In 2011 Greenpeace published a report that exposed a dark face beneath fashion’s glamorous veil.
Entries in fashion (4)
The beauty industry is a booming one and the boundless lengths some cosmetic companies go to in order to release the latest and most innovative products are all too well known. Animal testing is perhaps the most contentious activity but there are other effects that these products have on the environment.
Palm oil is perhaps one of the most popular components used in every-day products. From margarine, cereals, crisps, sweets and baked goods, to washing powders, soaps and cosmetics. But before you make a dash for the nearest packet of crisps, do not expect to see palm oil there, as it is usually classed as ‘vegetable oil’ in the ingredients section
But what is Palm oil?
Palm oil is obtained from the fruit (Palm) along with the kernel inside. Its trees are incredibly efficient, possessing numerous clusters of palm fruit which individually weigh 50 kg, an astonishing amount compared with other vegetable plants harvested for its oil. Furthermore each fruit contains 50 per cent oil. Due to its profitability companies have invested a substantial amount in harvesting palm oil which as a result effects the environment and surrounding wildlife.
Palm oil trees are grown in seventeen countries with 88 per cent of global palm oil production deriving from Malaysia and Indonesia alone. For anyone who has been fortunate enough to visit these exotic countries you may already be aware that both have incredible rainforests and are the only regions in which orang-utans inhabit. Their habitats however are being continually destroyed, with trees and tropical fauna cut down in order to make way for the harvesting of palm oil. Environmental campaigners claim that in 15 years 98% of rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia will be gone. The destruction of the orang-utan living space creates further ecological issues; in 1990 over 315 000 orang-utans existed. Yet today sadly less than 50 000 are left. It is predicted that in 12 years the orang-utan population will be driven to extinction.
Olay is one company, amongst many others (including Bumble & Bumble, Elizabeth Arden, and Clinique) which features palm oil as an ingredient in their skincare range. A good example is their Total Effects Wake Up Wonder product that contains both Isopropyl Palmitate (a palm oil derivative) and Palmitic acid (saturated fatty acid found in fats and waxes including olive oil, palm oil and body lipids).
Whilst many organisations understand the impact of harvesting palm oil on the environment, palm oil still remains in high demand. Experts say that it is virtually impossible to completely remove it from all produce as it is difficult to find an equally efficient and cheap alternative with a high yield of oil. To help solve some of the issues created from the production of palm oil the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established in 2003. Since then RSPO have introduced environmental standards which places restrictions on the methods in which palm oil is harvested, ensuring that both locals are still able to live off the Palm oil plantations and a reduction in the number of forests being cut down. Companies can also obtain Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) and Certified Sustainable Palm Kernal Oil (CSPKO) to show their support of this environmentally-friendly initiative.
For those who want to purchase cosmetics containing no palm oil, Lush use almond and olive oil as alternatives. Alternatively, if palm oil is essential in your daily skin care routine you can purchase certified palm oil based products from Body Shop, which has an ethical range of products sourced only from sustainable palm oil plantations.
Shark Liver Oil
Shark Liver oil is another common ingredient in cosmetics. It contains hydrocarbon pristane and squalene which are natural components of sebum secretions, and a precursor of cholesterol (i.e. the chemicals produced prior to cholestral in a chemical reaction). This oil is used as a non-absorbable (i.e. it cannot be absorbed by the skin) bland cosmetic base material.
Shark livers can represent 25 – 30 per cent of its total body weight, and as a result large quantities of squalene are found in shark liver oil in comparison to the small amounts found in olive oil, wheat germ oil, rice bran oil, yeast and in various other foodstuffs. Considering the higher yield of squalene found in shark liver oil cosmetic companies have consequently featured this efficient animal-based ingredient in a range of their products. This has seen various shark species almost reach extinction, with many being listed as endangered.
Although the use of shark liver oil has seen a decline in recent years due to the 2008 campaign led by a charity called Oceana, which lobbied for the removal of animal squalene in skincare commodities, some products such as those in the L’Oreal’s Shu Uemura range, still contains squalene. Squalene is featured in 12 make up formulas including eight lipsticks in the aforementioned L’Oreal range.
In a world where the average person is bombarded with heavily photo-shopped images on a daily basis it is understandable that everyone wants to feel and look good. Whilst we are happy to fork out sums of money on products that promise to do just that, it seems that our environment pays a higher price.
By Nancy Bukasa