with sustainable practices. 

Stylist magazine investigated the palm oil free campaign, quotes Greenpeace solution
Writer Lucy Partington asked if ditching palm oil is a solution, in her article “Palm oil in beauty products: The sustainable guide to navigating this tricky ingredient.” 

“While boycotting palm oil altogether might seem like the simplest way forward, it’s not necessarily the best approach,” she writes. She points out that, “If palm oil was boycotted and sunflower oil used instead, farming would require five times more land. Ultimately, the issue is about sustainability.” She adds, “As more brands start to clean up their act, finding products with sustainably produced palm oil will no doubt become easier.”

The solution lies in consumers demanding that manufacturers use only sustainably produced palm oil in their products. She quotes Alison Kirkman of Greenpeace USA who said, ““People can put pressure on companies and governments to change. Individuals should be asking companies where they get their palm oil from and whether they can prove it has not contributed to deforestation.”

Concludes Partington, “We should all keep up with conversations around palm oil and push brands to do more, in the hope that one day we’ll find a realistic solution.”