Why Is Palm Oil Bad? What’s the Problem with Palm Oil?

why is palm oil bad


You may be wondering why palm oil is bad. What’s the problem with palm oil? Why are people upset about it?

Where there were once lush rainforests, now there are palm oil plantations. Deforestation is the reason palm oil is a global concern. Companies use it in thousands of products. Palm oil is in everything from food coloring and cereal to desserts, shampoo and household cleaners.

Palm oil has been getting a lot of attention. You may be hearing about palm oil and wonder why it’s an issue.

Palm Oil Bad for Deforestation

Demand for palm oil continues to increase, inciting tremendous deforestation. When developers burn rainforests to make way for palm oil plantations, those rainforests are gone forever.

Think about the biodiversity in a rainforest. In Borneo, an island in Asia, scientists found over 15,000 plant species in the tropical rainforests. They are still discovering more.

Tropical rainforests contain 50% of the world’s plants and animals.

According to worldwildlife.org, the rainforests in Borneo and Sumatra are home to thousands of unique species. Among these are the world’s LAST-REMAINING Sumatran Rhinos, Sumatran Tigers, Borneo pygmy elephants, and orangutans.

In addition, the rainforests in Borneo and Sumatra are the ONLY PLACES ON EARTH all of these animals live together.

According to the Orangutan Foundation, in the 25 years between 1990 and 2015, 67.9 million acres were deforested in Indonesia.

Palm oil bad for the people who live there

Indigenous people and others live on these islands as well, and have for generations. Like the animals displaced by the plantations, they are affected negatively.

How is palm oil bad for rainforests?

The entire world depends on rainforests to produce oxygen and to clean the atmosphere.

Yet, these rainforests and their diverse ecosystems are being cleared — destroyed forever — to grow more palm oil.

How many rainforests are being cleared?

Every hour, 6,000 acres are cleared. That’s the equivalent of 4,000 football fields — per hour!

Everything that once thrived in the rainforest is gone.

The animals are driven from their homes. If they escape the fires, where do they go? Their habitats are destroyed.

Even more, then pollution becomes an issue. There are high levels of carbon dioxide and black carbon in the air from the fires.

why is palm oil bad

Why is palm oil in demand

Palm oil is prevalent in many products for a variety of reasons. It’s a prized, multi-functional ingredient.

From a palm oil plantation owner’s perspective, it makes money.

Palm oil is a productive crop. Plantation owners can grow more palm oil per hectare than other oils. It grows quickly.

Also appealing is it requires minimal costs to grow compared to other commodities. Palm oil doesn’t require as many fertilizers or pesticides like other crops.

From a food manufacturer’s perspective, palm oil is typically less expensive than palm oil alternatives.

In addition, it’s a very versatile oil that can be added to dozens of different foods.

Remember, there are hundreds of names for palm oil derivatives. Each of those is able to do something different.

Some of the reasons food manufacturers use palm oil include:

  • Thickening
  • Preserving, adding to the shelf life
  • Keeping foods crunchy
  • Making foods chewy
  • To increase volume
  • Improve texture
  • Creating mouth feel
  • Palm oil remains stable at room temperature

FDA banned trans fats in 2018

In the United States, food manufacturers are no longer able to use trans fats and trans fatty acids in foods. This regulation forced companies to find replacement ingredients. Many of them turned to palm oil.

Because of this, many packaged and processed foods that once were palm oil free now contain palm oil.

Think about desserts and confections in your grocery store. Cakes, cookies, scones, biscuits all contain palm oil ingredients now.

Palm oil common in non-food products

The same is true for companies using palm oil in self-care products, cleaning products and more: Money and versatility.

Because palm oil has so many applications, palm oil is very common in bar soap, liquid soap, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, cosmetics, etc.

What makes palm oil bad for our planet makes it good for manufacturers. Palm oil is versatile — it can do many things in all types of products — and it’s inexpensive.

There are scores of ways companies have learned to manipulate palm oil to do different things in all types of products. And because it’s inexpensive to use, companies continue to use palm oil in their products.

Some of the reasons palm oil is in hygiene and cosmetics is to:

  • Preserve, especially in liquids, creams, lotions
  • As a base for bar soaps and deodorants
  • To bind ingredients
  • Thickener
  • To blend ingredients
  • As an emollient
  • To create suds, foam
  • Pearly appearance
  • Makes products easy to apply
  • Helps products be non-greasy
  • Makes products easy to rinse off
  • Humectant and moistener
  • Surfactant and emulsifying agent
  • Enhances “skin feel” – soft feeling on application
  • Helps products glide on skin

Palm oil common in many products

Manufacturers also use palm oil in most all cleaning products. This includes cleaners and detergents that use “plant-based” and “plant-derived” ingredients. Many products advertise they are “free and clear” and environmentally friendly despite using unsustainable palm oil.

Demand for palm oil is also increasing for bio-fuel and many other products.

What’s the problem with palm oil?

Problem with unsustainable palm oil

Much of the problem is due to the lack of regulation. While there are sustainable palm oil options, they are difficult to regulate. It’s also difficult to know for sure palm oil is sustainable.

There are problems with what’s considered sustainable.

In addition, there aren’t clear rules for labeling palm oil on ingredient labels. “Vegetable oil” on a label doesn’t explain if there is palm oil in the product.

Also, with hundreds of names for palm oil derivatives, the everyday consumer doesn’t know that ingredient names such as Glycerin, Mono- & Diglycerides, and Sodium Palmate are often hidden names for palm oil.

It can be present in Natural Flavors as well.

Palm oil bad for earth

As the ongoing demand for palm oil increases, developers continue to clear and burn rainforests in Malaysia, Sumatra and other parts of Indonesia with no end in sight.

Many organizations and foundations are working hard to educate and create awareness about the problems with unsustainable palm oil. There are many animals on the verge of being extinct.

Where is the problem with palm oil?

The countries with the greatest to least palm oil production include:

  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Thailand
  • Columbia
  • Nigeria
  • Ecuador

Orangutans and palm oil

The orangutan has become the face of the problem with the increasing demand for palm oil and deforestation. Ongoing deforestation affects orangutans as well as other animals because:

  • Loss of habitat
  • Species lost, hurt and killed

why is palm oil badThere are many organizations and foundations which create awareness and help save orangutans. In addition, many are protecting and saving the rainforests. Some of these include:

Palm oil free certification trademark labeling

There are two organizations who work to verify products are palm oil free. Products can earn Palm Oil Free labeling much like products that use Vegan labeling or Cruelty-Free labels.

Food and non-food companies can apply for their entire brand’s portfolio of products or for individual products.

International Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark Programme (POFCAP)

This is an independent, not-for-profit certified trademark program based in Australia.

To date, the International Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark Programme is qualified to certify products as palm oil free in 19 countries, including the United States. Other countries include England, Spain, Norway, France, Australia, Belguim, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

This means that their palm oil free label is approved, valid and recognized in these countries. Learn more here.

You can go to POFCAP’s website to learn more and to see the list of hundreds of names for palm oil ingredients.

Some companies which have certified their products through POFCAP include: Loom Designs, MSM Milling, OmMade Organic Skincare, Red Ape Cinnamon, Wild Friends Foods, and more. In addition, you can see the products they have certified palm oil free.

Orangutan Alliance

This is an independent, non-profit organization and registered charity based in Australia. Orangutan Alliance promotes reducing non-sustainable palm oil in consumer products.

Some of the companies and brands which have products certified palm oil free include: Nuttiva Hazelnut Spread, Hawkers Snacks, The Protein Ball Co., Ethique, Viva la Body, and more. Learn more here.

Think palm oil is a problem?

Become an Educated Consumer. Read labels. Buy products with less ingredients. Avoid products with “palm” in the ingredient labels. Learn about which companies are truly using sustainable palm oil.

The increasing demand for palm oil is taking a toll on the environment.

Among many environmental concerns, large-scale deforestation continues to destroy wildlife’s habitats. Better-known examples include orangutans and Sumatra tigers which experts predict will be extinct from the wild in the upcoming years.

What makes palm oil bad is developers continue to burn rainforests to plan palm oil plantations. From an environmental standpoint, palm oil is a huge concern.

As cited above, palm oil plantations are replacing rainforests at an alarming rate. The implications from this are far-reaching. Palm oil is a very productive crop. It’s inexpensive to grow, and owners can grow more of it per hectare than other oils.


Palm Oil Products ~ What Types of Products is Palm Oil In?


You may be surprised to learn there are thousands of products that contain palm oil.  If you don’t see “palm” on an ingredient label, it may still contain it.

Know that unless you are being very diligent about reading labels, there’s a high probability there is palm oil in products you have right now. This includes packaged foods, self-care products, cosmetics, and laundry and cleaning products.

This site focuses on products that don’t contain any palm oil. However, it’s easier to avoid it when you know the products that contain it. In this way, you’ll know what to look for.

Print out this list of names for palm oil.

So, which types of products contain palm oil?

Palm oil products

Here are some examples of palm oil products in these categories: Foods, Drinks, Self-Care, Cleaning, and Other.

Foods that contain palm oil

  • Baked goods: Pre-made at the grocery store
    • Doughnuts
    • Cakes, cupcakes
    • Cookies, including refrigerated dough
    • Pies, tarts
    • Scones
    • Cobblers
    • Snack cakes
    • Also in items you use at home: Canned frosting, shortening, cake mixes, food dye, whipped cream, sprinkles
  • Bread, rolls, including refrigerated dough
  • Candy
    • Chewy, including taffy, red whips
    • In pieces – Magnesium stearate, a palm oil derivative, keeps them from sticking to the machines
    • Chocolate and chocolate-flavored
  • Cereal: With Vitamin A of 10% or greater, it likely has Vitamin A Palmitate
  • Cooking spray, grilling spray: If it doesn’t list palm oil, watch for Mono- and Diglycerides
  • Fast food
  • Food coloring: Watch for propylene glycol, glycerin, Polysorbate 80
  • Fried onions in cans
  • Frosting
  • Granola bars, snack, nutrition and protein bars
  • Gum
  • Ice cream, ice cream novelties: Most all soft serve ice cream contains Mono- & Diglycerides
  • Instant noodles
  • Mac & cheese cups and boxes: Watch for Medium Chain Triglycerides or Glycerol Monostearate
  • Margarine, buttery spreads
  • Medicine
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Nut butters
  • Pie crust
  • Pizza, including frozen pizza and refrigerated dough
  • Potato crisps
  • Refrigerated dough: Cookies, biscuits, rolls, pizza, etc.
  • Salad dressing
  • Shoestring potatoes in cans
  • Shortening
  • Spices, seasoning packs, mixes, extracts
  • Vegan products
  • Vitamins: Chewable, liquid, tablets, pills, gummy
  • Many more
palm oil products affect orangutans
Clearing rainforests threatens orangutans and other wildlife.

Drinks that contain palm oil

Be sure to choose drinks with the least amount of ingredients.

  • Creamers
  • Drink mixes
  • Flavored drinks, coffees
  • Milk, including nut, soy, etc.: Unless it’s whole milk, it likely contains Vitamin A Palmitate
  • Sports drinks

Self-care products with palm oil

  • Bar soap
  • Cosmetics: Mascara, lipstick, powders, foundation, nail polish, lip balm, etc.
  • Deodorant: Spray, solid, cream
  • Liquid soap
  • Lotion and moisturizer
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shaving cream, gel
  • Sunscreen: Spray, lotion, stick, cream
  • Toothpaste
  • Wipes

Cleaners that contain palm oil

Detergents and cleaners — in liquids, tablets, powders and sprays —  typically contain palm oil. Even plant-derived and eco-friendly ones have it. This is where it’s essential to know names for derivatives because you won’t see “palm oil” listed in the ingredients.

  • All-purpose spray
  • Bathroom cleaner
  • Dish soap
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Disposable sweeper pads
  • Floor cleaner
  • Furniture polish
  • Laundry detergent
  • Shower/tub sprays
  • Toilet cleaners
  • Window cleaner
  • Wipes

Other products

  • Biofuel
  • Candles
  • Cough drops, throat lozenges
  • E-juice, e-liquid, vape juice
  • Medicine: In gel cap, tablet, pills, liquid
  • Vitamins: In liquid, gel, gummy, tablet

What products contain it

According to Rainforest-Rescue.org, palm oil in foods is the greatest worldwide demand, taking 71% of the market for palm oil. Consumer products account for 24% total palm oil use. Energy accounts for 5% of global demand.

Palm oil is common in items you may not expect. You can learn more by reading labels. You will may notice Palm Oil and Palm Kernel Oil are common.

Lots of different names for it

Other times, you may see Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Red Palm Oil, or Organic Palm Oil. If you are interested in avoiding palm oil products, it’s important to not buy items with these palm ingredients.

Once you start reading labels, you will become more familiar about the types of products that contain palm oil. In so doing, you may have questions about other ingredients that seem similar.

palm oil in everything
Palm oil from Elaeis guineensis is what companies use in products.

The scientific name for the palm oil that companies use in products is Elaeis guineensis. This type of palm oil comes from the oil palm tree.

The oil palm tree is not the same type of palm as coconut. Also, Caranuba wax is different. They are all “from palm trees” but there are many different types of palms.

Why is palm oil in everything

There are many reasons why palm oil is in everything.

It’s cheap

One reason is because palm oil is inexpensive. It’s a productive crop in that farmers can grow more palm oil per hectare than other oils. Especially in Sumatra and Borneo, developers are clearing rainforests to make way for more palm oil plantations. This seriously threatens native species.

It’s versatile

Another reason palm oil is in everything is because it’s a versatile vegetable oil. It works in many ways in many different types of foods.

Many properties

It has a high melting point and can remain semi-solid at room temperature. This makes it work equally well in creamy products — in everything from food spreads, dressings, lotions, shampoo and frosting — as well as in products that need to be more solid — like bar soaps, lip balm, shortening, and deodorant sticks. 

Shelf life

In addition, companies also use it to increase the shelf life of products. It works as a preservative in food and non-food items. 

Crunchy or chewy

This versatile oil can help foods keep their crunch. Used other ways, palm oil enables processed foods to be chewy.


It works very well to enhance the mouthfeel of products. This is why common palm oil products include dough, ice cream, margarine, spreads, creams, fillings, shortening, canned frosting, etc.

Who uses it?

Manufacturers put palm oil in everything from soap to laundry detergent, dish soap, to processed foods including baked goods, instant noodles, granola bars, candy, and more.

Trans-fat free

Palm oil works well to replace trans-fats that were once so common in foods.

Since the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned trans-fats in foods in the United States, companies needed to find replacements. Because palm oil works in so many ways, companies changed recipes and started adding it to their foods.

Items containing it

If you are trying to avoid products that use palm oil, start by reading labels. Don’t buy products with any palm- ingredients. After that, learn the other names for palm oil derivatives in common, everyday items.

Pick a product and find a palm oil free option. Sometimes all the options in a category contain palm oil. You may have to do without or make your own.

After you find a product without it, continue to be brand-loyal as long as it remains palm oil free.

After that, choose another product without it. This website has examples of palm oil free products in many categories, including soaps, deodorant, toothpaste, sunscreen, shampoo, candy, cereal, etc. We have a very popular post which lists all of them together.

You may be surprised at what types of items at the store contain palm oil. If you want to avoid palm oil products because of environmental concerns and the controversy surrounding sustainable palm oil, this website is a good place to start.

We started this website because our son gets very sick from palm oil and palm oil derivatives. Many people choose either sustainable palm oil or ones without it at all. There’s a lot you can do if you are trying to avoid it.

What can I do?

You can start by taking some easy first steps such as buying more fresh fruits and vegetables. After that, you can try to cook from scratch more. Then, you can learn some recipes and bake from scratch — without using shortening — instead of buying pre-made desserts from the grocery store. 

You can use less self-care items overall. After you get in that habit and need to buy replacements for the items you use frequently, you can substitute palm oil free options.

Making simple switches at home is a great place to start. Use baking soda, vinegar, or lemon for cleaning.

Read labels so you can find the products that use palm oil and choose the ones that don’t. Remember, there hundreds of names for palm oil, and there are dozens of ways companies use it because it’s so versatile. It’s also inexpensive.

Because there are so many derivative names, there are thousands of products that contain palm oil.

Palm Oil Uses ~ What is Palm Oil Used For?

what is palm oil used for


Palm oil in many products. But why? Here we explain uses for palm oil.

Companies use palm oil in foods, medicine, self-care and beauty items, cleaning products, and more.

According to The Wall Street Journal, palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. Approximately half of packaged products in supermarkets contain palm oil or palm oil derivatives.

Uses for palm oil

Palm oil is an inexpensive and versatile oil which makes it practical for companies to use.

There are hundreds of names for palm oil derivatives; most do not contain the word “palm-” in the ingredients. Print this list to use as a reference.

So, what is palm oil used for? What are the ways companies use palm oil?

Why palm oil is used in food

Here are some of the reasons and ways food manufacturers use it:

what is palm oil used for

Replaces trans fats

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs) in foods. These are known as trans fats.

Before the 2018 ban, food companies used trans fats in baked goods, ice cream, margarine, butter spreads, canned frosting, shortening, frozen products, dough, candy, frozen meals, and more.

Companies turned to palm oil which is virtually free from trans fats.

Food manufacturers now use palm oil because it mimics “what’s good about” trans fats.

Makes foods creamy and thickens

Palm oil helps to thicken foods, adding creaminess.

Manufacturers use palm oil for this reason in foods such as ice cream, margarine, buttery spreads, frosting, chocolate and hazelnut spread, salad dressing, gravy in jars, chocolate, caramel, whipped topping, etc.

Makes foods easy to stir

You may see palm oil in brands that highlight their “no stir” labeling.

Companies use palm oil in peanut butter, canned frosting, ice cream, hazelnut and chocolate spread, buttery spreads and margarine and other foods in which consumers want to be able to spread or stir the product.

Preserves freshness

Keeps food from drying out; keeps it crispy and crunchy; and extends the shelf-life 

Palm oil acts as a preservative.

Companies use palm oil and palm oil derivatives so products stay fresher longer on store shelves.

They want the crackers and cookies to stay crunchy, the sliced bread to stay fresh, and the cereals and granola bars to stay crispy.

For this reason, palm oil is used in these types of foods: boxed cake mix, snack foods, pre-packaged bakery, canned shoestring potatoes and potato crisps, canned French fried onions, jerky, candy and gum, etc.

Makes foods chewy

Palm oil is used to make foods chewy, gummy, or stretchy.

This is especially common in these types of non-chocolate and chocolate candy.

It’s also very common in ready-to-eat (RTE) cereals as well as in snack and protein bars.

Keeps foods stable and acts as a moisture barrier in frozen conditions

Palm oil helps in foods stay intact while frozen.

You will find it in frozen desserts, including ice cream, sherbet, cake, pie, ice cream novelties, frozen meals, and in frozen pizza.

Helps emulsify

Companies use palm oil as an emulsifier to stabilize processed foods and prevent them from separating.

It’s used for this purpose in margarine, baked goods, packaged frosting and icing, salad oils, whipped cream topping, condensed and evaporated milk, non-dairy creamer, peanut butter, and caramel.

Coats foods

If you read ingredient labels for foods that have a coating or that are meant to coat, you will likely find palm oil or palm kernel oil.

Some examples include fondant, almond bark, yogurt-covered and chocolate-covered pretzels, snack bars, chocolate candy, baked goods, ice cream toppings, and chocolate coating on ice cream cones.

Creates shiny appearance

In addition, palm oil is able to create the shiny appearance in foods.

You will find palm oil in confectionery, coated snack bars, in yogurt- and chocolate-covered foods, and in bakery.

Replaces cocoa butter, milk fat, dairy in foods

Another application for palm oil is to replace ingredients.

Palm oil can be a substitute while still maintaining the integrity of the product — providing stability, mouthfeel, texture, etc.

Manufacturers use palm oil in caramel, butterscotch and many candies, in baking chips, dairy-free and low fat cheese, ice cream and frozen desserts, creamer, condensed and evaporated milk, and more.

Many gluten free and vegan foods such as crackers, butter, and cheese will use palm oil as replacements.

A candy or product labeled “chocolate flavored” typically contains palm oil as a less expensive substitute for cocoa butter.

A carton of “frozen dairy dessert” usually contains palm oil as a cheaper substitute for dairy fat.

Enhances mouthfeel and texture

Even in foods in which companies aren’t eliminating ingredients, one of the big uses for palm oil is to enhance the mouthfeel and texture in foods.

You will find it in pizza dough, candy, whipped topping, refrigerated cookie dough, gravy, hamburger, sausage, ice cream, buttery spreads, margarine, creams and fillings, and cookies and desserts.

Helps with pre-cook process

Manufacturers use palm oil to pre-cook foods before selling them.

what is palm oil used for

Think of foods such as ramen noodles in which the consumer adds hot water before eating.

Palm oil is mac ‘n cheese, noodle soups, and other RTE instant foods.

For anti-caking; keeps foods from sticking together

There are many uses for palm oil derivatives in foods, including Propylene Glycol.

This is one of several palm oil derivatives that works well as an anti-caking agent.

Manufacturers use these anti-caking agents in soup and dip mix, powdered drink mix, grated cheese, pizza dough, candy, spices, cake mix, in addition to many more foods.

Prevents products from sticking to the machines

A candy manufacturer wrote us back to say this about Magnesium Stearate, a palm oil derivative:

Magnesium Stearate is used in candy to help candy not stick to the machinery as they are produced. It’s also used to maintain the shape of the candy.”

Palm oil increases volume and fluffiness

Manufacturers and bakers use palm oil to increase volume in biscuits, bread and baked goods.

As a result, palm oil gives these products a better appearance.

Also, according to Bakerpedia.com, it’s the only vegetable oil with an approximate 50/50 makeup of unsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids. It acts similarly to butter in baked goods.

Absorbs water and retains moisture

Some products need to be able to absorb water and/or to retain moisture.

Companies use palm oil for this purpose in extracts, such as vanilla and almond, and some brands of food coloring.

What else is palm oil used in? As a humectant, companies use palm oil in baked goods, prepared foods, drink mixes, fondant, and cake mixes.

Replaces lard

Another one of the uses for palm oil is to replace lard.

Palm oil works well in this capacity because its saturated – monounsaturated – polyunsaturated ratio is similar to lard.


Palm oil uses include fortification.

Companies use palm oil derivatives to supplement milk, RTE cereals and other foods which require fortification.

As an example, if you see a Vitamin A content of 10% or greater, it’s most likely in the form of Vitamin A Palmitate, a palm oil derivative.

You will see Vitamin E in the form of Tocopherols or Tocotrienols (typically from red palm oil) which is in foods, vitamins and more.

Learn more about palm oil products.

Uses for palm oil in medicine and vitamins

Supplements, vitamins, and over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications are products that contain palm oil.

uses for palm oil

Palm oil is used in all forms: capsules, chewables, gel caps, liquid medications, and tablets.

Common palm oil derivatives to look for are Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Polysorbate 80, Polyethylene Glycol, and Magnesium Stearate.

See medicine without palm oil for our experience with a compounding pharmacy.

Maintains moisture

Manufacturers use palm oil to maintain moisture in supplements, vitamins and medications.

Helps ingredients dissolve in liquid

Glycerin helps the ingredients to dissolve in the formula.

To make capsules, chewables, and tablets

Manufacturers use palm oil derivatives to coat capsules and to maintain the shape of the capsules, etc.

Magnesium Stearate ensures the capsules and tablets don’t stick to the machines.

To preserve medications

Additional uses for palm oil are to help extend the shelf-life of medications. You will find it in liquid formulas especially for this reason.

As a solvent

Companies use palm oil as a solvent in liquid formulas, including many OTC children’s and adult pain relief medications, allergy medications, and fever reducers.

Propylene Glycol is a common vehicle for many drugs. Glycerin is often used as a solvent.

Palm oil uses in self-care and cleaning products

Companies use palm oil and palm oil derivatives in many common self-care products, beauty products, and household cleaning products you use regularly.

Here are some of the ways and the products that contain palm oil.

palm oil uses

Creates foam and lather

Palm oil is used to create the sudsy attributes consumers associate with cleaning products.

This is one of the many palm oil uses for hair.

You will find palm oil derivatives in these types of products: liquid and bar soap, bubble bath, baby wash, mouthwash, shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent, dishwasher soap, etc.

Keeps dirt in suspension

Manufacturers use palm oil to keep dirt in suspension in products such as pod-type laundry and dishwasher detergents.

As a cleaning agent

Palm oil makes for an inexpensive cleansing agent.

This is one of the many palm oil uses for skin and household cleaning products.

You will see palm oil derivatives used for this purpose in shampoo, 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, liquid soap, liquid and powder laundry detergent, and toothpaste.

Gives a pearly appearance

If you see products that have a pearlized look, they very well may contain palm oil derivatives.

Examples include: shampoo, conditioner, lotion, moisturizer, creams, serum, etc.

Keeps products together

Palm oil helps in hair gel and wax, shaving cream, solid deodorant, bar soap, sunscreen sticks, liquid foundation, creams, and more.

Also, companies use palm oil so products can remain solid at room temperature.

palm oil uses
Palm oil is in cosmetics

Some examples include lipstick, lip balm, bar soap, stick deodorants and sunscreens, etc. (It’s also in candles.)

Palm oil is tasteless, so it works especially well in lipstick and lip balm.

Helps ingredients mix together and combine

Palm oil is used as a processing aid for ingredients to combine.

Some examples of products that contain palm oil are pod-type detergents, liquid detergents, sunscreen, cosmetics, and more.

As a humectant to provide moisture

Just like with some food products, companies use palm oil to provide moisture.

You will find it in teeth whitening strips, cosmetics, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, and other products.

Hydrates the mouth

Some examples of the ways companies use palm oil to hydrate the mouth are in mouthwash and toothpaste.

As an emollient to soften

Palm oil derivatives enable products to spread on the skin easily.

Because of this, uses for palm oil are common in lotions, moisturizers, serums, foundations, and creams.

Helps clean in hard water

Products that contain palm oil for this purpose include laundry boosters, liquid laundry detergent, powder laundry and dishwasher detergents, etc.

As a surfactant

Companies use palm oil as a surfactant in liquid and powder laundry detergents, flushable wipes, shampoo, solid deodorant, and more.

As an emulsifier

You will find palm oil in products such as flushable wipes, solid deodorant, and sunscreen.

It’s also in cosmetics, including eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow, lipstick, powder, and foundation.

Helps products glide over skin

It’s in tissue with lotion. According to a large manufacturer’s website, it enables tissue to glide over skin.

Keeps products absorbent

Products that contain palm oil include wet floor cleaning cloths, tissue with lotion, teeth whitening strips, and more.


Manufacturers use palm oil in lotions and in face and body polish and scrubs to exfoliate the skin.

To replace oils

According to worldwildlife.org, palm oil is in shampoo to help restore natural oils that shampoos strip away.

Stabilizes lather

Body wash and soap manufacturers use palm oil in their products to help stabilize the lather.

Products that contain palm oil

Most people use many products with palm oil ingredients every day.

In addition to all of the above products, you can also find palm oil in bio-fuel, industrial lubricants, waxes, polishes and more.

Here are some ways to find palm oil free products.

Why is palm oil in everything?

Above we explained some of the uses for palm oil in foods, vitamins and medicine, self-care products, beauty products, and cleaning products. When you account for the hundreds of palm oil derivatives, you can see how it is able to take on many forms for many different types of applications.

Some consumers avoid it for environmental reasons. Learn about the problems with unsustainable palm oil.

Palm oil doesn’t contain trans fats

Palm oil and palm kernel oil do not contain trans fats.

Because the FDA banned companies from using artificial trans fats, food manufacturers had to find replacement ingredients. They are now using palm oil.

Palm oil has unique characteristics

Frequently, palm oil and palm oil derivatives work to serve more than one purpose in a product, making it that much more valuable.

what is palm oil used for
Oil palm: Elaeis guineensis

Some of palm oil’s characteristics:

  • Odorless and tasteless
  • Inexpensive
  • Has a low melting point
  • Can remain solid or semi-solid at room temperature
  • Enhances texture
  • Remains stable under high cooking temperatures
  • Has a good shelf-life
  • Extends shelf-life in foods
  • Helps keep foods crispy and crunchy
  • Has a good mouthfeel
  • Is free from trans fats
  • Adds creaminess to foods
  • Enables foods to be fluffy
  • Has good oxidative stability
  • Is non-GMO
  • Is rich in heart-healthy and brain-healthy vitamin E tocotrienols

Palm oil is inexpensive

In addition to being a versatile oil with many applications, palm oil is inexpensive.

According to industry experts, oil palm produces 4 – 10 times more oil than soy, sunflower and rapeseed. It’s a very productive crop with the highest yield of any oil crop.

It has the most oil produced per hectare per year.

As a result, palm oil is the cheapest vegetable oil to produce and refine.

Palm oil products list

If you’ve read this far, you have learned about palm oil uses in the following:

  • Processed foods
  • Hygiene and personal care products
  • Cosmetics and beauty products
  • Detergents for dishes and clothing
  • Cleaners for floors, sinks, windows, counters, bathrooms, kitchens, furniture, cars and more

There are many companies who promote their healthy, green, eco-friendly, and/or plant-derived ingredients. Read labels as oftentimes, these products contain palm oil derivatives.

To summarize, there are many applications for:

  • Using palm oil in foods
  • Using it for beauty:
    • Palm oil uses for skin
    • Palm oil uses for hair
    • In cosmetics
  • Palm oil in hygiene products
    • Oral care
    • Palm oil uses for body care
  • Using palm oil in cleaning
    • House cleaning in all types and forms: powder, liquid, spray, wax, polish
    • Detergents for carpets, clothing, dishes

Even products consumers consider to be “good” contain palm oil. As an example:

Most castile soap brands contain palm oil and/or palm oil derivatives.”

Uses for palm oil

Because palm oil is trans fat free, has many unique characteristics, is a versatile oil, and is cheaper than other oils, global demand for palm oil has nearly tripled since 2000.

There are numerous uses for palm oil in foods, cleaning products, medicines, self-care products, and cosmetics.

Many chemicals in everyday products are made from palm oil.

Companies have found many ways to use palm oil. It’s a versatile oil with unique properties.