Palm oil is used in a whole whack of our products today and it’s not limited to a certain product type or subcategory. You might think that this is primarily used for cooking or found in foods we consume but it’s also in our makeup, skincare, and in our hair care products.
Palm oil free shampoo brands are becoming more popular as people start to realize the damaging effects that palm oil has on the environment.
Why does shampoo contain palm oil?
Palm oil is used in shampoo to condition the hair and help restore the natural oils in your hair that are stripped away by various chemicals found in shampoo.
Palm oil is used because it's cheap, versatile, and can extend the shelf life of shampoo and other products, and since it can be in liquid or solid form you can easily incorporate it with everything.
Why is palm oil bad?
The main problem with palm oil is it's a major driver of deforestation of the world’s most biodiverse forests. 5% of tropical deforestation is caused by palm oil harvesting and it contributes to 2.3% of global deforestation.
66 million tons of palm oil are produced every year making it the most produced vegetable oil in the world, you won’t just find this product in your haircare or cosmetics, it’s also in a wide variety of the food we eat, household cleaners, candles, detergent, soap, and it’s also in biofuel.
What people don’t understand about deforestation is that it’s not just the plants and trees that get eliminated but also species that are already endangered like the orangutan, Borneo elephants, and Sumatran tiger that get closer and closer to extinction.
The indigenous people who have lived on this land and protected it are also run out of their land by the people trying to harvest palm oil. There have been more than 700 land conflicts related to the palm oil industry.
Since palm oil is not bad for you or toxic, it’s practically impossible to eliminate it from our world, especially because multi-million-dollar corporations are not going to stop using a product that is so versatile and cheap.
Here’s how we can change the effects of palm oil though, the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) is dedicated to sustainable palm oil and the use of sustainable palm oil products through standards and stakeholders.
Thanks to the RSPO, 19% of palm oil globally is certified. To be certified by RSPO as a sustainable palm oil company a strict set of guidelines needs to be followed such as no primary forests which contain significant biodiversity, the fair treatment of workers according to labor laws, and reduced use of pesticides.
We should mention that there are criticisms of sustainable palm oil too. RSPO was called out back in 2019 by Greenpeace noting that the organization was not auditing companies they are working with to make sure they are living up to the required standards.
They are also very slow to act on penalties and there have been cases where a company that has been accused of violating rules simply withdraws from the program without any repercussions at all. As you can tell, with most sustainable initiatives, it's never as simple as it seems.
How do I shop for palm oil free shampoo?
Palm oil is a tricky one because the name is often changed and there are a lot of different names for it. Other than seeing palm oil on the label, look for PKO, FP(k)O, OPKO, Palmitate, Sodium Laureth Sulphate, Glyceryl Stearate, and Stearic Acid.
Here at The Eco Hub, we follow certain criteria when it comes to the brands we feature, this is what we take into account, it's not perfect, but it's a good start.
1. Is it local?
Carbon emissions are largely attributed to the products we buy due to the miles our products travel to us. A good practice for reducing carbon emissions is to buy local.
2. Is it made from natural ingredients?
When it comes to the products you use it’s incredibly important that they are made from natural ingredients. If you look at the back of a shampoo bottle it is full of chemicals and toxic ingredients, this is why ensuring that everything is natural is best! If you are not sure that the ingredients are natural check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and search the database for your product.
3. Is it certified organic?
With greenwashing on the rise many companies use the term “organic” but actually have no organic ingredients. This is a tactic to confuse consumers into buying products they think are good for them when really they are no different from any other products.
Be sure to look for a certified organic label and be sure to look at the ingredients on the back as product labeling has become relaxed.
4. Is it vegan?
Having the vegan label means that the company does not test on animals, sell products in countries where animal testing is required by law, or is owned by a parent company that uses animal testing. Make sure to look for the Leaping Bunny icon!
5. Are the ingredients sustainably sourced?
What you want to do here is ask some questions to yourself like: is this a Fair Trade company? Are the workers being exploited? Are the products climate-friendly? If the answer to this question is “yes” when you are doing your research then you can feel good about it being a sustainably sourced product.
6. Does the company use environmentally conscious packaging?
Shampoo traditionally comes in plastic bottles and has plastic pumps on them (if you buy the big bottles). Most people don’t think to recycle these bottles and if they do, they are not rinsed out properly and ready for the recycling bin. Be on the lookout for companies that offer their own Take Back or Recycling programs, and have compostable or plastic-free packaging.
7. Is it inclusive?
Inclusivity is incredibly important for brands nowadays, and when it comes to shampoo this is no different. The biggest thing is cost, can people afford the shampoo? Is it budget-friendly for everyone or only for certain groups?
Another big thing is what kind of hair does the consumer have? Tightly coiled curls need different products and ingredients than slick hair, you want to make sure that the brand caters to everyone.
Our Top Recommendations for palm oil free shampoo
Good for: toning hair, hair growth, smooth hair, moisture/volume, dry + flakey sensitive scalps
Standout ingredients: Vitamin B5, broccoli seed oil, fermented bamboo, and essential oils
The Eco Alchemist is the first company in Canada to be certified palm oil free. As the brand notes "being a palm-free brand isn't easy and greatly increases our production costs, but we feel it is a very important stance to take." We applaud this so much. 👏
All of the profits of their certification go to help animals displaced or harmed by deforestation and they adopt an orangutan every month to help with rehabilitation.
The shampoo bars are the perfect way to indulge in the pause button and give your hair a little extra TLC. They have six different bars to choose from each working for a variety of concerns and hair types.
Don’t worry colored blondes, they even have a purple bar to keep your locks toned! Get your hands on the best palm oil free shampoo here!
What we love about these haircare products is they are pH balanced for optimal hair and scalp health and every bar contains plant-based proteins, hair-loving oils, vitamins, and shine enhancers, for example.
Smooth Operator features quinoa protein, vitamin B5, orange fruit extract, and smoothing pequi fruit oil. The scent is vanilla and orange - sweet and energizing. Each bar is tailored to fit specific hair & scalp needs like the Problem Solver, which is great for dry, flaky, or oily scalps. And they smell scrumptious!
Female-founded by Holistic Nutritionist and Cosmetic Formulator Terri Kirkham who has been making personal care products for nearly a decade, the range includes shampoo bars and face and body care too.
All of their products are effective yet affordable but, we really love their shampoo bars which have an all-star ingredient lineup including Vitamin B5, hydrolyzed rice protein, coconut milk, and Broccoli seed oil.
Their winning formulations are free from sulfates, silicones, and artificial fragrances. All of their products are created in small batches to ensure quality, and their packaging is also 98% plastic free!
Good For: Sensitive scalps, frizz, oil, volume, dry hair, toned hair, curly, and kids hair
Standout ingredients: coconut oil and butter
Price: $14.99 and up
“Conscious beauty without compromise” is Ethique's statement to its customers and that is exactly what you will get with them!
When it comes to taking care of your hair you can choose from twelve different shampoo bars that are free from palm oil, each one is formulated for different hair types and concerns. If you have an itchy scalp we recommend taking a look at the Heali Kiwi, it's here to help!
This top-seeling bar is made up of a powerful blend of neem and karanja oils which are used and loved widely in Ayurvedic medicine.
Combined with soothing oatmeal to calm touchy scalps, Heali Kiwi "gently and effectively helps to wash your scalp woes away as fairly traded cocoa butter and coconut oil nourish hair for softness and shine."
Ethique was created from the frustrations around the lack of sustainability in the cosmetics industry, Brianne (the founder of the brand) has always been passionate about the environment and even obtained her Bachelor's in Science.
Brianne combined her love for both science and the environment and created Ethique, which is also climate positive, they offset 120% of their carbon emissions and their packaging is compostable. All the ingredients are naturally derived and made from creamed coconut and other various ingredients.
Good for: Volume and scalp care
Standout ingredients: Rhassoul clay, coconut, and Elderberry extract
Fat and The Moon makes hair products that quickly hydrate and add value thanks to the results-driven ingredients!
Free from sulfates, phthalates, and parabens, and of course palm oil free. Fat and The Moon is women-owned and they only use organic ingredients. Their shampoo bars are equivalent to 16oz of liquid soap and packaged in a paperboard box with paper wrap.
They also have a dry shampoo without palm oil. The impressive ingredients cocoa powder and lavender with starch and clay work in harmony to absorb oils and add body before your next hair wash. It's aluminum-free, toxin-free, and can be used on all hair colors.
The Gentle Rhassoul Clay Shampoo Bar is specially formulated to help people who have sensitive scalps and need a little extra TLC. It's infused with rosemary which will help to reinvigorate your scalp. This handmade shampoo bar from Fat and The Moon will give you deep clean and give you silky smooth locks.
This company thrives on self-care that goes beyond the conventional understanding of that term, they believe in social and ecosystemic harmony. Fat and The Moon has set out to provide the industry standard for high-quality, consciously handmade, and herbal body care products.
Rachel the founder has built the company to continue the legacy of herbalists and natural healers, “like a witch over a cauldron” she has crafted some beautifully made products like organic lipstick you will covet, eco-friendly makeup, the best natural eye-liner, and affordable organic makeup too!
4. Eco Roots
Good for: Leaving your hair nourished and soft
Standout ingredients: Coconut oil, lemon peel, and Moroccan oil
Eco Roots has it all, shampoo bars and palm oil free conditioner. These zero-waste bars are handmade and will leave your hair nourished without weighing it down or feeling stripped. All the products are color-safe, vegan and cruelty-free, and silicone, phthalate, and paraben free, making these products natural for you.
And, no matter what tantalizing scent you might be looking for they've got it. We are drooling over the Forest Mint, CocoLime, Lavender, and Summer Breeze, I mean with names like those, what's not to love?
Each bar is lovingly handmade with a base of coconut oil and cocoa butter that will leave your hair feeling soft, clean, and nourished without stripping away your natural oils or color.
Eco Roots is a small business that has built its products around the feedback that its consumers have provided, they constantly improve their products based on this. Looking for other zero-waste bathroom essentials from EcoRoots? Take a look at thier zero-waste razors, zero-waste floss, plastic-free loofah's, and deodorants!
They are women-owned and have provided a commitment to no animal testing and low waste practices, they also donate a portion of every sale back to the environment.
Good for: Hydration, clarifying and scalp balance, and sensitive hair types
Standout ingredients: Organic aloe barbadensis leaf juice, vitamin E complex
Founded by two sisters, Plaine Products is an all-American company that's main mission is to have less plastic in the world. We are totally on board with that!
Unlike other items on our list, this shampoo without palm oil comes in aluminum bottles that you can return to be refilled with your favorite Plaine shampoo or conditioner! It's so simple. You can also subscribe and save some cash at the same time.
The shampoo is great for all hair types, for hydration use the lavender, for clarifying try the rosemary mint, and for sensitive skin go for the unscented. The shampoo is non-GMO, vegan, cruelty-free, and safe for color.
Don't let the Aloe base fool you, there is lots of lather, a little goes a long way and you can rejoice in the fact that it's free from harmful chemicals like sulfates and silicones!
They pride themselves on progress, not perfection, inclusivity, and sustainability. You can grab Plaine Products shampoo in three kinds, all varying with scents or unscented. We also LOVE thier natural and organic body wash!
6. Good Juju
Good for: Balancing the pH in your hair, color-treated hair, and all hair types
Standout ingredients: Organic snow mushroom, turkey tail mushroom, broccoli seed oil, and sacha inchi oil
These bars are handcrafted in Canada by two friends who wanted to make a difference, they are part of 1% for the planet and ensure all their products are formulated with pure, clean, and organic ingredients. Sans all the nasties!
Thier hair care collection is also pH balanced, safe for color-treated hair, and safe for hair of all ethnicities. You have the choice of choosing bars that are formulated for normal/balanced hair, dry/curly hair, oily/fine hair, and even scalp care.
Each bar is infused with delicious essential oils like lemongrass, sage, and bergamot so your hair will not only feel fresh but smell fresh too!
Good for: A variety of hair types and concerns, colored hair, and budgets
Standout ingredients: Lemongrass extract, acai fruit extract, and fruit oil
Acure carries some awesome shampoo products along with other palm oil-free hair products like conditioner and dry shampoo.
There are eleven different hair concerns to choose from like buildup balancing, smoothing shampoo, and curl shampoo, we love a shop with variety! This brand believes in the power of purity to uplift how you feel and its mission is to make you feel amazing in your skin.
Acure is 100% vegan, and you can recycle all their products, they are also the most affordable brand on this list at just under $10 a bottle.
A final thought on palm oil free shampoo
When purchasing a palm oil free shampoo make sure that it isn’t still hidden in the ingredients under another name and that the company is using sustainable and natural products in their shampoo.
Some shampoo’s on our list are bars but don’t be afraid of that! Shampoo bars are really wonderful, they are easy to pack and don’t take up room and they also contain just as much product as shampoo that comes in the bottles.
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