The issue of palm oil has been a challenging one for us ever since we had the idea for Beauty Kubes back in 2017.
The main goal was to eliminate the need for plastic packaging while having as little negative impact on the environment as possible.
We wanted to achieve that, while ticking as many boxes in terms of creating a high-performing product that was free from harsh chemicals and ingredients that can cause irritation to the scalp and build-up on the hair such as SLS and silicones.
Secondary to that, the ingredients had to be from purely plant sources, so no animal derivatives and no ingredients tested on animals.
Then we came to Palm oil. Palm oil itself is not a terrible product. It is in fact an amazing natural substance, with some unique properties that make it ideal for creating wonderful lathers in soaps, detergents, shampoos, making lipsticks, and emulsifiers (the ingredients that make it possible for oil and water to bind together).
The problem is not palm oil itself, but how palm oil is grown and farmed – leading to deforestation of precious rainforest across parts of Asia, Africa and South America. This is due to the high demand for this cheap and relatively fast-growing crop. This high demand has lead to its overuse in the food industry; in fact 90 % of the world’s palm oil is used in food (Source The Eden Project) with other industries using large volumes, such as bio-fuel and cosmetics industries.
Whilst formulating the product, palm oil was certainly a no-no. But what about palm oil derivatives? Palm oil is used in hundreds of cosmetic ingredients. This is where the real challenge lay. We originally set out to try and create a palm-free product, but after months of research realised that as such a small company with limited buying power, we are limited to purchasing the surfactants that are on the market and available in relatively small quantities. The next best thing was therefore to create a range of products that contain the absolute minimum of palm oil derivatives that we could achieve.
The primary surfactant that we use in the products is Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate. The manufacturer of this ingredient has confirmed that this ingredient is totally free from palm oil derivatives. To create a shampoo that is high performing, we need to use a secondary surfactant. This had to be in a solid format, gentle and biodegradable. We use Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate which is partially derived from palm oil. We are currently working with our supplier to ascertain exactly what percentage of this ingredient is derived from palm oil. Other ingredients that can be derived from palm oil that are used in Beauty Kubes are; Cocamidopropyl Betaine and Disodium cocoamphodiacetate.
We often get asked what our policy on palm oil is. Do we believe in an outright ban? No, we share the opinion of The Eden Project and Greenpeace, that an outright ban is not the answer. This would just shift the problem onto another natural resource and cause a different environmental crisis.
There is no easy answer to the problem but we certainly need to drastically reduce the amount of palm oil that we use and find alternatives where possible. For instance, in the food industry, it is unnecessary to use palm oil; there are hundreds of alternative oils that can be used. The reason that it is used so much is because it is so cheap. Manufacturers need to source alternatives to help reduce the overuse of palm oil and therefore the over-farming and deforestation that is occurring due to the growing demand for palm oil.
Cosmetic companies can look to find alternatives to palm oil derived products. It isn’t easy as there are not a lot of alternatives available. We will continue to search for a suitable secondary surfactant that is free from palm oil derivatives. As we grow our company and we find ourselves in a position to buy larger volumes, we may be able to source completely palm oil free surfactants.
We can also put pressure on cosmetic ingredient manufacturers to create more palm oil free materials for cosmetic formulators to use. As it stands, there is not a huge choice out there!
In the meantime, we will endeavour to be as open as we can about the palm oil derivatives in our products and will indicate the percentage of palm oil derivatives in each product.
For example, the total palm oil derivatives in our Beauty Kubes Shampoo for normal / dry hair = 13% of the ingredients can be derived from palm oil. (We are working with our suppliers to ascertain the exact percentage of palm oil derivatives within this 13% They do not currently specify this.)
However, in the Unisex Beauty Kubes, only 6% of the ingredients are potentially derived from Palm oil.
We will continue to search for palm-free alternatives wherever we can and will continue on our journey to be as sustainable as we can.