Palm oil is in many curly hair products. You may have seen it listed in your favourite conditioner, curl cream, or hair oil. But what is it, and why is it included in so many products? 

Unfortunately, palm oil is a controversial ingredient, and for good reason. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at why palm oil is problematic and whether curly-haired individuals should avoid products that contain it.

palm oil rainforest

What is Palm Oil? 

Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil that is extracted from the fruit of palm trees. It’s used in a variety of products, from food to cosmetics to cleaning supplies. 

The main reason why palm oil is used so widely is that it’s relatively cheap to produce. In fact, palm oil is one of the most inexpensive vegetable oils on the market. It’s also versatile; palm oil can be used as both a solid and a liquid, which makes it ideal for use in a variety of products. 

palm oil kernel

Why is Palm Oil Problematic? 

The problem with palm oil is that its production leads to deforestation and habitat loss. In order to make room for more palm trees (and thus, more palm oil production), rainforests are being cleared at an alarming rate. This destruction of natural habitats leads to the loss of biodiversity and puts many species of animals at risk of extinction. 

What’s more, the clear-cutting of rainforests to make room for palm plantations also contributes to climate change. When trees are cut down, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – and since rainforests are some of the densest forests on Earth, they contain a lot of carbon. Therefore, when they’re cleared, a significant amount of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change. 

Finally, the working conditions on palm plantations are often abysmal. In many cases, workers – who are mostly migrant laborers – are paid very little and are required to work extremely long hours. What’s more, they’re often exposed to hazardous chemicals without proper safety gear. 

Should We Avoid Products Containing Palm Oil? 

choosing curly hair products that are free from palm oil

The short answer: yes. Because palm oil production leads to deforestation, habitat loss, and climate change – not to mention poor working conditions for plantation workers – curly-haired individuals should avoid products that contain this ingredient. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of curly hair care products on the market that don’t contain palm oil (or any other controversial ingredients). So next time you’re shopping for new hair care products, be sure to check the ingredient list before making your purchase.

Be wary!

Palm oil and its derivatives can be listed under many other names. These include:

Vegetable Oil

Vegetable Fat

Palm Fruit Oil

Palm Kernel

Palm Kernel Oil





Stearic Acid


Elaeis Guineensis

Palmitic Acid

Palm Stearine

Palmitoyl Oxostearamide

Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium Kernelate,

Sodium Palm Kernelate

Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate

Hyrated Palm Glycerides

Etyl Palmitate

Octyl Palmitate

Palmityl Alcohol

This huge list means it can be difficult to check labels for the presence of palm oil, and not all of the above ingredients will necessarily contain palm oil derivatives, but they may do.

The app Giki is a fantastic way to scan products and check for sustainability issues.

look for curly hair products free from palm oil

These hair products are free from palm oil or use sustainably sourced palm oil

– As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I receive a commission if you buy any of the products through the links provided. It doesn’t affect the price you pay and helps to run this website. Thank you x

Faith in Nature Lemon & Tea Tree Shampoo

Jason Restorative Biotin Shampoo

Faith in Nature Organic Aloe Vera Conditioner

John Masters Organics Nourishing Defrizzer for Dry Hair

John Masters Organics Volumizing Foam

GIOVANNI 2chic Ultra-Moist Leave-In Conditioning Styling Elixir

You can find more palm oil-free products here on the Ethical Superstore.

In conclusion, while palm oil may be cheap and versatile, its production has a number of negative consequences – including deforestation, habitat loss, climate change, and poor working conditions for plantation workers. For these reasons, you may wish to avoid products that contain this ingredient. Fortunately, there are plenty of great curly hair care products on the market that don’t use palm oil or any other controversial ingredients.

Speak soon,

Lauren xx