No palm oil in Knoxfield Soap, why?

This article is going to reveal my rationale for not using palm oil in Knoxfield Soap by sharing some basic knowledge about the oil itself, its role in soap and my personal experience with palm oil soaps that I made.

Palm oil is a super popular ingredient in our everyday consumables, be it baked goodies like bread and cookies, or cleansing products like shampoo and soaps. 

When listed in ingredients, palm oil usually appear in the following forms:

Vegetable Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Palmityl Alcohol

Next time when you go shopping, pay attention to the ingredients of skincare/personal hygiene products, don't be surprised to find that palm oil is such a popular ingredient.

Palm oil is solid and stable at room temperature, a so-called hard oil - when used in soap production, usually between 15-40% of all oils ingredients, it will give you a solid and long-lasting bar, it also provides mild cleansing and moisturizing properties - and it is unbelievably cheap (I will come back to this point later).

So it sounds like palm oil is a really cool player - stable, make long-lasting soap bar and low cost, who doesn't wanna use it?

The problem with palm oil is that extensive uncontrolled plantation of palm in Indonesia destroyed the biodiverse rainforest, thus endangering wildlife including orangutans and tigers, a major cause of their death. Fortunately action has been taken and you can find sustainable source of palm oil, from palm growers that meet the sustainable criteria by fulfilling a set of good social and environmental practices.

Photo source:

So the sustainable palm oil, theoretically, saves the day!

But why, still, not? This is rather empirical.

Before I launched my store, I was experimenting a lot of recipes, oils and butters, essential oils and fragrance oils, herbs infusion, natural colourants, mica and clays - many many things. I love experiments - which is why I became a scientist. I did custom made soaps as it gave me great opportunities to try everything - according to clients' preferences and needs. One day a client asked me to produce a few soaps designs and he has a budget to meet, so after careful calculations I told him there's no way to fit all criteria unless we incorporated palm oil to lower the concentration or even replace other hard oils (coconut oil, cocoa butter & shea butter), and the client approved the change of recipe. So I went to soap supplies and looked for palm oil (actually I can easily find vegetable shortening/fat from supermarket which is handy and cheap but that one has no certification to show that it's sustainable), and they have this sustainable segregated palm oil for sale, the owner told me they spent months looking for it to ensure it is genuinely environmentally responsible. I trust them and asked for the price, wow! it's really really cheap, the cost is almost insignificant... So at the end, budget met and soaps were made.

I test every batch of soaps I make by saving bars of sample cut from the 2 sides of each loaf, approximately 120g altogether. I tested these palm oil (25%) soaps, took them to shower, sadly I did not like them - it did not give me the same moisturized feeling as other recipes and is not doing any better than big brand factory produced soaps, eventually I used my palm oil soap as hand soap. As compared to my other recipes (which are palm oil free and the hard oils are always coconut oil, cocoa butter and shea butter), palm oil soaps are indeed hard and long-lasting, I did not drain them between each hand wash, and I washed my hands like 10 times a day at least. I placed the bar in a reused Flora butter container, residual water stayed but the bar remained solid and could be used for a long long time... erm...

I would not want to lower/replace the skin nourishing oils in my recipes with palm oil - which, from my experience, only functions to keep the soap bar hard and lower the cost.

Imagine replacing 15% of extra virgin olive oil/shea butter with palm oil from Baby Love of my Dry&Sensitive skin collection, the effect would never be the same, and it would not be loved by users with dry & sensitive skin.

So that's my view, my research and my experience - that's why Knoxfield Soap is palm oil free.

Further reading / References:

World Wild Life

Green Palm

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