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Palm Oil and Orangutans

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

Palm oil is a common ingredient in many soaps, both artisan and commercial. It helps make a harder bar and create lather. Is this ingredient problematic? Let's explore further.

Generally, palm oil is not harmful to you to wash with. People with acne prone skin might break out from soaps that use palm oil in amounts greater than what is actually converted to soap. This is called "superfatting", and is done to make the soap less drying to skin. If you have acne prone skin, you may wish to avoid using soaps made with palm oil, coconut oil, or olive oil. Less comedogenic oils (less likely to clog your pores and cause acne) are grapeseed oil and mango butter. If placing a custom order from Milky Way Ranch, minimum 5 bars of soap, you may request your choice of oils.

Back to our discussion about palm oil. Why is it even a topic? There is one big reason, a big, hairy, orange reason - Orangutans. The great apes with their iconic orange hair, live only in the rain forests of two south Asian islands, Borneo and Sumatra. The rainforests they call home have been rapidly shrinking, in no small part due to the palm oil industry,

I occasionally use palm oil at home as an organic, cholesterol free shortening in pie crust or biscuits. Once in a blue moon, since I do not eat those foods often. I chose a brand called Spectrum that says it is rainforest alliance certified, and came from the South American country of Colombia, not a country or even a continent that wild orangutans call home. I have also used this brand of palm oil in some of my soap batches, all of which are labeled to include the oils used and allow customers to make informed choices about what to put on their skin.

A friend I gifted a bar of soap to recently asked about the palm oil I used and was concerned about sustainability. My friend was relieved to know that I selected oils that state they are fair trade and sustainably harvested.

And about Orangutans and palm oil here:

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