The Problem with Palm Oil

Shampoo and my hair just don’t get along.

This is a recent enmity. In my twenties and early thirties my hair looked good no matter what shampoo I used.

I don’t think I should give you the details about how my hair has been coming out in clumps since the baby was born or about how greasy it looks no matter the shampoo, but suffice it to say that my once thick hair has become so uncooperative that it would probably be better if I just made it into dreds.

I’ve tried the no ‘poo approach espoused by Beth Terry and also used by Frugal Kiwi with less-than-positive results (maybe I didn’t wait long enough for my scalp to stop producing so much oil?); I’ve tried the natural shampoos from the Co-op, which you can buy in bulk for cheap without unnecessary packaging; and I’ve retried conventional shampoos that contain toxic ingredients including malodorous perfumes and endocrine disruptors.

Now I’m trying bar shampoo. Shaped like a bar of soap, this shampoo contains olive oil, coconut oil, goat’s milk, hempseed oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil, beeswax, honey, rosemary essential oil, and grapefruit seed extract.

I am hoping my hair will befriend it.

But I also bought it because the package is made of recycled paper (and can be recycled) and because the soap is called S.O.S. Save the Orangutan Soap.

I love orangutans.

I didn’t know that their habitat is being threatened by palm oil plantations.

Or that over 80 percent of orangutan habitat has been lost in the last twenty years.

According to Orangutan Foundation International:

The destruction and fragmentation of tropical rain forests, particularly lowland forests, in Borneo and northern Sumatra, is the main reason orangutans are threatened. The main cause of this destruction is human activity: intensive legal and illegal logging, conversion to agricultural lands, mining, settlements, and road construction. However, the main threat to wild orangutans is the clearing of forest for the establishment of timber estates and palm oil plantations, usually by fire. Additionally, the illegal animal trade has been one factor in the decline of wild orangutan populations. Orangutans are still occasionally hunted and eaten by aboriginal peoples in Borneo and also by some migrants.

We share on the order of 97 percent of our DNA with these messy haired orange apes.

This morning when I woke the kids up for school I told them I was worried about orangutans. My two daughters are both vegetarians because they care about animals and want to stop suffering.

“But, Mom, pretty soon you won’t be able to do anything or use anything or eat anything!” My 11-year-old cried.

“I’m never using soap with palm oil in it again,” my 9-year-old said.

Maybe if we care enough, and try hard enough, and teach our children well enough, we can stop hurting other animal species. And maybe in the process I’ll get my hair to cooperate too.

Are you worried about the ingredients in the beauty products you use? Are you worried about the orangutans? Do you have a favorite shampoo? Have you ever tried the “no ‘poo” technique?

Read more: The Oil for Ape Scandal: how palm oil is threatening the orangutan

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16 thoughts on “The Problem with Palm Oil”

  1. Your eleven-year-old hit it the nail on the head. That’s how I feel when I shop. Right now I’m worrying about nutrition and GM foods that are not labeled. How to avoid them? Since I run a green B&B, I always have 100% natural shampoo left over, but this shampoo bar does sound great, so maybe I will splurge. Commercial shampoo is full of stuff you do not want touching the scalp. Funny when you start learning these things. You really see the world differently, as your kids are noticing. I did not know about the orangutans. Thanks for writing about it.
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..Bonus Post- LeCount Hollow- Today =-.

  2. Currently, my main focus is on energy consumption issues and on certain food issues. I haven’t quite yet made it to shampoos and other things.

    I’ve actually made homemade soap before, but it included palm oil … which I’ve since learned has other world and animal consequences.

    It’s touching to me that your kids are already aware of so much. My nearly 10-year-old niece just joined the environmental club at school. I cannot wait to hear what she’ll tell me.
    .-= Roxanne´s last blog ..Day 7- Never Shock a Puppy =-.

  3. I have read a little about this problem, our local zoo is running an awareness & fundraising campaign I believe.

    Try poo-free again. You do have to give it a chance, 2-3 weeks. But, it works! And it’s great for your body & better for the environment. I haven’t used shampoo in over 5 years. You can still use conditioner, or you can do the baking soda/apple cider vinegar routine.

    Good luck!

  4. I always learn something new from your topics, Jennifer. Thanks for making me aware of the threat to the habitat of these adorable creatures. I’m going to think twice next time I reach for shampoo.

  5. I agree with your kids too. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming how EVERYTHING we do causes harm to the environment. I’ve gone through phases where my hair was just awful too. I hope yours passes soon!

  6. Had no idea about palm oil! I haven’t tried natural shampoos, but I do try to space out washings, since it takes awhile to dry and style my hair, and I’d rather spend the time doing something else. Plus, since I’m full-time freelance, I can often get away with it (no coworkers to judge my greasy hair).

  7. I use only natural shampoo that doesn’t have sodium lauryl sulfate, but I had no idea about palm oil. Gads. So many things to be concerned about. Now shampoo, on top of our scary food system. It’s so frustrating.
    .-= Kris Bordessa´s last blog .. =-.

  8. Thanks for this suggestion; I’m going to look for the soap when I get back to the U.S. I’ve made my own soap using olive oil and goatsmilk befor. I didn’t know this about palm oil. There is so much information out there – it can be quite paralyzing when it comes to making conscientious choices! What wise children you are raising, Jennifer.
    .-= Christine @ Origami Mommy´s last blog ..Picture books =-.

  9. It’s interesting the sentiment about not being able to do or use anything. I think there is that fear in greater society. I think it’s not completely true, though. What is exhausting to me is how much I have to know in order to be consumer conscious. It hurts my brain sometimes. But I love reading here about these new products so then I know what to try and I can get rid of my bad shampoo–and that makes me feel good.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..8 Ways to Build Trust =-.

  10. It’s crazy how our hair changes as we age. Like Susan, I try to go a day between washes. When I’ve tried using natural shampoos, bad things happen–I don’t know what’s up with my hair. But, I’ll keep reading to see how things go with your shampoo soap.
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..Calzones take two

  11. I’ve been using no ‘poo since February. I wouldn’t say I love it, but I would say it’s fine. But I think your mileage really varies, depending on your hair type.

    I also wash my face with honey.

    I do these things not so much to protect orangutans, as to reduce my own exposure to chemicals and cut down on plastic packaging. But if it has that side effect, then yay!
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..In Search of Sanctuary =-.

  12. My oily Italian scalp means I HAVE to wash my hair every day. I’ve switched to Burt’s Bees pomegranate shampoo (sulfate-free) and it’s working pretty well, but the bar concept is intriguing. And you won’t need to fit it into a 3-oz. bag when going through airport security!
    .-= Casey´s last blog ..GUEST POST- It

  13. Um, I had no idea. Thanks for the heads up.

    If you find a shampoo that works, let me know. I have baby fine hair, but I need one that’s toxin free and all that jazz. Maybe I should try the no-poo method? Though the name kind of sucks. 😉
    .-= Stephanie – Wasabimon´s last blog ..Lemon Verbena Macaron Recipe =-.

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