Published on: June 4, 2021
Most of us use multiple cosmetic products daily. These products nourish our skin, make us feel good and help us get that special glow when we’re getting ready for the day. Many of the ingredients essential for making these products are derived from palm (kernel) oil. So, whether we realize it or not, this means we are consuming some form of palm oil every day.
Recently, I wrote a series of articles for Global Cosmetics Industry Magazine where I interviewed Gay Timmons, founder of Oh, Oh Organics. Gay is very passionate about greening the ingredient supply chain for cosmetics manufacturers, including palm oil. This has been her mission since she founded her company twenty-one years ago. According to her “we are all in the agricultural business”. She believes that the industry will find more creative ways to innovate once everyone realizes this.
Palm (kernel) oil is a popular base ingredient and for good reasons. Its derivatives are superior ingredients for making good quality balms, creams, salves, lipsticks, and many other cosmetic products. It mixes easily with other ingredients, makes our products creamy and improves product stability and shelf life. It is also cheap; however, the price often does not take into consideration the damage it causes to the environment and local communities.
With palm (kernel) oil-based ingredients present in approximately 70% of cosmetic products, the cosmetics market has a big impact on the tropical landscapes where palm oil is produced. The chemical industry, with companies like BASF and Croda processing the raw material into high quality ingredients, is well-positioned to lead the shift to green the supply chain. Yet, according to Gay, the chemical industry is complacent.
Need for change
Gay, a scientist herself, explained that “creativity is lacking”. Changing sourcing strategies, using new materials, reformulating recipes, as well as using new technologies is complex and expensive. Many chemists, for example, prefer to stick to petroleum-derived ingredients, instead of using plant-based sources. Adopting a green sciences approach to research and innovation is still in its infancy.
Yet change is on the horizon. A growing number of manufacturers are starting to demand green ingredients. Gay has seen the demand for plant-based and organic ingredients growing, especially from mission-driven businesses that want to create a positive impact.
New generation brands
A push towards green ingredients is coming from a new generation of cosmetic brands, founded upon a mission to do things right and a strong set of principles. The founders of these brands choose to work with plant-based, vegan, and organic ingredients. Many of these businesses also decide to sell their products direct to consumers, to have all options open to tell their full story.
Business owners pushing the shift to plant-based and organic ingredients also demand full traceability to the sources of these ingredients. They want to know the farmers and communities behind their ingredients, to make sure they are creating the positive impact they seek. “The value has to be inherent in the ingredient,” says Gay, who serves a growing number of customers seeking organic, traceable ingredients.
It’s all agriculture
Manufacturers and brands that make commitments to use more plant-derived ingredients are stepping into the agricultural sector. They are not just a cosmetics company; they are impacting agriculture and the way crops are grown. It is important to be aware of that. And the chemical industry, producing palm-based derivates, need to realize they are in agriculture too.
There is still much to explore explains Gay: “In order to adapt to the pressure of climate change and what’s going to happen to the petrochemical industry, the industry needs to innovate, more than it has done so far.”
Just as cosmetics companies need to realize that they are impacting agriculture by the way they are sourcing their ingredients, we consumers need to start looking at the cosmetics products we buy as agricultural products as well. “It is really, really important that we start to understand that relationship,” says Gay.
Brands like au NATURAL and Uviña Skin are offering green products. And online retailer Grove Collaborative, focused on the direct sales of clean beauty products, recently launched their own vegan, plant-based skincare brand Superbloom. Now it’s up to you, to choose a new generation of products and push the shift towards green cosmetics forward.
Written by Monique van Wijnbergen, Natural Habitat’s Sustainability & Corporate Communications Director and spokesperson for Palm Done Right.
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