Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Black Friday: Breathe, Take a Break – the Planet Can't Handle It Anymore

People don’t usually think about the destruction of rainforests while washing their hands, applying lipstick, or doing laundry. But thanks to high demand for products containing palm oil, which is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree, consumers are inadvertently contributing to deforestation.

Companies in countries such as Indonesia burn or chop down forests to make way for palm oil plantations. The result is severe habitat loss for orangutans and other endangered creatures. Land loss to meet the high demand for palm oil also threatens indigenous tribes because of reduced hunting area. How ubiquitous is palm oil? Here are seven everyday items that contain it.

1. Hand soap.

The bubbles and lather produced when you wash your hands with a bar of soap make you feel like you’re getting clean, but the foaming effect is actually a result of palm oil. Palm oil produces sodium lauryl sulfate, which creates the mass of small bubbles often produced by soap.

2. Toothpaste.

Similar to the lather of soap, the foam produced when you brush your teeth with toothpaste is from the palm oil derivative sodium lauryl sulfate. As you brush, the friction causes the chemical’s molecules to rub up against and cleanse your teeth.

3. Cosmetics.

Palm oil acts as a natural emulsifier that prevents the separation of oil and water in moisturizers and cosmetic products such as foundation, lipstick, and mascara.

4. Laundry detergent.

Manufacturers use palm oil, commonly labeled as sodium sulfate, to create a uniform density in the detergent. Want to know if your detergent contains palm oil? Look for a label marked “palm oil free” to find out.

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