Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Palm oil- why I wont use this product in any of my soaps

Many years ago , when I was still in my teens I was lucky enough to visit the first orangutan sanctuary set up deep in the Sumatran jungle. It was a major task getting there but was well worth it although the only fresh food available was bananas and they were all for the orangutans!

That was more than 25 years ago, and nowadays these animals and many more are in serious danger of losing their natural habitat in part due to extensive de-forestation. Its estimated that the size of 3 football pitches a minute are being destroyed for palm oil plantations in Kalimantan alone ( an island in Indonesia).
A palm oil plantation takes around 4 years to be able to harvest any profitable crops from palm oil palms, but companies benefit from an instant cash injection from sales of the cut down indigenous hardwood. Thankfully there has been a lot of bad press for palm oil which has helped to initiate schemes for sustainable palm oil sources, but still they are hard to find and in my opinion still a little dubious.

Quite apart from the environmental factors involved, I just dont really like working with this oil as in its raw form it has a considerably unpleasant smell, although its blessed with a striking orange colour, and to deodorise and decolour an oil means it has to go through some sort of process that probably diminishes its properties in some way. Palm oil does contribute hardness to a bar but otherwise it is an inferior oil that is used mostly as its far more cost effective than say Olive oil is. Since I started soap making I have always used a mix of olive and coconut oils in varying quantities as the base for all my soaps although it does mean they are slightly more expensive to produce.

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